Remarks at the Schindler Factory Museum and Announcement of U.S. Contribution to Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation
Secretary of State
MAYOR MAJCHROWSKI: (In Polish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. I am deeply honored and moved to be here, and I thank the mayor for his introduction, and I am delighted to be here with so many dignitaries, including my colleague foreign minister and leaders of Poland's Jewish, Catholic, and Roma communities, and all of you who are gathered in this factory of memory.
We see here the two realities of the Holocaust. One involves the cold, mechanized slaughter of millions of men, and women, and children, many of them wrenched from their communities, herded into boxcars by their neighbors and sent to die, including, not far from here, in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. And yet we also see and are heightened by the stories of the righteous, the thousands who risked lives, fortunes, and reputations to rescue friends and strangers from the horrors of the Shoah.
The courage of Oskar Schindler and Minister Bartoszewski gives us proof that, in the face of the worst that humanity is capable of, there are amongst us individuals who are defiant, and who are unwilling to accept that alternative reality.
We have an obligation to remember both sides of that experience of the Holocaust. And today I am proud to announce the intention of the Obama Administration to work with Congress to secure $15 million in funding for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. We encourage other nations to join us in contributing to this fund. In just one year, 2009 alone, more than 1.3 million people from around the world visited the museum and memorial of Auschwitz. Our contribution will help preserve the camp so that future generations can see for themselves why the world must never again allow a place of such hatred to scar the soul of humankind. I appreciate the Members of Congress who have been supportive of this initiative. I look forward to working with them to secure this funding.
We also have a duty to seek justice for victims of the Holocaust and their families. And the United States applauds the recent agreement by over 40 countries to endorse guidelines and best practices for the restitution and compensation of property that was confiscated by the Nazis and their collaborators.
The history we see here is a reminder that there is an alternative to inaction, a reminder that when we learn of crimes that cry out against our conscience we cannot stand by in quiet revulsion, hoping the world will fix itself. We must follow the example of the righteous among the nations. And the way best to honor their memory is by acting as they would have us to act.
I want to thank the government and the people of Krakow for this new museum that so movingly depicts what happened during a period of time in this great country. I hope we can take caution and courage from the lessons taught and learned here, and recommit ourselves to honoring those who died in the Shoah by living lives worthy of their memory.
MINISTER BARTOSZEWSKI: (Via translator) Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends -- and in this room there are no other persons but the friends and who have been friendly acting towards our cause. Therefore, allow me please not to invite and welcome the guests by mentioning their names. I just would like to welcome our American friends and Polish friends, our Polish-Jewish guests, our American-Jewish guests, and representatives of the diplomatic corps.
I also would like to welcome a symbolic guest to this meeting, His Excellency, Cardinal Dziwisz who inherited this cause of John Paul II. And the pope was the first person to do away with the (inaudible) and attitudes of the past. Actually, he was the first pope to visit the museum Auschwitz-Birkenau. And that perhaps will become a tradition, after all.
Today (inaudible) announce we also have the director of the museum. He is the representative of the younger generation, and me, the former prisoner of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and also the chairman of the International Auschwitz Council. And my duty and my commitment is to work for, to commemorate, and to be remembered as long as I live. And I am also the initiator (inaudible) establish the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, and this initiative has been supported by the prime minister. He has supportive letters to gain support to the United States, but not only to many other countries of the world and today with have the privilege today to hear the (inaudible) of the Madam Secretary of State. Thank you very much for that.
Madam Secretary, the tradition in our Polish-American relations is long and beautiful. I actually was very much moved when, as the minister of foreign affairs, when visiting West Point, I was invited to come and visit the (inaudible). (Inaudible.) This tradition has (inaudible) through difficult tests, and we never -- have never fought against each other.
World War II was the time when we had to fight with the (inaudible) attempts of the Nazi regime of the (inaudible). And after the war we had to deal with the aggravations of the (inaudible). When I was visiting West Point I remember -- and that was upon the invitations there with the prime minister of -- with the prime minister (inaudible). And I remember we were welcomed by the commander of the West Point, who spoke actually Polish with us, because he comes from Chicago. And we were thinking -- and he said there is actually nothing to thank for. "You have always been together with us. You have always been (inaudible), and (inaudible) is best proof of that."
And it is a remarkable thing that today, in order to mark the tenth anniversary of the community that was established by Madeleine Albright and my memorable dear friend Professor Gremick would meet here again to speak in terms and in the spirit of a more profound friendship.
However, friendship obliges us to speak the truth even though if you are a politician. And today, as we speak, it is with great regret that I have to say that the new Poland, after 20 years, has yet not dealt with the restitution of the property of those people who suffered from the hands of Nazi and Stalinist regimes. And here we speak of people of different origins, of many different religions, Jews and Christians alike. And it is in today's Poland that we still have demonstrations in front of the Polish institutions of those people who have lost everything in the course of those events, and they are left with nothing being 90 or so years old.
Hence, the (inaudible) of the prime minister for Polish-Jewish affairs and for the Christian-Jewish affairs. I do assure you that there is a growing awareness that these times and (inaudible) have to be dealt with in the most democratic (inaudible) procedures as, in fact, those impressions and mistakes have not yet been rectified, neither by (inaudible) governments in the past. The current government has, for the last two years, has taken action and wishes to rectify these issues that, unfortunately, have not been dealt with in a prompt way by the previous government.
Madam Secretary, dear Madam Secretary, please pass on our utmost thanks to President Obama for his intentions, for his initiative, for the decisions that have been taken. And, quite naturally, all of these activities could not possibly take without the (inaudible) with United States.
Undoubtedly for us, the Holocaust Museum in Washington and the (inaudible) is the best example given by the thinking people. These are the examples that are here to stay. And as far as Auschwitz-Birkenau is concerned, that is the largest cemetery ever without tombs. And that is exactly what has shouldered such people as me with this commitment to take care of this memory. However, I do assure you, Madam Secretary, that the care and also the lives and all the harms that have been suffered by those who are examples of those days. These are the issues that are still in the minds of the politicians, although, perhaps this is not in the forefront of their thinking as it should be.
I have served twice in the capacity of the minister of foreign affairs of the independent Poland and, in both occasions, my first foreign visits were those to Washington and Jerusalem. And I would also like to remind that our great fellow countryman, he also was the one to pray at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and he was also the one to pray at the Weeping Wall. And that was not by coincidence. And, to the best of my knowledge, I am actually -- I was actually the only minister for foreign affairs who, at the same time, was the honorary citizen of (inaudible).
And let me finish by telling you a joke about (inaudible) in Paris, the Nobel Prize winner and also (inaudible) president. And in 1995, as I was visiting him, he held a press conference. And as the press conference was going on he said, "Well, dear ladies and gentlemen" -- this is how he addressed the journalists -- "here we are, the journalists and me and our dear guests. And, actually, just look at this. Israel is such a small state, and still it's got two foreign ministers. That is me and my dear friend."
I believe that that was really a great joke in the Jewish, but also Central Eastern European (inaudible) actually helped the sense of humor of the two weekends. And, to be sure, that is exactly the (inaudible) against the totalitarianism and (inaudible) has united our people in both our countries. And, therefore, I would like to wish that the American people and you, Madam Secretary, good luck with your internal reforms, with your peaceful influence on the world, and let God protect us and you.
MODERATOR: (Via translator.) Madam Secretary, ladies and gentlemen, at the conclusion of this meeting I would like to thank you all very much again for coming here and visiting the Museum of History of the City of Krakow. And I would like to express my hope that, Madam Secretary, that you would agree to sign our book for prosperity (inaudible).