REMARKS FOR INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY
REMARKS BY LT. GOVERNOR ELENI KOUNALAKIS AS PREPARED
JANUARY 27, 2022
Thank you, Mr. Shartsis for your kind introduction. Consul General Kofman, Consul General Jung, Consul General Schramm, and all the members of the Consular Corps joining us today:
It is an honor, and I am humbled, to be with you and members and friends of the American Jewish Committee to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
As a former United States Ambassador to Hungary, I often say my time in Budapest was four years of Holocaust education. What I learned about Hungary’s chapter of The Shoah has had a profound impact on me. Every day during my time there brought some reminder of the holocaust – whether it was organizing programs for holocaust education, supporting the Jewish community in their efforts to seek justice and reclaim their heritage, leading the re-dedication of the statue of Raul Wallenberg in Budapest after it was desecrated, or sitting at the bedside of survivor, and hearing her story.
Since returning home, I’ve felt a deep responsibility to honor the pledge I made so many times during my service overseas – Never Forget, Never Again. Never Forget. Never forget the six million human beings – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, children. Never forget, the depths to which humanity can descend – when society is corrupted through antisemitism, xenophobia and hate. And on a personal note, I will never forget the hundreds of stories that now fill my memory, and the many extraordinary survivors who were willing to tell me their stories. I will also never forget the faces of two little Hungarian brothers – Siril Yisrael Jacob and Zelig Jacob. There is a famous photograph of the boys standing terrified at the train station in Birkenau. They were the same age as my own sons, at the time I was Ambassador. It may have happened over 75 years ago. But Siril and Zelig, along with many others, will always live on in my memory.
In the bright light of the California sunshine, I believe we can revisit and remember even the darkest times of human history in a way that will inform a better future. That is where the second part of our pledge comes in: Never again. The mantra of “never again” is important for many reasons: To me, it is a call for action. It gives us purpose. It helps us define the path forward.
We all know that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States continue to climb, and violence against Jewish communities and institutions persist. We saw this two weeks ago in Texas, and tragically in our own state at the Poway Chabad synagogue in April 2019.
Being here today with all of you – leaders who will continue to speak out, and speak up, at every opportunity, is essential. Gatherings like this are more important, more relevant and more timely than ever.
I also want to underscore the importance of promoting Holocaust education, and I’m very pleased to be sharing the screen today with Morgan Blum Schneider, Director of the Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center which does so much to promote Holocaust education at every instructional level in our state. In California, our commitment to combatting antisemitism is stalwart. State budget allocations for the Holocaust Museum in Los Angeles, the JFCS Holocaust library, and grants for teacher training are all part of our ongoing effort. But there is always more that we can and must do.
Thank you, to the San Francisco Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, and my friend Rabbi Serena Eisenberg, for organizing this event. And thank you to all of you for taking the time out of your busy day to participate in this critically important and relevant observance and discussion, and for our shared continued commitment – Never Forget, Never Again. Thank you.