Before a numerous and prestigious audience, the 2002 Raoul Wallenberg Award were presented by historian José Ignacio García Hamilton. The awards went to two distinguished members of world diplomacy: Israeli ambassador to Spain, Herzl Inbar and Don Gustavo Manuel de Arístegui y San Román, spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Spanish Chamber of Deputies.
Argentinean historian and writer José Ignacio García Hamilton presented the awards before the audience. Among those present at the ceremony were Prince Konstantin Saxe-Coburg, grandson of King Boris, last monarch of Bulgaria and son of Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, current Prime Minister of Bulgaria.
In statement from Buenos Aires Dr. Natalio Wengrower, vice-president of the IRWF, ”The IRWF decided to create this award to stimulate all people of good will who have demonstrated through their work an unwavering commitment to upholding the humanitarian values which Raoul Wallenberg stands for,” he pointed out.
In their respective speeches Inbar and de Arístegui expressed their emotion and acknowledgement at receiving this prestigious award.
The International Angelo Roncalli Committee – which is an initiative of the IRWF with the aim of distinguishing the role of the man who was to later become Pope John XXIII when he was Apostolic Delegate in Istanbul in 1944 – was singled out for special recognition. Thanks to the solidarity and bravery of the future Pontiff thousands of Jews avoided a certain death at the hands of the Nazi forces.
According to research carried out by the renowned historian Mordechai Arbell, in Bulgaria Roncalli told Queen Joanna about the imminent deportation of Jews to the extermination camps. It is well known that the Bulgarian Jewish community was the only one in Europe to be preserved intact from Nazi persecution thanks to King Boris’s firm attitude.
The imminent beginning of activities of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation in Spain is to be supported by Mr. Luis Gil Alonso, a prestigious Spanish citizen who offered his services for this mission. Towards the end of the ceremony Gil Alonso and Konstantin Saxe-Coburg shared the stage with the awardees (see photo left).
Greetings from the following countries were received: Argentina, Australia, Poland, the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Venezuela, Portugal, Vatican City, Cyprus, South Africa, Morocco, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium and England, among other countries.
Grounds of the Raoul Wallenberg Award
The Raoul Wallenberg Award has been established with the aim of recognising those people who for the excellency of their work and actions deserve to be associated with the distinguished name that this award carries. The IRWF decided to create this award in recognition of the exemplary conduct of supportive individuals, who demonstrated rectitude in their conduct and outstanding performance in their respective occupations as well as continuous and careful support of NGO’s. The award is presented for the second time in the year 2002 to stimulate all the people of good will with a message of hope.
In 1957 he immigrated to Israel where, from 1961 to 1964, he studied at the Jerusalem Hebrew University graduating with a degree in Political Sciences and Sociology.
In 1964 he began his career as diplomat at the Israeli Foreign Ministry working initially as an Assistant in International Co-operation and Latin American Areas.
For almost forty years Ambassador Inbar has pursued a long and distinguished career in the Israeli Foreign Service having served in different parts of the world. His first overseas posting was in 1967 when he worked as First Secretary of the Embassy of Israel in Santiago de Chile, a post he was to hold to 1971.
Between he returned to Israel where, from 1971 to 1975, he was First Assistant in the Computer Area and Adviser of the Minister for the Foreign Diaspora.
By the mid 1970s he was back in South America where he was he was Minister at the Embassy of Israel in Buenos Aires from 1975 to 1979 and a Founder of the Israeli Centre of Information for Latin America.
In 1979 he became Business Manager at the Embassy of Israel in Buenos Aires before returning to Israel a year later as spokesman of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem.
From 1982 until 1983 he held the position of Director of the Area of Latin America, Central America, Caribbean countries and Mexico and from 1986 to 1987 adviser of the Israel Economic Task Force.
In 1988 he was appointed as Director of the Asian Area at the Foreign Ministry a position he held to 1991 when he briefly became Israeli Representative at the SPC, United Nations before moving on as Israel Ambassador to Venezuela. Non-resident Ambassador to Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, a position he held for four years..
In 1995 he was recalled to Jerusalem as Deputy General Director for Latin American Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and later moved on as Israel Representative to the Annual and Special Meeting of the OAS from 1995 to 1999.
