- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is marking its 25th anniversary with a renewed pledge for education, remembrance and the prevention of genocide by honoring Holocaust survivors and speaking out against modern atrocities against civilians around the world.

At its National Tribute Dinner on Monday in the District, museum Chairman Howard Lorber announced that the museum is setting a fundraising goal of $1 billion over the next five years to benefit its missions.

It has raised $715 million since the campaign was launched at the museum’s 20th anniversary gala.

“The lessons Holocaust history teaches about the fragility of freedom, the dangers of hate and the consequences of inaction have never been more timely,” Mr. Lorber told the 1,700 guests, including 138 survivors of Nazi Germany’s extermination program that killed 6 million people.

“Today, with the rising tide of denial, anti-Semitism, and extremism and continued threats of genocide, our message can and must span the globe,” he said.

This week marks the “Days of Remembrance” set aside by Congress for Holocaust memorial events to coincide with Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day in the U.S., Canada and Israel. It marks the anniversary of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising, and the ceremonies begin at sundown Wednesday.

The anniversary dinner also celebrated Holocaust survivors who were honored with the Elie Wiesel Award, the museum’s highest recognition of people who advance the mission of confronting hatred, preventing genocide and promoting human dignity.

Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and human rights activist, chaired the President’s Commission on the Holocaust set up by President Carter in 1978 that led to the creation of the museum. Wiesel died on July 2, 2016, at the age of 87.

About 195,000 Holocaust survivors are still alive. Many of their stories have been recorded as part of an initiative, undertaken in part by the museum, to preserve the oral history of the Holocaust.

“There really has been no other people in the history of the institution who have taught us more, who have inspired us more, who have really guided the way for us every day as to the importance of remembering the history of the Holocaust forever,” said Gretchen Skidmore, the museum’s director of education initiatives.

Last month, survivor Irene Weiss spoke at a museum event marking seven years since the start of the Syrian civil war and drew a parallel between the sufferings of civilians today and her own plight more than 70 years ago.

“When I see the photographs of the thousands of Syrian families struggling to survive and desperate to flee from the war, it brings me back to another time, when my family and millions of others were stateless refugees, with nowhere to go,” she said.

At 17, Ms. Weiss and her sister were assigned to work and live next to the crematorium in Auschwitz-Birkenau, watching men, women and children be filed into the small concrete rooms, the gas chambers, and then for their corpses to be removed with the forced labor of other Jewish men and women.

“My brain could not absorb what I was seeing. I thought that this place must not be on this earth and that no one knew that it existed. If they knew, surely they would stop it,” she told the audience.

The museum is dedicated to preserving artifacts, history and testimony of the Holocaust, as well as raising awareness of crises around the world.

Earlier this year, it presented a special exhibit for victims of the Syrian civil war. Titled “Please Don’t Forget Us,” it features pieces of cloth smuggled out of Syrian prisons with the names of disappeared men written in ink made of their own blood and rust from prison bars.

Mansour Omari, the Syrian who smuggled out the pieces of cloth, met with Ms. Weiss and other Holocaust survivors at the opening of the exhibit. During her address, Ms. Weiss said Mr. Omari asked her how she was able overcome the trauma she experienced and share her experiences with the world.

“I told him it took me many years to be able to talk about the evil I experienced. This trauma will stay with me forever,” she said. “As a survivor, rebuilding faith in people and their institutions takes a long time. But it helps to know that some have learned from the Holocaust, that there are people who believe that race, color and religion do not set us apart, that we all belong to the human race.”

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