ASSISTANT SECRETARY KAREN DONFRIED: Good afternoon to all of you, and thank you, Ellen. It is my sincere honor to welcome all of you to the State Department for this important occasion to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland. And we are simply delighted to be honoring its director, Dr. Cywinski, for his accomplishments in preserving the Auschwitz-Birkenau site and ensuring its international stature is one of the world’s most moving and most important historic sites.
I also want to thank the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for its partnership in this event. The preservation of Auschwitz-Birkenau is critical to ensuring that the historical fact of the Holocaust is made tangible to new generations, and that its lessons continue to be taught and understood. It is thanks to dedicated people such as Dr. Cywinski that Poland continues to do important work on Holocaust commemoration.
His leadership of this mission truly has been extraordinary. Auschwitz and Birkenau should never have existed, so why are we so keen to preserve this place of unspeakable horror? Would it not be reasonable to erase it from the landscape, remove the very thought of what it represents from our minds, recognize it as the cemetery it is, and then let the grass grow over it and leave it to the dead?
Our answer to these questions is no. We must not forget such evil. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland ensures that we remember. More than 75 years after the crematoria ceased their deadly work, the State Museum continues to ensure the site is preserved in perpetuity. Backed by enormous support from the Polish government and international donors, this site is maintained to help future generations understand that such cold-blooded cruelty and systematic mass murder must never happen again. And to stand as irrefutable evidence of the Holocaust to any perverse persons who may deny it took place.
The United States is among the site’s proud supporters, and since 2010 has contributed $17 million to the Auschwitz-Birkenau foundation. I am especially pleased our colleagues from the Polish Embassy are joining us here today. As allies and partners Poland and the United States have stood together through many challenges. We are doing so again today as we and so many other countries around the world have together called on the Russian government to stop its unconscionable war against Ukraine.
The very ideals that bind the United States and Poland — freedom, tolerance, democracy, peace, security — are under threat across Europe as never before, certainly not since the Second World War and the Holocaust. It is particularly appalling that the Kremlin has exploited the history of the Holocaust to further its geopolitical aims against Ukraine and other countries in the region. In supporting the preservation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau site, we stand in eternal solidarity with survivors.
We must safeguard your testimony, their testimony, so that truth will never die. The world must never forget. The world must never deny. The world must never downplay the Holocaust. We must remain ever on guard, and we must do far more to teach the lessons of the Holocaust and apply them in our own time. We must counter hate and lies with tolerance and truth. And we must stand up for human dignity and freedom wherever they are imperiled. Thank you so much and congratulations and thank you for your important work.