WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, released the following statement observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is commemorated annually on January 27.
“Seventy-two years ago today, the Nazi Concentration Camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated. As survivors told their tragic stories and as journalists published gut-wrenching photos, the world’s cry of ‘never again, never forget,’ grew louder and fiercer. Though we have not always succeeded in honoring that promise, today we pause to remember it.
“Today, we remind ourselves and each other of how quickly prejudiced attitudes can become heinous acts. We remind ourselves and each other of the millions of innocent people – mothers, fathers, children – who endured unknowable suffering because the world grew either too accustomed or too complacent toward those attitudes. We must never forget the six million Jews who perished. And we must never again allow such reprehensible crimes to persist on our watch.
“More than coal or gas, the Nazi’s concentration camps were fueled by fear and bigotry. They were built not on foundations of stone, but of nationalism, then anger, then hate, then, finally, the world’s apathy to those ideologies. The Nazis used propaganda to turn people against each other; they capitalized on ignorance to perpetuate falsehoods; they weaponized bigotry and fanaticism until it began to feel normal and accepted. But for years, until Allied Forces stepped in, the most potent tool in their arsenal was humanity’s collective apathy. They trusted that we would not stand up for one another – that we would allow increasingly shocking attitudes and policies to pass in silence out of our own self-interest. It is as concentration camp survivor Martin Niemöller wrote:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak for me.
“Today, on this Holocaust Remembrance Day, we pledge to speak up for one another, regardless of whether our neighbor looks, worships or lives like us. We affirm that ‘never forget’ must be more than a pithy adage – it must be the guiding principle by which we live, govern, and treat our fellow man. We vow never to let the darkness that gave rise to the Holocaust pierce us again. I commit myself to that vow and will do everything in my power to honor it.”