To mark the Museum’s 20th anniversary, 875 Holocaust survivors, 140 World War II veterans, and thousands of friends and supporters attended a historic gathering April 28–29 in Washington, DC. Two days of moving events paid tribute to the resilience and bravery of those who experienced the Holocaust while working to ensure that their lessons would be carried into the future. Museum Founding Chairman Elie Wiesel and President Bill Clinton, who spoke at the Museum’s dedication in 1993, reflected on the importance of preserving this history, as did two young people representing the new generation that will carry on Holocaust memory.
“You are now the flag bearers,” Wiesel said, addressing the young people in attendance. “It is your memory that inherits ours. Our memory will live in yours.” He urged them to be “worthy of the moment we are just living.”
The day offered ample opportunity to remember and to learn. Survivors and veterans were able to connect with those from the same region or imprisoned at the same camp. An ongoing names reading took place in the Museum’s Hall of Remembrance. Three generations of some families collaborated on an art project and watched a theater performance about the Warsaw ghetto. Those who supported the Museum before its opening and in the years since listened to presentations by its scholars and experienced the latest special exhibition, which opened for the event: Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust.
Attendees had an unprecedented opportunity to, as Clinton asked, “replace the direct memories of those who are still with us with the records of this Museum so that no one can ever forget these stories and these lessons.”
Presentations on the history of genocide and preventing genocide in the 21st century reinforced the theme of the Museum’s 20th anniversary, “Never Again. What You Do Matters.” In addition to viewing the installation From Memory to Action: Meeting the Challenge of Genocide, visitors could attend a presentation on the history of mass atrocities since the Holocaust and attempts to bring the perpetrators to justice. Later, Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken joined Center for the Prevention of Genocide Director Mike Abramowitz for a conversation on America’s role in preventing genocide in the 21st century.
“This sacred place has challenged leaders and citizens, students and teachers, from here and everywhere, to look inside themselves and into their own conscience, to look beyond themselves and wrestle with some of the central issues of human behavior in modern society,” said Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield at the tribute ceremony. “So to that overwhelming question—‘Does memory have the power to change the world?’—20 years on, our answer is a resounding yes.”