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At Capitol, Obama Reflects on Lessons of Holocaust

President Obama attends National Commemoration of the Days of Remembrance on Capitol Hill. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

By Michael A. Fletcher
President Obama, speaking at an annual memorial to the Holocaust at the Capitol today, said that silence is not an option when courageous people confront mass evil.

"Today, and every day, we have an opportunity, as well as an obligation, to confront these scourges -- to fight the impulse to turn the channel when we see images that disturb us, or wrap ourselves in the false comfort that others' sufferings are not our own," Obama said. "Instead, we have the opportunity to make a habit of empathy; to recognize ourselves in each other; to commit ourselves to resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take."

Millions of Jews were rounded up and murdered by Nazi Germany and its allies during World War II, an atrocity that was heavily documented but is nonetheless denied or minimized by some.

Obama pointed out that the heinous acts were carried out by one of the world's most advanced nations. "Science that can heal, used to kill. Education that can enlighten, used to rationalize away basic moral impulses," he said.

Obama said part of the responsibility for the Holocaust rests with people who saw it and chose to do nothing.And while modern atrocities persist in places such as the Sudan, Obama also pointed to some hopeful examples, including Rwanda and Northern Ireland, where bloody confrontations have given way to coexistence.

"Our fellow citizens of the world, showing us how to make the journey from oppression to survival, from witness to resistance, and ultimately to reconciliation," Obama said. "That is what we mean when we say, 'Never again.'"

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 23, 2009; 3:24 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama  
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We must never forget. What was that we must never forget?

We seem to have forgotten, divided, amended, redirected, modified, altered.

What was that we must never forget?

A regime that employed force to do whatever it wanted to whomever it chose.

We seem to have forgotten

Posted by: khmaio | April 23, 2009 10:56 PM | Report abuse

since the jews own this particular platform and as a global humanitarian concern, perhaps the jews should bring to light other ethnic groups that have fallen to similar of which
Obama made mention.

On a special note, if you really knew what was going on at the Gaza Strip you might think a little differently about Isreal

Posted by: chaz31 | April 23, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Obama and his lofty speeches.

I miss bushisms…

And those damn democrats ROBBED THE AMERICAN PEOPLE of the incredible promise of rich palinisms.

Posted by: bushieisa | April 23, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

When you add up all the money, real estate, gold, jewelry, and art work stolen from Jews by the Nazis, I wonder how it compares to the amount stolen by a New Yorker named Bernie Madoff from some of those very same people, including Elie Wiesel.

Posted by: postman2 | April 23, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Obama is obsessed with hatred for Republicans and the US is paralyzed with democratic investigations. I am getting real tired of Obama's lofty speeches. Did he really think it was that easy?
Click on link for a good read on "torture."

Posted by: lclifton | April 23, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse

What's the message here? If it's to highlight Jewish suffering in the Holocaust, I get why Elie Wiesel is there. If it's to protest human suffering and oppression, then how the heck does Elie Wiesel stand for that? I just don't get it.

Posted by: tmaffolter | April 23, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

"Israel is a colonial settler project, set up to deprive land from that of another, while maintaining the appearance of being an honest negotiator, and sanctioned by American presidents."

First of all, Jews did not move to Israel to colonize the Palestinians and use them for labor, as other imperial powers did when they colonized a subaltern people and its region. Jews were harassed out of the land of Israel, which was their ancestral homeland. They have a right to reclaim this land by legally purchasing land and making a commonwealth out of these purchases. The Jewish claim to the land of Israel is infinitely more legitimate than the white Europeans' claim to the United States. Not only are those who claim that Israel is illegitimate inaccurate in their characterization of Israel as a "colonialist enterprise," they are hypocrites if they are living in the United States of America and NOT AMERICAN INDIANS (Native Americans).

LOOK IN THE MIRROR, PEOPLE. IF you are WHITE and living in the U.S., you have no reason to claim legitimacy for this country and deny it for ISRAEL, which is far more legitimate.

Posted by: rebeccadk | April 23, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Who put the Palestinians in the refugee camps? Israel created none of those camps; Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the UN did. The Palestinian populace could be absorbed into other Muslim-Arab countries.

There were 800,000 Jews who were made into refugees when they were FORCED to leave Arab-Muslim countries. Do they whine about their expulsion? No, they emigrated to Israel and the U.S. The Palestinians do not have an indefinite claim on all of the land of Israel just because they say so and other Arab-Muslim countries perpetuate their refugee status voluntarily.

Posted by: rebeccadk | April 23, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

I had this theory that Bush did Iraq not only for Daddy (to get Hussein),
but to get the land...
then give like...
half to Palestine.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 23, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

The Palestinians are not victims of Israel. They have had numerous opportunities to claim land and statehood while also allowing Israel to maintain its statehood and its LEGALLY PURCHASED LAND, opportunities which they repeatedly refused. The Palestinians have shown that they are more interested in destroying Israel than in giving their children a safe and happy life. American allies of the Palestinians do not hold the Palestinians accountable for their anti-Jewish exterminationist ideology - their cries of "Itbach al yahud!" - and their commitment to violence.

Rather than build a viable economy and infrastructure in Gaza after Israel disengaged from it in 2005, formally ending its occupation there, for instance, Palestinians destroyed means of economic prosperity (greenhouses) and chose instead to build tunnels to Egypt for smuggling weapons and missiles. The Palestinians' commitment to destroying Israel, this situation shows, is stronger than their commitment to giving their children a better life and accepting responsibility for the abuses they perpetrate on their youth. They send rockets and missiles from school sites so that Israelis will retaliate on Palestinian young ones, endangering their own children. Why should their anti-Israel allies be rewarded for acts of terror? The Palestinians could have a state instantaneously if they wanted one; they hold out in order to hurt Israel and kill Israelis. Hamas's charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish State and labels the murder of Jews a holy war.

