Holocaust survivors, veterans gather at DC museum
Former President Bill Clinton, right, and poet Rebecca Dupas, left, present Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, second from left, and World War II Army veteran Scottie Ooton, a member of the 84th Infantry Division which liberated Hannover-Ahlem concentration camp, second from right, with pins marking the 20th anniversary of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Monday, April 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Elderly Holocaust survivors and the veterans who helped liberate them gathered for what could be their last big reunion Monday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Nearly 1,000 survivors and World War II vets joined with former President Bill Clinton and Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust activist Elie Wiesel to mark the museum's 20th anniversary. Organizers chose not to wait for the 25th milestone because many survivors and vets may not be alive in another five or 10 years.
"We felt it was important, while that generation is still with us in fairly substantial numbers, to bring them together," said Museum Director Sara Bloomfield.
Washington has many monuments and memorials that offer something special for visitors from around the world, Clinton told the crowd, "but the Holocaust memorial will be our conscience."
This Thursday, April 25, 2013 photo shows an armband with the Star of David and a badge for a forced laborer in Germany at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum during a preview of the new exhibit "Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust" in Washington. The exhibition, opening April 30, 2013, includes interviews with perpetrators of collaboration and complicity in the Nazi genocide. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Since the museum opened, the world has made huge scientific discoveries, including the sequencing of the human genome, Clinton said.
"Every non age-related difference you can see in this room and across the globe, every single one is contained in one half of 1 percent of our genetic makeup ... but every one of us spends too much time on that half a percent," Clinton said. "That makes us vulnerable to the fever and the sickness that the Nazis gave to the Germans.
"And that sickness is very alive all across the world today."
The occasion marked a reunion of sorts for Clinton and Wiesel: Both were on hand to dedicate the museum at its 1993 opening. On Sunday night, the museum presented its highest honor to World War II veterans who helped end the Holocaust. Susan Eisenhower accepted the award on behalf of her grandfather, U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, and all veterans of the era.