U.S. special envoy for Holocaust issues looks to the past — and the future

Cherrie Daniels is newly installed as U.S. special envoy for Holocaust issues, but her previous assignments have taught her plenty about tragic events and the need for accountability.

Her diplomatic career has taken her to Croatia, one of the countries scarred by the Holocaust, and to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the scene of the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica. She also served in Norway, where hundreds of Jews were deported to their deaths between 1940 and 1945.

Similarly, her experiences during assignments in Belgrade and Israel were “very formative in helping me to understand Holocaust issues,” she said.

The State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, established in 1999, promotes the U.S. government’s interest in a Europe committed to democracy, pluralism and human rights. Its mission supports the Trump administration’s call for religious freedom worldwide.

“After the [Holocaust] survivors’ generation passes, we have to make sure that their lessons — and their memories and stories — don’t die with them. Confronting the dark chapters of the past is the only way forward.”

~ Cherrie Daniels, U.S. Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues

Bearing witness

Daniels also ensures that the Holocaust is remembered and commemorated appropriately. That means “making Holocaust history relevant to young people,” she said in a recent interview. “We have to teach it truthfully and accurately.”

She plans to meet with young people and with Holocaust survivors and their families. Those survivors, she said, were children during World War II, “and it’s important to hear their stories and ask questions.”

Plus, “young people need to recognize the signposts from the 1930s that led to the Holocaust, and to reject distortions, denial and revisionism,” she said.

Daniels sits on the board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and leads the U.S. delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, a body with 33 member countries.

She heads an office that develops and implements U.S. policy to return Holocaust-era assets to their rightful owners, thereby ensuring some measure of justice to Holocaust survivors and their heirs. “We work closely with our international partners,” she said.