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Reagan Lays Cornerstone of U.S. Holocaust Museum

October 6, 1988
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President Reagan dedicated the cornerstone of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday with a denunciation of anti-Semitism and a vow that “the Jewish people will never stand alone against tyranny.”

“The Jewish people were on this earth at the time of the pyramids,” Reagan told the several hundred persons attending the dedication ceremony, held under a tent on the site of the future museum, near the Washington Monument.

“Those structures are still standing and the Jews are still here. We must make sure that when the tall towers of our biggest cities have crumbled,” the president said, “the Jewish people will still be on this earth.”

Former President Jimmy Carter, in a message to the ceremony, said the museum is a promise that “never again will the world stand silent, never again will the world look the other way or fail to act in time to prevent this terrible crime of genocide.”

He reminded the audience that he had created the President’s Commission on the Holocaust in 1979, which eventually led to the decision to create the museum.

He said he was “looking forward” to joining Reagan and his successor at the ceremony when the museum opens in late 1990. The museum is on land donated by the federal government, but the $170 million needed for construction and exhibits is being raised privately.

Harvey Meyerhoff of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, said funds are coming in, ranging from the pennies of school children to large donations of $1 million or more from 19 individuals, families and foundations.


One disappointment at the otherwise moving ceremony was that the Senate still had not adopted a bill long under consideration that would implement the United Nations convention against genocide.

Sen. Paul Simon (D-III.) told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member, was still deadlocked in negotiations. He said the bill should have been passed long ago without any hindrances.

The bill is being held up by Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.).

Sources told JTA that a vote on the bill could happen as early as Wednesday night or Thursday.

The president, who reportedly has been pushing for the adoption of the bill, which would make genocide a crime in the United States, had hoped to sign it into law at Wednesday’s ceremony.

In denouncing anti-Semitism, Reagan attacked those in the United States who are engaged in the “disgusting task of minimizing or even denying the truth of the Holocaust. This act of intellectual genocide must not go unchallenged.”

Reagan is chairman of the honorary campaign committee for the museum.

Three other members of the honorary committee were on the dias: Warren Burger, former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Dr. Billy Graham, the evangelist.

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