September 16, 2020
WASHINGTON -- As our country marks this 75th anniversary year of the end of World War II, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum welcomes the opening of the national memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe. This new memorial complements the Museum’s own Eisenhower Plaza and liberating division flags display that honor his leadership and the soldiers he commanded.
General Eisenhower led the invasion of the European continent that would bring the war in Europe to an end and in so doing free those remaining Jews and other victims who had survived the Nazi onslaught. Eisenhower knew of German atrocities when he spoke to the troops before the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944:
“The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies … you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”
It would be another 10 months before General Eisenhower would realize that the oppression and atrocities he had read about were far more horrific than he imagined. On April 12, 1945, he visited the newly liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp; the next day he toured Buchenwald. On April 15, he cabled General George C. Marshall:
“The things I saw beggar description…The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty, and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the near future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.’”
On D-Day Eisenhower spoke about what America was fighting for and by the end of the war in Europe, he fully grasped what we were fighting against. He recognized that the fight was not only for freedom but against massive crimes, eventually to be called the Holocaust. General Eisenhower also presciently recognized that there would be future battles to secure the truth of those crimes. He anticipated Holocaust denial and distortion.
His exceptional legacy endures in so many ways, not least in the many lives he saved. “I shall never forget the moment when we saw the American troops and heard a voice telling us ‘You are free.’ It was indescribable, unbelievable. It was a miracle. My four great grandchildren would not be here today if not for General Eisenhower and the American soldiers who fought so courageously,” said Holocaust survivor and Museum volunteer Agi Geva.
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires people to confront hate, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors nationwide.
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