Anniversary of VE Day Reminds Us: We Must Take Sides
Today is the 70th Anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany. The Allied victory in Europe is reason for great celebration and yet another opportunity to express our gratitude to the generation of Americans who fought and sacrificed in World War II.
It is also a time for solemn remembrance of one of the most painful chapters in human history. In April of 1945, General Eisenhower sent a telegraph to the Army Chief of Staff George Marshall. Marked “Marshall’s eyes only,” it read: “We continue to uncover German concentration camps for political prisoners in which conditions of indescribable horror prevail. I have visited one of these myself and I assure that whatever has been printed on them to date has been an understatement.”
The victims of these horrors numbered in the millions: Jews were targeted viciously, but so too were Poles, Roma, Slavs, dissenting clergy, the disabled, and gays. At the grim memorials of Dachau and Auschwitz and other sites of murder, we stand in the shadow of the victims.
We must not stand silent in the face of such threats.
And yet, even today, even while the survivors are still with us, there are those who again call for the destruction of the Jewish people. These voices sometimes speak in new languages in places like Tehran to Damascus. Or they preach in the very same European cities from which Jews were sent to the camps. Or they are finding a new home, and a new expression of anti-Semitism, by demonizing the Jewish state on college campuses.
We must not stand silent in the face of such threats. Because as the living memorials of Auschwitz and Dachau teach us, when evil men profess their plans to destroy the Jewish people, we must believe them.
And we must keep the solemn promise that was made when World War II ended: Never Again.
We keep that promise when America stands as a global defender of peace and democracy. For decades, the United States — and the men and women who wear the uniform of our Armed Forces — have defended free people against tyranny and protected the weak against the strong. It is for that reason that we blocked the global aspirations of Soviet aggression, and it is for that reason that we stand with our allies in Israel today.
God willing, one day the cost of peace will be cheap and unthreatened by the aspirations of tyrants. But until that day, and especially on this day, we remember the words of Elie Weisel: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
On this 70th Anniversary of VE Day, we remember the fallen, we regret the long silence of the good, and we honor the brave men and women who silenced the tormentors and freed Europe.