Éric de Rothschild [through translator]: …of the Jewish section of the Gestapo. And we therefore had a quite unique set of documents and the Center for Documentation, as it was called then, and then later it was called the Memorial to the Unknown Jew, so the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation was called upon by Allies. And we took part both physically, and above all, through our archives in the Nuremberg trials, and in fact, the American judge at the time, to thank us, allowed us to dig into all the documents that had been collected for the trials. This of course contributed to vastly enriching our collection. These were immediately made available to researchers. A lot of the books that were written at the time were written thanks to the documentation that had been collected at the time. The first books that were written on the extermination of European Jewry were written thanks to this quite unique documentary base, and I would add, I can say because of the relations that we now have with the National Archives are very friendly, but at the time, I have to say, there were moments of great tension where it was considered that private entities should not customarily have access to such documents of national interest, and above all, make them available to researchers.
We have since grown, and we’ve been able to get in place—which has been increased, thanks to the city of Paris with additional buildings, a context that is not necessarily vast. This is our largest auditorium, for example. Of course, we can’t compare with the Washington Memorial, but certainly at least not in terms of square footage, but I think in terms of dynamic energy, we are very much on a par. We have some 34 million archive documents and obviously this is, indeed, a place for memorial, for those who lost their loved ones in this disaster, and this leads to a very close collaboration with the researchers, with teachers and the younger generation. Each year we welcome 40,000 young people who come from France, I mean, of course from Paris, but also from the provinces. And I find it quite fascinating to see how this work, which is not just merely memorial, but even I would say civic duty, is so exciting for these youngsters, and we certainly have no problems, manifestations of anti-Semitism and others here. Certainly, with respect to this younger population, we are really undertaking a very fundamental educational task. Our efforts now are bearing on education and training, and we do it in a context where I would say, as I’ve already said, it’s very rare to hear any anti-Semitic or negationist documents, which are not expressed here. When people come here, and when they see the deportees, they’re silent. Then when the teachers are just reduced to teaching the Holocaust in the school.
I know I’m supposed to be brief, but as soon as I start talking about the Memorial here, I always get very excited. For us, this symposium is really very important and contrary to our colleagues from the Holocaust Museum in Washington, we feel this mission of speaking about prevention of genocide was not one of our fundamental purposes written into our charter. And that’s why I’m particularly pleased that we’ve been able to change our approach and deepen what we’re doing, thanks to this meeting. And I would like to pay a public tribute here to the memorial museum in Washington, because what they have been doing for so many years now in terms of genocide prevention has been universally greeted and honored. And I would say, as I said a few minutes ago, it’s quite exceptional to see two museums, institutions, working so closely and harmoniously together.
I do not intend to get into details of this day, but I would like to express my pleasure at seeing that the memorial which doesn’t have a lot of researchers—we’re more focused on young people—it’s so exciting to be able to welcome today such leading figures in terms of conflict prevention and diplomats and others of very high level, such as you, ladies and gentlemen. When we see the results of the blindness and folly of men, illustrated by the Shoah and the other genocides that preceded, and unfortunately, followed, one may wonder if we will ever find the miracle recipe that would prevent a return to such horrors. I believe that this prevention work of course begins by the civic education and historical knowledge, but more than that, I think we need to take things further and we need to think about how we can detect risks ahead of time and intervene more quickly than we have up until now, and to ensure that sanctions will be faster in their application on those who have been the organizers of such horrors. And I am convinced that this will be the object of our discussion today, and I trust, as I said in my opening remarks, that this symposium will be a meeting that will be particularly useful in its outcome. And to conclude, if the use of the disappearance of so many millions of human beings may be useful for preventing future genocides, their death will not have been totally in vain. Thank you.
Sara J. Bloomfield: In the American tradition, I will speak solely in English everywhere we go and expect you to do the same. No, I’m just going to speak very briefly. I just first want to thank our colleagues at the Shoah Memorial for making this important event possible.
I just wanted to say a few words about why this is so important for our Museum. Often people that I deal with think that the Nazis came to power and immediately started killing the Jews. And they’re surprised to learn that the mass murder of European Jewry did not begin for another eight years, eight very long years, years of escalating persecution and isolation, but for the most part, relatively little violence compared to what would come later. Of course, in hindsight, we can observe many pivotal moments that today we might call precursors of the Holocaust.
But life is not history; it is lived forward, not in hindsight. So who could have known that during Kristallnacht—72 years ago this month—it was a harbinger of things to come, or that the failure of the West to respond to Germany’s gross violation of the Versailles Treaty in 1936, which the reoccupation of the Rhineland, would further embolden the Nazis. Or that Alfred Krupp’s unwillingness in 1933 to stand up to Hitler’s removal of the Jews from German big business, in spite of Krupp’s own opposition, would signal to the Nazis that even disapproving elites would never stand in their way. But that was a pre-Holocaust world.
Today we cannot claim similar innocence about man’s genocidal capacities.
Today we realize that a failure of imagination is no longer an excuse.
The Holocaust teaches us that the unthinkable is thinkable. That’s what it teaches us, but what do we do with that knowledge? This conference, sponsored by our Museum, the Shoah Memorial, in association with the American Bar Association, is an attempt to answer that question.
As you all know in this room, there have been many efforts. Perhaps one of the most concrete examples was Raphael Lemkin’s struggle to coin the word genocide and get the Genocide Convention enacted. His work was heroic, but it does not diminish his accomplishment to say that today he would undoubtedly be devastated to see the limited effectiveness of his efforts. The Museum’s Genocide Prevention Taskforce convened with the US Institute of Peace and the American Academy of Diplomacy and co-chaired by Madeleine Albright and William Cohen, was designed to take another systemic stab at this thorny problem, by looking at how governments can be prepared to respond early on. One of the most important results of the Taskforce was that it focused on the idea that there are warning signs of genocide: hate speech, political turmoil, preparations by perpetrators, armed conflict, and that careful monitoring and early interventions are critical to prevention. There are many governments represented here today and this focus on prevention, rather than response, is especially important for them.
The Taskforce also recommended greater international cooperation around prevention and this conference fulfills one of its great aspirations, namely that an initiative be launched to create an atrocities prevention network of NGOs and governments. It’s vital that we come out of this conference with some concrete ways to advance that cooperation. Prevention is a bold and ambitious agenda and appropriately so. As memorials to the victims of the Holocaust, museums like ours in Washington and this very important one in Paris, teach us that it can be hard to know when we are at a pivotal moment, such as Munich in 1938. They also teach, painfully so, that it is not hard to know the catastrophic consequences when we fail to recognize that opportunity.
And now it’s my great pleasure to introduce Samantha Power, someone who probably needs no introduction to an audience like this. But for the record, she is Special Assistant to the President of the United States and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the National Security Council. Before joining the Obama administration, Samantha served as the Anna Lindh Professor of the practice of global leadership and public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she was also the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.
Samantha’s singular achievements as an author, professor, journalist and policymaker have provided critical insight, guidance and passion to international efforts to prevent genocide. Her first book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, not only won the Pulitzer Prize, but coalesced an understanding of how both structural and human failures have continued to permit the recurrence of genocide, and how individual actions have continued to make a difference. This theme of personal courage and choices is also evident in Samantha’s second book, Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World, which shows how much work is yet ahead of us if we are to safeguard vulnerable populations in our world. She is a great advocate for the issues dear to all of us here, and I should say a great friend of our Museums, and it’s my honor to introduce you today, Samantha.