In February 1939, a young Wellesley couple embarked on a mission that would alter their lives and thousands of others. The Rev. Waitstill Sharp, 37, a Unitarian minister, and his wife, Martha, 33, set aside personal concerns for a vastly more urgent cause. Leaving their two young children behind, they arrived in Czechoslovakia a month before the German occupation and began assisting Prague’s growing refugee population.
Over the next two years, the Sharps helped secure food, shelter, visas, and freedom for hundreds of Jews and non-Jews targeted by the Nazi regime. Now deceased, the couple seldom spoke publicly about their work abroad. But last month, from an Israeli tribunal to a local elementary school, their rescue efforts spoke loudly for them. And an international honor previously bestowed upon only one American was added to their legacy.
Two people who campaigned vigorously for that honor on the Sharps’ behalf are Rosemarie Feigl, 80, an Austrian Jew who immigrated to America in 1940, and Artemis Joukowsky III, a Sherborn businessman and grandson of the Sharps. Together they recently visited the Eliot Montessori School in Natick to talk about the Holocaust. One 12-year old asked whether any children had died in the concentration camps. Yes, said Feigl, many did. How did you feel, the girl wanted to know. Scared, Feigl answered.
”I’m not one to forget the past,” Feigl remarked during an interview the next day at Joukowsky’s house. ”My grandparents died in Auschwitz. Martha Sharp saved my life and my parents.”
Joukowsky, sitting nearby, said that because Feigl is alive to bear witness, another rescue has occurred: that of his grandparents’ rightful place in the roll of the righteous.
”They never got the proper credit,” Joukowsky said with a smile. ”Now they have.”
Behind the smile, and the visit by Feigl, was this fall’s announcement that the Sharps had been chosen Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust remembrance authority in Jerusalem. Established in 1953, Yad Vashem has selected more than 21,000 non-Jews for the honor, including 499 this year. Among past honorees is Oskar Schindler, whose story inspired ”Schindler’s List,” the Academy Award-winning film.
The selection criteria are demandingly specific, including testimony from at least one living witness. Until this year, the only American selected was Varian Fry, who worked closely with the Sharps and is often referred to as ”the American Schindler.”
When news of the Sharps’ selection was announced last month to the Wellesley congregation they once led, its significance began to sink in, especially among members of the local Unitarian community. A special celebration will take place tonight at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Wellesley Hills, with Feigl in attendance. In June, a formal induction ceremony will be held in Israel.
”So many stories about the Holocaust are negative,” Joukowsky said when asked about his grandparents’ legacy. ”This is a story about ordinary people who did remarkable work by taking risks. And that’s an example for all of us today.”
What the Sharps took on 65 years ago, and how Yad Vashem came to validate their acts, is part history lesson and part detective saga — a tale of two individuals whose heroics might have been lost to posterity without the efforts of relatives who possessed the resources and motivation to set the record straight.
Martha Dickie Sharp, a Providence native, and Waitstill Sharp, whom she married in 1928, were highly educated people with a deep faith in religious liberalism when they left for Europe. Waitstill had a law degree from Harvard, Martha a master’s degree from Radcliffe. They had settled into their Wellesley pastorate in 1936, when their son, Hastings, was 3 and their daughter, Martha, a newborn.
The Sharps’ first trip abroad ended in August 1939, with the Gestapo closing in on them and Martha facing imminent arrest. Less than a year later, they headed for Lisbon under the auspices of the newly formed Unitarian Service Committee. As much of southern France soon fell under Vichy control, the Sharps focused on two especially vulnerable constituencies: prominent intellectuals and refugee children.
”Waitstill and Martha learned the legal and illegal escape routes out of occupied France,” recalled Artemis Joukowsky, who is working on a film and book about his grandparents, in a speech last month to Wellesley’s Unitarian congregation. ”They traded money on the black market in order to bribe border guards and pay for rail, air, or sea transportation for the refugees. On occasion, they personally escorted high-profile refugees out of France.”
