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Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke Delivers Remarks at the 30th Annual Federal Inter-Agency Holocaust Remembrance Program


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Thank you so much for the kind introduction. I am truly honored to be with you to remember a tragedy that must never be forgotten, that commands our vigilance against hatred and bigotry and that denies us any moral refuge for silence and inaction. Acts of remembrance like today’s program not only honor the victims. They also protect the rule of law.

Nearly 20 years ago, in the rural town of Whitwell, Tennessee, middle school students conceived a unique and moving form of Holocaust remembrance. By any measure, Whitwell was not diverse. It had no Catholics, no Muslims and no Jews. To teach about diversity, Linda Hooper, the middle school principal, decided to address the Holocaust. She found, though, that the students were simply unable to comprehend the enormity of the loss of six million Jews. To try to visualize the unfathomable number, they decided to collect six million paper clips. They solicited people from all over the world – Presidents and Prime Ministers, Nobel laureates and diplomats, movie idols and sports stars – to send paper clips. The response was overwhelming. As word spread, Holocaust survivors came to speak with them, and the students even procured an authentic German rail car to house the millions of paper clips they collected.

The project transformed the community – both students and parents. Every family in the town of 1,600 got involved in what became the Children’s Holocaust Memorial. The eye-opening moral education and the deep emotional engagement of these ordinary people affirms the value of remembrance and nourishes hope that we can prevent similar tragedies.

But that hope is under siege. The past few years have seen unspeakable atrocities in Ukraine, Ethiopia, the Congo and elsewhere around the world.

And right here at home, in our enlightened democracy, hate crimes are at an all-time high. The ADL reports that antisemitic incidents – including assaults, vandalism, threats and murder – rose 36% in 2022 over 2021, and 2021 was 34% higher than 2020. Our experience here at the Justice Department is consistent with the trend. Just this month, we obtained a guilty plea from a Texas man for setting fire to Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Austin. In February, we charged a California man with hate crimes for targeting and shooting two Jewish men as they departed religious services outside Los Angeles-area synagogues. The victims suffered injuries, but, thank goodness, they survived.

The victims of the 2018 attack on the Tree of Life and New Light Jewish congregations in Pittsburgh were not so fortunate. 11 people died, and the trial in that case starts this month. 

Attacks against Black people – the most targeted group – and against other marginalized communities continue to increase. We have obtained convictions for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by three white men simply because he was Black; for the mass shooting of 23 Latinos at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, who were targeted simply because they were deemed as replacing white people in this country; for a knife attack on an Asian family because China was ostensibly responsible for COVID; and for many, many acts of violence because of the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victims.  

But we all know that criminal prosecutions, standing alone, will not end hate crimes. And that’s why we’re addressing non-criminal acts of bias that rear their ugly head in our schools, workplaces and neighborhoods, as we did recently in a Utah school district where racial harassment of Black and Asian students was rampant. And that’s why we’re seeking to prevent hate crimes through education and awareness, including a community outreach program, United Against Hate. Last fall, Attorney General Garland announced that all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the country will host this program.

Remembrance of the Holocaust is critical in this effort – as a motivator, as a North Star in the fight against hate and as a stark warning of the hell that lies beyond the boundaries of the rule of law. We honor those who perished in the Holocaust. We sanctify their memory, by rededicating ourselves to the struggle against antisemitism, racism and every form of bigotry and hate, to fortify the hope that humanity never again confronts evil so extreme, hatred so violent and murder so routinized, that we need a freight car of paperclips to help people comprehend it.

Thank you.

Updated April 18, 2023