At Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, Hagel Lays a Wreath in Remembrance
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
JERUSALEM, April 21, 2013 On the first afternoon of two days of talks with military and government officials here, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel toured Yad Vashem, Israel’s living memorial to the Holocaust, and in the Hall of Remembrance laid a wreath on a stone crypt containing ashes of Holocaust victims.
Hagel walked the solemn and evocative displays of the Holocaust History Museum with his son Ziller and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, later calling the institution “important, inspirational and beautiful.”
Yad Vashem was established in 1953 as the world center for documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust, Nazi Germany’s murder of 6 million Jews during World War II.
After Hagel’s visit to the museum, he participated in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, visited the Children’s Memorial and signed the Yad Vashem guest book.
Then, sheltered by the building from a steady rain, Hagel took a few moments to speak with reporters and museum guests.
Thanking those who have made the institution possible, the secretary said of Yad Vashem, “I’ve brought my son Ziller with me on this trip and I particularly wanted him to accompany me here for this experience.”
Such institutions and museums are created as a tribute to generations of the past and in particular victims of the past, he said, “but maybe more importantly these institutions are built to instruct future generations.”
The secretary added, “They come together at an intersection that is important for all of us as one dimension or responsibility for each person. There is no more poignant, more touching, more effective way to tell a story than this reality, as painful as it is.”
“We must prepare future generations in our time here for a clear understanding that we must never allow this to happen again.”
After Hagel signed the guestbook, he read his inscription to the audience.
“For my friends of Israel,” the secretary read, “thank you for this magnificent institution, reminding all mankind of the depths of evil but also the promise and hope and courage of man -- a beautiful and important tribute to those victims of the past and an instruction and reminder for the generations of the future. [Signed,] your friend, Chuck Hagel, United States secretary of defense.”
Today’s visit was part of a 6-day trip to the Middle East, Hagel’s first as defense secretary. He will make stops in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates before returning to the United States April 26.