August 26, 2014

A victory for the Righteous Among the Nations


The International Wallenberg Foundation opposes honoring officials who most certainly did not go above the call of duty in WWII

In reference to the report, Wallenberg Foundation off the hook in Argentina libel case, published on 21 August, we would like to stress that the ruling by the Supreme Court of Argentina overturned a judgment in favor of a relative of Luis H. Irigoyen, a diplomat stationed at the Argentine Embassy in Berlin during WWII. The relative sued the Wallenberg Foundation after it transmitted scholarly and journalistic works about Irigoyen and the role he played vis a vis Argentinean Jews persecuted by the Nazis.

This affair has its roots in two previous developments in which the Wallenberg Foundation was involved.

One of them was the “Directive 11”, an “strictly confidential” order issued in 1938 by the then Foreign Minister of Argentina, Jose Maria Cantilo, whereby all the Argentinian embassies and consulates around the world were instructed to deny visas to “undesirables or to individuals who were expelled from their countries”, a clear reference to the Jews, among other persecuted. The Directive 11, an equivalent of a death warrant, was revoked in an official ceremony that took place at the Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires, on 9 June 2005. The ceremony was presided by President Nestor Kirchner and his Foreign Minister, Rafael Bielsa.

A few days earlier Minister Bielsa had ordered the removal of a plaque that was placed inside the Argentinian Foreign Ministry Building in homage to twelve Argentinian diplomats that allegedly have worked in favor of persecuted Jews in Europe.The plaque had been unveiled back in 2001 by the Foreign Minister, Adalberto Rodriguez Giavarini, in a ceremony attended by representatives of the Embassy of Israel as well as of other major Jewish organizations. The list of names included in the plaque was provided by the Commission for the Clarification of Nazi Activities in Argentina (CEANA), created in 1997 by President Carlos Menem.

The Wallenberg Foundation had been voicing its unequivocal objection to this tribute, stating that not only was there no evidence that the honored diplomats went beyond their call of duty but, in other cases, e.g. Irigoyen, rather quite the contrary, according to Professor Haim Avni’s book “Argentina & the Jews. A history of Jewish immigration”.This legal struggle was crowned with success and debunks stories about “alleged” saviors. It is not a matter of money. Far beyond that, what was at stake was the legacy of the Righteous among the Nations, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Eduardo Eurnekian is the chairman of The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, and Baruch Tenembaum is the organization’s founder