WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday spoke at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to mark Yom HaShoah, or the Holocaust Remembrance Day, and during his speech the president referred directly to the homosexual victims of Nazi persecution.
Official White House photo by Pete Souza.
Obama was introduced by Professor Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, and as he spoke before an audience of around 250 persons, he stressed the importance of telling young people children — and all future generations — about that dark and evil time in human history.
“We must tell our children about a crime unique in human history… The one and only Holocaust — six million innocent people — men, women, children, babies — sent to their deaths just for being different, just for being Jewish. We tell them, our children, about the millions of Poles and Catholics and Roma and gay people and so many others who also must never be forgotten.
We must tell our children. But more than that, we must teach them. Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing.
In this sense, “never again” is a challenge to us all — to pause and to look within. For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women.
And we have seen it again — madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself.
The killings in Cambodia, the killings in Rwanda, the killings in Bosnia, the killings in Darfur — they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human. These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.”
Nearly 100,000 gays were arrested by the Nazis, with an indeterminate number of those dying in the concentration camps, and approximately 50,000 served prison terms as convicted homosexuals.
Forced to wear a pink triangle as a badge marking the reason for their imprisonment, similar to Jews who were forced to wear a yellow “Star Of David,” they met cruel treatment not just at the hands of the Nazis, but even from fellow prisoners. Many died there from starvation, disease, exhaustion, beatings and murder.
The Obama administration has made it clear that a policy of “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.”
Last year, Obama issued a Presidential Directive to make sure that the U.S. has the necessary structures and mechanisms in place to prevent and respond to mass atrocities. He also established an Atrocities Prevention Board to bring together senior officials from across the government to focus on this critical mission.