The Office of the Governor of the State of New York

01/26/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/26/2020 16:59

Governor Cuomo Departs for Poland to Attend Official Commemoration of 75th Anniversary of Liberation of Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo departed today for Poland, along with Empire State Development President & CEO Eric Gertler and Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, for the official commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Governor will join world leaders as the only U.S. elected official to attend the official commemoration events on Monday.

The Governor held a press briefing today before his departure flight, where he was joined by holocaust survivors as well as Al Moskin, Concentration Camp Liberator, WWII Veteran and Holocaust Educator.

Governor Cuomo will leave a rock engraved with the words 'New York State Remembers,' letting the world know that New York never forgets the atrocities of the Holocaust and how the United States responded during that horrific moment in history. The Governor is also delivering mementos and tokens from Auschwitz survivors and from New York State elected officials and Jewish community leaders, to leave those behind as well.

Displayed at the press conference was the Alfred Kantor Sketchbook - a book containing drawings of the machinery and inner workings of Auschwitz, drawn by a prisoner of the camp who smuggled paper and pencil to capture these images. The book is on loan from the Museum of Jewish Heritage, where it was gifted by Alfred Kantor, who immigrated to the United States and worked and lived in Bayside, Queens for many years. Also on display at the press conference was the trumpet played by Louis Bannet in Auschwitz. Bannet was a well-known jazz musician in the Netherlands who was sent to Auschwitz, where he was forced to play the trumpet until his departure. The trumpet is also on loan from the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

'I want to make one thing clear to the Jewish community here in New York State and around the world: We remember. This state will never forget the Nazi atrocities that were perpetrated against the Jews, and as we confront a growing cancer of hate and intolerance against the Jewish community, this trip will serve as a reminder of our shared New York values against intolerance and division,' Governor Cuomo said. 'We are bringing with us personal items that tell the story of victims and survivors of the Holocaust as symbols of our commitment to always stand in solidarity with the Jewish community.'

At the press briefing, the Governor was joined by Holocaust survivors and Jewish community leaders including:

  • Betty Migdol, Auschwitz Survivor
  • Samuel Hersly, Auschwitz Survivor
  • Malcolm I. Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Co-Chair, New York Israel Commission
  • Michael Miller, Executive Vice President & CEO, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York
  • Bruce C. Ratner, Executive Chairman, Forest City Enterprises, Inc.; Chairman of the Board, Museum of Jewish Heritage
  • Rabbi David Zwiebel, Executive Vice President, Agudath Israel of America
  • Al Moskin, Concentration Camp Liberator, WWII Veteran, Holocaust Educator
  • Paul Adler, Former Rockland County Democratic Chairman; Advisory Board Member, Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance & Education
  • Amy Bressman, President, UJA Federation New York
  • Rabbi Howard Buechler, Dix Hills Jewish Center
  • Maury Litwack, Director of State Political Affairs, Orthodox Union; Executive Director, Teach Advocacy Network
  • Laurence Naiman, Board Member, Jewish Community Relations Council Long Island
  • Mindy Perlmutter, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council Long Island
  • Alex Rosemberg, New York & New Jersey Director of Community Engagement, Anti-Defamation League
  • Dylan Rosenbaum, Founder, Erase the Hate Campaign
  • Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum, Founder & President, North American Board of Rabbis
  • Andrea Winograd, Executive Director, Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance & Education
  • Rabbis Mordechai and Chaim Kamentzky, Yeshiva of South Shore
  • Karla BonnĂ©, AJC Global
  • Michael Cohen, Simon Weisenthal Center
  • Lillian Feintuch, Holocaust Survivor
  • Helen Kurtz, Holocaust Survivor
  • Jean Kurtz, Holocaust Survivor
  • Chana Shapiro, Holocaust Survivor
  • Steve Zuckerman, Holocaust Survivor
  • Reiss Lerner, Holocaust Survivor
  • Tatanya Belkovskaya, Holocaust Survivor
  • Emile Wohlberg, Holocaust Survivor
  • Eva Friedman, Holocaust Survivor

Betty Migdol, Auschwitz Survivor said, 'As we mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I am moved by Governor Cuomo's dedication to showing New York stands in solidarity with our Jewish community. Today I brought a photo of my family in a displaced persons camp in 1947 after we left Auschwitz for the Governor to leave. Thank you again, Governor, for your show of support for the Jewish community.'

