Congress Speeds Formalities on Legislation to Establish a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council

Congress today speeded formalities on legislation for the establishment of a “U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council” as a permanent body that will have statutory authority to plan, construct and oversee the operation of a museum in Washington to the victims of Nazism and to sponsor annual observance of “Days of Remembrance” for the II million people who died in the Holocaust — six million of them Jews.

By voice vote, without dissent, the House of Representatives adopted the legislation Tuesday night after it was offered by Rep. Phillip Burton (D.Calif.). Rep. Bill Frenzel (R.Minn.) was co-author of the bill which had 125 cosponsors. Last night, the Senate, also by voice vote without dissent, approved legislation introduced by Sen. John Danforth (R.Mo.) with 40 co-sponsors.

Clarification in wording on appointments of the Council’s 60 members– 50–to be named by the President and five each by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate — temporarily delayed transmittal of the legislation to President Carter for signing into law. Signing ceremonies at the White House are expected to take place next week.

The memorial movement began to take form Nov. 1, 1978 when President Carter created the Commission on the Holocaust, with author Elie Wiesel as its chairman, to make recommendations for on appropriate memorial “to those who perished, in the Holocaust.”

TO CONFRONT THE MEMORY OF THE HOLOCAUST

Danforth, who two years ago sponsored the first Congressional joint resolution establishing Days of Remembrance, told the Senate: “All Americans should set aside a few days each year to confront the memory of the Holocaust and to spare the individual consciences for any weakness that say encourage or permit hatred or apathy in the face of evil.”

In making his presentation to the House, Burton asked to “indulge in a personal observation — my beloved wife Sola’s family was decimated by the Nazi terrorists and it has been a special honor for me to play a small role in this long overdue tangible recognition of the horror that Hitler and his legions inflicted on the Jewish people.” Burton is not Jewish.

Pointing out the Council’s functions, Rep. Sidney Yates (D. Ill.).noted it also would establish and administer an Educational Foundation and a Committee on Conscience to “provide early warning of threats of genocide against any people throughout the world.” Noting that the funding for the museum’ is to be through private contributions, Yates said a private foundation — “The U.S. Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, Inc.” — has already been established and it “will receive donations and contributions from private citizens and groups.”

Rep. George Danielson (D.Calif.) observed that the “first genocide of the 20th Century” was the massacre of Armenians in 1915-1919. He said the Council “will commemorate for all times the horrible genocide and Holocaust of the Armenian and Jewish peoples.” Rep. Margaret Heckler (R. Mass.) said that the Holocaust Memorial not only commemorates the deaths of six million Jews “but permanently honors the memory of their lives in the fervent hope that this people’s safety and security– will forever more be certain.”

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