Obama pays tribute to Holocaust victims

April 23, 2009 9:59:15 AM PDT
President Barack Obama paid tribute Thursday to the memory of Jews murdered in the Holocaust and said it is the duty of the living all over the world to make certain there will be no more atrocities. Speaking at a Holocaust Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, Obama warned against what he called the dangers of silence. Every day, he said, people should fight the impulse to turn away when scenes of horror unfold across the world. He called for people to embrace a "habit of empathy."

"We know," the president said, "that evil has to run its course on earth."

About 6 million Jews were systematically murdered by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. Many were gassed in death camps while others were killed en masse in other ways, including shooting and starvation.

Without naming names, Obama noted that some still deny the Holocaust. At the same time, he said apathy in the face of this mind-set must be fought at all times. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caused a stir at a U.N. conference by accusing Israel of being a racist nation.

Obama called it a grim irony that modern tools were used for barbaric savagery: "Science that can heal, used to kill. Education that can enlighten, used to rationalize away basic moral impulses."

Obama said part of the responsibility for the Holocaust rests with people who "accepted the assigned role of bystander."

He also cited stories of hope, in places from Northern Ireland to Rwanda, where vicious conflict has given way to forgiveness.

"Our fellow citizens of the world, showing us how to make the journey from oppression to survival, from witness to resistance, and ultimately to reconciliation," Obama noted. "That is what we mean when we say, `Never again.' "

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