International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed every year on Jan. 27, the date in 1945 the allies liberated the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. In addition to U.S. observances, B’nai B’rith International commemorated this significant day across Latin America.
In Argentina Human Rights Office Director Claudio Avruj, who is also a former B’nai B’rith executive vice president of District 23, held a memorial service in the Square of the Shoah in Buenos Aires. A memorial statue for the Righteous Among Nations was inaugurated in the square. Keynote speakers included Avruj and Minister of Culture Pablo Avelluto. Other government officials and leaders of the Jewish community attended the event as well. Argentine President Mauricio Macri hosted a delegation of Holocaust survivors in the presidential house, Casa Rosada, in Buenos Aires the day before.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Santiago held an event that was attended by more than 300 people. Acting president of Chile, Jorge Burgos and Leon Cohen, president of B’nai B’rith Latin America and the Jewish community in Chile, spoke at the commemoration ceremony. Writer Maria Angelica Puga gave a touching tribute to her great grandmother, Maria Edwards. Edwards, who rescued Jewish children throughout the Holocaust from the Rothschild Hospital in Paris, is the only Chilean recognized by the Righteous Among Nations. Puga accepted the Light and Memory Award in Edwards’ honor.
Uruguay’s congress held a special session commemorating the day, and acting Foreign Minister Jose Luis Cancela, Israeli Ambassador Nina Ben Ami and hundreds of others attended the event. President Tabare Vazquez gave a speech that was broadcast across the country on the radio and several television channels. In his speech Vazquez stated, “Our remembrance of Holocaust victims is also a commitment to fight for a real never more, and a commitment to fight for a better future, which was also dreamed by those who perished in this tragedy.”
Brazil held several events across the country in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. The commemoration ceremony in Brasilia took place in Colegio de Abogados (Lawyer’s Hall), and was attended by congressmen, ambassadors, B’nai B’rith Brazil President Abraham Goldstein and other Jewish community leaders. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was abroad at the time, had a message read aloud to attendees at the ceremony by Chief of Staff Jaques Wagner. In her message Rousseff stated, “This day brings to our memory the most horrifying moment in history. We want to join our hearts with those who lost their families in the Shoah. We will always keep fighting in order to avoid that the horror of the Shoah never happens again.”
In Ecuador, the University of the Americas hosted an event by the U.N. office, the Israeli Embassy, Albert Einstein College and the local Jewish community. Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia held special congressional sessions observing the day, and several members and leaders of the Jewish community attended these commemoration ceremonies. A minute of silence was observed across Panama, and all radio stations fell silent, and throughout the day, national television channels showed documentaries about the Holocaust.
Paraguay also held a special session in congress and Israeli Ambassador Peleg Lewi and several other ambassadors came to the event. President of the Permanent Commission of the Congress, Senator Adolfo Wiens, gave a speech on the Holocaust and human dignity. “This remembrance is a warning against hate, discrimination and racism,” Wiens said.