Ambassador Byrnes’ Remarks at Holocaust Commemoration Event

Remarks of Ambassador Kate M. Byrnes
Holocaust Commemoration Event
March 2022

Good evening.  It is always a privilege, albeit a somber one, to commemorate the Holocaust of the Jews of the North Macedonia alongside the Jewish community and numerous other supportive embassies and institutions.  Today, we stop to remember and honor the more than 7,000 Jews from North Macedonia who perished in the Nazi death camp of Treblinka in World War II.

It is no secret that we face difficult times in the world today.  It can be easy to lose hope, to grow weary of the great progress we must still make as a society and as nations, even 79 years after the atrocities of the Holocaust and the deportation of the Jews of North Macedonia.  There are challenges and difficulties before us, but I believe in our collective strength and determination as partners.  Our actions and our convictions serve as a way to honor the lost ancestors, friends, family members, and neighbors we recognize and remember today.

To draw inspiration from President Biden’s words at his recent State of the Union address, “Now is the hour.  Our moment of responsibility.  Our test of resolve and conscience, of history itself.”

The history we remember and reflect upon this evening inspires and teaches us that now is the time for unity, not division.  It is time to forge greater bonds with neighbors, by acknowledging the facts of the past, no matter how difficult they may be, while also maintaining focus on a successful future for North Macedonia.

Now is the time to showcase our values of humanity and respect.  It is time to end antisemitism and to reject Holocaust denial and distortion.  These destructive and disrespectful narratives only serve to sow discord and division.  Especially at this time, it is vital to remember that the religions, ethnicities, and cultures that make up the fabric of not only North Macedonia but of our friends and allies deserve to be celebrated and respected.

Antisemitism – along with any form of racism and xenophobia – has no place in modern society.  Disinformation and false narratives distort the realities made so evident in Jewish history by the absence of those who were murdered and their missing descendants.  Not only are these narratives factually and historically inaccurate but manipulating them for political gain and as a justification for aggression is immoral.

President Biden has made unequivocally clear that countering Holocaust distortion and denial and supporting Holocaust restitution, remembrance, and education are priorities for his administration.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken is the stepson of a Holocaust survivor and personally understands how critical our efforts are at the Department of State.  The Department will sponsor an international visitor program focused on combatting Holocaust distortion and denial.  Our embassy supports an annual regional summer academy for educators to share best practices for teaching about the Holocaust and Jewish history in the Balkans.

Combatting Holocaust denial and distortion takes more than words and thoughts.  It demands action – not only from governments but from everyday citizens.

We will continue these efforts without fail, because we must never let the history of 79 years ago repeat itself.  We stand with the Jewish Community of North Macedonia – now and in the future.

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