September 26, 2004

Speech of Baruch Tenembaum, Founder of the IRWF

My Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I apologize for not being able to address my feelings in German, the language of Heinrich Heine, Moshe Mendelsohn, Franz Kafka, Goethe and so many others renowned artists and intellectuals. Since I was told that delivering my little speech in English will make it I follow therefore the instruction of my Jewish roots that says: ”Whatever your host asks, just obey”

I came to Berlin 3 years ago. In the course of a visit I paid to the then President Rau we exchanged views on the best way of strengthening bonds among people of good will. Since he was well aware of the efforts of the Wallenberg Foundation to promote the values of understanding, solidarity, dialogue and civic courage, keeping alive the memory of the tragedies of the past and simultaneously stimulating humanitarian values for the future, I underlined to Mister Rau the importance of the colossal ingredient that solidifies the future: I am referring to the concept of Hope.

My dear sister and brothers: we are now CELEBRATING this very moment.

It may sound strange but, as I said, it was three years ago when we started to walk this long and difficult road. Three years of hard perseverance, starting at the very moment I told President Rau that we must find a Church, precisely in Germany, precisely in Berlin, where to place the seed of Memory and Hope, where to place this Mural created in Buenos Aires and unveiled in 1997 at the Metropolitan Cathedral, the main Catholic Church of Argentina, thanks to the courage and wisdom of the then Primate Cardinal, Antonio Quarracino.

Cardinal Quarracino asked in a posthumous letter to be buried beside the Mural just a few weeks before his death, as you may read in one of those panels fixed to the wall as well as in the brochure you were given a few moments ago. And there Cardinal Quarracino rests in peace.

Within the same letter Cardinal Quarracino also expressed his wish that all the Jewish people that visit the Mural inside the Cathedral may cover their heads. That was another clear signal of accepting the right of everybody to be different Not just tolerate the other but accept him/her.

We celebrate these signals of brotherhood!

We do celebrate together something that is greeted by some as a miracle, saluted by Heads of State, Nobel Prize Laureates and intellectuals from around the globe.

Therefore, this Mural is in itself a symbol of celebration.

So, in that same year of 2001, as I was telling you, I went to see Dr Joachim Gartner at the main offices of the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland in Berlin just after my meeting with President Rau was over. Dr Gartner welcomed the idea warmly and from that very moment, March 2001, we began to work hard with the only purpose of crystallizing the idea, something that all of you today are fortunately witnessing.

Allow me to salute today a few people, some of them present, some not.

I welcome the Minister of Interior, Mr Otto Schily, Bishop Wolfgang Huber, Dr David Gill, Dr Joachim Gartner, the Argentine Ambassador to Berlin, Enrique Candioti, the Deputy Ambassador of Israel, Ilan Mor, the Secretary General of the Central Jewish Community, Mr Stephan Kramer, Mayor Karin Schubert, Dr. Karl-Heinrich Lutcke, Cantor Isaac Scheffer, Ambassador Herzl Inbar and Dr Natalio Wengrower, Vicepresident of the Wallenberg Foundation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Wallenberg Foundation has among its members 62 Heads of State, including the King of an Islamic country and the Chancellor of Germany. In spite of this fact, let me tell you, we do not ask and did not receive any government participation.

The daily work of the Foundation is carried out by volunteers, believers and agnostics, educational organizations and other social factors. Its President is Father Horacio Moreno, a Catholic Priest. We accept everybody as long as he/she accepts everybody who accepts everybody. We love love and we do not hate even hate.

You may know that Wallenberg’s sister, Mrs. Nina Lagergren, is at this very moment in Budapest inaugurating a school that will bear the name of the ”Hero without a Grave” as Dr. Yoav Tenembaum defined Wallenberg.

That is why Nina can not be here today and I can not be there. But she sent us a nice letter of endorsement. Nina is the mother of Nane Annan, wife of Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations … but, strange as it may sound, you will not find our Foundation involved in mundane politics.

So, as I stated a while ago, the first Mural was placed inside a Catholic temple while the second is unveiled in a Protestant one. Buenos Aires and Berlin, sister cities, are in this way united by a strong bond for the years to come.

Pastor Werner is persuaded that we met each other just a couple of days ago which is a certain fact of the calendar, but nevertheless I am convinced that our souls know each other for generations, we two both bear the responsibility of continuing a dialogue which started between David and Jonathan.

We, the Jewish people, assumed that we participated in all the steps of the past and, therefore, we are responsible for each other in the future.

We, the Jewish People of the present times were slaves in Egypt, all of us strolled in the desert, received the Commandments, built the Temples, went to exile to Babylon, arrived to Europe and went again to the exile after the expulsion, came back and were the victims of the Shoah.

The Book of Genesis tells us that the Creator asked Cain: ”Where is Abel, your brother?”, and Cain answered: ”Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Yes!, my sisters and brothers, we celebrate this moment because we are the builders of a new world in which we are all of us keepers of all our sisters and brothers!!

Let us not permit that children be used as shields in the battlefields, let us not permit that schools be used as tools of blackmailing! Let us not allow that Hope be destroyed!

Children are the future!

I was given 10 minutes to deliver my speech and I am going to obey. But, please, my sisters and brothers, think for a moment: The killers, beside being criminals, are naïve! Yes, naïve! Because they can kill and destroy a body but they can never destroy the spirit. You can not kill ideas!

Listen criminals! You are naïve! The spirit will survive but you will vanish… you will dissappear from the face of the earth!

Listen criminals! Do not be naïve! Do not waste your time, do not waste your life, do not waste your hope, do not be naïve!

Instead, join us, put your energies at the service of a meaningful life! And be the keepers of our sisters and brothers!

Be part of those who feel that they were once slaves and now are liberated.

There are things in life that are more important than life itself, PEACE, LOVE AND RECONCILIATION.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.