Samuel Hersley, Auschwitz Survivor, said, 'I lost my parents my brother and over 70 cousins, uncles and aunts in the Holocaust. I myself was in Auschwitz for 1 year when I was 18 years old. I am the only survivor from my entire family. Thank you Governor for addressing the recent rise of antisemitism here in New York and around the world by showing solidarity with the Jewish community and going to Poland. It is tragic that 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, antisemitism and holocaust denial is growing. Please never forget my story and all of those who cannot tell their story it should not be forgotten.'

Evan R. Bernstein, Vice President, Northeast Division Anti-Defamation League, said, 'Members of our Jewish community have been the target of despicable actions, and it is hard to believe that these horrific acts of violence and hatred are still taking place in this day and age. As cowards attempt to scare us and divide us, Governor Cuomo has stood up against anti-Semitism and taken aggressive actions to ensure the Jewish community is safe in New York. And now, the Governor will attend the official commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on behalf of New York and the nation, continuing his mission to raise awareness about the atrocities of the Holocaust and help end this period of hate once and for all.'

Rabbi David Zwiebel, Executive Vice President, Agudath Israel of America, said, 'Governor Cuomo's personal participation in tomorrow's international commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the notorious Auschwitz - Birkenau concentration camps sends a powerful message that has as much to do with the headlines of today as it does with the pages of history: anti-Semitism is a poisonous cancer that must be confronted wherever it raises its ugly head. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for your never-wavering friendship, for your uncommon human decency, for your tireless leadership. Jewish New Yorkers, and all persons of goodwill, are deeply indebted to you.'

Michael Schmidt, Director, AJC NY, said, 'As we have seen a surge in incidents of anti-Semitism across New York State, we express our thanks to Governor Cuomo for his leadership and for his actions in traveling to visit Auschwitz to commemorate the 75th anniversary of its liberation by American troops, Governor Cuomo is sending a strong message that history cannot repeat itself and that there is absolutely no place for hate and anti-Semitism in New York State or anywhere across the globe. The lessons from our past must be heard loud and clear.'

Michael Miller, Executive Director, JCRC, said, 'During these painfully troubling times in our State and our nation, it is now more important than ever that we share stories of what happened to the Jewish community during the Holocaust and vow to never let these horrors happen again. I am proud that Governor Cuomo will be at the 75th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau to represent New York State and the entire United States, and I know that he will continue to ensure the unspeakable atrocities perpetrated against the Jewish people are never repeated nor ever forgotten.'

Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice President, Conference of Presidents said, 'Governor Cuomo has always been a friend to the Jewish community and a steadfast leader in the fight against the growing anti-Semitism that is infecting our State and nation. As one of the few elected officials in U.S. to attend the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, he is showing New York's support for the Jewish community and raising awareness about the horrors of the Holocaust so that we never forget.'

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, NYBR Executive Vice President, said, 'The chief lesson of the Holocaust was that we were silent when we should have shouted. We will no longer close our eyes or mouths when acts of hatred are perpetrated against the Jew or anyone deemed different. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for always raising his voice and refusing to stand idly when we are under attack .May we continue to remember those murdered in Auschwitz by never being silent again.'

Eric S. Goldstein, CEO, UJA-Federation of New York, said, 'In this time of great division and attacks on the Jewish community, it is crucial to our future that we remember the Holocaust and the atrocities of Auschwitz-Birkenau. I am proud to stand with Governor Cuomo as New York State honors the memory of those lost and stands with the Jewish community today and always. Thank you, Governor, for your commitment to the Jewish community and for leading by example in these difficult times.'

