On International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, President Obama spoke at the Righteous Among the Nations Award Ceremony at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. He was introduced by filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who is dedicated to recording and preserving the testimonies of those who suffered the horrors of the Holocaust and those who risked their lives to save them.
In his remarks, President Obama talked about our responsibility to fight anti-Semitism:
“Here, tonight, we must confront the reality that, around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it. When we see some Jews leaving major European cities because they no longer feel safe; when Jewish centers are targeted from Mumbai to Overland Park, Kansas; when swastikas appear on college campuses; when we see all that and more, we must not be silent.”
Forcefully combating anti-Semitism remains a priority for the President and his administration. The work of Ira Forman, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Global Anti-Semitism, helps ensure the United States plays a leading role internationally to push back against anti-Semitism.
At the ceremony, which is the first of its kind in the United States, Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, posthumously recognized four individuals who heroically risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis, forever demonstrating the importance of standing up to intolerance and hatred everywhere. Paying tribute to the four honorees, the President declared: “When any Jew anywhere is targeted, just for being Jewish, we must respond, together, as did Roddie Edmonds—We are all Jews." Read about the honorees:
Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds
Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds participated in the landing of the American forces in Europe and was taken prisoner by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge. While in captivity, the Germans ordered the captured Jewish POWs at the camp to report. Master Sergeant Edwards, the highest-ranking American non-commissioned officer, ordered all of the U.S. soldiers to stand together, and he announced to the German officer, “We are all Jews.” The German officer gave up, and the Jewish soldiers’ lives were saved.
Lois Gunden was an American teaching in France who helped smuggle Jewish children out of an internment camp and into a children’s home she established.
Walery and Maryla Zbijewski
Walery and Maryla Zbijewski were a Polish couple who put their lives at risk to secretly house a Jewish child in Warsaw for several months.
By recounting the heroism of those who lived their values, the President affirmed the responsibility we all share to stand up against anti-Semitism, hatred and intolerance in all its forms. Read his full remarks.