As from 1999 he has been the Israeli Ambassador to Spain and Andorra.
Among the many decorations he has been awarded, Ambassador Inbar holds the Venezuelan Order of the Liberator and is a Great Officer of the Order of May of Argentina.]]>
Presentation of the Raoul Wallenberg awards.
Madrid, 9 December 2002
”Mr. Ambassador of Sweden, Mr. Ambassador of Israel, Founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Mr. Executive Director, Your Royal Highness Prince Kostantin of Bulgaria, all of whom I am honoured to call my friends.
This is a very special occasion for me. It is a great pleasure to receive The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, 2002 Award, together with the distinguished diplomat, Ambassador Inbar.
It is not with false modesty when I say that I don’t believe I have the merits to have received such an honorable award. For as long as I can remember, I have admired heroes such as Raoul Wallenberg who risked and lost everything to save and serve his fellow man.
I hope I will be able to live up to, and behave according to, the principles implied by such a prestigious award. In my role as a politician, career diplomat and writer, I pledge to do my upmost in the fight against fanaticism, intolerance, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
If my articles, speeches and declarations in the press have been in any way useful in repremanding those, whose attitudes are a stain on humanity, I am satisfied. I promise to multiply my efforts, if my strength and reason enable me to do so.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many public servants, diplomats, officials and politicians who have served society and helped their fellow men in an anonymous and generous way. These men are inspired by a deep feeling of humanism and not by just a sense of duty to help their fellow men. We must also pay tribute to the millions of anonymous volunteers, who dedicate themselves tirelessly to others, many times in almost impossible conditions.
On this occassion I’d like all of us to remember those who perished as victims of fanaticism and barbarism. Spain, a country beset by terrorism, is risking the rebirth of these extreme prejudices. These feelings of hatred are becoming greater, despite Spain being a country in which holocoust denial is considered a crime. This law was initiated by a parliamentary group which I have the honor of belonging to. Humanity must repay its debt by behaving in a more dignified manner and ensuring that past sins are never repeated.
Raoul Wallenberg was a hero, one of the few who fought against the most horrible barbarism committed by humanity. The holocaust is the blackest chapter in the history of mankind, a disgraceful proof of the level of bestiality that mankind can sink to. Denial of the holocaust, as well as other genocides, are serious crimes. They also represent a dishonor to the victims whom the inhuman ideologists tried to erase from the face of earth.
Tahar Ben Jullum said that it is not that racism and xenophobia (to which I take the liberty of adding anti-Semitism) are returning, but rather that racists, xenophobes and anti-Semites have stopped being ashamed of being what they are. That is why it is our duty to make them feel ashamed and isolated for promoting their disgusting ideology.
Spain will always be a fatherland to the Jews, but we too must remember our shameful past when the Spaniards expelled that vital, essential part of its population – the Sepharadies. I remember a parliamentary speech given by, I’m not sure whether it was, Sagasta or Canovas, in which there was a long list of distinguished Jews, all of whom were descendants of the expelled people. The speaker said, with justification, that those distinguished sons of Sepharad, had been essential members of a more tolerable, open, rich, varied and without doubt, a more important Spain. Spain has to remember its mistreated and sometimes forgotten children who suffered persecution, torture, death, forced conversion or exile from their fatherland.
It is true that today’s fight against fanaticism is not so crucial as in the past. However, the principles of freedom and democracy have been passed down to me from my father and to him from his father. I would like to tell you a story as a homage to another anonymous hero, who was also my grandfather. My grandfather used his position, as General Consul of Spain to Amberes and later as Business Attaché to Brussels and finally as Spanish Ambassador during the Second World War, to save thousands of people, whose only crime was being Jewish, from mass murder. He helped the persecuted Jews of Belgium by providing documents, issuing visas and directly helping whenever possible. But one courageous act of valor stands out above all others. On the last day of the Nazi occupation he went to the Brussels central station. He had found out that a train with thousands of Jews destined for the extermination camps was leaving. Without hesitating he went to the station even though most of the high officials had already left. It was being controlled by a disorganized, frightened and confused troop who were therefore much more dangerous.
When he arrived he stopped the train’s departure, saying that all the people on board were under his protection. When no one paid attention to him, he stood in front of the locomotive, preventing the train from leaving and thus saved the lives of all those on board from certain death in the extermination camps.
