FBI Director James Comey
FBI Director James ComeyReuters

FBI Director James B. Comey revealed his unusual policy of sending all new FBI agents to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum this week, and explained the very chilling reason why he does it.

In his statements, written in a Washington Post op-ed on Thursday for Holocaust Remembrance Day, and adapted from a speech he gave the night before at the museum, Comey said "I believe that the Holocaust is the most significant event in human history."

"And I mean 'significant' in two different ways," said Comey, both in terms of the inhumanity and the humanity demonstrated in the Nazi genocide.

On the one hand, he said "it was the most horrific display in world history of inhumanity, one that simply defies words and challenges meaning.

As far as knowing how to fathom the tragedy and how it was allowed to happen, Comey said, "I still don’t know. But I do know this: I know it is our duty, our obligation, to make sure some good comes from unimaginable bad. Not so we can comfort ourselves by saying, 'Oh, that was worth it then.' That’s nonsense. That would be perverse. It will never be 'worth it.'

"Instead, I believe it is simply our duty to do that, and I believe this is truth no matter where you come from on a philosophical or religious spectrum. Our obligation is to refuse to let bad win, to refuse to let evil hold the field."

Moving on to his key point, the FBI director said "the Holocaust was, as I said, the most horrific display in world history of inhumanity. But it was also the most horrific display in world history of our humanity, of our capacity for evil and for moral surrender.

"And that second significance is the reason I require every new FBI special agent and intelligence analyst to go to the Holocaust Museum. Naturally, I want them to learn about abuse of authority on a breathtaking scale. But I want them to confront something more painful and more dangerous: I want them to see humanity and what we are capable of.

"I want them to see that, although this slaughter was led by sick and evil people, those sick and evil leaders were joined by, and followed by, people who loved their families, took soup to a sick neighbor, went to church and gave to charity," he said.

Comey warned, "good people helped murder millions. And that’s the most frightening lesson of all - that our very humanity made us capable of, even susceptible to, surrendering our individual moral authority to the group, where it can be hijacked by evil."

He pointed out that the murderers and accomplices in Europe convinced themselves that they did the right thing, "the thing they had to do. That's what people do. And that should truly frighten us."

"That is why I send our agents and our analysts to the Holocaust Museum. I want them to stare at us and realize our capacity for rationalization and moral surrender. I want them to walk out of that great museum treasuring the constraint and oversight of divided government, the restriction of the rule of law, the binding of a free and vibrant press. ...We must build it, we must know it and we must nurture it now, so that it can save us later," he stated.