Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff is traveling this week to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, visiting key sites in Poland and Germany to honor those lost in the Holocaust and renew a pledge to “Never Forget.”
As the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, Emhoff has made countering the recent global scourge of antisemitism a key priority. The goals of this trip abroad will build on that, senior administration officials told reporters before his departure, focused on Holocaust education and remembrance, as well as combating antisemitism worldwide.
“There will be many events focusing on honoring the victims of the Holocaust, and having a second gentleman educating the public on the true nature of the Holocaust. You will see the second gentleman push back against Holocaust denial, distortion and disinformation, and educating the next generation about the Holocaust,” a senior administration official said.
Emhoff, the official added, “will be meeting with and working with our European partners, both those in and out of government to strengthen our efforts to combat the rise in antisemitism and to deepen our relationships with these European partners as we take on the challenge together.”
The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism, which has tracked incidents of US antisemitic harassment, vandalism and assault since 1979, found 2,717 incidents of antisemitism in the US in 2021, up a significant 34% from the previous year. And in recent months, there have been multiple incidents of incendiary antisemitic incidents in the public sphere, including tweets from Kanye West, a link posted by Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving to a video filled with antisemitic tropes, a sign over a major Los Angeles bridge and other troubling views shared by political figures.
The second gentleman has a packed schedule of events aimed at highlighting Jewish history and the Holocaust, and combating antisemitism, though officials cast the trip as “more of a listening session” than focused on “big policy deliverables.”
On Friday, marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Emhoff is set to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial and Museum in Poland, where he will receive a tour, then participate in a candle-lighting and wreath-laying. He will also attend the commemoration of the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz, per his office.
On Saturday, Emhoff will visit Schindler’s Enamel Factory museum, a key site commemorating the Holocaust, and attend a roundtable on antisemitism in Krakow.
“The goal here is to hear directly from experts, religious leaders, and academics on their work in Poland to promote tolerance, education, and inclusiveness. And throughout that, the second gentleman will be signaling to them our eagerness to work with them and that we are with them in their fight,” the official said.
He is also set to meet with Ukrainian refugees and United Nations officials at a UN community center.
On Sunday, he will tour Krakow’s Jewish quarter and then visit historic Jewish sites in Gorlice, Poland, before traveling to Berlin.
In Berlin on Monday, Emhoff joins a Convening of Special Envoys and Coordinators on Combating Antisemitism, where he will be joined by US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt. He is later set to visit Berlin’s Topography of Terror Museum and the Museum of Jewish Life.
On Tuesday, he will participate in a roundtable with interfaith leaders.
“Interfaith dialogue has been an area of focus for a second gentleman. And the basic idea is here, which he will be speaking about throughout the trip, is that we know that Semitism is not only a threat to Jews, it is often accompanied or the precursor to other forms of hatred and intolerance, including against other ethnic or religious minority groups or immigrants. So we view this engagement as about building coalitions across all groups to combat hate in all its forms,” the senior official said.
Emhoff will meet with Ukrainian refugees at the Oranienburgerstrasse Synagogue. He will also visit multiple memorials, including the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, where he will meet with “a small group” of Holocaust survivors.
The trip takes on special significance for Emhoff, whose “great grandparents (fled) persecution from what is now Poland at the beginning of the 19th century,” the senior official said.
“That is a pretty incredible moment for him to return as an American Jew, as the first second gentleman, as the first Jewish spouse of the president or vice president, and work on these issues,” the official said.
Emhoff has previously warned of an “epidemic of hate facing our country” as he convened a roundtable on antisemitism at the White House last month.
“We’re seeing a rapid rise in antisemitic rhetoric and acts,” Emhoff said at the start of the roundtable. “Let me be clear: words matter. People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud – they are literally screaming them.”
In addition to the roundtable, as second gentleman, Emhoff has met with students to discuss domestic antisemitism, hosted a virtual Seder, lit the menorah and affixed a mezuzah outside the entrance of the vice president’s Naval Observatory residence.