President Benigno Aquino III led the commemoration of the former Head of State’s 137th birth anniversary and inaugurated the Quezon Museum.
An estimated crowd of 3,000 attended the event including members of the Cabinet and Diplomatic Corps, officials and employees of the national and local government units, sectoral representatives, family of Quezon, and representatives of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. The ceremony was also attended by members of President Quezon’s family; professor Maris Diokno, Chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and by representatives of the Jewish Association of the Philippines, led by Lee Blumenthal.
On behalf of the Wallenberg Foundation Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Effie Ben-Matityau presented the Raoul Wallenberg Medal to Zenaida Quezon Avancena (94), daughter of the late President. He praised Quezon for “his moral conviction” and called him “a great leader an humanitarian”, adding that “when he saw the plight of Jews in Europe, he opened the door for those in need”.
Quezon’s grandson, Manuel Quezon III, delivered an acceptance speech in which he underscored “the importance of people’s right to asylum in a democracy”, urging “the Filipino youth to emulate his grandfather’s compassion towards those in need”. “May this encourage future generations of Filipinos to stay true to the compassionate ideal of our founding fathers”, he stressed.
“The late President Quezon epitomizes the spirit of civic courage and solidarity exemplified by Raoul Wallenberg and all the women and men who reached-out to the victims of the Shoah.”, said Eduardo Eurnekian and Baruch Tenembaum, Chairman and Founder of the IRWF, in a joint statement.]]>
Seventy years ago this year World War II came to an end. Alongside the collective sigh of relief in Allied countries that the most brutal war humanity had ever witnessed was over, there was as well a sense of disbelief at the sight of the concentration camps, the existence of which to be sure had been well-known to the Allies.
Humanity had not witnessed anything resembling the Holocaust. A systematic, rational, industrial plan designed to eliminate completely an entire people from the face of the earth, the Holocaust was to become an exceptional phenomenon in History. Carried out by one of the most cultured nations the world had ever known, the Holocaust would turn out to be a distinctive story of genocide.
Within this unique event, unique individuals emerged who were willing to risk their lives in order to save the life of a Jew. The most well-known of them all was Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat, who is credited with having saved, directly and indirectly, the lives of tens of thousands of Jews in Hungary. To be sure, there were many others. Wallenberg in a sense was primus inter pares, first among equals. His fate remains a mystery to this day. At the end of the war he was taken by Soviet forces never to be seen again.
Alongside these singular individuals, there was a singular nation that, as a collective endeavor, saved most of its Jews: Denmark.
In a sense, the role played by Denmark was distinctive, different from anything else known to us during the Holocaust.
To begin with, contrary to what happened in other countries, Denmark’s populace acted collectively, spontaneously and in an organized manner in order to save its eight thousand Jewish compatriots.
Further, the person to whom the surviving Jews of Denmark owed their lives, apart from the Danish people, was a German official, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, who revealed to the Jewish community his government’s plan to deport the Danish Jews to concentration camps. This was on the 28th of September 1943. Indeed, faced with disbelief on the part of the Jews, Duckwitz insisted that his information was true and that he was not trying to deceive them.
Also, in an unprecedented manner in those years, Danish fishermen ferried seven thousand and two hundred Jews to Sweden in a coordinated action that saved the lives of most of Denmark’s Jews.
Still, almost five hundred Jews were sent to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in Czechoslovakia. However, all of those Jews, but fifty one of them, survived the Holocaust as well due largely to the Danish representations to Germany, enquiring for the well-being of the deported Jews.
The Danish case proved that a collective, spontaneous and organized endeavor aimed at saving Jews could be successful, even in the face of German might and determination.
True, on the whole, the attitude displayed by Nazi Germany toward Denmark was more benevolent than the attitude shown to most other nations in Europe. Indeed, German occupation in Denmark was relatively mild (in Nazi terms).
