Obama pledges to combat denial on Holocaust commemoration day

WASHINGTON (JTA) – President Barack Obama pledged to combat Holocaust denial in a message marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In his message, Obama said the United States would “pledge to speak truth to those who deny the Holocaust.” 

“As we celebrate the strength and resilience of survivors, we pledge to stand strong against all those who would commit atrocities, against the resurgence of anti-Semitism, and against hatred in all its forms,” he said. 

Friday marked the seventh International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly to annually honor the 6 million Jewish men, women and children that were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. 

Jan. 27 holds historical significance because it was the day in 1945 when the Soviet Red Army liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. 

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum commemorated the day with remarks from a Holocaust survivor and one of its volunteers, Agi Geva, and the lighting of memorial candles in its Hall of Remembrance.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement saying that the U.S. “must remain vigilant, and we must implement robust Holocaust education programs to promote the values of tolerance, understanding and respect as an antidote against senseless hatred and aggression.”

The day was marked around the world.

In Buenos Aires, the Argentinean government joined  the Jewish umbrella organization DAIA in marking the day. Warsaw Ghetto survivor Irene Dib, DAIA President Aldo Donzis and Hector Timerman, the country’s Jewish foreign minister, delivered remarks.

Argentina currently is the president of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research. The task force, established a decade ago at the initiative of the Swedish government, aims to promote the remembrance of the Holocaust through education, research and memorial sites. It is comprised of 27 member countries, mostly European. Six international organizations belong as observers, including the United Nations and the European Union.

In Brussels, Haaretz reported, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said he had a "specific responsibility" as a German to maintain Holocaust remembrance and said commemoration would now be marked annually by the parliament.

In Norway, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, speaking from the dock in Oslo where 532 Jews were deported in 1942, apologized for the role Norweigans played in facilitating the deportations.

"Today I feel it is fitting for me to express our deepest apologies that this could happen on Norwegian soil," Stoltenberg said, according to a translation published on the prime minister’s website.

Commemorations in Britain, France and Italy, among others, included the leaders of those nations.

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