Nazi ideology and fascist barbarism are not dead, its ideologists, leaders and executioners may be, but unfortunately its ideas are still tormenting mankind today. We were confident that the nazi defeat in the Second World War had finished this nightmare. But we were wrong. Racial hatred is on the rise again. Fanaticism is rearing its ugly head and in many places cruel oppressive regimes of terror and dictatorship condone and actively promote murder, extermination, genocide and horror as a way of imposing their will on mankind.
We can not lower our guard, we have to be alert. We have to make each person, each organization, each party, each institution which directly or indirectly, expressly or implicitly, promotes or defends hatred or prejudice, responsible. We have to keep on fighting for freedom, tolerance, understanding among cultures, religions and people. We have to make sure that humanity will not suffer the horror of any kind of genocide or extermination again.
We cannot allow another holocaust to happen again. That is the responsibility of every human being of good will. That is why I want to conclude with the phrase that I write in the visitor’s book to Yad Vashem every time I visit: ”To forget is to repeat. To remember is to honor the victims of the worst crime that humanity has suffered. Always remember so that this NEVER happens again.”]]>
Presentation of the Raoul Wallenberg awards.
Madrid, 9 December 2002.
Hertzl Inbar, Israeli Ambassador to Spain.
A few years ago, while serving as Ambassador to Asia for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, I had lunch in a small and cozy restaurant with Sugihara’s widow and son. Sugihara was the Japanese ”Wallenberg” or Sanz Briz. He served as the Japanese General Consul to Riga during the Second World War and he gave shelter and issued visas to thousands of Jews. These visas were, in reality, a passport to life for them.
During the meal his son told me that when the first Jews started to arrive at the building and the gardens of the consulate, his father gathered the family (the son was 10 years old at that time) and told them that from that moment onwards, dozens of people would be residing at the consulate. He told his family that they would be making use of the same quarters, they would be sharing the same provisions and he warned them that many of the new guests had different customs, strange clothes and that they spoke a language which the family would not understand. The father urged them all to be patient and kind. The son asked him: ”Father why are we doing this?” Sughiara simply answered: ”Because it is the right thing!
The entrance to Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, is surrounded by a terrace on which trees were planted. It is an avenue constructed in memory of the Righteous among the Nations. A tree was planted for each one of the gentiles who risked their life to save Jews. There are a few dozen trees, maybe a few hundred. One of them was planted to commemorate Raoul Wallenberg, one to commemorate Sugihara and one in memory of Sanz Briz.
A short distance away, in a thick forest, a tree was planted for each one of the victims of the holocaust, six million trees. How different the story of Europe and mankind would have been if instead of hundreds of people, thousands had done the right thing! Maybe instead of millions of trees we would remember millions of survivors in Israel. But it did not happen that way and we remember the righteous for their just behavior and heroic acts and we revere them for what they did.
A film, directed by Roman Polansky and based on Spilman´s book, ”The pianist”, has just been released. The writer tells us the story of how he survived in the Warsaw ghetto. He describes his hourly fight for survival and his daily struggle to overcome his miserable existence and remain a human being.
In a related, though different level, the recent Nobel Prize winner, Imre Kertesz, derives philosophical and metaphysical conclusions from his personal experience during this infamous chapter of human history.
European civilization went back to zero in Auschwitz, said Kertesz. Have we moved beyond that point today? Maybe we have. But the return of old ghosts: xenophobia, racism and even anti-Semitism create a growing and justified worry. However, history has also shown that there are always human beings who have the moral disposition and courage to do the right thing when circumstances require it.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation aims to promote the Wallenberg, Sugihara and Sanz Briz legacy – to do the right thing – the humane and the ethical, even in moments of danger. The members of the foundation and those who believe in its cause will have succeeded in their mission when doing what is correct stops being an act of heroism.
Almost six decades have passed since the Second World War, since the holocaust. However, many people in Europe are tempted to ignore the past and thus avoid responsibilities. Albert Camus said in his book ”The Myth of Sisyphus”: ”We are not entirely responsible because we did not start history, but we are not entirely innocent because we are forced to continue it”.
Thanks again to the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and to all people here tonight for joining us on this occasion.