International Holocaust Remembrance Day was commemorated throughout Latin America on Jan. 27, the date 72 years ago that the Allies liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau. In recognition of this, the United Nations, in 2005, declared Jan. 27 International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
For this year’s commemoration in Argentina, Human Rights Office Director Claudio Avruj, who is also a former B’nai B’rith executive vice president of District 23, decided to move the commemoration from Buenos Aires to Santa Fe, a very important province in Argentina, and home of thousands of Jewish immigrants who settled there in the 20th century. They also founded the historic village Moises Ville. The event took place in the park of the Righteous Among Nations. This park is a memorial dedicated to non-Jewish men and women who helped save Jewish lives during the Holocaust.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Santiago, Chile hosted an event, organized by B`nai B’rith Chile and the Jewish community, which was attended by more than 200 people. Ana Maria Tapia, a very well known B´nai B'rith member, received a tribute for her many years devoted to teaching the Holocaust in Chile.
Uruguay’s congress held a special session commemorating the day, and Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa, Israeli Ambassador to Uruguay Nina Ben Ami and hundreds of others attended the event. Members of Congress from all parties spoke about the importance of teaching the Shoah. Minister of Education Maria Julia Muñoz spoke at night, and her speech was broadcast live throughout the country. She made a special tribute to Holocaust survivors who came to Uruguay after the Holocaust.
Brazil held several events across the country in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. In Sao Paulo, a ceremony was held in the main Masorti synagogue led by Rabbi Michel Schlesinger. President of Brazil Michel Temer and Foreign Minister Jose Serra attended the event.
From left to right: Jack Terpins; Rabbi Michel Schlesinger; Consul Israel Dori Goren; Minister of Social Development Floriano Pesaro; Cardinal Odilo Scherer; Ricardo Berkiensztat; Bruno Laskowsky; Foreign Minister José Serra; Governor of Sao Paulo; Geraldo Alckmin; Mayor of Sao Pablo John Doria ; Fernando Lottenberg.
Paraguay held a special session in the U.N. Hall of Asuncion and Israeli Ambassador to Paraguay Peleg Lewi and several other ambassadors attended. Panama and Costa Rica held events in their Congresses.
Mexico held a special event at the Foreign Ministry, with keynote speaker Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso. In his speech he noted: “Mexico recognizes and remembers the veracity of this outrageous historic carnage. We will never doubt, not for a second, the existence of the Shoah and we do and will do so because we are sure that remembrance is an imperative of solidarity, not only with the Jewish people, the main target of this tragedy, but with other minorities who were also victims of the Nazis. It is more important than ever to remember the Shoah today, because we are facing and witnessing new ways of nationalisms which want to open again the doors of racism and discrimination.”
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International strongly condemns the terrorist attack at a mosque in Québec City. On Jan. 29, law enforcement officials say Alexandre Bissonnette entered the Québec Islamic Cultural Centre and began shooting at more than 50 people. Officials say Bissonnette killed six and wounded 19. He has been arrested and according to the BBC, charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.
This senseless bloodshed is fueled by hatred and intolerance.
B’nai B’rith will continue its commitment to fight fanaticism that leads to terrorism. We will always advocate for those whose voices are silenced.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families, and we wish for a speedy recovery for those injured.
B’nai B’rith Sends Letter To President Trump, Concerned Over Omission Of Jews From White House Statement On International Holocaust Remembrance Day
B’nai B’rith International sent a letter to President Donald J. Trump, expressing concern that his statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day did not specifically mention the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The White House statement failed to recognize the genocide that occurred against the Jewish people, or the anti-Semitism that led to it.
In their letter, President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin write: “The omission of any specific reference to the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust is deeply troubling. While it is true that not all victims of the Holocaust were Jewish, it is also true that Jews were the only group targeted for genocide. Indeed, the complete annihilation of the Jewish people was the stated goal of Hitler’s Final Solution, which culminated in the Holocaust.”
They concluded with: “Mr. President, we hope that your future statements about the Holocaust will acknowledge the Nazi genocide committed against the Jewish people. We further hope that your comments will underscore the importance of combating anti-Semitism and promoting Holocaust education in our time.”
To read the full letter click here.
B’nai B’rith International is deeply concerned over President Trump’s drastic plan to at least temporarily bar entry into the United States for all Syrian and other refugees fleeing the ravages of war as well as banning people from six other predominantly Muslim nations.
B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said: “While we acknowledge the very real threat posed by terrorists who aim to exploit our nation’s humanitarian instincts, a more nuanced and balanced approach to helping those seeking a safe harbor is clearly preferable, and more in keeping with America's values, than the sweeping ban being imposed by the administration. Our country has a great, though sometimes imperfect, tradition of welcoming those fleeing oppression, persecution and unending civil wars.”
The enhanced vetting of refugees Trump is calling for is already well underway, as individuals fleeing Syria are currently subjected to a screening process lasting 18 months or more.
