The White House also announced that the APB will include representatives at the assistant secretary level or higher of 11 governmental departments. The chairman of the APB will be the National Security Council senior director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights.
“It could have been prevented,” he said. “The greatest tragedy in history could have been prevented, had the civilized world spoken up.”
Obama addressed Wiesel’s words in his speech, as well as the specter Wiesel raised of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as an enemy of the Jewish state of Israel.
“It’s a bitter truth, too often the world has failed to stop atrocities on a massive scale,” he said.
Obama pledged to continue to oppose efforts to “de-legitimize Israel" and to “do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”
He also urged hope and the belief in justice as part of the commitment to “never again.” He thanked the Holocaust survivors in the room for not giving up, despite staring into the “abyss” of human darkness.
“If you can believe, we can believe,” he said. “What you all understand is you don’t just count on officials, you don’t count on governments. You count on people in mobilizing their consciences.”
The audience included Holocaust survivors and Jewish community leaders, and the family of Stephen T. Johns, the Holocaust Museum guard killed by a white supremacist in the line of duty in 2009. Obama noted their presence in his speech.
Prior to the speech, the president toured the museum with Wiesel and Museum Director Sara Bloomfield. The tour concluded in the Hall of Remembrance, according to the press pool report. Obama lit a candle and observed a moment of silence in front of the section of wall memorializing the Buchenwald concentration camp, which his great-uncle helped liberate at the end of World War II. Obama in his speech referred to his own trip to Buchenwald and the conviction he felt during his tour.
He went on to refer to the ongoing slaughter of the Syrian people by President Bashar al-Assad. “The Syrian people have not given up, and so we cannot give up,” he said. He promised increased pressure, continued sanctions, a humanitarian effort, and a legal document ensuring those who commit atrocities are punished.
The speech closely followed Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 19, when Obama released a statement honoring the memory of the six million innocent lives lost. “We stand in awe of those who fought back, in the ghettos and in the camps, against overwhelming odds,” he said. “As societies, we must stand against ignorance and anti-Semitism, including those who try to deny the Holocaust. As nations, we must do everything we can to prevent and end atrocities in our time.”