Senator Hoylman's Remarks on Resolution J.487 Commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day

January 31, 2017

Holocaust Remembrance Day Resolution

January 31, 2017

Experts estimate that half of all living Holocaust survivors (about 60,000) in the US reside in New York State – mostly in New York City and parts of Long Island and Westchester. Many of these survivors are our most cherished constituents and engaged citizens. A Holocaust survivor and a constituent of mine, Gina Zuckerman, drew local press a few months ago for fighting off a would-be mugger who attempted to steal her purse. At age 91, she still volunteers at her local senior center. We are lucky to have resilient community members like Ms. Zuckerman in our state.

About 23,000 survivors will still be alive in New York in 2025. We should cherish these remaining survivors and listen to their stories so that we can continue to tell them long after they are gone. As the last living generation of Holocaust survivors shrinks in numbers, it is more important than ever to remember their history. President Trump’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day was nothing short of an erasure of the history of the Jewish people and of the tragedy that specifically targeted and decimated the Jewish population.

I would like to read a few words written by ADL President Jonathan Greenblatt in the wake of President Trump’s statement: “The suffering of the Jewish people is not an afterthought, a prepositional phrase to be bolted onto the end of a sentence. The suffering of the Jewish people is the whole reason that the concept of the Holocaust was defined. It became shorthand to explain the unexplainable, the inconceivable — an intentional, transnational campaign to exterminate an entire people perpetrated in broad daylight in front of the entire world.”

Mr. Greenblatt goes on to write: “We now live more than 70 years removed from those horrors. The global population of survivors is dwindling. At the same time, Holocaust deniers on the extreme right or the radical left seem to be enjoying a renaissance. And this comes at a time when ADL’s global survey on anti-Semitism has found that 35 percent of people worldwide do not know of the Holocaust and 28 percent believe it didn’t happen.”

We observe Holocaust Remembrance Day this year to recollect the vicious crimes committed against the Jewish people. But we also observe this day to remember our commitment to reject the hateful rhetoric and policies that target groups of people based on their identity.

Over the weekend, a Twitter account called the St. Louis Manifest tweeted out the names of passengers on the St. Louis, a ship filled with Jewish refugees that was notoriously turned away from the United States in 1939. The ship’s 937 German-Jewish refugees were returned to Europe, and 254 of the ship’s passengers were later murdered in the Holocaust.

In the resolution set forward today, our body proclaims that we must remember the events of the Holocaust to ensure that civilization “never again” repeats the atrocious acts committed during one of the darkest periods in our history. Never again will our country turn a blind eye to the atrocities inflicted upon peoples around the globe.

We say never again as our nation’s President orders refugees to be turned away from our shores. We say never again as our airports detain mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, translators for the US military, scientists, researchers, and legal permanent residents returning to their homes after visiting sick relatives abroad.

If President Trump’s refugee ban continues, the United States will be complicit – as we were during the Holocaust – in the untold deaths of hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking safety in our country. It is an unconscionable violation of human rights. It is un-American. It flies in the face of decades of efforts to ensure that we would never again turn a blind eye to ugly, xenophobic, violence and discrimination. Our Senate resolution says “never again.” To my colleagues and to the people of New York State I say, never is now.