KRAKOW, Poland (AP) - Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, described being deeply moved by a "solemn and sad" visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and said Saturday that it was an important part of his work combating antisemitism for the Biden administration.
Emhoff told reporters that he will never forget his emotional visit to the site Friday, where he saw children's shoes and human hair stripped from people before they were murdered in the Nazi German death camp. Some 1.1 million people were killed there during World War II, around 90% of them Jews.
Friday was the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the camp on Jan. 27, 1945, with observances that second gentleman joined. He laid a wreath at an execution wall and listened to survivors recall what they had suffered there.
He followed that visit with other events giving him the chance to learn more about the tragic fate of Jews in Europe. On Saturday he visited the Oskar Schindler Enamel Factory in Krakow, where he saw an exhibit about "Schindler's List," the 1,000 Jews saved by the German industrialist during the Holocaust.
On Saturday evening he joined a Shabbat dinner with members of Krakow's Jewish community, a chance to see how Jewish life is also growing again in central Europe.
Emhoff is the first Jewish spouse of either a U.S. president or vice president. He is on a six-day tour of Poland and Germany meant to further the Biden administration's work fighting antisemitism. He described antisemitism as a growing problem across the world and in the United States.
He denounced "so-called" leaders who have been using antisemitism to promote their agendas and those who lack the courage to confront them at a time of murderous attacks on Jewish communities, hateful threats and antisemitic lies.
"People used to be afraid to say these ugly epithets and lies out loud. Now they are literally screaming them. We are witnessing an epidemic of hate in the United States and internationally," Emhoff said at the start of a roundtable on antisemitism held at the Galicia Jewish Museum.
He did not cite any specific incidents. But in recent months, former President Donald Trump hosted Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust-denying white supremacist, at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida; the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, expressed love for Adolf Hitler in an interview; basketball star Kyrie Irving appeared to promote an antisemitic film on social media; an neo-Nazi trolls are clamoring to return to Twitter as new CEO Elon Musk grants "amnesty" to suspended accounts.