The Ambassadors of both Poland and Turkey skipped a major ceremony in Jerusalem on Monday, sending a message of veiled hostility over the issue of Holocaust remembrance and their nations’ relations with the Jewish State.
Dozens of diplomats from around the world, however, did attend the event at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dedicating a plaque honoring diplomats who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
The plaque honors the work of 36 diplomats from 21 nations who have been recognized by the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem as ‘Righteous Among the Nations.’
On July 9th, 1944, Raoul Wallenberg arrived in Budapest to serve at the Swedish embassy, and when he realized how many Jews needed his help, he threw diplomatic caution to the wind, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the event.
Wallenberg “worked tirelessly to save Jews, he issued thousands of protective letters and placed the Swedish flag, he placed the Swedish flag over buildings housing Jews. It’s almost like Moses in Egypt. He claimed that columns of Jews who had been marched to the Austrian border were under Swedish protection,” Netanyahu related.
“There are lesser known heroes. They are all on this wall and they should be known. We should teach our people, I think all of humanity, their courage and example, diplomats like Captain Francis Foley of the United Kingdom, and Ho Feng-Shan of China, and the others.
“They deserve to be household names,” he said. “It’s a matter of justice, but it’s also a matter of educating future generations. So we chose to place this plaque with these brave diplomats’ names here in a prominent place of our Foreign Ministry, because these are the kind of people we ask our young diplomats to emulate. Men and women of boundless courage, men and women of the deepest moral character.
“By the way, many of them were castigated by their foreign ministries,” Netanyahu added, “and for many of them their career came to a swift end. But they risked everything for the truth and the first thing is establishing the truth. It wasn’t easy to do that because the truth was hidden by iron curtains of lies and deception.
“The truth is not always easy to establish today either by different means, but the first thing they wanted to establish was the truth. Once they learned the truth, they risked everything for our common humanity, and for that, we and history will justly remember them as heroes.
“The truth about the Holocaust must always be studied. It must always be remembered. Israel works closely with our partners around the world to defend and reveal the truth about the Holocaust.
“We expect to do that with every country, including Poland,” Netanyahu said, in a pointed reference to this past week’s furor over that nation’s recent vote to criminalize any mention of collaboration with Nazi occupiers in World War II.
“Above all, future generations must internalize the lessons of the Holocaust. I think the most important lesson for all humanity is that hatred, extreme ideologies, these must always be confronted early when there is time to nip them at the bud.
We Jews have learned to believe our enemies when they call for our annihilation,” he added. “We’ve learned that we must be able to defend ourselves by ourselves against any potential threat.
“The State of Israel not only has internalized these lessons, it practices it. We hold our hand out to peace for any of our neighbors who wish peace with us, and there are quite a few, and their number is growing, I’m happy to say, and I hope it will extend to all. But we are forever conscious of the danger to us and to the rest of mankind of those who want to exterminate us, ultimately they exterminate the world we all want to keep and cherish.
But in my people’s darkest hour, a few noble men and women bucked their superiors to save Jewish lives. Israel saluted them. We shall forever honor their memory.”