Westchester County Executive George Latimer's full remarks from Thursday, May 2, when he spoke during the annual Yom Hashoah Commemoration at the Garden of Remembrance in White Plains:
“This is an event where we both remember and we commit to never forget, those are two different realities. We remember that six million people, innocent people, were herded into boxcars like animals. Brought into gas chambers and mass murdered. They were put in pits and shot with automatic weapons. For the singular crime that they were Jewish.
“The accomplishments, the life, the offspring that never happened because of the Holocaust is incalculable. And when we remember, we remember people and families – uncles, grandfathers who suffered a horrible death. An inhumane death.
“The reason to never forget is that the evil that triggered that Holocaust is with us still. And while it manifested itself individually in a gunman in Squirrel Hill, a gunman in Poway and similar actions taken against Muslims, against Catholics, against people of other faith traditions -- it's still that same core evil that exists and that we must be on our guard for all the time.
“The concentration camps were not built in a week. The murders that happened in the early 1940s were set in motion by actions that happened up to a decade before. May I remind you of the timeline?
“It began with an election - voters went to the polls on January 30, 1933 and they elected members of the Reichstag. Out of that public process Adolf Hitler became the German Chancellor. On March 24 of that very year an enabling Act was passed by the legislature giving Hitler legal authority for dictatorship. April 1 of that year Hitler calls for a boycott of all Jewish businesses. Jews were dismissed from working in government and civil positions. [Along with] all the judges, all the lawyers, the journalists, the conductors, the musicians, the professors, the scientists. By May 10, there was the burning of books by Jewish authors. Works of wisdom burned because of who the author was.
“By July of that year, July 14, the Nazi party was declared the only legal party in Germany. By 1935, non-Aryans were no longer allowed to serve in the military. Jews were no longer allowed entrance to cinemas, theaters, swimming pools and resorts.
“And, to the extent that the press protested Hitler he call them then ‘Lügenpresse’ -- the lying press [when they really just] sought to report the truth.
“By September of 1935 the Nuremberg laws were passed. By 1938, a decree calling for compulsory Aryanization of Jewish businesses. Jews could no longer own property -- all of their property belonged to the German Reich. By August, Jews were made to take on an additional name – ‘Israel’ for men and ‘Sara’ for women. By October, German-Jewish passports were marked with a ‘J.’ By November of 1938, there was Kristallnacht.
“It didn't happen in a week. It didn't happen in a month. It came through the slow erosion of societal norms, the slow acceptance of people to abnormal realities that they began to accept as normal. Then the political process winnowed down. When Hitler began he might have had a third of Germany on his side -- just a third. But when he got 100 percent of the power, that third wiped out 6 million people.
“We are required to remember those who died and we are required to never forget. And to look for every example of that slow diminution of societal agreement that says we are all brothers and sisters - but not the immigrants. We are all brothers and sisters -- but not the Muslims. We are all brothers and sisters -- but not the Jews. We are all brothers and sisters -- but not the Catholics. And at the end of the day -- we are not brothers and sisters. We are the rulers and we choose to take your life.
“That is what we must never forget. We must never forget that it happened slowly and insidiously. And, it can happen again.”