WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas released the following statement and video on International Holocaust Remembrance Day:
“When you walked into the home where I grew up, our living room shelves were filled with books of Jewish history and, regrettably and all too often tragically, histories and stories of antisemitism and violence that accompanied it.
“My mother had lived this history. As a girl, she and her parents fled from Romania to France, and on to Cuba, because they could not make it safely to Israel or the United States. Her father lost his parents, brothers, and other family members in the Holocaust. Through the years in the United States, my mother stayed in touch with her two cousins who survived the camps and had made it to Israel alone.
“Our home was deeply rooted in my mother’s experience of the Holocaust and the fragility of our safety, wherever we might live in the world. As you might expect, my mother’s childhood profoundly shaped her approach to a young child away from home through the night. When our fellow elementary school students went to sleepaway camps and had sleepovers with friends, my siblings and I did not. My mother taught us the meaning and experience of independence in different ways.
“She also taught us three foundational principles that defined for her the scourge of antisemitism and other ideologies of hate. First, their existence manifests in ways that we readily can see, but also lies more widely beneath the surface, often undetected in the day-to-day goings-on of life but sometimes appearing in the most subtle of ways. Second, their prevalence continues to present an existential threat, and one can never assume that a holocaust could not happen again and could not happen where we, her children, might live. And third, that an attack borne of hate against one minority is an attack against all of society.
“I am proud to work in the Department of Homeland Security, where every day we fight against hate and to improve the quality of life for others. We are doing a great deal to equip and empower communities across our country in that fight. Partnership in these efforts is all the more important today, as the manifestation of hate through violence is on the rise everywhere. Together with our partners, we give limitless strength to our devotion to tolerance and basic human rights.
“Holocaust Remembrance Day is recognized one day each year. We know that remembrance is every day, as is the work that must accompany it.
“Today, if you walk into the living room of the home where I was brought up and where my brother is now raising his young family, our mother’s collection of books of Jewish history, including the antisemitism that defined too much of it, is still on the shelves. This year, as we devote a day to remembrance, let’s redouble our efforts to create the book that captures the end of that hate.”