Citing his "incomparable courage and commitment," President Carter yesterday presented a special congressional gold medal to Simon Wiesenthal, the Ukrainian-born Jew who has helped track down more than 1,100 Nazis since World War II.
In a sometimes tearful ceremony in the East Room of the White House, the 71-year-old Wiesenthal was honored not just for his effort to make it not just an act of revenge but of warning, that the genocide of 11 million people in Nazi Germany should not be repeated.
"It is up to all of us to harness theoutrage of our memories," the president said. In teaching the lesson of the Holocaust to succeeding generations, he said, "they must be reminded that people can only be molded in the image of evil when they have no principles of their own to uphold, that people move to violence only when they are not convinced of the strength of peace . . . We must instill in them an undying commitment to human rights by demonstrating our commitment to human rights."
Carter called Wiesenthal, who survived incarceration in concentration camps in Poland and Austria, "a unique example for all those who value the pursuit of peace." The president seemed to choke up as he finished with a Wiesenthal quote: "I beleive in God,and in the world to come. When each of us comes before the six million,we will be asked what we did with our lives. One will say that he became a watchmaker and another will say that he became a tailor . . . but I will say, I did not forget you."
The president then added: ". . . nor, Simon Wiesethal, will the world ever forget you," before giving him an embrace and his place at the microphone. e
For his part, Wiesenthal warned that"there is no denying that Hitler and Stalin are alive today . . . they are waiting for us to forget, because this is what makes possible the resurrection of these two monsters."
The audience of about 150 included three senators, George McGovern (D-:S.D.), John Warner (R-Va.) and Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.), whose parents left Germany when he was 5 years old to escape the Nazis. Warner's wife, Elizabeth Taylor Warner, was also there, as were two cabinet officers, Neil Goldschmidt and Philip M. Klutznick, and national security affairs adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.