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April 19, 2007

Schwarzenegger at Shoah ceremony:  ‘Today we must speak out’

http://www.jewishjournal.com/community_briefs/article/schwarzenegger_at_shoah_ceremony_today_we_must_speak_out_20070420

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking at the Holocaust Remembrance Day program. Photo by Robert Lurie

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking at the Holocaust Remembrance Day program. Photo by Robert Lurie

Excerpts from a speech by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at Yom Hashoah Ve'Hagvurah Community Wide Holocaust Remembrance Day at Pan Pacific Park:

Well, thank you very much, Jona, for the wonderful introduction; I really appreciate that. And thank you very much, all of you, for being here today on this wonderful occasion. First of all, I want to say thank you to Jona for all the great work that you are doing, it's really extraordinary.

A totally selfless man, always thinks about what he can do for this wonderful monument here, an endless amount of work.

So anyway, I just want to say thank you also, everyone, for being here today on this special day of Yom HaShoah. Of course for me it is a great pleasure to be invited again, and to be invited to say a few words here, and it is always great, and such a great honor, to spend time with so many brave Holocaust survivors that are here today with their families and with their friends.

Now, this monument is a reminder of the tragic and terrible destruction of the Holocaust. Its symbols help us to remember the 6 million Jews who were murdered, and the inhumane conditions they suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Its images also give us the power to teach and to educate our children so that they may not have to endure the terrors that we have seen in our lifetime.

As you know, I was born in Austria, a country that I love, but a country with a horrible history, a place where intolerance and ignorance led to the atrocities and to murder. My mother told me many stories about the horrors of the Holocaust. She was working as a young secretary in Austria during that time.

She told me that after the Anschluss how she went one day to work and saw in the morning bodies lying there on the side of the road, shot to death because they were Jews. Another time she saw bodies hang from the trees in our state park.

There are so many parents who would tell stories and who could tell stories even more terrible to their children, and so many more who were silenced before they could bear witness to what they had seen, and still more that were forced to endure the pain of never, ever to be able to see their children again. That is why monuments like this one here are so important. They are so important.

Now, this one was dedicated 15 years ago with the hope that such terrible acts were behind us, confined to tragic memories in the darkest chapter of history.

But the sad story is that in this last 15 years the death toll from genocide has been staggering. We all know the thousands of people that were killed in former Yugoslavia. We know the 800,000 that were murdered in Rwanda, and the 200,000 that were killed in Darfur, and the numbers are growing every day.

So on this day of Yom HaShoah let us remember the 8 [sic] million Jews and the millions of other people who were killed during the Holocaust.

Let us also remember the endless amount of people that were killed just recently in genocides. Let us pray that those murders will stop. Let us pray. And above all, let us not say that we could have done more to stop the acts of genocide that we see today, and those that we will see in the future.

Today we must stand up and speak out against all of those who would commit those atrocities, and then we can hope that for one day that Darfur is known as the last human genocide to disgrace our world.

And this is why I am so happy to be here today. I'm happy to be here not only to give a speech and to be part of this celebration, but also to send a clear message to our new generation that what has been done in the past was so wrong, and they should work so hard on tolerance and inclusion, and to fight prejudice wherever they can.

And this is the reason why I got involved when Simon Wiesenthal himself and Rabbi Hier, Rabbi May and Rabbi Cooper came to me more than 20 years ago and asked me if I wanted to help to raise money to build the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Tolerance.

And I was involved with that and raised a lot of money and helped in every way I could. And that's why I also agreed to go to Israel for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Tolerance Museum. And it was actually -- which became my first trip outside this country after I became governor of the state of the California.

I think that Eli Wiesel, a voice from the Holocaust, said it best. "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, not the victims. Silence encourages the tormentor, not the tormented."

Thank you very much. Thank you.


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