The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum released a statement Monday to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day that was markedly different from the White House’s statement on the occasion.
“The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators,” the statement reads. “Nazi ideology cast the world as a racial struggle, and the singular focus on the total destruction of every Jewish person was at its racist core.”
The statement noted that “millions of other innocent civilians” were exterminated by Nazis, but “the elimination of Jews was central.”
“The Holocaust teaches us profound truths about human societies and our capacity for evil,” it noted. “An accurate understanding of this history is critical if we are to learn its lessons and honor its victims.”
President Donald Trump did not explicitly mention Jews in the statement he released Friday, in a break from bipartisan tradition.
The White House statement mentioned the “victims, survivors, heroes” of the Holocaust and “the innocent,” but did not specifically mention the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis.
Anti-Defamation League director Jonathan Greenblatt called the omission “puzzling and troubling” and Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, condemned Trump’s “vague” language.
On Sunday, Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus argued that the statement was about “everyone’s suffering” and said “there’s no regret” in the White House about the omission.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) called the omission a “historical mistake” in a tweet posted Monday morning.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer blasted those “picking on” the statement’s failure to explicitly mention Jews as “pathetic” and “nitpicking” in a briefing Monday afternoon.
“It is pathetic that people are picking on a statement,” he said. “The idea that you’re nitpicking a statement that sought to remember this tragic event that occurred and the people who died in it is just ridiculous.”
In an earlier response, Spicer said that Trump “went out of his way to recognize the Holocaust.”