Gary Sinise, Hal Holbrook Keep Holocaust Memory Alive

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Hal Holbrook, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Gary Sinise

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s annual dinner featured a special message from Morgan Freeman and honored Dr. Michael Berenbaum.

It was a night of remembrance for Holocaust victims, survivors and supporters at the Beverly Hilton on Monday night. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s annual dinner honored Dr. Michael Berenbaum, one of the key figures in creating the museum and preserving its vast collection of Holocaust evidence.

Actor Hal Holbrook introduced keynote speaker Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose New York Times best-selling books have served as source material for some of Holbrook's films, including Lincoln and All the President’s Men. Holbrook expressed that with significant events such as the Holocaust, it’s important to know the facts instead of learning based off other’s opinions.

“What you can learn by reading history is an awful lot more than you can learn by turning on the social network and getting somebody’s wonderful opinion they just thought up, dropped on the social network and gone off to watch a basketball game,” Holbrook told The Hollywood Reporter. “We have so many opinions going on these days that nobody knows which way to turn. It’s dangerous not to sit down and read history.”

The evening included a video message from honorary chair Morgan Freeman and a pledge to the future from the original Freedom Writers. Forrest Gump actor Gary Sinise shared the story of liberator Daniel Gillespie, a U.S. Army soldier who rescued survivors from the Dachau concentration camp, including Joshua Kaufman, who attended the dinner with Gillespie that night.

“I’ve had times where people say you’re a hero,” said Gillespie. “All I ever usually did was just do my job with a feeling that I might be accomplishing something great in terms of people like this guy [Kaufman].“

Dr. Berenbaum, a writer and professor at American Jewish University, received the National Leadership Award that was previously awarded to Sir Ben Kingsley. Dr. Berenbaum was appointed by the White House to oversee creation of the U.S. Holocaust Museum and later was called upon by Steven Spielberg to head the USC Shoah Foundation.

“I learned about the Holocaust in silence from its original survivors during the years in which they were adjusting to America,” said Berenbaum. “It became my privilege in life, maybe even my destiny, to take what I learned in silence and to put it into words and imagery and to communicate it to the American people and to the world.”

Liam Neeson and Kingsley also serve as honorary chairs of the organization. Proceeds from the evening go towards the museum’s $540 million comprehensive campaign, which includes the establishment of a new Collections and Conservation center.