Hoyer Statement On The 60th Anniversary Of The Liberation Of Auschwitz

For Immediate Release:

January 27, 2005

Contact:Stacey Farnen Bernards
202-225-3130

WASHINGTON - House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) delivered the following statement today on the Floor of the House of Representatives:

"Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Chairman (Mr. Hyde) and the Ranking Member (Mr. Lantos) – the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to this Congress – for bringing this important resolution to the Floor today.

"And, in particular, I want to say to my good friend from California: Your indefatigable commitment to human freedom and basic human dignity is a source of inspiration for all of us privileged to serve here with you, and it should be emulated.

"Sixty years ago – at 3 p.m., on January 27, 1945 – Soviet Red Army soldiers entered the Auschwitz concentration camp, in a village in southern Poland 30 miles west of Krakow.

"And what they discovered there haunts us even today.

"A Russian army officer described the reaction to the sight of the camp’s remaining 7,000 prisoners, who had been too ill or weak to move, and were left to die in the cold by the fleeing Germans.

"He said: “The soldiers from my battalion asked me, 'Let us go. We can't stay. This is unbelievable.'  It was so terrible; it was hard for the mind to absorb it."

"The Nazis had spent weeks moving the most able-bodied prisoners, destroying documents and bulldozing buildings.  But the liberation of the largest Nazi concentration camp, where 1.5 million innocent souls were murdered, opened the world’s eyes to the unspeakable evil of the Holocaust.

"And while it is appropriate that this somber day be marked in ceremonies all around the world, it will be a further tragedy if on this occasion we only look back, without also looking ahead.

"We cannot remember the liberation of the concentration camps and the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, and at the same time cast a blind eye toward the growing problem of anti-Semitism that still infects our world today.

"Nor, Mr. Speaker, can we ignore the hatred and prejudice that fuels the genocide in Sudan today.

"Hatred knows no gender, no race, no ethnicity.  It lurks in man’s heart today as surely as it did during the Holocaust.

"And that reality – as painful as it is to accept – compels us to use this solemn occasion to restate our commitment to freedom and basic human rights.  And it compels us to fight hatred and prejudice wherever it rears its head.

"We owe those souls who perished at the hands of the Nazis at Auschwitz and elsewhere our unremitting pledge to never – ever – permit this horrific period in human history to be repeated."

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