Nevertheless, when it came to the Jews of Denmark, Germany was no less virulent in its determination to eliminate them, once the decision was taken, than it was in other cases throughout Europe and beyond. This is where the role of Denmark’s non-Jewish population becomes so exceptional, and indeed so crucial. Without them, the Danish Jews would have perished as other Jews elsewhere did.
There were many cases of individuals who tried to save Jews during the Holocaust. These were individual examples of heroism. The Danish case is singular in that it was a collective, nation-wide effort.
There have been a few myths attached to the Danish story. For instance it has been said that Denmark’s king wore a yellow Star of David badge in public to identify himself with Jews who were compelled to wear such a badge to distinguish them from the non-Jewish population by the German occupying forces. This is apparently untrue. It never happened, so far as we know.
Further, some of the Danish fishermen who actually conveyed Jews to safety in Sweden were apparently paid to do so.
Notwithstanding the myths and partial truths, Denmark’s case is still unique in the context of the Holocaust.
In the darkest hour in Jewish history, indeed in human history, the people of Denmark kept a candle of dignity alight, a candle which can be seen in the distance today, seventy years after the end of World War II, as clearly as it was then.
Danielle lived a long time in a sort of denial and discomfort, until persuaded by friends who went through a similar experience and decided to resume contact. That momentum carried her back to the school a few weeks ago and be present during the ceremony in which the institution was honored as “house of life” by The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, an NGO founded by Argentine Baruch Tenembaum and now chaired by Eduardo Eurnekian whose mission is to preserve the heritage of those who helped the victims of Nazi persecution. The Plaque “House of Life”, which identifies and commemorates all those convents, monasteries, churches and schools that served as shelter during World War II, arrives for the first time to France, after Rome and London. Danielle observed as it is placed between two photographs: portraits of Sister Marie-France and Pope Francis.
The ceremony is particularly important in a country where anti-Semitic incidents increased 84% between January and May compared with the first five months of last year according to the latest data from the Protection of the Jewish Community (SPCJ), a body working in collaboration with the French Interior Ministry and census complaints of anti-Semitic acts or threats. They were 508 in the first half. Here the experts agree that the classic anti-Semitism in France came mostly from the far-right parties and old vichists, with a new type of anti-Semitism linked to extreme left and the Islamists. And with two novelties: anti-Semitism within the black population, with the idea that the Jews are responsible for the slave trade and that want to monopolize the historical suffering; and the Internet, where there is the belief that everything can be said and expressed without limits, and that in this context the Jews are a limit to freedom of expression. The French government presented in mid-April a plan to combat racism and anti-Semitism provided with 100 million euros over three years.]]>
On 17 July 2015, Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence, received the Raoul Wallenberg Medal on behalf of all the Florentines that helped save thousands of persecuted people during World War II.
The award was presented to Nardella by Eduardo Eurnekian and Baruch Tenembaum, Chairman and Founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. The ceremony took place at the Palazzo Vecchio, Firenze.
The Florence Network
In September 1943 Germany had recently occupied Italy and the deportation of the Jews was about to begin. Elia Dalla Costa, the Archbishop of Florence wrote a letter addressed to to the heads of monasteries and convents in Florence and its surroundings, asking them to open the gates of their institutions to Jews.
This was the beginning of a singular cooperation between the clergy and Jewish leaders such as Raffaele Cantoni and Rabbi Nathan Cassuto. Thanks to the Archbishop’s letters and the goodwill of his people, many Jews found a safe haven in Catholic institutions in the city. A shelter was created in the seminary of Minore di Montughi from which the Jewish fugitives were taken to the different convents and monasteries, and some were even housed for a short time in the Archbishop’s residence.
Likewise, the famous Florentine cyclist Gino Bartali will be remembered on the occasion. Through numerous acts of solidarity, Bartali helped save Jews who were being persecuted by the Nazis during the time of the Italian Social Republic. Moreover, in a bold demonstration of civic courage Bartali gave refuge to a Jewish family in his cellar and, by doing so, saved their lives of all its members. Ceremonies honoring Archbishop Dalla Costa, Bartali, priests, nuns and other Florentine rescuers will follow suit in the near future.
