Trump and other leaders mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day amid rising anti-Semitism

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holocaust memorialA girl places stones at the Holocaust memorial during the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the massacre of some 2,000 Jews by Nazi occupiers and their Lithuanian collaborators during World War II in Moletai, Lithuania, Monday, Aug. 29, 2016.Mindaugas Kulbis/AP

  • Leaders from around the world shared solemn statements online in honor of this year's International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
  • The day of remembrance comes amid a surge of anti-semitic incidents in the past two years and rising levels of Holocaust denial.
  • High levels of anti-semitic crime and seemingly decreasing awareness of the deaths of nearly 6 million Jews paint an alarming picture among adult populations.

Leaders from around the world shared solemn statements online in honor of this year's Holocaust Remembrance Day, which comes amid a surge of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in recent years.

This year's day of remembrance marks the 74th anniversary of the liberation of those imprisoned at Auschwitz concentration camp, where it's estimated 1 million people died. Hundreds of thousands of mentally ill and disabled people and half a million people of Romani descent were also killed in the Holocaust.

President Donald Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka, was the first of America's first family to share her tribute on Twitter, writing that the day marked a chance to "commemorate and honor the lives lost to evil and the strength of those who stood up to confront it." First lady Melania Trump tweeted soon after to "pay tribute to those who were lost and reflect on the tragedy of the Holocaust during World War 2."

In an official statement released Sunday morning, the White House included an American officer's account of a death camp before stating the horrors inflicted by the German Third Reich.

"Six million Jews were systematically slaughtered in horrific ways," the statement read. "The Nazis also enslaved and murdered Slavs, Roma, gays, people with disabilities, religious leaders, and others who courageously opposed their cruel regime."

The statement continued: "the brutality of the Holocaust was a crime against men, women, and children. It was a crime against humanity. It was a crime against God."

The message added that the best remembrance is to "strive to prevent such suffering from happening again."

President Trump tweeted a link to the statement along with a picture of him at Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to Holocaust victims. Trump has been accused of dog-whistling to anti-Semites during his campaign and presidency. In 2018, he was criticized for his statement marking Holocaust Remembrence Day that didn't mention Jewish people.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn both announced they had signed the Holocaust Educational Trust Book of Commitment, a British Holocaust education initiative.

Corbyn's involvement Sunday comes after he was accused of anti-semitism last year, based on his support for renaming Holocaust Memorial Day and involvement with a 2010 event where a Holocaust survivor compared Israel to Nazism.

Disturbing findings

Though the holiday was established by the United Nations in 2005 in part to promote Holocaust education, recent surveys have shown that many adults still lack basic knowledge about the genocide.

The anniversary comes after Anti-Semitic incidents surged 57% in the US in 2017, according to figures from the Anti-Defamation League that marked the first time cases were reported in every single state since 2010 and the largest increase in one year.

Fifty-two percent of Americans said incorrectly that Hitler came to power through force. Forty-one percent of Americans and 66% of millennials couldn't say what Auschwitz was.

The survey also found that 22% of millennials said they had never heard of the Holocaust or weren't sure.

A survey released Sunday by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust found that one in 20 British adults do not believe the Holocaust happened and one in five said they thought fewer than two million were killed, one of the most recent measures of disturbing trends among current Holocaust knowledge.

A 2018 poll conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found several disturbing trends among Americans, including that 31% of the population and 41% of millennials believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

After an October 2018 mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a gunman who espoused anti-semitism and support for the Trump administration's anti-immigrant rhetoric online, many have connected the rise of hate in America to the president's open disparagement of immigrants and mixed messaging on incidents like the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
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