The refugees included Nobel laureate physicist Otto Meyerhof and writers Heinrich Mann (brother of Thomas), Franz Werfel (”The Song of Bernadette”), and Lion Feuchtwanger (”Proud Destiny”). Feuchtwanger’s rescue from Marseilles was particularly dangerous, and therefore of special interest to Yad Vashem, because his name had been posted on the Nazi’s ”most wanted” list. With the aid of Red Cross officials, the Sharps joined Varian Fry, head of the Emergency Rescue Committee, in smuggling Feuchtwanger out of Europe and to the United States, where he landed in September 1940.
Calling the risks taken by the Sharps ”superhuman,” Dr. Mordecai Paldiel, director of Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations Department, wrote in an e-mail last week that the commission was particularly impressed by Martha Sharp’s heroism.
”Sharp, who dressed up as a French farming woman, accompanied Lion Feuchtwanger on a risky train ride from Marseilles to the Franco-Spanish border,” Paldiel wrote. ”Then distracted . . . Spanish border guards” so Feuchtwanger’s false identity would not be discovered. At the same time, Paldiel noted, Waitstill ”was also involved in illegal acts” and risking imprisonment, if not worse, at the hands of the Nazis.
As the refugee situation worsened, the Sharps concentrated on rescuing as many as they could, often working apart while maintaining close contact from their separate theaters of operation. Martha toured refugee camps and established a vital milk-distribution network in southern France. While seeking visas for refugee children and their families in the summer of 1940, she met Eva Rosemarie Feigl, the teenage daughter of a Vienna lawyer. That December, Feigl joined a group of 27 children — nine of them Jewish — who escaped to America.
”She didn’t do it for money or to become famous,” Feigl wrote in a testimonial letter to Yad Vashem last winter. ”And she didn’t do it for any specific religious reason” other than ”to be a good human being.”
The Sharps returned stateside in 1940 and resumed life in Wellesley, but their personal story lacked a fairy-tale ending. For the next few years, the Sharps traveled abroad on international relief missions, raising money and awareness for the Unitarian Service Committee and other organizations. But as time passed, according to Joukowsky, the couple began pursuing different agendas — and eventually separate lives altogether.
In 1948, Martha Sharp ran for Congress against Republican Joseph Martin Jr., the future speaker of the House. Having captured the Democratic nomination on a pro-labor, internationalist platform — the Sharps were known as ”Guardian Angels of European Children” — she was first portrayed as a cookie-baking housewife, then smeared as a suspected Communist.
Among the voluminous FBI files on Martha that Joukowsky recently obtained is a J. Edgar Hoover memo promising to look into the story ”going around up there,” as Hoover put it, that Sharp had ties to the Communist Party.
The rumors never panned out, and Sharp herself lashed back at the ”Gestapo tactics,” complaining that her phone had been tapped and her campaign headquarters burglarized. The damage had been done, though, and she lost the election by more than 30,000 votes.
”My mother was deeply hurt. It was a cruel smear job. But she never wanted to talk about it,” said her daughter, Martha Sharp Joukowsky, a Brown University archeologist. What toll the war and its aftermath took on her parents’ marriage is unclear, she added, because they ”did not talk about personal things.” But by 1950 they were headed for a stormy divorce.
Martha moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the Truman administration. In 1957, she married David Cogan, a wealthy Jewish businessman, and devoted herself to charitable and humanitarian causes here and abroad, serving on the boards of Hadassah, the Girls Clubs of America, and other nonprofit organizations. She died in Providence in 1999, at age 94.
Waitstill Sharp, also remarried, returned to the ministry, and settled first in Chicago, then Flint, Mich., for 20 years. His involvement in civil rights and antiwar activities precluded much talk about rescuing wartime refugees, Martha Joukowsky said. Later, he retired to Greenfield, where he died in 1984.
”What they did, they did hand-in-hand,” Joukowsky said. ”So it’s appropriate they be brought back together by this honor.”
Joukowsky’s two sons, Artemis and Michael, pushed hard for Yad Vashem to hear their grandparents’ case. A private detective was hired to track down any surviving children whom their grandmother had rescued. The family also underwrote a documentary film about the Sharps that is being assembled by Keene State College faculty members, Lawrence Benaquist and William Sullivan.
A year ago, Feigl was located and happily agreed to testify on Martha’s behalf. More help was provided by Stanlee Stahl, executive vice president of The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, an organization that provides financial support for non-Jews who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Stahl introduced Joukowsky to Paldiel last winter, and over the next 10 months Paldiel’s committee met twice to debate the Sharps’ case.
”My grandmother’s case was a slam-dunk, because we had Rosemarie,” Artemis Joukowsky noted. ”But Waitstill’s was harder. The issue for the Israelis was, did my grandparents face physical danger? Were there Gestapo around — or merely Vichy officials? There was no question my grandfather had risked his life, but it contradicted the history Fry had written.”
A key break was the discovery of a document typed by Fry and stored in the archives of Columbia University. It corroborated Waitstill’s role in rescuing Feuchtwanger and was, as Joukowsky put it, an ”Oh, my God” moment.
”We weren’t out to destroy Fry’s credibility, because he worked very hard,” Joukowsky said. ”And we didn’t want to be on the bad side of history. But once they saw that [document], it was clear Waitstill would be chosen.”
The votes were taken in September, yet news of the Sharps’ honor has been slow to spread until last week, when the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee issued a press release about the award. When she got the call from Israel last month, Stahl said, ”I was happy for the family, of course, but for students, too. They need to know that Americans not only fought to make the world safe, but that ordinary people like the Sharps did extraordinary things.”
Is Fry’s legacy diminished by the Sharps’ story? On the contrary, according to Paldiel. What the Sharps did ”adds greater significance” to it by fleshing out details of Feuchtwanger’s rescue, he said. Nevertheless, he acknowledges, Yad Vashem is ”fighting against time” as the survivor population ages and credible testimony becomes harder to obtain.
Still, he writes, ”We have a moral obligation to certify and acknowledge all stories of rescue during the Holocaust, as a legacy and lesson to future generations that man has the potential to act in the most elevated humanitarian form possible.”
Sixteen descendants of Waitstill and Martha Sharp will travel to Israel next summer for the induction ceremony.]]>
A Swedish balladeer wants to sing about the life of Raoul Wallenberg to New York students.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation asked schools this week to host Ben Olander for his hour-long show, which incorporates songs, pictures and storytelling. Olander, described by the foundation as ”one of Sweden’s foremost balladeers,” will be in New York March 1-6.
Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat in Budapest during World War II, risked his life to rescue tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis. He disappeared into the Soviet gulag shortly after the Soviets liberated the city.]]>
Tenembaum was born in the Santa Fe province’s town of Las Palmeras and has become one of the most efficient promoters of universal harmony. The Foundation he presides over, inspired by the heroism of the Swede Raoul Wallenberg, has gathered numberless personalities from around the world, with dozens of Nobel Prize winners, statesmen from the five continents and social fighters that sustain the positive pedagogy of discovering, distinguishing, and rewarding those who work hard in order to save lives and approach cultures.
Well, this man of solid knowledge, that is fluent in many languages and is often required by community and religious leaders has predilection for a sport that would rather seem odd to any naïve look. It is a sport that seems incompatible with his spirituality: boxing. Noticed from my surprised incredulity, he had no trouble in showing me videos and recordings he has collected of figures that have shaken up the boxing rings, as well as information on techniques and stellar movements.
He never practiced this sport and is of course aware of the medical objections that surround it. But he admires the virtuosity of those that know how to avoid and direct punches while they deploy a magic dance and all their bodies’ muscles vibrate like the tuned chords of a violin. Maybe his peace efforts, I wondered, required the compensation of a partially sublimated violence.
