May 14, 2000

The argentine paradox

Source:

The founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation recently wrote an article for Clarín Newspaper on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Eichmann’s detention in Argentina, noting the paradox between the vastly different legacies left by Raoul Wallenberg and Adolf Eichmann. For every, shameful, tragic tale that questions our morality, there are tiny yet powerful beacons of light that preserve our and our predecessor’s dignity. It is imperative that these instances be recognized and learned from.

It is the 40th anniversary of the capture of Adolf Eichmann. Many who had the fortune of eluding death and are still alive provide us with their testimony that allows us to discern the valid, tragic events of our history. But one day the last of the survivors, our witnesses, will pass away. It will then become the obligation of the successors to keep the memory alive for future generations. This is especially the case now that supposed academic minds question the exact nature of the Shoah (Holocaust) affirming without any qualm that Auschwitz’s gas chambers were an ingenious theatrical display that was put on by the liberating Allied armies.

This task has a specific meaning in Argentina whose history on this matter is so much so intense as it is contradictory. Hundreds of Nazi war criminals found safe refuge in this country after the war. However, thousands of persecuted people and survivors of pogroms finally found peace and prosperity here. Two bombs destroyed the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Mutual Aid Society resulting in the death of hundreds in the worst terrorist acts in the history of Argentina. On the suggestion of our Foundation, Emilie Schindler was honored by a government begun by Juan Peron’s political party, in the same staterooms where profitable alliances were made with the Third Reich.

The Catholic Church, which today is going through a period of self-critique regarding its past at the hands of the Pope, encouraged the building of a Holocaust Remembrance Mural at the Cathedral of Buenos Aires, an unprecedented undertaking on a global scale.

We should also look at Eichmann’s story in order to see the flip side of the coin when we unearth the heroic work of the Swedish diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg who did not take advantage of his public position to plunder or gain benefits but rather to serve and protect the lives of those who needed the most assistance. Wallenberg put himself in much danger but was ultimately defeated by a different form of totalitarianism than that he was fighting against.

* Mr. Tenembaum is the founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, a non-governmental organization.

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Translation: IRWF