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News | May 1, 2014

Confronting the Holocaust: DIA Remembers

By DIA Public Affairs

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” In recognition of Holocaust remembrance week, the Defense Intelligence Agency organized visits to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a permanent living memorial to the victims.

Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. This year’s remembrance week is April 27 – May 4, themed “Confronting the Holocaust: American Responses.” This theme highlights the anniversaries of two tragically significant events in Holocaust history: the turning away of the MS St. Louis, a ship carrying Jewish refugees; and the Hungarian government deporting the first Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In 1939, the MS St. Louis and its 937 passengers sailed along the Florida coast after their landing permits for Cuba were invalidated. They were seeking permission to land in the United States, just three months before World War II. In part due to stringent immigration policies, then President Franklin Roosevelt turned the ship away. While many of the passengers were given temporary refugee status in various European countries, 254 of the 937 died in the Holocaust.

This spring also marks the anniversary of the German occupation of Hungary in 1944, when the newly installed Hungarian government deported 440,000 Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau, effectively destroying the only large Jewish community remaining in Central Europe. The event moved John Pehle, a lawyer at the U.S. Treasury Department, to write a report to Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau urging intervention. As a result, President Roosevelt put Pehle in charge of the War Refugee Board, which today is credited with saving approximately 200,000 lives during the Holocaust.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, calling to attention the continued threat of genocide to the international community and the importance of remaining aware. Though the intelligence community’s roles are vast and varied, DIA’s mission to prevent strategic surprise at all levels, during peacetime, crisis, and war includes staying apprised of the modern risks and threats associated with genocide and international conflict.

A part of this is joining the nation to bear witness and confront the events of the Holocaust.

For more information about this year’s Days of Remembrance, click here to visit theDays of Remembrance page on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website.