In the worst genocide of human history, six million Jews and millions of others perished. During the Holocaust, the worst of mankind fomented – and the best shone.
In 1963, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, created the title Righteous Among the Nations to honor the non-Jews who defied authority in the early half of the 20th century to rescue Jews. As of 2017, Yad Vashem has declared almost 27,000 men and women Righteous Among the Nations. They hail from different ethnicities, nationalities, socioeconomic background, and religions, connected by their exaltation of life over law.
Recently my university partnered with the Embassy of Israel to display an exhibit on the diplomats who disobeyed the directives of superiors and eschewed protocol to save Jews seeking refuge and travel documents. Of the over 26,000 Righteous Among the Nations, thirty-six were diplomats.
Highlighted in the exhibit are diplomats from Germany to Japan. Some, like Aristides De Sousa Mendes of Portugal, issued transit visas to whoever needed them, regardless of ability to pay the fees. Mendes died penniless. Vladimír Vochoč of Czechoslovakia printed passports out of a local printing shop when he ran out of official documents. He had to flee to Lisbon to avoid arrest. Raoul Wallenberg of Sweden gave thousands of protective letters to Jews, though he was only supposed to issue 650. He was taken by Russian soldiers; his fate is unknown.
“I’ve taken on this assignment, and I will never be able to return to Stockholm without knowing that I’d done all a man could do to save as any Jews as possible.” – Raoul Wallenberg
The video below, produced by Israel, tells more about this worthy commemoration,