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'Puzzling' White House Statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day Leaves Out Jews

U.S. Archbishop Paul C. Marcinkus interprets at a meeting at the Vatican between Pope Paul VI and Martin Luther King Jr., accompanied by his close associate Rev. Ralph Abernathy, on Sept. 18. 1964. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON — The White House statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day was coming under fire Friday for what it didn’t include.

“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror,” said the statement attributed to President Trump. “Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest.‎ As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.”

“In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good,” Trump added. “Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted Trump’s statement, noting the statement “misses that it was six million Jews who perished, not just ‘innocent people.'”

Greenblatt added that the omission was “puzzling and troubling” and that the statement included no mention of Jews, as Republican and Democratic presidents have done in the past.

On the last Holocaust Remembrance Day, then-President Obama spoke at the Israeli Embassy. In 2015, the White House statement said, “On the tenth International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the American people pay tribute to the six million Jews and millions of others murdered by the Nazi regime. We also honor those who survived the Shoah, while recognizing the scars and burdens that many have carried ever since.” Vice President Biden also issued his own statement “remembering the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust and the millions of Poles, Roma, LGBT people, and so many others whose lives were extinguished by the Nazi regime.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) tied the “very unnerving” omission — not only of six million Jews but of any mention of “the scourge of anti-Semitism that continues to exist today” — to Trump’s campaign.

“Given the bizarre support shown to this president by neo-Nazi groups and white supremacists, one would have expected him to issue a strong reminder that anti-Semitism, which fueled the Holocaust, ought to have no place in America,” Hoyer said. “It is disturbing that he failed to take this obvious opportunity to reiterate a bipartisan opposition to anti-Semitism.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at an International Holocaust Remembrance Day event Friday that “the world has a duty to remember that the Holocaust was a systematic attempt to eliminate the Jewish people and so many others.”

“It would be a dangerous error to think of the Holocaust as simply the result of the insanity of a group of criminal Nazis. On the contrary, the Holocaust was the culmination of millennia of hatred and discrimination targeting the Jews – what we now call anti-Semitism,” Guterres said. “…Anti-Semitism is alive and kicking. Irrationality and intolerance are back. But we still see Holocaust denial, despite the facts. There is also a new trend of Holocaust revisionism, with the rewriting of history and even the honoring of disgraced officials from those days.”

The new UN leader acknowledged “the United Nations itself must do more to strengthen its human rights machinery, and to push for justice for the perpetrators of grave crimes.”