Houses of Life
The presentation of the accolade will be conducted in the frame of the “Houses of Life” educational program, an endeavor that aims at identifying buildings and houses that served as safe havens in the midst of the Holocaust.
So far, the Wallenberg Foundation has located, in Rome alone, nearly two hundred places of refuge. Houses of Life were also identified in France, Poland, Greece and Germany. The locations are mostly churches, convents and Catholic boarding schools.
Last June, the Wallenberg Foundation presented the Wallenberg Medal to Sister Emerenziana Bolledi, at the Institute of the Sisters of St. Joseph, in Rome. As a novice, Sister Emerenziana gave shelter to 60 mothers and children sentenced to death by Hitler s regime.
The program is taking place throughout Europe with the cooperation of Aleteia, the Catholic news agency, with direct involvement of its Editorial Director, Mr. Jesús Colina and Institutional Relations Manager, Ms. Silvia Costantini, http://www.aleteia.org/en
The mission of the Wallenberg Foundation is supported by more than 300 heads of state and Nobel laureates. Jorge Bergolio, Pope Francis, is one of its founding members.]]>
To the Editor:
Re “Nicholas Winton, 1909-2015: Quiet Rescuer in Nazi Europe” (front page, July 2):
Your obituary rightly points out that Nicholas Winton, who rescued mostly Jewish children in Czechoslovakia, was often compared to Raoul Wallenberg, who saved tens of thousands of Jews in wartime Hungary.
In June 2013, we had the honor to meet Mr. Winton in London, where we bestowed upon him the Raoul Wallenberg Medal, as a token of recognition and gratitude.
At that time, Mr. Winton was 104, and he left us mesmerized by his lucidity, vitality and sense of humor.
While we urged him to tell us more about his inspiring feats more than 70 years ago, he was reluctant to speak about himself. Instead, he voiced his concern for the situation of the world today, saying everything was “topsy-turvy.” Rather than looking back, he insisted on discussing the present and the future.
Aware of the comparison between him and Raoul Wallenberg, we told Mr. Winton what a delight it would have been to have them both together, in a meeting of rescuers. The world has lost a giant, but his legacy is here to stay.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation mourns the passing of Nicholas Winton and pledges to keep alive his example through educational programs.
The writers are, respectively, chairman and founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.
Winton was a stockbroker when he arranged for trains to carry Jewish children out of occupied Prague.
His son-in-law Stephen Watson said he died peacefully in his sleep at Wexham Hospital, Slough, England.
He died on the anniversary of the departure of a train in 1939 carrying the largest number of children: 241.
Winton brought the children to Britain, battling bureaucracy at both ends, saving them from almost certain death, and then kept quiet about his exploits for a half-century.
He organised a total of eight trains from Prague, with some other forms of transport also set up from Vienna.
Eduardo Eurnekian and Baruch Tenembaum, Chairman and Founder of the Wallenberg Foundation, declared that the global NGO “Will do its utmost to mark public places, in England and elsewhere around the world, after the great Sir Nicholas, as a form to perpetuate his name and feats, and in order to transmit to the present and future generations the certainty that a man can make a difference. Solidarity and civic courage are not just hollow words, they are values that we must defend and practice every day, no matter the circumstances.”
Below, an exclusive video of the Wallenberg Foundation with an interview conducted at the Swedish Embassy in London, in 2013.
Click on the image and watch the video]]>
The museum was chosen to symbolically represent the courageous islanders of Ereikousa who, during the dark days of WWII, gave refuge to a Jewish family from Corfu.
The story of Ereikousa is singular. In fact, it illustrates a collective effort by Father Andronikos and the local islanders to save the lives of Savvas Israel, his daughters; Spera, Nini and Julia, along with Savvas’ adopted granddaughter Rosa, whose sons, Peretz and Abraham attended the ceremony.
Savvas Israel was a tailor from Corfu, who conducted periodical visits to Ereikousa to serve his customers.
