(WASHINGTON) — Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland Friday, marking Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 78th anniversary of the death camp’s liberation.
In an emotional visit, Emhoff laid a wreath at Auschwitz and placed a white stone, a Jewish tradition, at the remnants of a crematorium in Birkenau. After walking under the notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Sets You Free) gate, Emhoff wrote a long message in the museum’s guestbook.
The visit is part of Emoff’s six-day trip that is aimed at Holocaust education and remembrance as well as combating antisemitism worldwide, according to senior administration officials.
The events will focus on honoring the victims of the Holocaust and see “the Second Gentleman educating the public on the true nature of the Holocaust,” one official said.
Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, will also aim to address antisemitism globally, particularly amid what advocates have warned is a spike in recent years.
“While some of those before us in government, in this fight, may have been able to travel abroad to discuss the issue of antisemitism globally, without the need to spend much time on antisemitism in the United States, we can no longer do so,” one administration official told reporters Wednesday, previewing the trip.
“Modern technology and internet, with social media in particular, allows ideas to spread with unprecedented rapidity. Hatred now faces no borders, and we will take an all-of-government and all-societal approach to combat that hate,” the official added.
While Emhoff’s trip will also aim to strengthen relationships with European allies on this issue, the second gentleman is not expected to deliver new policy proposals or deliverables.
“I would also think of it in many ways as a listening session,” one official said, nothing it’s more important than ever to share ideas for best steps forward as the number of living Holocaust survivors continues to dwindle.
“The trip is about reflecting on what we know is a dark, difficult history and then renewing our commitment to take action in current times,” the official said.
Officials said the trip was designed “to trace the trajectory of Jewish life in Europe, past, present and future.”
Emhoff visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and state museum on Friday to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, attending a ceremony alongside some Holocaust survivors. Later, he will attend a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, Poland.
He is scheduled to visit Schindler’s factory museum on Saturday, as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the iconic film “Schindler’s List,” which was inspired by Schindler’s efforts to shield Jews during World War II.
Later that day, Emhoff will also meet with Ukrainian refugees in Krakow, officials said.
On Sunday, the second gentlemen will tour the historic Jewish Quarter of Krakow and visit Galicia, Poland, before heading on to Berlin, where he will meet with various European officials engaged in combating antisemitism in a “convening of Special Envoy coordinators.”
Emhoff will gather Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders to hold an interfaith discussion on Tuesday in Berlin and make stops at Berlin’s Holocaust memorial and other historic sites.
ABC News’ Madison Burinsky contributed to this report.
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