The second surprise was to receive the news from him of who was the first boxer that transformed the impious fight in a well regulated sport. I ignored it. Until then, all I knew was that boxing, in a very rudimentary fashion, had been practiced in the Crete Mycenae, some 1.500 years B.C. and that it got to occupy an outstanding position in the antiquity’s Olympic Games. I also knew that it was the Romans that degraded its athletic qualities in favor of brutality. Mobs were most stirred up by seeing how gladiators tore each other, and for doing so they transformed their arms in a club wrapping it up in leather containing lead. Later this sport, condemned as bloody, entered a long lethargy, like almost all others.
Its resurrection came because of the persistence of a 18th Century man that had all the elements that we would today call globalizers: he was Jewish, English and his surname was from Spanish origin: Mendoza. The Encyclopedia Britannica affirms that Daniel Mendoza ”was the first scientific boxer in the history of boxing”. He was born in London’s borough of Whitechapel and became a professional boxer in 1790. In those times there were fifteen acclaimed heavyweight champions and Mendoza became one of them, even though his weight was not heavy, but his intelligence governed his physique and not the reverse, as it used to happen in most of those that cultivated these kinds of fights. Thanks to his obsession for transforming the mere fight in an art, he ascended into the first posts and got boxing to quit being a savage fight, bared of mystery and charm. Proud of his origin -maybe a main and very hard challenge in his time- he asked to be called ”Mendoza the Jewish”, but his fans preferred to call him ”The Star of Israel”. Daniel Mendoza was discovered by who would later become his hardest rival, Richard Humphrey. In that time, Mendoza worked in a pub when a very chunky and disgusted client attacked the owner. The boy ran into the defense of his boss, engaging in a prolonged fight, in which he avoided to use any other arms than his naked fists, even though he had at his disposal a chair’s leg and a knife’s handle. His tidy and sustained fight gathered a growing crowd, in which was Humphrey, who was most impressed at the young man’s qualities. He decided then to invite him to become a boxer and so began his shining race. From the very beginning he applied himself to agree on rules that eliminated the low blows and the dirty schemes. It was a task that consumed him long hours dedicated to negotiate and to persuade, taking off space to training or rest. It was not easy to convince that a combat with clear rules that preserved the health of the sportsman and would turn the tactics more complex, would be more advisable than a ferocious fight decided to operate any resource. His intentions had a slanted humanism that sounded strange and even ridiculous. He wrote a book that became a classic: The art of boxing. Finally he influenced the sportsmen, who followed him. His didactic perseverance began to gain followers and the wild fisticuffs entered in a decisive metamorphosis. Mendoza imposed a turn without return. His arduous performance gained him the patronage of the Prince of Wales.
Mendoza, as it would happen later with almost all the champions, was transformed into a rich man, but its generosity consumed his patrimony until he became a debtor that finished in jail. After recovering his freedom, he dedicated himself into working in a pub, the scope to which he had been devoted before initiating his full parabola of light. His life was closed as a circular and disturbing story, a matrix that amount of boxers would repeat: he died in indigence, in spite of having taken an honorable life. When in 1965 the Boxing Hall of Fame was inaugurated, Daniel Mendoza was one of first ones being chosen for the tribute.
The last blow of surprise that Baruch Tenembaum bestowed upon me was the true history of Max Schmeling, the German boxer who Hitler wanted to turn into a forceful test on the superiority of the Aryan race. Perhaps the readers would remember his combats with the American black Joe Louis, of whom almost all the humanity was pending. Also that Schmeling was assigned by a personal decision from Hitler to a suicidal body of parachutists towards the end of the war. The history that was dusted later, nevertheless, refutes that the persistence of the Nazis to turn this heavyweight into an emblem of its deliriums had counted with his approval.
His race began when he was 19 years old, in 1924. He gained the title of mid-heavy and in 1929 he arrived in New York, then the stronghold of the world-wide boxing. There he defeated two champions and in 1936 he obtained the world-wide title in front of Joe Louis, who was considered the greatest in history. The Nazi regime trembled with enthusiasm and decided to mix Schmeling in its propaganda as a proof that the Aryans were superior to other races.
