Memorial Ceremony at Dachau

Dachau, May 3, 2015
Ambassador John B. Emerson

Bundeskanzlerin Merkel,

Ministerpräsident Seehofer,
Dr. Hammermann,
Herr Freller,
Herr Dietz de Loos,
Botschafter Lukens,
meine Damen und Herren,

One of my first visits after I arrived in Germany, as U.S. Ambassador, was to Dachau.  Nearly 40 years earlier, I had come to this place on my own, as a student.  The haunting sculpture by Nandor Glid was seared into my memory; and I have carried it with me ever since.

Jean Samuel, Abba Naor, Vladimír Feierabend, I can barely imagine the memories that you, as survivors, carry with you each and every day.  And I am certain that your experiences of man’s inhumanity to man, have not lost their horror with the passage of time.  We have a special obligation to preserve your stories and the stories of all those who survived.  And we have a sacred obligation to honor the memories of all those who died.

It is also our duty to make sure that good comes from unimaginable bad.  Over the past 70 years, former foes have become friends, bound together by a commitment to freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.  These rights, and their corresponding obligations, allow us to make the choices that are essential to our vision of a world where all people can live in peace, freedom, and dignity; so that as President Obama said in his message on the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Dachau, “History will not repeat itself.”

The President asks that “as we as we reflect on this anniversary, we draw inspiration from, and recall with gratitude, the sacrifices of so many Americans – in particular our brave soldiers (so well represented here today) – to win victory over oppression.”  Then Private First Class Alan Lukens was part of the 20th Armored Division which arrived in Dachau on April 29, 1945 to help liberate the camp.  Many of the soldiers, including my wife’s step-grandfather, were so shocked by the deplorable conditions they found that, for years afterwards, they could not talk about what they saw.  Fortunately, Private Lukens, and many like him, have shared their stories.  His wartime experience strengthened his commitment to the power of international dialogue and the necessity of peace.  Alan Lukens went on to a distinguished career in the foreign service of the Department of State, serving at the highest levels of American diplomacy.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ambassador Alan Lukens.