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  2005-03-03—Berkley_Holocaust commemoration
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2005 blog


Rep. Berkley tells of her admiration
for Holocaust survivors' fortitude, March 3, 2005

holocaust file

U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev), in a floor speech to arrange special authorization for use of the Capitol Rotunda on May 5 for Holocaust Remembrance Day, said when she attended the recent ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, she was struck by how indomitable the will of the survivors must have been to remain alive.

"There I was sitting with four pairs of socks, boots, a hat, two pairs of gloves, four sweaters, a warm jacket and sitting under a blanket and freezing wondering how these people, how these extraordinary people managed to survive one day," Berkley told her House colleagues March 1 before they voted unanimously to authorize use of the Rotunda for the ceremony. 

"Forget the gas chambers, forget the gruesome medical experiments, forget the random acts of man's inhumanity to man, the incredible cruelty," Berkley continued. "Surviving day to day with no clothes, with no blankets, with no food is truly a testament to those people who managed to survive."

As a second-generation American whose parents had roots in Greece and Eastern Europe, Berkley was spared the horror of losing members of her immediate family in the Holocaust, but, like almost every Jew of European origin, she could count more distant relatives among the victims.

"My grandparents literally walked across Europe to come to this country," Berkley shared with her colleagues. "My mother's side comes from Salonika, Greece. Prior to World War II, prior to the Nazis, there were approximately 80,000 Jews in Salonika. When the Nazis finished with those Jews, there were only 1,000 left. And I am not presumptuous enough to presume to think that my family would have been among those that were chosen to live. 

"My father's side from the Russia-Poland border after hundreds and hundreds of years of a 
thriving culture and civilization were obliterated, exterminated in this Holocaust. Nobody 
remained. Not the towns. Not the people. Not the culture. But here we are 60 years after the 
Holocaust. Here I am, a Jewish American, elected to serve her community and her country in the 
United States Congress, standing on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, alive and free, supporting the resolution honoring those that were lost."

Speaking about Jews generally, she said she was "struck by the incredible realization that 60 years after the most heinous episode in our civilized world's history here we still are. We are not only survivors, but we have managed to thrive. Every year those who have survived and thrived, their children and grandchildren and now their great grandchildren, gather under the dome of the United States Capitol, the very seat of power of the most important and strongest nation in the world."  —Donald H. Harrison