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2012 Days of Remembrance Browse

Remarks by Joshua Bolten


Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, Joshua Bolten, Vice Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

Joshua Bolten: To the side of the platform are six candles. These six candles renew in us the memory of 6 million murdered in the Holocaust along with millions more. Today we honor not just those who perished. We honor also those who survived. Some by their wits. Some by miracles and some with the help of brave rescuers. And today especially we honor those rescuers. Just as the magnitude of the crimes exceeds our imagination, so does the magnitude of the helpers' courage. Some rescuers acted as individuals. Others were supported by organizations or even governments. In Secretary Geithner's compelling remarks just now, he shared with us the little known story of the Treasury Department, whose boldness motivated perhaps even shamed our Government to create the War Refugee Board late in the war. It was the War Refugee Board that recruited a 32 year old Swedish businessman named Raoul Wallenberg to save Jews. This year marks a century since Wallenbergís birth. He was not schooled in international diplomacy, nor in clandestine operations, but he had courage. And that along with intelligence and imagination was enough. Wallenberg would lead one of the most extensive and successful rescue efforts during the entire Holocaust by issuing Swedish certificates of protection and establishing hospitals, nurseries, and even a soup kitchen in Budapest where he also created more than 30 safe houses. He worked closely with Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz and Italian businessman Giorgio Perlasca. By the time Budapest was liberated, more than 100,000 Jews remained. 100,000 Jews in the heart of Nazi Europe. Their survival was the result of the extraordinary efforts of Wallenberg and his colleagues. Tragically, liberation marked a different fate for Wallenberg who was arrested by the Soviets and died in a Soviet prison. The creation of the War Refugee Board and the efforts of Wallenberg stand in marked contrast to the American response just five years earlier, when in 1939 our Government refused to allow the entry of 908 Jewish refugees at our own shores. This was the ship St. Louis, whose passengers had landing permits to stay in Cuba while they awaited approval for immigration to the United States. After Cuba denied them entry, they sailed to Miami. Yet, in spite of extensive press coverage, the U.S. Government decided not to let them land here, even temporarily. 532 of them would end up trapped in Nazi Europe. 254 perished. 254 individuals who could so easily been saved. So today, as we light these six candles, we recall what was done to rescue and what could have been done. We resolve to learn from the past and we recommit ourselves to doing better in the future. Now I would like to call up the candle lighters. Assisting us in our candle lighting will be Brandon Holden, a member of the Stephen Tyrone Johns Summer Youth Leadership Program which was established by the Museum in memory of Officer Johns who died heroically in 2009 while protecting Museum visitors and staff.

For the first candle John Boehner of Ohio, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and Helen Goldkind. Born in a part of Czechoslovakia that was later occupied by Hungary, but beyond the reach of Raoul Wallenberg, Helen was deported to Auschwitz and after the end of the war sent to Sweden to recuperate. Today she is a museum volunteer. For this special occasion, she and the Speaker are joined by the honorable Per Westerberg, Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, who is leading a delegation to the U.S. in honor of the centennial of Wallenberg's birth. We are honored that the delegation, present here today, also includes Princess Madeleine, Jacob Wallenberg, Raoul Wallenberg's cousin, and Michael Wernstedt, Wallenberg's great nephew.

Representative Nan Hayworth of New York is joined by Ruth B. Mandel. Ruth, who served as Vice Chair of the Holocaust Museum, was born in Vienna and fled with her parents in 1939 aboard that ship the St. Louis. When the ship was forced back to Europe, her family was sent to Great Britain.

Representative Betty Sutton of Ohio is joined by Roman Frayman. Roman was born in Poland, where at the age of 3 he was hidden in a neighbor's apartment, never knowing until liberation that his mother was hiding in a coal bin in the basement of the same building.

Senator Dean Heller of Nevada is joined by Beatrice Muchman. Born in Berlin, Beatrice and her family fled to Brussels. After the Nazi occupation of Belgium, her parents brought her to the home of two Catholic women for safekeeping.

Representative Gregory Meeks of New York is joined by Johanna Neumann. Born in Germany, after Kristallnacht, Johanna and her family escaped to Albania, where they were hidden by a Muslim family. Johanna is on the staff at the museum.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is joined by Reli Gringlas. Reli was born in Czechoslovakia where she was hidden with her mother in the basement of a Catholic family's house.