Upward of 8,000 people crammed a tent outside the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie for the dedication on a cold, damp day. The dedication of the $45 million, 65,000-square-foot facility coincided with the 66th anniversary of Poland's Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Construction is expected to be finished in mid-May.
About 2 miles away, a group of neo-Nazis held their own rally in a forest preserve.
Talking about peace efforts in the Middle East, Clinton noted Hamas is dedicated to committing "just enough violence" to keep peace at bay.
"Mischief makers cannot control policy," said Clinton, who followed a dozen other speakers, including Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and videos of his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Barack Obama, as well as Israeli President Shimon Peres. "We cannot let the terrorists who want everything to go straight to hell prevail."
He also warned that though Palestinian rockets now being fired on Israel are inaccurate, the day is coming when they will be equipped with guidance systems.
Clinton talked about Rwanda and Bosnia and said in both cases he regrets not getting involved earlier to stop the genocide.
"When dark forces prevail, the capacity for violence rises," he said, adding, "We cannot divorce ourselves from other people."
Clinton said everyone has an obligation to prevent genocide and it is not merely enough to refrain from "doing evil." He said evil should be actively sought out and fought.
"People have been dying because of who they are for a very long time," he said.
Wiesel, a Hungarian Jew deported to a death camp in the waning days of World War II, said no one in his community knew what was going on even as the first news reports of Nazi atrocities were making their way through the western press.
"Jews were the first victims … but the universal application was there," Wiesel said. "The hope is that we learn from it."
Klaus Scharioth, Germany's ambassador to the United States, said he is glad his grandchildren will grow up with Jews and experience Jewish culture now that the Jewish community has been reborn in Germany.