Days of Remembrance

Days of Remembrance in the Capitol Rotunda
House Office of Photography

Honoring Holocaust Victims at the Capitol

Holocaust survivors joined members of the House in commemorating the Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust on May 17. The annual ceremony is held in the Capitol Rotunda by order of House Concurrent Resolution 33. This year’s theme: “Justice and Accountability in the Face of Genocide: What Have We Learned?”

After remarks by U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council Chairman Tom Bernstein, the somber service began with an honor guard presentation of flags of each Army division involved in the liberation of Nazi concentration camp prisoners during World War II.

After a greeting from Ambassador of Israel Michael Oren, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Director Sara Bloomfield gave opening remarks. Wiesel spoke of the “painful universe of remembrance” and called for fairness, conscience, courage, and integrity. Bloomfield recounted a tale of civil disobedience against the Nazis by an unassuming married couple and spoke of the responsibility “to do justice to the memory of innocent men, women, and children.”

In his keynote address, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer noted that this year’s commemoration came on the sixty-sixth anniversary of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. The post-World War II trial of top Nazi leaders was a powerful example of how justice can bring “emotional and factual understanding” to horrific crimes, Breyer said.

The Nuremberg trial was “one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason,” Breyer said, quoting former Supreme Court Justice and Chief U.S. Counsel at Nuremberg Robert Jackson. Its legacy, Breyer reminded the audience, includes international tribunals to protect human rights.

The Nuremberg trial’s legacy is also in the powerful evidence presented there by Holocaust survivors. Fittingly, several survivors in the audience for the Days of Remembrance ceremony helped close out the event. Joined by members of Congress including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Henry Waxman, they lit candles in honor of all Holocaust victims.