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Museum Hosts Naturalization Ceremony for New U.S. Citizens

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Antony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State; León Rodríguez, Director USIS; and Museum Director Sara Bloomfield Deliver Remarks

WASHINGTON — The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) hosted a naturalization ceremony on World Refugee Day, Monday, June 20, welcoming 37 newly naturalized U.S. citizens, many of whom came to the United States with refugee or asylee status.

Many of today’s global refugee policies were developed in the wake of the Holocaust, acknowledging that when Jews tried to escape Nazi-dominated Europe, the world turned its back. This failure of the world community, including our own nation, helped consign many European Jews to death.

“Unlike the plight of Europe’s Jews, today’s refugees—many of them fleeing ISIS and the Assad regime—benefit from new international norms and U.N. protection.  Nevertheless, they face harrowing circumstances and pose an urgent challenge for the world community,” says Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield.   

As part of the ceremony, Holocaust survivors reflected on what becoming an American citizen meant to them. (See what they have to say in this video that was shown during the ceremony.)

“Holocaust survivors have a special appreciation for the plight of refugees fleeing persecution and violence, as well as the unique opportunities America affords us—allowing its citizens to live productively in and contribute to a free and just society,” Bloomfield says.

World Refugee Day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly to recognize and celebrate the contribution of refugees throughout the world. The new Americans came from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Liberia, Mauritania, Nepal, the Philippines, Russia Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, and Vietnam.

Nearly 300 attendees heard from speakers about their families’ stories of survival. Antony Blinken, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of State, spoke about his stepfather, who was a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau. León Rodríguez, the USCIS director, told the story of his grandparents, who left Turkey and Poland in the early 1920’s seeking greater freedom and opportunities, eventually settling in Cuba. His maternal grandfather volunteered with the refugee resettlement group HIAS in Havana, following work he did during World War II to assist Jewish refugees arriving in Cuba.

The event was live-streamed and a recording can be found at Photos of the event can be downloaded here: (please credit: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum).

About the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit