Organized by the Spanish Embassy in Argentina and the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) a ceremony in which a tribute was paid to eight Spanish diplomats saviors of persecuted during the Holocaust took place on March 30, 2004, at the premises of the Spanish legation.
Due to their rescue actions of Jews and other persecuted by the Nazi regime the personalities and deeds of: Angel Sanz Briz, Miguel Angel Muguiro; Julio Palencia; José de Rojas y Moreno; Bernardo Rolland de Miota; Sebastián de Romero Radigales; José Ruiz Santaella; Giorgio “Jorge” Perlasca were remembered.
The IRWF is a non-governmental organization dedicated to develop educational projects with the aim of preserving individual freedoms.
The ceremony, which was hosted by the Spanish Ambassador, Manuel Alabart, was attended by diplomatic representatives, government authorities, community and religious leaders. It is worth mentioning the presence of the Mayor of the city of Buenos Aires, Aníbal Ibarra, and the Ambassadors of Sweden, Morocco, Germany, Vatican, Israel, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey and Uruguay.
An exhibition of informative panels about Spanish diplomats was inaugurated during the ceremony.
After a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the 11 March terrorist attack in Madrid, Ambassador Alabart delivered a moving speech. He pointed out the importance of remembering the Spanish heroes not only for the rightness of the initiative of the IRWF but also because
“the life of those heroes is a less known expression of the Second World War; it is, as the distinguished historian Yoav Tenembaum puts it, the other side of the coin of the Holocaust. The examples of these diplomats must remind us that we can all make a difference by assuming the commitment to love our neighbors as ourselves, as the holy scripts say”.
The President of the IRWF, Father Horacio Moreno, and its vice presidents, Natalio Wengrower and the writer José García Hamilton, joined Ambassador Alabart on the ceremony and gave a series of distinctions to renowned figures of the Argentine culture, due to their trajectories on the service of understanding and reconciliation as well as the search for historical truth. The people distinguished were: Apostolic Nuncio in Argentina, Monsignor Adriano Bernardini; Cardinal Primate Jorge Bergoglio; journalist Uki Goñi; sociologist Beatriz Gurevich; regisseur Sergio Renan and the writer Marcos Aguinis.
Among the people present was the Spanish General Consul to Argentina, Manuel Fairen Sanz, who is Angel Sanz Briz’s nephew.
“Only three weeks after the criminal attack that took place in Madrid it was a unique opportunity to remember the Spaniards who made a life cause for life out of solidarity and civic courage, by challenging the promoters of destruction and death”, pointed out Moreno.
In the name of the people of Spain, Ambassador Alabart received the “Homage to Raoul Wallenberg” sculpture from hands of the creator of the masterpiece, the Argentine artist Norma D’Ippólito.
Among the hundreds of adhesions that arrived from all corners of the globe it is worth mentioning the letter of endorsement delivered by Argentine President, Nestor Kirchner:
“I send my adhesion to this ceremony where those Spanish heroes who risked their lives to help those who during the second world war were persecuted and suffered the horror of the holocaust, are remembered. Likewise, and due to the particular situation of the world today, I take advantage of this opportunity to express my commitment in the fight and work for the strengthening of peace among people”.
There were also adhesions by Daniel Filmus, Minister of Education of Argentina; the Bishop of Moron, Monsignor Justo Oscar Laguna; US congressman, Tom Lantos and the Israeli political leader, Iosi Beilin.