— WASHINGTON (AP) — Elderly survivors of the Holocaust and the veterans who helped liberate them are gathering for what could be their last big reunion at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Some 1,000 survivors and World War II vets are coming together with President Bill Clinton and Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust activist and writer, on Monday when the museum marks its 20th anniversary. Organizers chose not to wait for the 25th milestone because many survivors and vets may not be alive in another five years.
Clinton and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wiesel, who both dedicated the museum at its opening in 1993, will deliver keynote speeches. On Sunday night, the museum presented its highest honor to World War II veterans who ended the Holocaust. Susan Eisenhower accepted the award on behalf of her grandfather, U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, and all veterans of the era.
The museum also launched a campaign to raise $540 million by 2018 to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and to combat anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and contemporary genocide. It has already secured gifts totaling $258.7 million. The campaign will double the size of the museum's endowment by its 25th anniversary. Also, a $15 million gift from Holocaust survivors David and Fela Shapell will help build a new Collections and Conservation Center.
Museum Director Sara Bloomfield said organizers wanted to show Holocaust survivors, veterans and rescuers the effort will continue to honor the memory of 6 million murdered Jews, in part by saving lives and preventing genocide in the future.
"We felt it was important, while that generation is still with us in fairly substantial numbers, to bring them together," Bloomfield said, "to not only honor them, but in their presence make a commitment to them that not only this institution but the people we reach will carry forward this legacy."