Bruce C. Ratner, Executive Chairman, Forest City Enterprises, Inc.; Chairman of the Board, Museum of Jewish Heritage, said, 'I am proud to stand alongside Governor Cuomo today as we honor the memory of those who were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau. As we remember the 6 million lives lost during the Holocaust, we are mindful of the current scourge of anti-Semitism throughout the United States. It is vital in order to create a peaceful future that we never forget our painful past. I am grateful to Governor Cuomo for never forgetting the Jewish community and his commitment to ensuring that the Jewish community is seen and understood in the State of New York and beyond. '

Allen Fagin, Executive Vice President and Chief Professional Officer of the Orthodox Union said, 'As we approach the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we must continue telling the stories of our Jewish brothers and sisters and the horrors they endured so that we never forget. I am so grateful that Governor Cuomo, who has been a national leader in the fight against anti-Semitism, is representing New York and the United States at this important remembrance ceremony and for his continuous support of the Jewish community.'

Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Central Synagogue, said, 'Thank you Governor Cuomo for honoring the lives of those lost at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland and your unwavering commitment in New York State to ensure that future generations remember and understand the atrocities of the Holocaust.'

Alan Moskin, Concentration Camp Liberator, WWII Veteran and Holocaust Educator said, 'Gov. Cuomo's historic trip to Poland to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz is critical to the message we teach the children in our schools-NEVER FORGET, to make sure it will be NEVER AGAIN!! Governor Cuomo's commitment to Holocaust education and his fight against hate and anti-Semitic behavior is critical to me and the few liberators and survivors left.'

Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum, Founder & President, North American Board of Rabbis, said, 'Governor Cuomo, traveling to Auschvitz the worldslargest Jewish cemetery, sanctified ground which speaks to the six million individuals, whose lives were murdered by the worlds greatest act of inhumanity known to man. This shows that he understands and lives by the reality that in our great state and indeed our great nation, while we are people of different faiths, we share the same fate. bringing us together shows empowerment and it's the responsibility of every person of good Will to erase the hate of anti-Semitism. We cannot simply look to the whites house, the state house, the little red a CV oil house but the house next door and into our own homes and our own hearts. Finally, it is a profound honor to be asked to bring an offering to be left at Auschvitz. My choice was six new Israeli shekels, each shekel representing one million individuals who perished in the Holocaust. Six million lives that could've been saved if the Jewish democratic state had come into existence in 1938 instead of 1948. Those coins represent another reality in our surreal age when we never thought we would relive a horrible past, and it is this: that today for world jewelry to be secure, Israel has to be secure.'

Amid a rash of hate crimes in New York and across the country, including the brutal stabbing that took place during a Hannukah celebration in Monsey, this trip will reinforce the State's support for the Jewish community and raise cultural awareness about the horrors that the Jewish community have endured. Last week Governor Cuomo introduced a first-in-the-nation domestic terrorism law and legislation mandating that every student visit a museum that covers topics related to the Holocaust as part of an education curriculum on diversity and tolerance in the FY2020 budget. Governor Cuomo has also proposed expanding New York's Holocaust Museum at Battery Park City.

On August 15, 2019, Governor Cuomo advanced a first-in-the-nation domestic terrorism law to include mass violence motivated by hate. Under this proposal, mass shootings against a group of people based on their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity or expression, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation would be punishable by up to life in prison without parole. This change would effectively treat these acts as they should: as terrorist crimes, carrying the same penalty as other terrorist crimes. The Governor included this proposal as a key component of his 2020 State of the State address and the FY 2021 Executive Budget.

As part of the Governor's 2020 State of the State address and advanced in the Budget, the Governor proposed that New York schools add a curriculum that teaches civic values and the state's rich history of diversity and religious freedom. As part of the proposal, Battery Park City Authority will develop a plan to expand the Museum of Jewish Heritage on the Holocaust to be a learning destination for school children across the state. The Governor also advanced legislation mandating that every student visit a museum that covers topics related to the Holocaust as part of the curriculum.