Israel never wanted to occupy the Palestinians, but they were forced to fight a defensive war in 1967 and were thus entitled to extend their indefensible borders. The Palestinians are simply sore losers and should not wage wars with Arab nations if they are not prepared to suffer the consequences. They could go to Jordan and Egypt, if the countries let them...

Posted by: rebeccadk | April 23, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

"Numerous opportunities have been given for Palestinians to relocate (West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon) and to integrate (20% of Israel's population are Arabs). And the simple fact is it's not worse because they haven't slaughtered 6 million, nor are they trying to."

Among them here are millions of refugees who have for generations been condemned to the squalor of refugee camps--the open air prisons romanticized for their humanity by the "West." Israel is a colonial settler project, set up to deprive land from that of another, while maintaining the appearance of being an honest negotiator, and sanctioned by American presidents. That America is unable to participate in the UN Conference on Racism speaks a great deal about the lack of will on the part of Israel and the Americans to uphold human rights protections, and to seek an end to the suffering of Arabs in Palestine--save for completing the "transfer" of Arabs out of Eratz Israel.

Posted by: optimist3 | April 23, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

the argument has always been for the middle east countries to recognize Israel.
they won't.

so it continues

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 23, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Israel claims that it can deffend itself against all terrorists, Israel claims that it has highest war technology, Israel claims that it has most inteligent scientists and engineers, Israel claims that it has strong banks and very strong economy.
That is racist to me, that is hate to me, that is discriminatory to me. Cut all one way funding and then we can talk about cutting racism. What is even worse, all that money going to Israel ,is taken from American Muslims and Christians (and Jews living in USA) and America has no benefit from it, only Israel has it so far. Israel has proved how they use our money, that turns to be BLOOD MONEY. ZIONISTS HAVE TO BE BLOCKED, IGNORED AND REMOVED.

Posted by: BOBSTERII | April 23, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse

taliban is attacking, i believe, the capital of Pakistan.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 23, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Numerous opportunities have been given for Palestinians to relocate (West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon) and to integrate (20% of Israel's population are Arabs). And the simple fact is it's not worse because they haven't slaughtered 6 million, nor are they trying to.

"It's worse because they know better." That might be one of the worst arguments I've ever heard. The Nazis didn't know better?

There is a real genocide going Sudan, not Israel.

Posted by: thewayout | April 23, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Uh, what was it that Barry's spiritual mentor Reverend Jeremiah Wright used to say about the U.S. support of Israel?

Posted by: jshay | April 23, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Besides sending more troops to Afghanistan, President Obama plans to send billions more in aid to Pakistan, despite evidence that our money is used to kill troops in Afghanistan.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | April 23, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Israel and those who support Israel are worse than the Third Reich because they know better.

Don't you people have any humility?
Humble yourselves or history will do it for you.

You can't just land on another people, give them no options to integrate or relocate and expect peace.

Smarten up.

Posted by: eddiemacs | April 23, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Hey, it looks as if Wiesel actually brushed his hair. Too bad, it detracts from that tousled look, with the doleful eyes and gloomy face that makes him such a professional Holocaust victim.

Posted by: pondcove | April 23, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

An American holocaust?


Mr. President:

The Senate Armed Services Committee report on "enhanced interrogation techniques" used at Guantanamo stated at least twice that detainees were subject to "induced physical weakness and exhaustion."

The report also stated that detainees were subject to "physiological and psychological pressures" and "environmental manipulation."

Has your administration inquired as to what "induced" these effects...

...and whether detainees were exposed to microwave radiation devices such as so-called "directed energy weapon" discharges... or any other type of radiation, including X-rays, gamma rays, sonic waves, or laser "dazzlers"?

If detainees were exposed to radiation, does that not constitute "torture" and "cruel and unusual punishment" in and of itself?

OR (if links are corrupted):

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 23, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Race covers behavior--many people of "color" want their crimes forgiven because of their race. Wiesel is not one of these, but many are. We must guard against labeling a whole drawer of silverware as one spoon.

Posted by: IIntgrty | April 23, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

No, the situation in Israel is not akin to the Holocaust: there is no effort by the Israelis to exterminate the Palestinians. And no, it is not apartheid. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza do not want to be part of Israel and, in fact, have their own governments. And neither the Jews in Germany nor the oppressed of South Africa ever refused to recognize the existence of, or worked to destroy, their respective oppressors. All it takes is a minute or two to think about these things seriously, and you see that they are not the same.

Posted by: thewayout | April 23, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

More of O'Bomba's Judgmental Accusations!

He, should read this:

And then STFU! :-(

Posted by: SAINT---The | April 23, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

We should indeed memorialize the holocaust. We should also be open to discuss the price the Palestinians have been forced to pay for a European crime against humanity. Israel and its sympathizers have used the holocaust as a muzzle against any criticism of Israeli policies. By any objective standard what Israelis are getting away with is apartheid noo different from the Afrikaner model. It is wrenching to see personalities like Wiesel stand up firmly to remind us about the holocaust but not the subsequent sins of his own people. Unless we adopt the same moral standards we are bound to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Posted by: drne | April 23, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

i would say yes because the focus is the Holocaust.
He just won the nobel peace prize didn't he?

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 23, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

I sympathize deeply with what Mr. Wiesel suffered during the Holocaust, but I would respectfully question whether he is really an appropriate figurehead to represent universal opposition to human suffering and oppression, given his, well, selective interest in human rights issues based on the identity group that is being subjected to suffering (read: Palestinians).

Posted by: tmaffolter | April 23, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

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