This past month, U.S. President Donald Trump made a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that left many rather disturbed:
“Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest. As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent,” the White House statement read.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27, marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. This day also commemorates the murder of 20 million people. President Trump’s statement fails to recognize the Jews— not to mention, the Slavs, Gypsies, homosexuals and disabled people — who perished at the hands of the Nazis.
Morton A. Klein, the president of The Zionist Organization of America, and Republican Jewish Coalition spokesman Fred Brown, among others, have shown concern and offense over President Trump omitting the six million Jews who were tortured and ultimately murdered during World War II in his statement.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded to the matter in a press conference, saying “The statement was written with the help of an individual who is both Jewish and the descendant of Holocaust survivors.”
While Spicer would not disclose the name of Trump’s aid, many believe that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, is the one responsible for the statement. Kushner is an Orthodox Jew and a descendant of Holocaust survivors. When asked whether or not Kushner played a part in drafting the Holocaust memorial speech, Spicer said, “I’m not getting into who wrote it, but he [Trump] has several members of the Jewish faith on his senior staff.”
The news site Politico reported that Boris Epshteyn, director of communications for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, a Russian-born Jew and a descendant of Holocaust survivors, drafted Trump’s statement, citing an anonymous source with “knowledge of the situation.” Though there is no certainty whether Epshteyn acted alone or whether other members of Trump’s staff helped to write the statement, one can still question the legitimacy of Spicer’s comment. It is difficult to imagine how a Jewish diplomat and descendant of Holocaust survivors could draft a statement discussing the Holocaust without also mentioning the Jewish people.
Asked by a CNN reporter to comment on the issue, Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the rabbi chosen to give the benediction at President Trump’s inauguration, acknowledged the incident as a gaffe but did not attribute malicious intent.
“I do not accuse President Trump of wanting to dishonor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust who were Jewish, but it was a mistake…,” Rabbi Hier said. “Of course there were many victims who were non-Jews. But the principle objective of Adolf Hitler was to do away with Europe’s Jews.”
Indeed, as Rabbi Hier mentioned, the Jews were Hitler’s primary victims. Hitler’s “final solution” was to exterminate the Jewish people and create a “pure” Aryan race. For his plan, Hitler set up 24 concentration camps; six of them were specifically death camps. These include: Auschwitz (1,500,000 murdered), Chelmno (320,000 murdered), Treblinka (870,000 murdered), Sobibor (250,000 murdered), Majdenek (360,000 murdered) and Belzec (600,000 murdered).
Hitler failed to exterminate the Jewish nation. Survivors have spread out across the world, and many continue to prosper and thrive in society. While Jews have won the battle against Hitler by surviving, the six million lives lost will never be forgotten. However, the devastation many feel toward President Trump’s statement reflects the fear that perhaps people are starting to forget what they thought would never be forgotten.