The following remarks were delivered on March 15, 2022 by Alfred Münzer at the United States Capitol as part of an event to draw attention to the ongoing mass atrocities committed by the Assad regime against Syrian civilians.
Members of Congress and distinguished guests,
I am a survivor of the Holocaust and a volunteer at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
For the survivors who volunteer at the Museum, the events in Ukraine of the last few weeks have rekindled painful memories that we thought had long been put to rest. They have also reminded us of the ongoing eleven-year-long plight of the people of Syria.
I am able to stand before you today because a Dutch Indonesian family and their Indonesian Muslim nanny living in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands risked their lives to save a nine-month-old Jewish baby. My sisters Eva and Leah did not share my good fortune. They had been entrusted to a different family and were betrayed to the Nazis and killed in Auschwitz, February 11, 1944. They were five and seven years old.
My parents too were deported. My father was liberated by the 80th US Army but succumbed two months later to the effects of starvation and lies buried in the former Ebensee concentration camp. My mother survived 12 concentration camps and I was reunited with her in August 1945. In 1958 she and I immigrated to the United States in the hope of resuming life far from far from the constant reminders of the losses we had suffered.
Multiply what happened to my family a million times over to get a measure of the tragedy we call the Holocaust.
But to me the greatest tragedy of the Holocaust isn’t to have grown up without a father, or to have been deprived of the companionship of two older siblings, it is that the Holocaust did not spell an end to prejudice and hate, or to state-sponsored atrocities and mass murder. About seven years ago, I befriended a child survivor of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, Arn Chorn Pond. Arn was imprisoned as a ten-year old and only survived because he learned to play music for his captors which they amplified throughout the camp to cover the sound of skulls being cracked. And then, about three years ago, I met Omar Alshogre who, as a teenager, was cruelly imprisoned by the Assad regime in Syria and barely survived unspeakable torture.
Today, I give voice to my sisters and to the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust who call out for the children burned and maimed and orphaned in Syria. Regardless of events elsewhere in the world, their plight must remain front and center of the world’s attention and the perpetrators of the mass atrocities and murder in Syria must be held accountable. Anything less would give the lie to the solemn pledge made after the Holocaust, “Never Again.”
Today, I stand with all the Arn Chorn Ponds and Omar Alshogres of the world and join with them in their call for a world free of prejudice, hate, and bigotry and for a world that celebrates our common humanity.