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


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you so much for the kind introduction. I am honored to speak 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.

The savage depravity of the Holocaust defies comprehension: six million Jews murdered, virtually wiping out the Jewish population of Eastern Europe and beyond, based solely on hate. The magnitude of the evil is startling, but so is its depth. It penetrated the hearts of millions of people, immobilizing opposition as people passively watched their neighbors being shipped off to death camps.

To remember only the evil, though, carves a path to despair, to a paralyzing sense of futility and a cynical embrace of Realpolitik. In this ocean of evil and gloom, we can, if we look, find glimmers of light, flashes of human kindness and acts of courage to inspire our own.

Denmark, for example. Invaded by the Nazis on April 9, 1940, Denmark lacked the capacity to resist and quickly surrendered. But unlike every other country conquered by the Nazis, Denmark assiduously protected its Jewish citizens There were no yellow stars, no roundups and deportations, no butchery and mass graves.

Until October 1943, that is. On Rosh Hashanah eve, the German Police, expecting Jews to be celebrating with family, went house to house to arrest them and send them to concentration camps. But to the Nazis’ surprise, no one was home. On learning of the imminent raids, the Danes — ministers, store clerks, factory workers, just ordinary people — hid Jews in Christian homes, churches, hospitals and factories. And then, these ordinary people gathered every seaworthy vessel they could find, from dinghies to trawlers, and smuggled the Jewish families over the narrow straits to Sweden, where the King of Denmark, at great personal risk, had arranged for their shelter. 95% of Denmark’s Jews survived.  

Several days later, when Nazi authorities asked Mrs. Aage Bertelsen whether she had helped Jews, she responded, “Of course. All decent people did.” But only in Denmark. Undoubtedly, there were decent people across Europe, in Poland and Latvia, in Romania and Germany. But while individual acts of courage occurred, “all decent people” mostly stood by as the Nazis systematically murdered six million Jews.

The courage of the Danish people is thus not only inspirational. It is instructive. It affirms Dr. King’s observation that, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

The Justice Department is not and will not be silent. We will not stand by. We have watched as hate crimes hit an all-time high, as the FBI opened over three times more anti-Jewish hate crime investigations between Oct. 7, 2023, and Jan. 30 than in the previous four months – on top of an already existing year-over-year increase. And we have responded:

  • In April, we obtained a guilty plea on a hate crime charge for a Cornell student who posted threats to kill or injure Jewish students at the university after Oct. 7.
  • We also secured a sentence for a California man who firebombed a Planned Parenthood clinic in Southern California and had planned home invasions of Jewish homes in Los Angeles.
  • In March, we charged a California rideshare driver with a federal hate crime for an assault on a rider because he perceived the rider to be Jewish or Israeli.
  • Also in March, we charged a man with hate crimes for defacing a Synagogue in Eugene, Oregon.

This public information represents a fraction of our work, which, as you may know, we do not disclose until a defendant is charged.

Many hate crimes are messaging crimes. The perpetrators, through their violence, not only target victims but also seek to instill fear in the Jewish community. Far from being silent, we use our prosecutions to send a louder, more powerful message – that antisemitic hate crimes have no place in our democracy and that these purveyors of hate will be fully accountable.

But we know that criminal prosecutions, standing alone, will not end hate crimes. That is why we are challenging other forms of religious discrimination before they mutate into hate crimes. And it is why we are promoting education and awareness, including a community outreach program, United Against Hate, in every U.S. Attorney’s Office in the country. 

Remembrance of all aspects of the Holocaust, from the obscene malignity of the killers to the heroism and humanity of the resistance, 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 anti-Semitism, racism and every other form of bigotry and hate, to fortify the hope that humanity never again confronts evil so extreme, hatred so virulent and murder so routinized that mere decency requires unshakable courage. 

Civil Rights
Updated May 10, 2024