He and his relatives were sheltered most of the time at the house of the local priest, Father Andronikos, but from time to time, they switched houses, especially when the German soldiers or Nazis in disguise came to the island.
The people of Ereikousa have displayed a joint spirit of civic solidarity, very much in line with the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg.
Since Father Andronikos’ house, where the Savvas were sheltered most of the time is located in a remote place and since they sometimes moved to other houses in the island, we unveiled the House of Life plaque in the Museum of Ereikousa, as a gesture of recognition to the brave people of Ereikousa at large.
The ceremony was organized together with the Association of Friends of Greek Jewry (Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue & Museum), the municipal authorities of Ereikousa, Yvette Corporon, who wrote a book inspired in this story (“When the Cypress whispers”), as well as relatives of the rescuers and survivors, including Abraham and Peretz Hassid, sons of the late Rosa Belelli, who was adopted by Savvas Israel and saved in the island.
The event took place at the Museum and at the Plateia (Town Square) of Ereikousa with the attendance of more than 200 people.
The Kehila Kedosha also presented the Award of Moral Courage to the people of Ereikousa.
Acclaimed opera singer, Lina Orfanos Bambinis, accompanied by guitarist Kostas Tsoukalas, performed a number of songs.
The speakers were Andrea Goulis, Deputy Major of Ereikousa; Marcia Ikonomopoulos of the Kehila Kedosha; Yvette Corporon, Spyros Orfan, Maayan, Rosa’s granddaughter; Abraham Hassid, Rosas’s son; Gilad Yafet, from My Heritage and Danny Rainer.
All of them highlighted the courageous spirit of solidarity of the islanders.
A message from the Chairman of the Wallenberg Foundation, Eduardo Eurnekian, was read aloud during the ceremony: “Let us celebrate and promote the “admirable feats of courage and civic solidarity displayed by the people of Ereikousa who reached-out to the persecuted ones, disregarding their own risk.”
After the ceremony, the Hassid family, Yvette Corporon and Danny Rainer went to the house of Ms. Emilia Capecis, a 94 year old resident of the island. Ms. Capecis told about her experiences as a youngster, during the war, and the war remembrances she has from her bond with Rosa, while she was hidden in the island.
This ambitious research project aims at identifying Turks and Kurds that reached out to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. The main mission of the IRWF is to unveil untold stories of rescue and solidarity. The issue of the Muslim rescuers who went out of their way to save Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century was not properly studied yet and, thus, is an unchartered territory waiting to be discovered.
Click here and get the e-book]]>
Renzi received the award from Eduardo Eurnekian, Chairman of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, at the Palazzo Chigi, official residence of the Prime Minister.
The presentation of the accolade was conducted in the frame of the “Houses of Life” educational program, an endeavor that aims at identifying buildings and houses that served as safe havens in the midst of the Holocaust.
So far, the Wallenberg Foundation, created by Baruch Tenembaum, has located, in Rome alone, nearly two hundred places of refuge. Houses of Life were also identified in France, Poland, Greece and Germany. The locations are mostly churches, convents and Catholic boarding schools.
The refugees were mostly children whose parents had been taken to concentration camps. Is the case of Emmanuel and Raffaele Pacifici, the sons of the Rabbi of Genoa, Riccardo Pacifici, himself rescued by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, in Florence. A grandchild of them is the current president of the Italian Jewish community.
On 12 June, Eurnekian presented the Wallenberg Medal to Sister Emerenziana Bolledi, at the Institute of the Sisters of St. Joseph, in Rome. As a novice, Sister Emerenziana gave shelter to 60 mothers and children sentenced to death by Hitler’s regime.
The mission of the Wallenberg Foundation is supported by more than 300 heads of state and Nobel laureates. Jorge Bergolio, Pope Francis, is one of its founding members.]]>
Last Friday, a ceremony in the Instituto Suore San Giuseppe honoured the work of Sor Emerenziana Bolledi, whose effort saved 60 victims from genocide in Rome, Italy.
So far, more than 200 catholic institutions have been identified as Houses of Life by the Foundation around Europe.]]>