Mr. Secretary-General, distinguished guests, and friends, thank you all. It’s an honor to be with you.
Tomorrow is January 27, the day in 1945 when Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated. Thanks to the diligent efforts of Yad Vashem and others around us, we see the blueprints for history’s largest factory of death—a vast machine, designed with cold-blooded efficiency, built to mass-produce the murder of innocents.
These terrible plans remind us, we have seen nothing quite the same as the Shoah—nothing quite the same as its unique reach, its systematized spite, its murderous bureaucracy, its premeditated, purposeful, and planned malice.
Cruelty was the essence of that vast system of slaughter. Each and every life was taken by a long chain of breathing, thinking people, manning the guard towers, calculating the train schedules pulling the switches and the triggers.
We have just drawn down the curtain on the bloodiest century in human history. The United States is determined to ensure that the 21st century takes a lesser toll. The words “never again” should mean that genocide has ended forever.
As President Obama said in Oslo, we must face the world as it is—a world in which human beings can rise to the most astonishing heroism or sink to the most awful depravity—a world in which we must do more than just bear witness—a world in which choices matter.
Let us stand up for those targeted by killers and demagogues, with those hounded from their homes by the callous and the cruel.
Let us celebrate diversity, human rights, freedom, decency and respect.
Atrocities are not inevitable. They need not be part of the landscape of world politics—unless we let them be. We have a responsibility to protect and must find ways to protect the innocent. We may never find an end to oppression. The search must be eternal. Judaism, the faith and heritage of a million men, women, and children murdered in the camp built through the plans that stand before us here, offers a simple and stern teaching that has inspired countless people to try to part the waters of injustice. Even those who are comfortable and prosperous are obliged to identify with the powerless and the desperate—to be voices of the voiceless—to stand up for those who endure the bite and burden of shackles from new oppressors today.
We cannot bring back those lost, millions in Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Darfur or in Poland or Germany. We can only rededicate ourselves to a shared commitment to human dignity.
Above all we must have the courage and the compassion to act. So today, let us renew our determination to work together to save the innocent and the vulnerable—and to heal our broken world.
Thank you all.
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