‘The truth about the Holocaust must always be studied and remembered’

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the foreign ministry dedication.

JERUSALEM—Israel expects every country in the world to defend the truth about the Holocaust, including Poland, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday as tensions between Jerusalem and Warsaw over Polish legislation that would criminalize accusations of Polish complicity in the Holocaust continued to simmer.

Speaking at a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem honoring diplomats who saved Jews during the Holocaust, Netanyahu said: The truth about the Holocaust must always be studied. It must always be remembered. Israel works closely with our partners around the world to defend and reveal the truth about the Holocaust. We expect to do that with every country, including Poland. Above all, future generations must internalize the lessons of the Holocaust. I think the most important lesson for all humanity is that hatred, extreme ideologies, these must always be confronted early when there is time to nip them at the bud.”

Poland’s ambassador to Israel Jacek Chodorowicz  was a notable absentee from the event, which was attended by dozens of ambassadors and diplomats.

The ceremony marked the unveiling of a plaque honoring the work of 36 diplomats, from 21 countries, recognized by Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center as Righteous Among the Nations.

“This plaque that we dedicate today recognizes these brave diplomats, who acted by the dictates of their conscience without regard for personal and professional consequence,” Netanyahu said.

“When Esther Ofiri’s mother took her from an attic in Hungary to the Swedish delegation, a young diplomat listened to her mother’s pleas and immediately responded, don’t worry, soon we’ll give you protective passes. And that man was Raoul Wallenberg, a hero among heroes. On July 9th, 1944, Wallenberg arrived in Budapest to serve at the Swedish embassy, and when he realized how many Jews needed his help, he threw diplomatic caution to the wind, he worked tirelessly to save Jews, he issued thousands of protective letters and placed the Swedish flag, he placed the Swedish flag over buildings housing Jews.

“There are lesser known heroes. They are all on this wall and they should be known. We should teach our people, I think all of humanity, their courage and example, diplomats like Captain Francis Foley of the United Kingdom and Ho Feng-Shan of China and the others. They deserve to be household names. It’s a matter of justice, but it’s also a matter of educating future generations. So we chose to place this plaque with these brave diplomats’ names here in a prominent place of our Foreign Ministry, because these are the kind of people we ask our young diplomats to emulate. Men and women of boundless courage, men and women of the deepest moral character. By the way, many of them were castigated by their foreign ministries and for many of them their career came to a swift end. But they risked everything for the truth and the first thing is establishing the truth. It wasn’t easy to do that because the truth was hidden by iron curtains of lies and deception. The truth is not always easy to establish today either by different means, but the first thing they wanted to establish was the truth. Once they learned the truth, they risked everything for our common humanity, and for that, we and history will justly remember them as heroes.

“We Jews have learned to believe our enemies when they call for our annihilation. We’ve learned that we must be able to defend ourselves by ourselves against any potential threat. The State of Israel not only has internalized these lessons, it practices it. We hold our hand out to peace for any of our neighbors who wish peace with us, and there are quite a few, and their number is growing, I’m happy to say, and I hope it will extend to all. But we are forever conscious of the danger to us and to the rest of mankind of those who want to exterminate us, ultimately they exterminate the world we all want to keep and cherish.”

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