Our country’s law enforcement and immigration authorities have done a commendable job in seeking to prevent would-be terrorists from entering the country. Further, we need to work with our allies in the Middle East and Europe to ensure that those who seek to use the refugee and asylum process with the intention to do harm to our citizens cannot enter the country.
We call for immediate relief for visa and green card holders who already have been thoroughly vetted, some of whom are now at American airports and others who are in transit to the United States. We are also concerned that those who have green cards, or something less than full citizenship, would have trouble returning to the country if they seek to leave to visit family abroad.
B'nai B'rith urges the president to rescind this executive order. A nation of immigrants should be more than sympathetic to leaving the door open for others seeking peace, hope and a better life.
Holds Program Honoring Japanese Diplomat Chiune Sugihara
In commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, B’nai B’rith International held a private event at its New York office. The program, “Sugihara: Being an Upstander in a Tumultuous World,” examined the courageous actions of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who signed transit visas in order to save thousands of Jews from extermination by the Nazis.
In 1939, Sugihara was sent to Kaunas, Lithuania, due to his fluency in Russian. The Japanese government tasked Sugihara with finding out the troop movements of Germany and the Soviet Union in the Baltic region. However, after arriving, Sugihara discovered the plight of Lithuanian and Polish Jews trying to flee the country. From July 31 to August 28, 1940, Sugihara risked his life and his family’s to provide 2,140 transit visas, which allowed Jews to escape through Russia to Japan. Even as he was on the train leaving Lithuania, Sugihara threw signed visas out the window, allowing even more Jews to survive. From Japan, many Jews escaped to various countries around the world.
Richard A. Salomon, whose father received visa #299, explored why Sugihara acted so heroically. Salomon’s father, Bernard Salomon, travelled from Poland to Lithuania, where he received a transit visa from Sugihara. His family was then allowed to leave Lithuania and travel to Vladivostok, Soviet Union, and then on to the Port of Tsuruga/Kobe in Japan. From Japan, Bernard and his family travelled to Shanghai, and then came to Calcutta, India, then to Bombay, ultimately settling in the United States.
“Consul General Sugihara was a point of light in a sea of darkness, who stood up when the world was largely silent. Like all rescuers and righteous souls, he did not view what he did, in saving thousands of lives, as anything remarkable. Everyone would do this, he believed, if in the same position. Of course, we know that this is not the case. As Sugihara's actions teach, one person certainly can make a difference,” Salomon said during the B’nai B’rith program, which was streamed live on Facebook.
Salomon doesn’t have many personal items from his father; however he wears a star sapphire ring his father acquired in India on his odyssey to freedom.
Salomon, founder and CEO of Vantage Point Consultants, is, among other distinctions, a member of the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center; the Advisory Board of the Visas for Life Foundation, which perpetuates Sugihara’s humanitarian legacy; and the Executive Committee of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy.
“B’nai B’rith has urged UNESCO— the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—to fittingly recognize the role and legacy of Sugihara, to whom more than 40,000 people owe their life, and we also recently received in this room a delegation of senior Japanese provincial and other officials to this end,” B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said at the program.
It took too long to tell the heroic story of Chiune Sugihara. Mariaschin also noted, “To recognize the good that is being done right now, it shouldn’t wait decades for people to discover. Sugihara’s memory is a memory we should honor.”
In 1984, Sugihara was recognized as Righteous Among Nations by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Israel. A ceremony was held in Jerusalem in 1985. Sugihara died on July 31, 1986.
B’nai B’rith’s program preceded an official U.N. Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, which leaders of the organization also attended. B’nai B’rith played an active role in the United Nations’ adoption of Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005.
Check out the video of the full program below
The three Galperin brothers: Wolf (bottom left), Shlomo and Feive (standing) in Vilna, 1965. All three, along with their father Yehezkel, were in the Landsberg Concentration Camp together when Wolf broke away to join his youngest brother Shlomo and 129 other children in what he expected would be their last moments before liquidation by the Nazis.
Risked His Life In An Attempt To Rescue 130 Children
The B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust (JRJ) this week will jointly honor concentration camp survivor Wolf Galperin for his valor and sacrifice.
The two organizations will present their Jewish Rescuers Citation on Thursday, Jan. 26 (the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day) to Galperin, 89, a native of Kovna, Lithuania now living in Sderot, Israel.
The event will be held in cooperation with the Sderot municipality in the presence of Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi and local youth groups at the city’s main cultural center.
Although he was only 17 years old, Wolf Galperin made the decision to support and safeguard, to the best of his ability, a group of 130 Jewish children from his hometown of Kovna, Lithuania between the ages of seven and 14, including his younger brother. The children were some of the last Jews who were captured by the Nazis prior to the liquidation of the ghetto in 1944.
