WASHINGTON—Nazi concentration camp survivors and their liberators gathered in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building Thursday in a ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of World War II concentration camps.
General David H. Petraeus spoke at the ceremony, which was part of Remembrance Days hosted by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Holocaust.
Petraeus noted that the gathering was actually a celebration. He told attendees "to remember the great atrocity of which mankind is capable and to remember the great resilience and humanity of which mankind is capable as well."
One hundred and twenty World War II veterans who liberated Nazi concentration camps and the survivors they liberated were in attendance. They were joined by the family of Stephen Tyrone Johns—a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum special police officer who was shot down June 10, 2009, protecting museum visitors and staff.
Sara Bloomfield, director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, spoke of the great task liberators undertook. She commended the Army for initiating the process of repatriating 11 million displaced persons freed from the camps after the war. She added that it was the Army that began the de-Nazification of German society and the process of bringing those responsible to justice.
"Today as we pay tribute to these veterans we recognize that American soldiers played many roles,” she said.
“They were fighters and liberators. They were caregivers and resettlers. They were rabbis and reverends. They were prosecutors and jurists. They were educators and governors. And they played one more role of enormous and lasting significance: they were witnesses.”
Bloomfield explained that as the first eye witnesses of the horrific Nazi camps, the liberating soldiers were given an enormous task.