On 18 November 2013 the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) presented the “Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Medal” to the President of Greece, Karolos Papoulias. The ceremony took place at the Presidential Palace in Athens.
Receiving the award from the foundation’s chairman Eduardo Eurnekian and its founder Baruch Tenembaum, President Papoulias said that it was an honour for him and the Greek people.
President Papoulias said that human rights and democratic freedoms are being tested in an unacceptable manner and repeated the statement he made last July when he visited Auschwitz saying that “those who deny this sacrifice of thousands of European citizens cannot be a part of the European family”. Papoulias also referred to the Jewish community in his hometown of Ioannina that perished in Nazi concentration camps during WWII.
“Greece is a small country but it has its share of rescuers. More than 300 women and men have been officially recognized and we are still working to shed light on more cases of rescue which remain unknown. That is why we have an eternal debt of gratitude to the Greek Rescuers and we are committed to instill their legacies in the hearts and minds of the young generations that look for role models.”, says Eurnekian while adressing the packed audience.
“The history of Greece is characterized by a struggle for freedom. Throughout its long life, it had to face numerous domination attempts by external forces. The legacy of the Greek people could be summarized by the words of Nelson Mandela: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” And this is precisely the type of freedom we are referring to today, in this ceremony: Thou shall love thy neighbor like thyself” would be its motto.”, Eurnekian added.
Among the attendants there were Yiannis Mihelakis, Interior Minister; Benjamin Albalas, President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece; Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens; Isaac Misan, Rabbi of Athens; and the following Ambassadors: Wolfgang Dold, Federal Republic of Germany; Charlotte Wrangberg, Sweden; David Pearce, United States; Arieh Mekel, Israel; Jorge Alejandro Mastropietro, Argentina and Gagik Ghalatchian, Armenia.
In a touching moment, Mr. Papoulias met with Greek holocaust survivors Rosa Aser-Pardo, Iosif Ventura, and Eftychia Nahman, and the people that saved them Lydia Theodoraki-Dimaki,Evangelia Kypraiou, and Katia Mavrogeorgiou-Aggelopoulou.
VIDEO OF THE CEREMONY
Danny Rainer, IRWF Vicepresident, presented the mission and history of the Wallenberg Foundation and showed to the audience a portrait of Wallenberg painted by Peter Malkin, the man who captured Eichmann in Argentina in 1960.
Karolos Papoulias was born on June 4th, 1929, in Ioannina, Epirus. His father was Major General Grigorios Papoulias, a member of the heroic military academy class of 1911. Karolos Papoulias attended the Pogonian Elementary School and the High Schools of Pogoniani and Athens. During the Nazi occupation of Greece he was among the first to join the armed resistance against the invading forces.
He studied law at the Universities of Athens, Milan and Cologne where he submitted his PhD thesis on Private International Law. He worked for the Munich Institute for South-Eastern Europe. He is the author of a volume on the Greek resistance movement against the Nazis, published by the prestigious German publishing house Surkamp, as well as of a number of studies and articles that have appeared in foreign newspapers and magazines.
The mission of the Wallenberg Foundation, a global-reach NGO, is to research, preserve and promote the brave legacies of Raoul Wallenberg and his likes, courageous women and men who, during the Shoah and in other conflicts, helped save the life of persecuted people. More than 300 Heads of State and Nobel Laureates support its mission. Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis, is one of its founding members.
In 2012 the Wallenberg Foundation instituted a US$ 500,000 reward for reliable and scientifically verifiable information that could help bring Wallenberg and his driver, Vilmos Langfelder, back to Sweden. The announcement was first made on August 2012 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Among other recipients of the Wallenberg Centennial Medal it is worth mentioning Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General; Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Danish Prime Minister; Samuel Pisar, celebrated international lawyer and survivor of the Holocaust and Serzh Sargsyan, President of Armenia.