Since 1978, Stuart Eizenstat has dedicated his life to assisting those who suffered through the Holocaust while striving to make sure it never happens again.
That will continue with his recent appointment by President Joe Biden to chair the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, the governing board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He expects to assume that role in two weeks
“This is life coming full circle,” Eizenstat said. Holocaust reparations and education “continues, and I continue with it. It’s been a lifelong commitment.”
“Stuart Eizenstat played a seminal role in the establishment of the Museum and has spent decades working to secure restitution for Holocaust survivors,” said museum director Sara Bloomfield in a news release. “Serving in five presidential administrations, he relentlessly pursued these negotiations to achieve some measure of justice for survivors after their unimaginable loss and suffering.”
Eizenstat also serves as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s special adviser on Holocaust issues.
While growing up in Atlanta in what he called “a very Jewish household,” Eizenstat discussed the Torah portion weekly with his father. However, he said, “I never met, to my knowledge, a Holocaust survivor while I was growing up” nor did he ever take a course on the Holocaust.
After graduating from Harvard Law School while working for then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Eizenstat met Arthur Morse, who had just published his book, “While Six Million Died.”
That book “set forth in vivid detail” what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew while the Holocaust was unfolding and how he failed to act, Eizenstat said. “This was all a shock to me, because Roosevelt was an icon to me as he was in most Jewish homes.”
After finishing the book, Eizenstat committed to staying involved both to right a wrong and also to make sure it is never repeated.
Since then, he has been involved in the creation of the Holocaust Museum in Washington. He also has obtained billions of dollars for Jews and non-Jews who suffered through the Holocaust.
As special negotiator for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or Claims Conference, he has helped obtain $9 billion in annual negotiations with Germany for survivors since 2009.
He also obtained funding that currently assists 6,000 Holocaust survivors with around-the-clock care as they age as well as 50 hours a week of care and other services to tens of thousands of others.
His work has included restitution of property, compensation payments to slave and forced laborers, recovery of looted art and bank accounts and payment of insurance policies.
Eizenstat knows antisemitism is on the rise, and Holocaust deniers continue to spread their hate. He saw those inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack who wore T-shirts that said six million was not enough and other Nazi paraphernalia.
He cited a survey that found 46 percent of Generation Z and Millenniums in the United States could not name a single concentration camp, and that 11 percent of respondents blamed Jews for the Holocaust.
Despite increasing acts of violence against Jews and other minorities, the former ambassador to the European Union from 1993 to 1996 stressed that there is good news. A bipartisan Congress recognizes the need for more Holocaust education globally, and the United Nations General Assembly designated Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Since the museum opened in 1993, about 50 million visitors have passed through its doors, about three-fourths of them non-Jews, said Eizenstat, a senior member of the law firm of Covington & Burling.
“It’s an educational institution. It’s not just looking back.”
In his new role, he hopes to expand teacher training, noting that only 17 of 50 states mandate Holocaust education. He also intends to broaden the museum’s digital resources and ensure they are spread worldwide.
His goal is to share ways to build a more just society and show what happens when intolerance is allowed to grow and “how hatred and bigotry can take hold.”