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Holocaust Days of Remembrance 2012: Honoring Wallenberg, Obama at Holocaust Museum

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WASHINGTON--Never again.

Thursday is Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the genocide of six million Jews and others by Nazi Germany. The date is pegged to the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. There are a variety of activities surrounding the days marking what in Hebrew is called Yom HaShoah. On Monday, President Barack Obama is speaking at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Raoul Wallenberg is being honored here today.

Obama, in his speech at the museum, is expected to discuss genocide prevention and announce appointments to the Atrocities Prevention Board he created last year.

In a statement released on Thursday to mark Yom HaShoah, Obama said, "On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, I join people of all faiths across the United States, in Israel and around the world in paying tribute to all who suffered in the Shoah--a horrific crime without parallel in human history. We honor the memory of six million innocent men, women and children who were sent to their deaths simply because of their Jewish faith. We stand in awe of those who fought back, in the ghettos and in the camps, against overwhelming odds. And in the year of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, we are humbled by the rescuers who refused to be bystanders to evil.

"On this day, and all days, we must do more than remember. We must resolve that "never again" is more than an empty slogan. As individuals, we must guard against indifference in our hearts and recognize ourselves in our fellow human beings. As societies, we must stand against ignorance and anti-Semitism, including those who try to deny the Holocaust. As nations, we must do everything we can to prevent and end atrocities in our time. This is the work I will advance when I join survivors and their families at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday. This must be the work of us all, as nations and peoples who cherish the dignity of every human being."

Wallenberg was the Swedish business man and diplomat who, at great risk to himself, saved tens of thousands of Jews. This year marks the 100 years since his birth and the Swedish government is devoting the year to commemorate his life. In Washington, the Swedish Embassy is hosting several events today remembering Wallenberg's courage, taking place in connection with Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Per Westerberg, Swedish Princess Madeleine and members of the Wallenberg family are part of a symposium on Wallenberg's life--how one man can make a difference--at the Swedish Embassy, co-sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the Lantos Foundation.

A related exhibit on Wallenberg's life, " To me there is no other choice" created by the Swedish Institute and the Living History Forum opens at the Swedish Embassy today.

State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal is in Sweden this week to honor Wallenberg and for other related activities.

From the State Department: "Rosenthal will travel to Sweden from April 23-26, 2011. This visit will include stops in Stockholm and Malmö to consult with Swedish officials and local Jewish communities, and to participate in an event honoring Swedish diplomat and Holocaust rescuer Raoul Wallenberg during this 100th anniversary year of his birth.
In Stockholm, Special Envoy Rosenthal will meet with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and representatives of the Jewish community. She will be a keynote speaker at a seminar on the changing face of anti-Semitism hosted by the Institute for Security and Development Policy."

"In Malmö, she will meet with Malmö Mayor Ilmar Reepalu and local Jewish leaders. She will also meet with the City of Malmö's Interreligious Dialogue Forum and participate in an event honoring Raoul Wallenberg hosted by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute at Lund University."

From the USHMM: "Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation's annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims. Holocaust remembrance week is April 15-22, 2012. The theme designated by the Museum for the 2012 observance is Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue."

From the USHMM: "The Holocaust is the state-sponsored systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. Jews were the primary victims -- six million were murdered; Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), people with mental and physical disabilities, and Poles were also targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic, or national reasons. Millions more, including homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, and political dissidents, also suffered grievous oppression and death under Nazi Germany."

From the USHMM: "What you do matters.

"Remembrance not only obligates us to memorialize those who were killed during the Holocaust, but it also reminds us of the fragility of democracy and the need for citizens to be vigilant in the protection of democratic ideals. We remember because we recognize the importance of preserving freedom, promoting human dignity, and confronting hate whenever and wherever it occurs."

Carl Cannon at Real Clear Politics essay on Wallenberg is HERE.

Cannon excerpt: "Today the Swedish embassy in Washington is celebrating the Raoul Wallenberg centennial. Normally, this morning missive takes note of events in American history. But Wallenberg's fate has always been of great interest in the United States. And anyway, in death, as in life, the heroic Swedish diplomat became a citizen of the whole world.

"In 1944, the Third Reich began to meet its bloody and fiery fate. In Hungary, Raoul Wallenberg and his team bribed, threatened, and cajoled occupying German authorities while networking with Hungarian officials and any others who could be helpful to his cause.

"The yellow Star of David that Jews were forced to wear - and which meant a one-way ticket to the extermination camps -- were replaced with gaudy blue and gold ID "protective passports" with the Swedish crest. Safe houses were set up by the dozens, fortified only by Swedish flags. Hundreds of Jews were hired as Wallenberg's own staff. He personally helped turn back death trains at the border, and handed out food and medicine to Jews on forced marches north.

"In the end, most of Hungary's 750,000 Jews were murdered as the Third Reich crashed and burned. But of the estimated 120,000 who survived, most owed their lives to the frantic efforts that Raoul Wallenberg, his team, and their patrons in Stockholm, mounted between July 1944 and January 1945.

"...And his efforts did cost him his life. After Soviet forces rolled into Hungary, Wallenberg was arrested. He and his driver, Vilmos Langfelder, were never seen again. Although the truth didn't emerge for decades, Wallenberg was apparently taken to Moscow's notorious Ljubljana prison and shot in 1947 for no discernable reason."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on April 19, 2012 9:42 AM.

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