Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman With Michael Wilner of McClatchy Washington Bureau

23 Sep

Wendy R. Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Harry S. Truman Building

QUESTION:  All right, so joining us is Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State, to discuss the situation in Haiti and the surge in Haitian migrants at the U.S. southern border.  So, Ambassador, thank you for taking the time.  Good to see you again.

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  Good to see you, too.  And Michael, I think everybody listening to this shares all of our concern for the Haitian people and just the very difficult circumstances facing them and their country.

QUESTION:  The President’s special envoy to Haiti has resigned, right?  And I quote, “I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti.”  Do you agree or disagree with that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  Michael, there have been multiple senior-level policy conversations on Haiti where all proposals, including those led by former Special Envoy Foote, were fully considered in a rigorous and transparent policy process.  Quite frankly, some of those proposals were harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and to free and fair elections in Haiti so the Haitian people can choose their own future.  For him to say that the proposals were ignored is, I’m sad to say, simply false.

QUESTION:  He also wrote that the U.S. decision to support a political agreement with Ariel Henry continues, in his words, quote, “a cycle of international political interventions in Haiti that has consistently produced catastrophic results.”  What’s your response to that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  My response to that is how I began this, which is our interest is that the Haitian people can choose their own future in a free and fair election.  We don’t take sides with anyone in terms of that future.  That’s a decision for the Haitian people.  We, of course, are talking to those who are currently leading the government in Haiti because one needs to in these circumstances, but we are for democracy in Haiti.  And one of the ideas that Mr. Foote had was to send U.S. military back to Haiti.  I have followed Haiti since the Clinton administration, and I can tell you that sending U.S. military into Haiti is not the answer that will solve the terrible situation that the Haitian people are currently facing.  It just was a bad idea.

QUESTION:  And who will replace Daniel Foote?

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  I don’t know that we need a replacement.  In part we had named a special envoy after the assassination of the president of Haiti in the aftermath of the horrible storms and earthquakes and all of the other plights that the Haitian people have had to face – the ongoing confrontation of poverty.  But we have an excellent ambassador in Haiti, Michele Sison, who is a nominee for a future post here in the United States.  We have tremendous faith in her and in her leadership.

QUESTION:  Will the administration stand up a Haiti reconstruction commission, which we understand is under consideration, to aid in the rebuilding of the country after this series of recent crises?

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  I think we’re looking at whatever facility we need to help the Haitian people.  We are totally committed to that objective.  We have since 2010 – I’m just looking at my notes here – the United States has made multiyear investments of over $5.1 billion in lifesaving humanitarian assistance as well as longer-term recovery, reconstruction, and development programs.  Newly confirmed – and thank you United States Senate – Brian Nichols, our assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, will be going to Haiti next week with Juan Gonzalez, who is the senior director at the NSC, to see what is the best way forward here to make sure that we are talking to civil society so that we are hearing from the people of Haiti themselves to try to figure out what that path is.  There have been ongoing assistance ever since the earthquake, of course.

QUESTION:  Ambassador, a final question.  Will the – Special Envoy Foote says the conditions are not in place at the moment for full and fair elections in Haiti this year.  Do you agree with that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  I think that Assistant Secretary Nichols will work with Ambassador Sison and listening to civil society to see what we can do to help make the judgments to get to a free and fair election as soon as possible for the Haitian people.  Again, there’s nobody who doesn’t look at what is happening in Haiti – it is gut-wrenching.  And we want to do everything we can to help the Haitian people.  That’s always been the objective of U.S. foreign policy.

QUESTION:  Ambassador, thanks again for your time.  Good to see you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  Thank you.

International Commission of the International Tracing Service Annual Meeting

13 Jul

Wendy R. Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State

Washington, DC

I’m pleased to welcome you all to the 84th meeting of the International Commission of the International Tracing Service.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” the philosopher George Santayana once wrote.

For decades, the International Tracing Service and now the Arolsen Archives have ensured that each generation remembers the history of the Holocaust and of Nazi persecution—and never, never repeats it.

From the earliest days after World War II, as the International Tracing Service brought families back together… to the rise of the internet, which has connected this “paper monument” with people all over the world… the Archives have grown and changed with the times.

Over the last year, the Arolsen Archives have faced unique challenges, as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted programs and made research even more difficult.

I want to recognize the leadership of Cherrie Daniels, the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in chairing the International Commission this year. And I want to thank every nation represented on the International Commission for your commitment to preserving and teaching this history.

You have found innovative ways to tell the stories of the Holocaust, even in the depths of the pandemic.

More than 18,000 volunteers—many of them young people from Germany, the United States, and other countries—have joined the “Every Name Counts” project. They have transcribed more than 3.6 million handwritten documents with the names of people victimized or murdered by the Nazis.

This crowdsourced initiative lets people “put their hands on history,” even from their own homes. It helps expand the reach of the Arolsen Archives. And it keeps each individual victim’s memory alive.

And as travel restrictions are lifted, the “Stolen Memory” project will once again travel to towns and cities across Germany, and also expand to Spain and Russia. This pop-up, interactive exhibit helps make the Holocaust tangible to people, by using personal items to tell the stories of concentration camp inmates and their surviving relatives.

Soon, the United States and Germany will be joining together to fund additional traveling exhibits, telling the stories of millions of Holocaust victims and forced laborers from Eastern Europe.

In recent years, we have seen a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the United States, in Europe, and elsewhere.

We have seen anti-Semitic tropes and rhetoric spread unchecked via social media and the internet.

And we have seen concerted efforts to try to cast doubt on the very facts of the Holocaust.

All of these trends remind us that the work of the Arolsen Archives is as urgent and important as it has ever been.

And they also remind us that authoritarian actors always try to gain power by sowing division, bigotry, and hatred—and by spreading misinformation and lies.

It is up to all of us to resist those forces—including by preserving, understanding, and speaking the truth about the Holocaust and Nazi atrocities.

Thank you again for all the work that you do, and for your tireless efforts to connect the histories contained in the Arolsen Archives with people all around the world.

I send you my very best wishes for a successful annual meeting.

Thank you.