AG Stein: Holocaust Remembrance
Release date: 3/6/2017
On March 5th 2017, Attorney General Josh Stein provided remarks during a Holocaust Remembrance event. Remarks are provided as prepared.
It is a profound honor for me to be with you and to introduce our featured speaker, Mr. Abe Piasek. Mr. Piasek is a true hero and a living reminder of why it’s so important to learn about history.
To be confronted with the Holocaust and its atrocities, to realize that people systematically exterminated other people, is to be shocked, to be shaken to the core of one’s humanity.
It seems impossible that something so horrible could happen.
But it did.
The Holocaust forces us to inspect the ugliest part of humanity – to not avert our eyes – but to consider exactly what it was and how it happened.
In this way, we remember and honor the millions who were slaughtered and we recommit ourselves to the idea that we must condemn all manifestations of intolerance, harassment or violence to ensure such inhumanity is never allowed to incubate and grow again.
This imperative has become more pressing than I would have ever thought possible. The anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant voices in the United States are louder than they have been in my 50 years of life. They use words that seek to diminish and marginalize others.
For example, there are some who want to downplay the role that anti-Semitism played in the Holocaust by ignoring the Jewish victims.
There’s a major problem with that line of thinking, because the objective of the Holocaust was to kill every single Jew – to commit genocide on an entire people – and 6 million Jews were executed, approximately 2/3rds of number of those then living in Europe.
Yes, the Nazis also killed millions of Poles, Slavs, Russians, gays, lesbians, disabled people, communists, and Roma, among others.
These victims must be remembered, as well.
But one cannot possibly commemorate the Holocaust without recognizing the unique pain the Jewish people experienced. In fact, to be silent on the Holocaust’s impact on Jews is to create a real risk of neutering the Holocaust, or as the white supremacists say, dejudefying it.
The goal of some is to strengthen the argument of those who deny Jews were targeted, that the Holocaust was unique, or even that the Holocaust was real. With that in mind, the testimony of witnesses to humanity’s greatest crime is more important than ever. Their stories help us bring the truth into focus through the clouds of time and misinformation.
That is why it is a blessing for every one of us in this room to be able to hear from Mr. Abe Piasek, a Holocaust survivor. Mr. Piasek was an 11-year-old boy when Nazi forces invaded Poland. At 12, he was sent with other Jews to a labor camp – the first of four he would be sent to, including Auschwitz.
In January 1945, Mr. Piasek was loaded into a train to be sent to yet another camp, where he would surely be murdered. Before the train departed, however, U.S. troops reached the area and saved his life.
After a few years, Mr. Piasek moved to the United States and later enlisted and served in the U.S. Army. Mr. Piasek was married to his wife for 63 years, and they had eight children. He now has several grandchildren and a 9-year-old great-grandson. Mr. Piasek has devoted his life to spreading messages of truth, bravery, fortitude, and hope. He is a part of the NC Council on the Holocaust, has been interviewed for the Holocaust Museums in Washington, D.C. and Jerusalem, and has been the recipient of two President’s Medals. Mr. Piasek, thank you for your life’s work, for reminding us of the importance of welcoming refugees and immigrants, and for honoring us today with your presence and words.