Born: 1934, Lubochna, Czechoslovakia
Describes the plight of refugees today [Interview: 2005]
I am struck when I see refugees on the road, part of a conflict whether it be in part of the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, and I immediately think back on my own experience, I was a child at the time and I think of the children. And of course to me it just gets me to the position where I feel we can't allow this thing to happen, we have to do something. And I would think that even if you haven't had the experience that I've had that many people, who have any sort of empathy, when they see what is happening, whether it be Darfur or Rwanda or Cambodia for example, that they will react in a similar way and that it will stimulate them. Whether in the world we live in with all of its complications, whether that conscience, to use [Raphael] Lemkin's term, that comes out of that experience, whether it can do very much in terms of preventing it is another matter. What it certainly should be able to do is to get people to recognize that what is going on should not be going on. What they can do about it is another matter and it is very very difficult.
Now an international judge, Thomas Buergenthal was one of the youngest survivors of the Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. He emigrated to the United States at the age of 17. He has served as judge and president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and as a member of the United Nations Truth Commission for El Salvador. Buergenthal was chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Committee on Conscience. Buergenthal became a member of the International Court of Justice in March 2000, a seat he still occupies.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum