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January 27, 2023 3:48 pm

US Lawmakers Introduce Legislation Honoring Diplomatic ‘Heroes of the Holocaust’


avatar by Andrew Bernard

The ‘Hall of Names’ commemorating victims of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Photo: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-FL) and Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) on Friday introduced legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award granted by Congress, US and foreign diplomats who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

The Forgotten Heroes of the Holocaust Congressional Gold Medal Act, the Senate version of which was introduced by Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Bill Haggerty (R-TN) on Thursday, would posthumously recognize the 60 WWII-era diplomats from more than 20 countries who risked their lives to save Jews.

Abraham Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League and co-chair of the Forgotten Heroes of the Holocaust Congressional Gold Medal Committee that supports the legislation, told The Algemeiner that he had a personal reason for supporting the legislation.

“I was saved by a righteous gentile,” Foxman said. “To me this whole subject of the righteous is very important. It’s an important lesson for the past, for the present and for the future: That even in the midst of Hell, in the midst of evil, there were individuals who had the decency, the humanity, the courage to stand up and save Jews.”

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The House and Senate versions of the legislation have been referred to committee before proceeding to the floors of each chamber.

Those recognized by the act include both well-known figures like Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg as well as those only more recently recognized, like Albert Emile Routier, who was first honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 2016.

Routier, a French citizen, was Turkey’s honorary consul in Lyon, France, and in 1942 assisted not only Turkish Jews in escaping France but also issued Turkish documents to Jews who had no connection to Turkey. He was eventually fired from his post when his name appeared in a list of those subverting the authorities.

Foxman said that the story of these rescuers is one of the remaining untold stories of the Holocaust.

“My feeling is the time has come to tell that story, and to embrace these heroes,” he said. “Most of these diplomats acted against the wishes of their government. Some of them risked their lives, certainly risked their careers. Some of them after the war were punished, their pensions were taken away, their names were disparaged. So we have an obligation to tell their story, to embrace it and to use it as a lesson.”

“What I have learned, trying to understand what I survived, is that whenever, wherever and however good people stood up, Jews lived,” Foxman said. “Gypsies lived, Gays lived, even Christian ministers, so wherever there was this effort to stand up, it worked. Sometimes at a cost, but it did work. That’s the lesson I believe for the future, that in all kinds of situations where there’s hatred and evil and bigotry, that if good people stand up, they can make a difference.”

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