Wolfowitz Says World Can't Look Other Way in Face of Evil
By Rudi Williams
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2005 Peaceful nations "cannot close their eyes or sit idly by in the face of genocide," Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said Jan. 24 at a U.N. General Assembly ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi death camps.
Wolfowitz told the assembly that it took the most terrible war in history to end the horrors the Nazis inflicted on the world.
He said through the special commemoration, U.N. member states are doing more than reflecting on what happened at the death camps. They are "affirming their rejection of such evil and making a statement of hope for a more civilized future, a hope that 'never again' will the world look the other way in the face of such evil."
The General Assembly held the commemorative session, the first in its history, to mark the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, a symbol of the Holocaust that slaughtered at least 6 million Jews and others in World War II, the deputy defense secretary noted.
The commemoration was held three days before the actual anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops on Jan. 27, 1945, in order not to conflict with ceremonies that will be held in Austria.
"War is not something Americans seek, nor something we will ever grow to like," Wolfowitz pointed out. "Throughout our history, we have waged it reluctantly, but we have pursued it as a duty when it was necessary.
"We're here to reflect on the magnitude of the occasion how totalitarian evil claimed millions of precious lives," Wolfowitz noted.
"Americans have fought often to liberate others from slavery and tyranny in order to protect our own freedom," Wolfowitz said. "Cemeteries from France to North Africa, with their rows of Christian crosses and Stars of David, attest to that truth."
He said the U.N. commemoration remembers people who fell victim to tyranny because of their political views, their heritage or their religion, in places where human slaughter was perfected as an efficient and systematic industry of state.
"Today, we also pay tribute to all the soldiers of many Allied nations who participated in the liberation of the Nazi death camps, for their courage and sacrifice and for the care they provided to the survivors," Wolfowitz noted.
American soldiers who fought through their own horrors at Anzio, Normandy and Bastogne thought that a world of evil no longer held surprises for them. But these troops "were astonished to the deepest part of their souls when they confronted the human ruins of Nazi tyranny in the spring of 1945," the deputy secretary said.
As the Army's 42nd Infantry Division reached Dachau death camp a week before the end of the war in Europe, Wolfowitz said Lt. Col. Walther Fellenz described what he saw as the division neared the main gate of that concentration camp:
"A mass of cheering, half-mad men, women and children their liberators had come! The noise was beyond comprehension," Fellenz said. And "our hearts wept as we saw the tears of happiness fall from their cheeks."
Wolfowitz said Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander, was unprepared for what greeted him at the camp at Ohrdruf. As he walked past thousands of corpses in shallow graves and saw the instruments of torture used by the SS, he was moved to anger and to action, Wolfowitz noted.
Eisenhower cabled Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall with words now engraved at the entrance of the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington:
"The things I saw," Eisenhower wrote, "beggar description the visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering."
Wolfowitz said the general insisted on looking into one particular room that contained piles of skeletal, naked men, killed through starvation. "I made the visit deliberately," Eisenhower said, "in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations to 'propaganda.'"
Wolfowitz said Eisenhower wanted others to see this crime against humanity. So he urged American congressmen and journalists to go to the camps. He directed that a film record the reality and that it be shown widely to German citizens. And he ordered that as many GIs as possible see the camps.
"American soldiers became what one writer called 'reluctant archeologists of man's most inhuman possibilities,'" the deputy secretary said.
"Beyond the shock and horror, American, Russian and other Allied soldiers who liberated the camps were also witnesses to hope," Wolfowitz said. "Yet, as proud as we are of the role our soldiers played in the liberation of the concentration camps, we know that we all arrived too late for most of the victims."
Wolfowitz said there have been too many occasions since the liberation of the concentration camps six decades ago when the world "ignored inconvenient truths so that it would not have to act, or acted too late."
"We've agreed today to set aside contemporary political issues in order to reflect on those events of 60 years ago in a spirit of unanimity," he noted. "But let us do so with a unanimous resolve to give real meaning to those words 'never forget.' And with a resolve that even when we may find it too difficult to act, we at least have an obligation at least to face the truth.
"Never again and never forget," Wolfowitz said. "We must keep remembering to continue to speak about unspeakable things. So we commend the United Nations for a remembrance of the Holocaust befitting its significance in human history. In doing so, perhaps we can help avoid such inhumanity and the warfare that is so often the result."