The women, men and children were taken to and separated at Stutthof, a concentration camp in Sztutowo, Poland. The men and children continued on their journey to the Landsberg concentration camp, where 130 of the youngest children were segregated in a barbed wire holding area, presumably to await their deaths. Galperin, who was not among them, crawled under the barbed wire to be with his brother.
A day later Galperin and the children were taken to Dachu, and in an effort to maintain their morale, Galperin worked to divert the children’s attention from the barbarity surrounding them. Recognizing that the Nazis valued order and obedience, he taught the children to march in formation.
On July 31, 1944, the children were transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau, along with Galperin, and once again they began to march. It is generally believed by the survivors that their orderly behavior among the chaos, grief and hysteria that was the norm, was what drew the Germans to allow the group into the camp and to be assigned for work detail. The children were tattooed with sequential numbers B-2774 to B-2902.
During the High Holidays in 1944, 90 members of the original group were removed from the camp and never seen again. Galperin himself was also taken away, surviving in forced labor and death marches until he was liberated on May 2, 1945. Of the 40 survivors from the initial group of children, 28, including Galperin, made their way to Israel.
The Jewish Rescuers citation was established in 2011 by the B’nai B’rith World Center and JRJ to rectify the historical record regarding Jewish rescue. To date, some 150 rescuers who operated in France, Hungary, Greece, Germany, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Poland, the Netherlands and now Lithuania, have been recognized.
55,000 Greek Jews Sent to Nazi Concentration Camps During
B’nai B’rith International and the Order of AHEPA (the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) commend the recent groundbreaking for a Holocaust Museum and Educational Center in Thessaloniki, Greece.
The museum and educational center will commemorate the 55,000 Greek Jews who were sent to Nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. The site of the museum is in the area of the old railway station from where the death trains departed.
B’nai B’rith and AHEPA also laud the persistence and collaborative efforts of Mayor Yiannis Boutaris and the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki (JCT), led by David Saltiel, which has brought the project to this important point.
Our organizations look forward to visiting the site on a future joint mission. It is expected that the museum will be inaugurated at the end of 2019.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
A B’nai B’rith leadership delegation met privately at United Nations headquarters in New York with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who assumed office only three weeks ago.
The delegation members conveyed to the secretary-general B'nai B'rith's best wishes and readiness to partner closely on the advancement of the U.N.'s founding principles. They discussed a variety of priority concerns, particularly a long history of hostile and inequitable treatment for Israel at the world body, Middle East peacemaking, Iranian involvement in illicit nuclear activity and terrorism and the scourge of global anti-Semitism.
The group, led by B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, also included Senior Vice President Sheila Mostyn, B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy Chairman Charles Kaufman, Council on U.N. Affairs Chairman Michael Nachman, Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels and B’nai B’rith young leader Jason Langsner. B'nai B'rith also included several representatives of other major Jewish communal institutions in the meeting.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International denounces the ill-conceived Middle East peace summit that concluded Sunday in Paris. Some 70 countries gathered to impose preconditions on the Jewish state while ignoring Palestinian incitement and the long-standing refusal to negotiate directly with Israel. Israel did not attend the gathering.
This conference came after a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution censuring Israeli settlement construction passed with 14 votes and Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech disproportionately blaming Israel for the impasse with the Palestinians. Indeed, the Paris summit may yet paved the way for another one-sided UNSC resolution that will only cause further damage.
Like the UNSC censure and the Kerry speech, the Paris summit also essentially prejudges the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, said of the conference that it “is so detached from reality that it has extended a hand towards Palestinian obstructionism instead of towards peace.”
The United Kingdom blocked European Union foreign ministers from endorsing the conference’s final declaration. Neither Britain nor Australia signed the closing statement.
We commend Britain and Australia for refusing to sign the summit document. The international community has continuously enabled Palestinian rejectionism by introducing measures that unfairly target Israel and reduce the Palestinians’ incentive to negotiate for peace. B’nai B’rith reiterates that peace can be achieved only through direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International commends the Modern Language Association (MLA) for rejecting a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) initiative that would have targeted Israel for discrimination. The MLA, founded in 1883, promotes the teaching and study of language and literature. At the organization’s annual conference in Philadelphia on Saturday, the MLA’s delegate assembly voted 113 to 79 against a resolution that would have endorsed a boycott against Israel.
On the same day, the delegate assembly passed a separate resolution advocating that the organization “refrain from endorsing the boycott.” The anti-boycott measure passed 101 to 93 and will now be referred to the MLA executive council. In 2014, the MLA failed to pass a BDS academic boycott measure because less than 10 percent of its members voted.
The BDS movement seeks to destabilize Israel’s economy and isolate the Jewish state to the point of dissolution. B’nai B’rith applauds MLA delegates who voted to oppose Israel boycotts for recognizing that American and Israeli scholars have much to learn from one another. We urge all academic associations to denounce the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic BDS movement.
See where B'nai B'rith International stands on the issues.