Muslim leaders gathered at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum this week to honor and remember Holocaust victims from World War II. For those attending, the remembrance was moving and necessary, especially after certain developments in the Middle East.
Opening ceremonies took place in front of the Eternal Flame in the Hall of Remembrance at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The Eternal Flame burns in commemoration of the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust.
Local Muslim leaders asked to come to the Holocaust Museum in response to a conference hosted in Tehran by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in early December. The conference questioned whether the Holocaust, the genocide of Jews in World War II, ever took place. Previously, Ahmadinejad had called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." The conference elicited strong responses worldwide.
Writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel spoke in New York. "President Ahmadinejad is a disgrace. To his people and all people. To his nation and to all nations."
To open the ceremony in Washington, Sarah Bloomfield, the Holocaust Museum's director, called the Holocaust one of the most documented crimes in human history.
"We stand here with three survivors of the Holocaust and with our great Muslim friends, to condemn this outrage in Iran. And let us be clear. What is going on there is not about history. It is about hate. About hate."
Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), spoke of the common ground he finds with followers of the Jewish faith.
"There's a verse in the Torah, Old Testament, as well as in the Holy Koran, where God Almighty says, ‘Whoever takes one life, [it is] as if [he/she has] taken life [from] all humanity. And whoever saves one life, [it is] as if [he/she has] saved life [for] all humanity.’"
Holocaust survivor Joanna Newman remembered her family being saved from the Nazis by Muslims in Albania. "Everybody knew who we were. And nobody would ever even have thought of denouncing us, giving us away for what we were. Not at all."
Later, beneath a wall with names of death camps in Poland, Muslim representatives lit candles as part of the remembrance. They visited the museum's Tower of Faces -- photos of Jews from Macedonia who were eventually killed by the Nazis, and stood in a railway car in which hundreds of Jews were once crammed as they were transported to death camps.
Holocaust survivor Louisa Israels called the grim display a necessary reminder in order to prevent such an occurrence again. "We all have the same goal, and that is to fight hatred."
Israels also said the Eternal Flame symbolizes more than the millions of Jews who died. Ultimately, she said, it is also a flame of hope.