In the past few days I have been informed of the projected construction of a monument to the Righteous Among the Nations in front of the River Plate river in Buenos Aires. Proposed by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, it consists of a suspended concrete platform that points like an arrow towards Jerusalem. Under it we find an ecumenical chapel. The 15,670 names of the people who silently fought against the Shoah are going to be engraved on one of its concrete walls. The triangula structure as a whole, with its man-made coastline, penetrates the solemn and powerful course of the river.
I believe that this monument, the first of its type in the world, perfectly sums up the life of Raoul Wallenberg and those who, like him, make us recall that ethics and dignity should never be abdicated to power: there, on the plaque raised towards the heavens, we find the elevation of those, who with much danger and sacrifice, managed to go above everyday interests and ponder the interests of humanity as a whole. The river, challenging and uncertain, looks like that threatening power that we must face if we wish for the triumph of reason over cruelty. This is the line between the powers of compassion and the forces of hate. Over this frontline, located with unparallel precision, is a place for ingathering and solidarity. A place where all the creeds can meet. I believe that there, at that conjunction, the exemplary lives of the Righteous Among the Nations will be adequately represented.
These works invite us to alway remember that we should never let good be silenced. Edmund Burke said, ”All that is needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.” Raoul Wallenberg saved 60,000 lives in Hungary, but, had there been other who did the same, had they not closed their eyes to the barbarianism, the history of the twentieth century and the dimensions of suffering would have been different.
It is for this reason that the works of art in New York, London, and Buenos Aires or the educational projects undertaken by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation in Argentina under the leadership of Baruch Tenembaum, press us to never lose sight of justice and compassion. This is a task that no one, much less Heads of State, should abandon to Providence. All men should remain active, organized and disposed to risk themselves when it comes to preserving integrity and sympathy. Without them, not only politics, but rather life itself loses meaning.
With all this in mind, I have no choice but to whole-heartedly integrate myself, in my position as an Honorary Member, to the Foundation’s initiatives, lauding the work of its members and congratulating the winners of the ”Raoul Wallenberg 2000” Award, businessman Oscar Vicente and Ambassador Peter Landelius, for preserving,through their dedicated hard work, the memory of one of the greatest heroes of the past century.
With immense sadness, philosopher Theodor Adorno said that after Auschwitz it was impossible to think. I believe that the task now is to maintain our thoughts and hearts alert so that Auschwitz, and all the other holocausts that ail our planet, should simply remain a bad memory and never again threaten us as an impending reality.
Congratulations on your work and may God accompany us.
Andrés Pastrana Arango
President of the Republic Colombia