The expected reamtch took place the 22nd of June,1938 in the Yankee Stadium of New York before a multitude of 70,000 people and clusters of journalists of the radial and written press of several continents. The combat was not only sporty, but it also dissolved ardent political and racial questions. Joe Louis was motivated to demolish the prejudices the Nazis maintained. The stadium radiated electricity that arrived until the borders of the globe. Those who could enter the place and those that followed it by radio expected that rounds would go away as tense ties and that probably neither colossus could gain a forceful victory. But they were mistaken. The fight hardly lasted two minutes and four seconds. Max Schmeling could not control the surprise that meant the cataract of blows that unloaded with all his energies the so called ”Brown Bomber”. It was a hailstorm unstoppable and demolishing, impossible to give back.
Upon return to its country, Schmeling crossed the fires of The Night of the Broken Crystals, the 9 of November of 1938, and was able to rescue two Jewish adolescents who were persecuted by criminals who struck and killed people. Investigations made after the war demonstrates that the boxer hid the young people in his suite from the Excelsior hotel and warned the front desk that nobody bothered him because he had the flu. After the progrom lessened, he was able to embark those young people towards the United States.
Hitler could not affiliate him with the Nazi Party, although he used an ample catalogue of seduction, pressure and threat. Hitler was advised not to send him to a concentration camp because Schmeling still enjoyed great popularity and his effect would have been negative for the regime. Then Hitler had him listed in an airborne troop that had to undertake suicidal actions. Schmeling took part in several actions but he was not killed nor was he hurt. After having gained fifty-six of seventy combats, he left boxing because of are reasons.
It was then when he began receiving more recognitions than ever from Germany and the United States because of his moral integrity. They granted him the Golden Tape that confers the Society of Sport Press of Germany. Later, the city of Los Angeles declared him Honorary Citizen, and in 1967 he received the Oscar of Sports. During that time he published his autobiography, where you can see the human quality that directed his acts at the moments of glory and those of penumbra. He became a great philanthropist and many of his ex-rivals became his friends. He helped Joe Louis in a dissembled form and, when he died, he paid for his funeral. In 2003, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation granted a distinction to him, by initiative of its president Baruch Tenembaum, who smiles from his document collection on boxing. Almost apologizing he tells me that this exceptional man died in Germany, at the age of 99.
Translation: Patricio Cavalli]]>
What did a ”group” led by British intelligence, a church in a cave, and a missing Swedish diplomat all have in common in World War II Hungary – and why did most of the players in this drama disappear? Shocking facts are uncovered about war-torn Budapest , British intelligence, and SMERSH, and how they were all connected, exposing a 60-year-old deception.
Author Catherine Eva Schandl, B.A. Honours, M.Ed., was born and raised in North America and is of Hungarian origin. Her father, Karoly William Schandl, a Hungarian lawyer, was a survivor of 11 years, 10 months in the Soviet prisons of Lubyanka, Lefortovo, and Vladimir. Prior to his official arrest by the NKVD/SMERSH on December 8, 1944 , he was involved in a British led anti-Nazi resistance group, and lived across from the Swedish Embassy in Budapest .
Karoly and his old Catholic school friends had been recruited by British intelligence.
The Cave Church down the street was actively helping his group. It was the ideal place for clandestine meetings.
SMERSH arrested Karoly Schandl, along with a Dutch lieutenant who had been working for Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.
Karoly and the Dutch lieutenant were placed in Lubyanka and then Lefortovo prison. The leader of Karoly’s group was also arrested by SMERSH. The church was stormed by the Communists but would be destined to re-open decades later.
After 5 years as a POW, Karoly was accused of being a British spy, as he had come into contact with the British intelligence service during the Second World War. In 1950, he was transferred to Vladimir prison, where he was kept locked away in secret, in the ”special section.”
The Soviets continued to deny any knowledge of his whereabouts. He was bombarded with ultrasonic sounds as they attempted to brainwash him, but to no avail.
