Danish Ambassador warns of need to condemn antisemitism at Holocaust event

She said that the risks of antisemitism are seen “everyday” and stated that Europe and Denmark “face new antisemitism,”

April 30, 2019 21:35
The flag of Denmark

The flag of Denmark. (photo credit: REUTERS)

President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will lead the  national Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony Wednesday night at Yad Vashem, one of scores of events taking place across the country.

Rivlin and Netanyahu will both deliver remarks at the ceremony, while Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev will kindle the memorial torch and a Holocaust survivor whose name has not yet been released for publication will speak on behalf of the survivors.

Singers Miri Mesika and Idan Rafael Haviv, as well as the IDF Paratroopers’ Honor Guard, will participate in the ceremony, which includes the traditional lighting of six torches in commemoration of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and narrative pieces by actor Tomer Kapon. The MC for the ceremony will be Hila Korach.

In addition, the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) will hold its annual Holocaust remembrance event dedicated to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust.

The ceremony, the 17th of its kind, will take place at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the B’nai B’rith Martyrs Forest “Scroll of Fire” Plaza, in the Judean Hills west of Jerusalem.

This year’s ceremony will be dedicated to rescue efforts undertaken by the Jewish Defense Committee in Belgium (CDJ), which was founded in September 1942 in reaction to the start of the deportation of Jews by the Gestapo in August 1942 in Brussels and Antwerp.

The CDJ united Jews from a broad ideological spectrum including communists, revisionists, General Zionists, secular and religious Jews, as well as  some non-Jews, to engage in joint rescue operations.

The CDJ urged Jews to disregard the orders of the local Judenrat and go underground instead.

The committee rescued 3,000-4,000 children – half of all Dutch and Belgian Jewish children who survived the Holocaust – and provided life-saving assistance to 10,000 adults, including securing hiding places and providing forged identity documents.

This activity endangered the lives of the CDJ’s 300 members; some of whom were captured, tortured and deported to concentration camps. Some did not survive.

During the ceremony, the “Jewish Rescuers Citation” will be conferred on 11  members of the CDJ and four other rescuers who were active in Poland.

Some 270 heroes have been honored for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Holland and Belgium, since the establishment of the award in 2011.

And on Wednesday at 8 p.m., the 54th national ceremony for Holocaust Day at the Massuah International Institute for Holocaust Studies in Tel Yitzhak in the Central District will be held in the presence of Foreign Minister Israel Katz, Air Force Chief Amikam Norkin and Holocaust survivors who will light six torches.

ON MONDAY, Denmark’s Ambassador to Israel, Charlotte Slente, said that rising antisemitism in Europe requires politicians and national governments to vigorously condemn the phenomenon, as well as educate against it.

Speaking at a Holocaust commemoration event in Jerusalem held by the American Jewish Committee in advance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Slente said that the risks of antisemitism are seen “everyday,” and stated that Europe and Denmark “face new antisemitism.” She recalled the shooting at the Copenhagen Great Synagogue in February 2015 in which a gunman killed a Jewish man doing security duty during a bat mitzvah.

“Politicians and government’s need to speak out vigorously against antisemitism and say it is unacceptable,” Slente said.

“Continuous education is the only hope. You have to sow the seeds in young people, and tell them about the horrific history of the Shoah so everyone understands that this is a risk in all societies and needs to be repressed.”

Antisemitism is something we need to take seriously, we see the risks every day and we should be clear about what antisemitism is and what can be criticism towards political decisions. We must be extremely careful about finding ways to reduce, eliminate, and punish these incidents.

The event, the AJC’s fifth annual commemoration ceremony, focused on the role of diplomats of various countries in saving Jews during the Holocaust.

Speaking at Monday night’s event which commemorated efforts made by Denmark and Ecuador to save Jews, Slente was together with Ambassador of Ecuador to Israel Maria Gabriela Troya.
More than 95% of Denmark’s approximately 8,000 Jews were rescued by the efforts of the Danish resistance movement and the general Danish population following deportation orders from the Nazi regime in 1943.

Manuel Antonio Munoz Borrero, the Ecuadorian Consul General to Sweden during World War II, provided more than 100 Ecuadorian passports to Jews in several Nazi-occupied countries. Borrero was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 2011.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Slente underlined that the rescue of Denmark’s Jews was not a government action but the work of Danes who believed that the rights of minorities are inviolable, and that an attack on the country’s Jewish community was an attack on Denmark herself.

She also noted that between 30,000 to 40,000 Danes were involved in sending the country’s Jews across the Øresund strait to neutral Sweden.

“The population had instilled in it the sentiment that Jews were just like everyone else. There was deeply rooted democratic sentiment that if the human rights of a neighbor were at risk then the democracy of the entire country was at risk,” the ambassador explained.

She said this sentiment developed from a strong democratic culture which took root in Denmark at the beginning of the 20th century, a process which was strengthened in the 1930s against the background of the rise of Fascism, Nazism and Communism across Europe.

“This was a spontaneous action by Danish citizens, it was about individuals who took responsibility and demonstrated heroism, from nurses, doctors, fishermen and neighbors who acted with humanism,” Slente said during her presentation at Monday’s event.

“They saw the persecution for what it was, an attack on their neighbors, colleagues, classmates and their fellow man.”

The ambassador also said that it was important to derive lessons from the Holocaust for today, especially with the rise of growing extremism and xenophobia in various parts of the world.

“One lesson is the importance of the protection of human rights for all individuals including minorities in all countries. The strength of our democracy lies in the protection of our minorities, that’s where you measure the strength of our democracy and it is a clear marker for this,” she told the Post.

Learn about the March of the Living.

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