Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
January 26, 2023
Thank you, Chairman Dayan for having me at this event commemorating this remarkable and moving exhibit, on the eve of International Remembrance Day.
As you heard, In December, I had the unique opportunity to visit Yad Vashem on a historic trip to Israel with fifteen other UN Ambassadors. The trip was the first of its kind and intended to expand the Abraham Accords while deepening cultural understanding of Israel and its people by those working on multilateral issues at the UN. I previously visited Yad Vashem on a trip with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton back in 2009. Each visit has made me realize how important it is to fight antisemitism every time it rears its ugly head.
I was honored to meet with you, Chairman Dayan, at Yad Vashem and view the book as part of that visit.
The historical legacy of World War II has influenced my work throughout my career. One of my first senior positions overseas was as press attaché at U.S. Embassy Berlin. There I learned so much about the impact of the Holocaust on that city’s Jewish community. While serving in Geneva as the U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, I worked closely with Israeli ambassadors to better inform the diplomatic corps about the importance of pushing back against anti-Israel bias at the United Nations – and like I said just a minute ago, I am continuing that effort here in New York.
To this day, our government remains committed to seeking a measure of justice for victims of the Nazis through State Department efforts on restitution, Holocaust education, and countering Holocaust distortion and denial.
The Book of Names is an extraordinary example of a tangible and personal link to the incalculable loss imposed by the Holocaust. The use of humble materials – paper, and ink – and a simple remembrance of each individual by name – to illustrate the scale of the tragedy of the Holocaust is incredibly moving.
These pages reflect whole communities wiped out – but not forgotten.
The phrase “yad va-shem” refers to the words the prophet Isaiah attributes to God, who tells two groups who fear being cast out of society that He will give them “a place and a name…an everlasting memorial, which shall not be discontinued.”
The Nazis and their accomplices hoped to discontinue the history of the Jewish people. But they failed. Those survivors and the heirs here in this room, this city, and this country are an inspiration. And the Book of Names rightly creates a place in history, and in memory, for each life cut short.
I will close with a wish that their memory may be a blessing to us, a blessing that exhorts us to work each day for a more tolerant, equal, and just world.