Tom Cruise’s Remarks on Receiving the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Humanitarian Award

I wanted to first express my deep gratitude to Rabbi Hier, Rabbi May and Janice Prager for this incredible evening, which means so much to me and my family.

Thank you very much for this great honor, especially an honor that comes from an institution named for Simon Wiesenthal, who stood up for all of us, in humanity’s darkest hour and dedicated his whole life to the pursuit of justice. Simon lost 89 members of his family. He was an architect by profession and looked forward to a future of designing homes, but when the Nazis destroyed his whole world, his dream to build homes was shattered.

For many years now, I have been a supporter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance. I have taken my family to the museum so that they could experience firsthand not only man’s capacity for good, but the tragic story of man’s inhumanity to man.

Rabbi Hier told me this wonderful story about Ann Frank’s father, Otto, who one day came to see Simon Wiesenthal and asked him for a favor. He said, “Mr. Wiesenthal, all I have left of my family is the diary that my daughter Anne wrote. But now the Neo-Nazis and others are claiming the diary is a forgery, completely fabricated, and that the story that we were hidden in an attic never occurred. I know you are working on cases of mass murderers, but if you could just take the time to find the person who arrested our family, that would prove to the entire world that Anne’s diary is not a hoax.”

Simon Wiesenthal looked at Otto Frank and promised him, “You are absolutely right. Your daughter is our hope for the future, a magnet to inspire people to turn away from bigotry. I will do all I can to find him.”

When Simon found Karl Silberbauer, and when he was brought to court and said publicly, “Yes in my role as a Gestapo official, I arrested the Frank family.” To Simon Wiesenthal, this was his most important case, because he believed the story of Anne Frank had the power to touch the lives of millions of people in the darkest of places, inspiring them to choose love over hate. As Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “Nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

There were many Anne Franks who the world will never know that perished in the Holocaust. When I visited the museum last week, I heard the story of 11-year-old Lillian Bernstein who on April 6 together with 43 other children were arrested in Izieu, in the French province of Ain and sent to the Auschwitz/Birkenau death camp. Before leaving, she left behind a letter to G-d in which she wrote, “G-D, how good you are, how kind, and if one had to count the number of good and kind deeds you have done for us you would never finish... G-d, it is thanks to you I had a beautiful life before, but I was spoiled but had lovely things that others do not have. G-d, may I ask you one thing only. Make my parents come back. My poor parents protect them even more then you protect me so that I may see them again as soon as possible. Make them come back again… I have such faith in you that I thank you in advance.”

Our challenge, ladies and gentlemen, is to make sure that we do all in our power to see to it that there will be no more Auschwitz/Birkenaus, no more Rwandas, no more Darfurs on our planet. That our children and their children may be free to live in a world where men and women are judged by their accomplishments and deeds rather then by their race or religion. That is why I support the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance. As Albert Einstein reminded us, “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” And as he wrote in a letter that is one of the prized possessions of the Center, “Without an atmosphere of intellectual freedom and tolerance none of us can imagine a life which would be worth living.”