Capitol Ceremony Marks 50 Years After Nuremberg

Dignitaries and Holocaust survivors gathered under the Capitol Rotunda this week, marking Holocaust Remembrance Day with a somber ceremony that also celebrated the triumph of justice over vengeance in the Nuremberg war crimes trials 50 years ago.

More than 800 people, including members of Congress, five Supreme Court justices, Jewish leaders and Nuremberg prosecutors, joined together for the 15th Rotunda ceremony Tuesday to mark Yom Hashoah.

“At Nuremberg, the Allies recognized that the only true antidote to the savagery of the Nazis was justice,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), whose father, the late Sen. Thomas Dodd, was an associate U.S. prosecutor for the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, delivering the keynote address, noted the important role former Justice Robert Jackson played as a prosecutor at the 1946 Nuremberg trials.

It was Jackson’s goal, Breyer said, to compile such a solid base of evidence against the 21 high-ranking Nazi officials on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity that no one could ever challenge the existence of the Holocaust.

“We think: There are no words. There is no compensating deed. There can be no vengeance. Nor is any happy ending possible,” Breyer said.

“It is at this point, perhaps, that Nuremberg can help, for it reminds us that the Holocaust story is not the whole story; it reminds us of those human aspirations that remain a cause for optimism. It reminds us that after barbarism came a call for reasoned justice.”

The ceremony included the presentation of the flags representing some 30 American infantry groups that helped liberate concentration camps in 1945. Strains of “Ani Ma’amin” (I believe) reverberated in the Rotunda as members of Congress and the surviving Nuremberg prosecutors joined Holocaust survivors in lighting memorial candles.

Miles Lerman, chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, used the occasion to urge Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to halt plans to mingle the bones of Croatian Nazi collaborators with the bones of Jews murdered and buried in mass graves at the Jasenovac death camp in the former Yugoslavia.

He also commended Polish authorities for canceling plans to build a shopping center adjacent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. “The Nuremberg trials teach us that we cannot remain indifferent. We cannot look the other way when evil plans are in the making, when atrocities take place and the truth is distorted,” Lerman said. “We must always be ready to speak out against evil no matter where it takes place — and no matter who the victims are.”

The House of Representatives Tuesday also unanimously adopted a resolution deploring individuals who deny the historical reality of the Holocaust. The resolution also commended the vital, ongoing work of the Holocaust museum.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), stated that those who deny the Holocaust do so “out of profound ignorance or for the purpose of further anti-Semitism and racism.”

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