This International Holocaust Remembrance Day, government officials from various countries are gathering at the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp to remember victims and honor survivors.

Among them, for the first time, is the first Jewish spouse of a U.S. president or vice president.

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff is visiting Krakow, Poland and Berlin this week to promote both Holocaust awareness and the Biden administration's efforts to combat antisemitism.

His trip will include a stop at Oskar Schindler's factory, a Shabbat dinner with a local Jewish community, a meeting with Ukrainian refugees, a roundtable with interfaith leaders and visits to several museums and other historical sites.

And it's more about listening and trading ideas than delivering any specific policies, senior administration officials told reporters on a Wednesday call. Emhoff — whose great grandparents fled persecution from modern-day Poland in the early 19th century — has been at the forefront of the Biden administration's efforts to address growing antisemitism in recent months.

"The visit certainly has a special significance ... for him, for our administration, for American Jews and, frankly, Jews all around the world," an official said. "And it's not lost on us that it's a pretty incredible moment for him to return as an American Jew, as the first second gentleman ... and work on these issues."

The Biden administration is concerned about social media's role

Antisemitism is increasingly visible in the U.S. these days, with high-profile figures in entertainment, sports and politics publicly promoting tropes and conspiracy theories, and the number of recorded hateful incidents directed at Jewish people on a steady climb.

Over 85% of Americans believe at least one anti-Jewish trope, according to results of an Anti-Defamation League survey released earlier this month. Twenty percent of Americans believe six or more such tropes, the highest level it has measured in decades.

"Modern technology and the internet, with social media in particular, allows ideas to spread with unprecedented rapidity," a senior administration official said.

The Biden administration is looking to combat rampant antisemitism, including pushing back against Holocaust denial and disinformation. Emhoff's trip is part of those efforts.

In December, Biden created a task force with representatives from more than 20 federal agencies, dedicated to fighting antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bias discrimination.

The group is holding weekly meetings, reviewing actions other countries have taken and working to produce and implement a national strategy, officials said.

Emhoff held a White House roundtable about antisemitism with a dozen leaders from the Jewish community in December, saying it was "just the beginning of this conversation.

"As long as I have this microphone, I am going to speak out against hate, bigotry and lies," Emhoff said at the roundtable.

Since then, he's also met with the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism and spoken to Jewish students at Arizona State University during a visit to the state.

On Thursday, Biden issued a statement remembering the Holocaust and reminding people of the hate that exists today.

"Across our country, we are seeing swastikas on cars, antisemitic banners on bridges, verbal and physical attacks against Jewish businesses and Jewish Americans – even Holocaust denialism," he said. "It's vile. It goes against everything we value as Americans. And each of us must speak out against this poison."

On the itinerary: meetings and memorials

A day after arriving in Krakow, Emhoff headed about 40 miles west to Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial to take a tour that included wreath-laying and candle-lighting ceremonies.

Then he attended the commemoration of the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp, along with some survivors and several government officials, including Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

On Friday night, Emhoff will attend a Shabbat dinner back in Krakow with members of the Jewish community.

Saturday's planned events include a visit to Oskar Schindler's Enamel Factory Museum (Schindler famously saved more than 1,200 Polish Jews by employing them in his plant during World War II) , an antisemitism roundtable and a meeting with Ukrainian refugees.

On Sunday, Emhoff will tour Krakow's Jewish Quarter and visit historic sites in the southern town of Gorlice before heading to Berlin.

On Monday, he will participate in a meeting with other antisemitism envoys at the Topography of Terror Museum, and tour both that museum as well as the Museum of Jewish Life. Later, he will meet with German community leaders and government officials at a dinner hosted by the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Amy Gutmann (whose late father escaped Nazi Germany).

Emhoff will wrap up his trip on Tuesday with a roundtable with Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders, then meet with Ukrainian refugees at Oranienburgerstrasse Synagogue as well as visit memorials dedicated to victims of Nazi persecution and meet with Holocaust survivors. [Copyright 2023 NPR]