April 23, 2012
WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today welcomed President Barack Obama as part of the nation’s Days of Remembrance activities commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. In addition to touring the Museum and paying special tribute to Holocaust survivors, the president announced the creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB), which will coordinate the US response to threats of genocide and other forms of mass atrocities.
“As a living memorial to the Holocaust, we feel that one of the most meaningful ways the Museum can honor the memory of the victims is to save lives in the future. We are honored that President Obama has chosen the Museum as the place to announce a significant new initiative to bolster the government’s capacity to prevent genocide,” said Museum Chairman Tom Bernstein. “A comprehensive US strategy to fulfill the pledge of ‘Never Again’ is a great step forward.”
“Museum Founding Chairman and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel reminds us that the Holocaust occurred because people stood by and that the greatest danger to humanity is indifference. We are heartened by the Obama administration’s efforts to create new tools and strategies to halt the perpetrators of the world’s worst crimes,” Bernstein added. Wiesel accompanied the president on the tour and then introduced him before he gave his address.
The creation of a coordinating body such as the APB was one of the key recommendations of the 2008 Genocide Prevention Task Force, co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who issued a statement commending today’s announcement. The task force was co-sponsored by the Museum, the US Institute of Peace, and The American Academy for Diplomacy.
Michael Chertoff, Chairman of the Committee on Conscience, which directs the Museum’s genocide prevention program, and former Secretary of Homeland Security, said, “The creation of this board represents a positive development in how our government responds to the worst forms of violence against civilians. If this step is coupled with strong political will by this and future administrations, the United States will be positioned as a world leader to act in the face of genocide. But now the work really begins, and the key test will be if this new body is utilized effectively.”
Under the new plan, senior government officials will meet regularly across agencies to coordinate the US response to genocide and emerging threats of genocide. The administration also announced additional efforts that would bring the full weight of US financial, diplomatic, intelligence, multilateral, and accountability tools to bear on the problem of genocide today.
Michael Abramowitz, director of the Museum’s genocide prevention program, said, “The international community faces enormous challenges today in responding to ongoing atrocities in places like Sudan and Syria and threats in other parts of the world. We hope that the new tools announced today will empower our leaders to act strategically to save lives.”
The Obama administration has adopted other recommendations of the Genocide Prevention Task Force, including the creation of a high-level position within the White House to track, highlight, and organize responses to potential mass atrocity situations, as well as the development of new doctrine and planning efforts by the Departments of State and Defense and within the intelligence community.
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. Federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanent place on the National Mall, and its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit ushmm.org.