A visitor to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum walks past a mural of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Washington, January 26, 2007.
(photo credit: REUTERS/JIM YOUNG)
An exhibition about diplomats who saved Jews during the Holocaust will be on display in the United Nations to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.
A memorial wall was dedicated last February at the Foreign Ministry commemorating 36 diplomats from 21 countries recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
According to the Israel Mission to the UN, the exhibit will present the story of foreign service personnel from many countries who, at the risk of their own lives, used their roles and status in Europe to save Jews. Some of them helped Jews by issuing foreign passports and transit permits, providing shelters or other means of escape.
The exhibition will be opened in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the grandchildren of diplomats from Peru and Portugal who saved Jews.
Of the 36 names on the Yad Vashem list, six were Swedish diplomats, five were Swiss, four were Spanish, and two each were from Portugal, Romania and Brazil.
One Portuguese diplomat, Aristides Mendes, said “I prefer to stand by God and not against those who stand against him.” As the consul general in Bordeaux prior to the German invasion in 1940, Mendes decided not to obey his government’s orders and issued visas to thousands of Jews trying to escape. He will be featured in the exhibit at the UN.
The most well-known diplomat who saved Jews is Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat in Budapest who saved tens of thousands of Jews by issuing protective passports or sheltering them in buildings designated as Swedish territory.
But there are also lesser-known names, such as Ho Feng-Shan, the Chinese consul-general in Vienna who issued visas to 3,000 Jews; Capt. Francis Foley, a British passport control officer in Berlin who helped thousands of Jewish families escape Germany after Kristallnacht; and Luis Martins de Souza Dantas, the Brazilian ambassador to France who saved hundreds of Jews by issuing diplomatic visas for entry into Brazil.
Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said, “The exhibition is yet another expression of Israel’s gratitude to a large community of diplomats who saw the Jews, first and foremost, as human beings and helped them when faced with dire threats to their lives. The Righteous Among the Nations are a great light in a dark period in history and we must remember their heroism even after their death.”
Following the International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at the UN, Danon will lead a delegation of 40 UN ambassadors to Poland to visit the death camps, and then to Israel on a tour of the country.
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