By 1956, Karoly was a free man. He always said there had been a leak. The likely source would not be discovered until 2005 by Karoly Schandl’s daughter
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”The Holocaust also reminds us of the crimes of genocide committed since World War II,” Assembly President Jan Eliasson said after the resolution was adopted without a vote. ”It must, therefore, be a unifying historic warning around which we must rally, not only to recall the grievous crimes committed in human history but also to reaffirm our unfaltering resolve to prevent the recurrence of such crimes.
”We cannot continue to repeat saying ‘Never again’ – after Cambodia, Rwanda and Srebrenica,” he added referring to more recent perpetrations of genocide.
In a statement by his spokesman welcoming the resolution, Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the ‘International Day of Commemoration to honour the victims of the Holocaust,’ an important reminder of the universal lessons of the Holocaust, ”a unique evil which cannot simply be consigned to the past and forgotten.”
Mr. Annan said he looked forward ”to taking the measures which the Assembly has requested from him, to establish a programme of outreach on the subject of ‘the Holocaust and the United Nations’ and to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education, in order to help prevent future acts of genocide.”
The resolution rejects any denial of Holocaust as an historical event, urges States to develop educational programmes that will instruct future generations about the horrors of genocide, and condemns all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or belief.
It also calls for actively preserving the sites of the Holocaust, including Nazi death camps, concentration camps, forced labour camps, and prisons, and to establish a UN programme of outreach and mobilization on Holocaust remembrance and education.
January 27, 1945 is currently officially recognized as a day of remembrance for Holocaust victims in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany, because it marks the day when an advancing Soviet army liberated the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Poland.]]>
Under the sign of interreligious dialogue, a new era was inaugurated by John Paul II according to the principles of the Second Vatican Council, an extraordinary landmark born from the inspiration of Pope John XXIII, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli.
The theological expression of the Council related to the non-Christian religions was the declaration ”Nostra Aetate” (Our Era), proclaimed on October 28th, 1965, in coincidence with the anniversary of John XXIII’s election as Pope in 1958.
The revolutionary document inaugurated a new era in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people after centuries of prejudices and persecutions. The origins, however, come from the humanitarian actions of Monsignor Roncalli during the Holocaust.
Bishop Radini Tedeschi, member of the Italian nobility and one of the most progressive Prelates of Italy at that time, passed away in 1914. His secretary, Angelo Roncalli, decided to write the biography of his mentor and sent it to Pope Benedictus XV, personal friend of Bishop Tedeschi. Once the WWI ended, the chief of the church called Roncalli and designed him Director of the Office for Attention to the Foreign missions. Later, Pope Pio XI named him Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria in March 1925. After 10 years in Sofia, Roncalli was named Apostolic Delegate in Turkey. It was precisely in Istanbul, during WWII, where Roncalli lead one of the most memorable rescue missions remembered by history.
Ira Hirschman, delegate of the United States War Refugee Board, writes in his memoirs a conversation he had with Roncalli: ”He listened to me with attention while I described the desperate fight of the Jewish people of Hungary, the last Hebrew community of Europe threatened by the Final Solution. He pulled his chair up closer and quietly asked: ‘Do you think that the Jewish people would voluntarily undergo a baptism ceremony?’ I answered that, according to my impression, they would if that was enough to save them from the extermination camps. ‘I know what I am going to do’, he sentenced. He said he had reasons to believe that some of the certificates of baptism were already given by nuns to Hungarian Jews. The Nazis had recognized them as credentials and allowed the owners to flee the country”
This is how, from Istanbul, Roncalli coordinated with the apostolic nuncio in Budapest, Angelo Rotta, the massive distribution of baptismal certificates, with the understanding that, once the war ended, each person will be able to decide which religious condition he/she will maintain.
The Baptist Operation started with the blessing of the future ”Good Pope.”
According to the testimonies given in the Nüremberg trials, the initiative helped save 24,000 Jewish lives. However, Catholic sources confirm that 80,000 certificates were given.
Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
Angelo Roncalli International Committee
NEW YORK, OCT. 26, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A Jewish leader considers the Second Vatican Council’s declaration ”Nostra Aetate” of 40 years ago a landmark that completely redefined relations between Catholics and Jews.
Baruch Tenembaum, president and founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, recalled the importance, in this connection, of the election of Cardinal Angelo Roncalli to the papacy in 1958.
”With the advent of the Good Pope on the throne of Peter an extraordinary revolution began within the Catholic Church, promoted from the word and action of the Second Vatican Council, a historic landmark that completely redefined the relationship between the Church and Judaism,” the Argentina-born Tenembaum told ZENIT.
Pope John XXIII convoked the council that on Oct. 28, 1965, would publish that declaration on the relations of the Church with non-Christian religions.
”This point of change in the history of Judeo-Catholic relations was not a chance result or political opportunism,” Tenembaum said. ”It was the testimony that confirmed a new attitude toward the Jewish people, a real transformation originating in the sentiments and profound sense of reconciliation of John XXIII.”
As a result, in 2000 Tenembaum established the Angelo Roncalli Committee for recognition of the humanitarian action shown by the papal nuncio Archbishop Roncalli in favor of people persecuted by the Nazi regime.
He said that, according to research reports carried out by this committee, ”Angelo Roncalli risked his position and security by providing thousands of Turkish visas, ‘temporary’ baptismal certificates, and immigration certificates, authorizing the entry to Palestine of Hungarian Jews persecuted by the Nazis.”
”According to testimonies given at the Nuremberg trials, his interventions helped to save tens of thousands of people,” Tenembaum continued. ”Catholic sources point out that about 80,000 certificates were issued. Roncalli was also involved in the fate of Jews of France, Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Italy.
”Monsignor Roncalli not only acted directly to save thousands of men, women and children condemned to extermination, but he was also a tireless person who, during the war, denounced before the Vatican and Allied nations the genocide carried out by the Nazis.
”The tenacity and determined commitment of Monsignor Roncalli with those who were suffering, his broad judgment and prophetic vision, explain the coherence of his life and work. Humanity still has much to learn from his wonderful apostolate.”
With the presence of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, the Roncalli Committee paid homage to the memory of John XXIII on Sept. 7, 2000, in the Holy See’s mission to the United Nations. The launching of the Angelo Roncalli International Committee was announced on that occasion.
In 2001, the Wallenberg Foundation published research documenting the works carried out by Archbishop Roncalli, as apostolic delegate in Istanbul, for those persecuted during the Holocaust.]]>
Mr. Yakovlev died at his home in Moscow of an unspecified illness, said Oleg Pivovarov, a spokesman for Mr. Yakovlev’s International Democracy Foundation.
He suffered from high blood pressure and earlier in the day had visited the Kremlin Clinical Hospital, Pivovarov said.
Mr. Yakovlev, who joined the Soviet Communist party’s governing Politburo in the mid-1980s, was known as the ”godfather of glasnost” for spearheading Mr. Gorbachev’s policy of openness that gradually lifted the heavy hand of the state off the new media and individual speech.
That program, and perestroika (restructuring), were keys to Mr. Gorbachev’s efforts to liberalize society and expose past excesses of the Soviet administration.
Some believe those reforms set in motion the process that led to the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991.
”He made an enormous contribution to the democratic processes and the transformation of the country,” said Mr. Gorbachev, who was on a trip to London, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
Mr. Yakovlev, born in the village of Korolyovo in the Volga River’s Yaroslavl region, fought in the Red Army in the Second World War and was badly wounded in 1943. He graduated from the history faculty of Yaroslavl University and became a Communist party apparatchik.
He rose through the ranks, but after a falling out with other members of the party leadership was sent to Canada, where he served as Soviet ambassador from 1973 to 1983. It was there that he had a fateful first meeting with Mr. Gorbachev in 1982, when the future leader was on a visit as a representative of the Politburo.
