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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at the 30th Annual Federal Inter-Agency Holocaust Remembrance Program


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Thank you. It’s a privilege to join you in this Great Hall, as we honor the survivors of the Holocaust and remember its victims on Yom Hashoah.

I am grateful to the Federal Inter-Agency Holocaust Remembrance Committee for inviting me to speak and hosting this important program, now in its 30th year.

It’s such a gift to be here with Peter Gorog and Manny Mandel, whose stories of courage and resilience inspire all of us.

As Attorney General, I am proud to serve alongside 115,000 extraordinary professionals in the Justice Department. 

Every day, we work to uphold the rule of law, to keep our country safe, and to protect the civil rights of everyone in this nation.

Each of us came to the Department for different reasons.

For me, it was to repay the debt my family owes to this country for our very lives.

Before World War I, America gave my family refuge from religious persecution that allowed them to survive the Holocaust when World War II came.

My grandmother was one of five children born in what is now Belarus. Three made it to the United States, including my grandmother.

Two did not make it. They were killed in the Holocaust.

If not for America, there is little doubt that the same would have happened to her.

But this country took her in. And under the protection of its laws, she was able to live here without fear of persecution.

I am also married to the daughter of a refugee who found protection in the United States.

Shortly after Hitler’s army marched into Austria in 1938, my wife’s mother escaped to America. And under the protection of our laws, she too, was able to live without fear of persecution.

That protection is what distinguishes America from so many other countries.

The protection of law – the Rule of Law – is the foundation of our system of government.

It is also one of the most powerful tools in the fight against hate.  

All of us know about the disturbing rise in antisemitism in this country. 

Indeed, hate crimes against Jews comprised the majority of religion-related hate incidents reported in 2021.

The Justice Department is doing everything in our power to combat the rise in hate-fueled acts and threats of violence.

We are aggressively enforcing hate crime statutes.

We have increased our capacity to investigate hate crimes and hate incidents.

And we are working with state and local governments to do the same.

We do this because we all know what happens when hate is allowed to take root.

We do this to ensure that a tragedy like the Holocaust never happens again.

And we do this because it is part of this Department’s historical inheritance.

In 1945, Justice Robert H. Jackson, a former Attorney General of the United States, served as the Chief Prosecutor at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

In his opening statement, after describing the horrors committed by the Nazis, Justice Jackson emphasized the importance of the Rule of Law.

The trials would not only display to the world the depths of the defendants’ depravity, he explained. They would also put the forces of law, “its precepts, its prohibitions and, most [important] of all, its sanctions, on the side of peace, so that men and women of good will, in all countries, may have ‘leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the law.’”

Decades later, in 1979, the Justice Department created the Office of Special Investigations to identify, denaturalize, and deport Nazi criminals in the United States.

That office also provided support to foreign counterparts in their efforts to bring to justice perpetrators in their jurisdictions.

My friend Eli Rosenbaum – who is well known to all of you – formerly led the Office of Special Investigations. There, he prosecuted World War II Nazi cases for nearly four decades.

I first met Eli in an elevator here at DOJ on a day he had brought Miep Gies to meet then-Attorney General Janet Reno. Mrs. Gies had risked her life to protect Anne Frank and others hiding in the Secret Annex in Amsterdam.

Now Eli leads our efforts against Russian war crimes. I am glad that Eli will be moderating a discussion later in today’s program.

The Justice Department knows that we have an obligation – both legal and moral – to hold individuals accountable for crimes driven by antisemitism and by all forms of hatred.

An obligation to help prevent and deter future acts of hate. An obligation to preserve the Rule of Law.

Through our work, we are sending a clear message that this Justice Department will not allow illegal acts of hatred to go unchecked or unchallenged.

As Americans, we also share obligation – an obligation to remember the horrors of the Holocaust and to listen to the stories of the survivors.

We have a shared obligation to stand up against the dangerous rise in antisemitism and hatred in all of its forms.

It is what we owe to the six million murdered in the Holocaust.

And it is what we owe to future generations.

Thank you for being with us today.

Updated April 18, 2023