The United States Holocaust Memorial Council got two new council members in August this year, both appointed by President Barack Obama: S. Fitzgerald Haney and Beth Heifetz. President Obama spoke highly of the two, saying, “I am grateful these accomplished individuals have agreed to join this Administration, and I’m confident they will serve ably in these important roles. I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.”
S. Fitzgerald Haney and Beth Heifetz find themselves in impressive company; Elie Weisel is on the same council, as is U.S. Senator Al Franken. The council is made up of 55 members, which are appointed by the President for five-year terms. There are five members each from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as three ex-officio members from the Departments of Education, Interior, and State. The appointments are set on a rotation, so that 11 members are cycled out each year.
“The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national institution for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history, and serves as this country’s memorial to the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust,” reads the USHMM’s website.
In 1979, the idea of a living memorial to the victims of the Holocaust was born from the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. Fourteen years later, in 1993, the USHMM opened. Separate from the US Holocaust Memorial Council, there is also a “Committee on Conscience,” which keeps the nation’s conscience in check by confronting any issues of human genocide throughout the world. The goal is to stop crimes against humanity from occurring.
The Committee on Conscience is headed by Chairman Michael Chertoff, and members of the committee include conservative gay rights activist Ken Mehlman, neoconservative American diplomat and lawyer Elliott Abrams, and 2011 Women for Women UK honoree Todd Fisher, among others.
The USHMM isn’t just a memorial—it’s an educational institution that reminds the world and our country where we have been, where we are now, and where we never want to go again. Its presence will help insure that “such a totally inhumane assault as the Holocaust—or any partial version thereof—never recurs.”