It was an electric encounter of like-minded men, he recalled in a 1995 interview with The Associated Press.
”We were in an open field waiting for the arrival of an official,” Mr. Yakovlev reminisced. ”We discussed everything, we interrupted each other and said ‘that thing must be changed, and that one’s intolerable … everything’s intolerable.’ ”
After Mr. Gorbachev became Soviet leader in 1985, he quickly named Mr. Yakovlev to key party posts. In 1987, he became the full member of the Politburo in charge of ideology.
As a senior adviser to Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Yakovlev played a key role in encouraging media freedom. He fended off attacks from a die-hard wing of the Communist party that fumed at news reports exposing Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s purges and other heavy handed tactics by party officials.
Mr. Yakovlev also initiated the exposure of a 1939 Soviet secret pact with Nazi Germany that paved the way for the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
He also actively contributed to Mr. Gorbachev’s perestroika reforms that gradually narrowed the Communist party’s role and encouraged the development of nascent liberal parties.
”Yakovlev played a pivotal role in perestroika,” Eduard Shevardnadze, Mr. Gorbachev’s foreign minister and the former president of Georgia, told AP. ”He was a remarkable, greatly educated man. He was a close friend, and I’m feeling a great pain.”
Mr. Yakovlev said in the AP interview that his efforts often brought disappointing results.
”I thought it would be enough to say ‘Look people, you are free.’ But intellectuals raised their heads, then started whining – and everybody else did not give a damn,” he said.
Mr. Yakovlev could also be brutally honest about his old boss.
Shortly after a failed coup attempt by a group of hardline Communists who wanted to oust Mr. Gorbachev, he blamed the Soviet leader himself for bringing the plotters into his inner circle.
Mr. Gorbachev was ”guilty of forming a team of traitors. Why did he surround himself with people capable of treason?”
”We often argued but always understood each other,” Mr. Gorbachev said Tuesday of Yakovlev, ITAR-Tass reported.
The failed coup hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union. After its demise, Mr. Yakovlev became head of then-president Boris Yeltsin’s commission for rehabilitation of victims of Soviet political repression. In that role, he remained a key figure in publicizing Soviet-era abuses.
In 2000, he attracted world attention by contending that Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg had been shot to death in the Soviet secret police headquarters building in 1947. Mr. Wallenberg helped save thousands of Jews in Hungary in the waning months of the Second World War but disappeared after Hungary was occupied by the Red Army.
Mr. Yakovlev later established the International Democracy Foundation, which he led until his death.]]>
Homage. For the first time in history, an Argentinean Province dedicates a day to the memory of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat savior of tens of thousands of pursued during the Holocaust. In Corrientes, Governor Ricardo Colombi establishes, by a decree, among other concepts, that the 5th. of October of each year will be dedicated to Raoul Wallenberg’s memory, ”one of the greatest saviours of human lives in history”.]]>
The Metropolitan Bishops Stefan and Kiril received an appreciation after the premiere of the film ”The Optimistics”, which tells the story of the Bulgarian Jews who were saved during the Holocaust. The documentary is based on the stories of people who did the impossible to spare thousands of others from the death camps.
The ceremony was co-organized by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, an educative Non-Governmental Organization founded in Argentina, with branches in Buenos Aires, Jerusalem and New York.
The Metropolitan Father Dmitri Dmitroff of the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, accepted the prize on behalf of the Metropolitan Stephan and Kiril whose solidary and public-spirited courage acts saved about 50 thousands souls from deportation. The prize was presented by David Elcott, Director of inter-religious affairs of the American Jewish Committee.
Among those present were Arye Mekel, General Consul of Israel in New York; Stefan Tafrov, The Permanent Representative of the Republic of Bulgaria to the United Nations; Elena Poptodorova, the Bulgarian Ambassador in the United States; Nikolay Milkov, Consul General of Bulgaria in New York, and Abigail Tenembaum, Vice-president of the Wallenberg Foundation in New York.
Translation: Marcela Marino