Good morning, distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the “Elie Wiesel” Institute, the municipality of Iasi and Iasi City Hall, and the Government’s Special Representative for Promoting Memory and Fighting Antisemitism and Xenophobia for organizing this special event and inviting all of us here today. It is an honor to speak to you.
Today, together, we solemnly remember and bear witness to the victims of the unthinkable tragedy that was the Iasi Pogrom. We mourn the thousands of Jews from Iasi who died in the massacres carried out by the army, police, and gendarmerie at the order of Marshall Antonescu 80 years ago.
We remember and mourn the thousands of others who lost lives en route to and in the death camps. We must also remember that ordinary people did not choose to participate in this atrocity overnight; slowly, over time, influenced by years of political and anti-Semitic rhetoric, millions came to so devalue the lives of their fellow human beings. Through their direct actions or their silence, they abetted these massacres.
And while we cannot undo history, we can atone for it; we can ensure it never happens again, to any group of people. We all have an obligation to recognize and admit historical truth, regardless of the pain or embarrassment it may cause. We must fight against organized amnesia and Holocaust distortion. We must ensure that future generations grow up learning of this organized hatred. By fulfilling this obligation, we honor the victims and ensure people will have the courage to speak up when prejudice raises its ugly head and reject the hatred such as that which made the Holocaust possible.
We are heartened by the significant progress made by the Romanian Government in commemorating the Holocaust and fighting anti-Semitism. The work of Elie Wiesel and the governmental institute that carries his name have been an essential part of this process. The recent adoption of a government strategy to combat anti-Semitism and the inauguration of the Iasi Pogrom Museum are both emblematic of Romania’s strong commitment to addressing the tragic events of the Holocaust. I am also pleased to officially announce today that the United States, through the Department of State, will grant nearly $80,000 to restore and preserve the Elie Weisel Memorial House in Sighet.
Nonetheless, there remains an urgent need to invest more in Holocaust education, to help citizens better understand how such a tragedy unfolded, and to ensure that it never happens again. Robust teaching resources and a curriculum that provides accurate information about the history of and what led to the Holocaust in Romania are key to ensure discrimination, persecution, and their most tragic by-product -the destruction of human life – will not happen again.
The creation of a Museum of Jewish History and the Holocaust in Bucharest also represents an opportunity to provide an accurate, shared historical narrative to young and old alike. With the proper resources, this Museum can become a symbol of how the country’s citizens and institutions came to terms with the past.
Let us never forget the horror which those millions experienced; let us never forget what led to the Holocaust; let us never forget we all have a role to play, however small. Let us use this time of remembrance as an opportunity to honor those who lost their lives during the darkest period of history and remind us of the duty we have, to prevent such things in the future.
Thank you. God Bless. Shalom.