11 Hungarians were awarded a medal bearing their name, and the privilege of having their name on the Wall of Honor at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Yad Vashem is Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. One of its tasks is to commemorate the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’, or non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II. Recently, 11 Hungarians (Mrs Odon Haas, Jozsef Strahl, Mrs Jeno Horvath, Maria Kantor, Mrs Ferenc Kolonits, Ilona and Paula Kolonits, Ferenc Mezo and wife, Jozsef and Ida Nagy, Pal Szalai, Istvan and Rozsa Zsuraffy, Jozsef Vamos and Benedikt Eduard Brunschweiler) were bestowed the title, and awarded a medal bearing their name, a certificate of honor, and the privilege of having their name added to those on the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Israeli Ambassador to Hungary Aliza Bin-Noun opened the awarding ceremony, held at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest's Dohany utca synagogue (claimed to be the largest synagogue in Europe). According to Bin-Noun, those awarded the title refused to turn against their Jewish countrymen, without compromise. "These are men and women Hungary must feel proud of, and whom Israel considers the Righteous Among the Nations," she said. The Ambassador also warned of the threat of rising anti-semitism in Hungary, and said the fundamentals of civil society are under threat when Jews are attacked in "word or deed." She warned that double standards and hate speech could very well "write the first chapter" of a script for another genocide.
Katalin Szili, Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament, emphasized the importance of making the effort to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, and condemned the altering of its relevant historical facts. "It's difficult, but we must 'read the book' of the Holocaust every day, and have a moral obligation to keep this book from being 'shelved'," Szili argued.
Local Government Minister Istvan Gyenesei called for appreciation of the achievements of the 11 awardees, whose lives he called interwoven with men and women they saved. Gyenesei suggested Hungarians should draw strength and commitment from the 11 Hungarians, as today's political leaders in Hungary, are "not so vigilant" of dangers to the rule of democratic values. By Jan 1, 2008, 22,211 men and women from 45 countries have been recognized as Righteous among the Nations, representing over 10,000 authenticated rescue stories.
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