Article - Diplomats- Righteous among the Nations
Holocaust Memorial Day, Diplomats – Righteous Among the Nations
As stated in the Holocaust and heroism Law – Yad Vashem (5713-1953), the Righteous Among the Nations are non-Jews “who risked their lives” to save Jews during the Holocaust. In 1963, Yad Vashem appointed the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous. Its work is to award the Righteous title, the greatest distinction which the Jewish people grant to worthy non-Jewish rescuers of Jews. In addition to the requirement of risk to one’s life, the Commission set forth other criteria for this honor, including lack of material gain, humanitarian motivation and testimony by the person saved.
To date, almost 16,000 men and women have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Each is awarded a medal and a certificate of honor in ceremonies conducted in Israel by Yad Vashem, or abroad through Israel diplomatic representatives. Their names are also engraved on tablets of honor in the Yad Vashem Garden for the Righteous. Before the construction of the Garden, some 2,000 trees were planted in their names.
The stamp is issued on the occasion of Holocaust and Heroism Day and commemorates the deeds of diplomats who issued “life visas” to hundreds and thousands of Jews and were consequently nominated as Righteous Among the Nations. Earlier, the Philatelic Service issued a Righteous Among the Nations stamp in 1979 and a Raoul Wallenberg stamp in 1983.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes (1885-1954)
Portuguese Consul-General in Bordeaux, France. In Jun 1940, with the imminent capture of the city by the Germans – in spite of instructions to the contrary, he issued thousands of visas to Jewish refuges. As a result, he was removed from his post and deprived of all pension benefits. He ended up having to sell his possessions to help support his family of thirteen children. H died poor and forgotten. He was proclaimed a Righteous person in 1966. In 1987, Portugal officially rehabilitated him.
Sempo Sugihara (1900-1986)
Japanese Consul-General in Kaunas, capital of Lithuania in 1940. That year, the Soviet Union overran the country and instructed all foreign diplomats to shut down their offices. Before departing and ignoring instructions from his government, Sugihara supplied several thousand Jewish refugees from Poland with Japanese visas. He was recognized as a Righteous person in 1984.
Selahattin Ulkuman (1914- )
Turkish Consul-General on the Greek island of Rhodes. In July 1944, the Germans rounded up all of the island’s Jews for deportation to concentration camps. Ulkumen presented the local German commander with a list of 50 Jews whom he claimed were Turkish nationals and demanded their release, to which the Germans after first hedging, finally agreed. The rest of the island’s 1,500 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Ulkumen was recognized as a Righteous person in 1990.
Giorgio Perlasca (1910-1992)
An Italian citizen, he was a staff member of the Spanish legation in Budapest, Hungary. When the Spanish minister was instructed to leave the city with the approach of the Red Army, Perlasca posed as Spain’s Charge d’Affaires. Together with Raoul Wallenberg from Sweden and other representatives of neutral countries, he negotiated with the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross authorities the special privileges granted to hundreds of Jews who were issued “Protective Passes” by the Spanish legation and were sheltered in houses flying the Spanish flag. It is estimated that close to a thousand Jews benefited from his aid. He was proclaimed a Righteous person in 1988.
Charles Lutz (1895-1975)
Swiss envoy in Budapest, Hungary. In 1944 he devised the Schutzpasse, “Protective Pass”, as a means to protect thousands of Jews from deportation. With Lutz’ help, Raoul Wallenberg and representatives of other neutral countries, used this innovative scheme to great advantage. Lutz himself issued these certificates to thousands of Jews, thereby providing them with Swiss diplomatic immunity. With the approach of the front, he ignored orders to leave Budapest, so as to ensure the safety of those holding Swiss “protective passes” and he remained in the besieged and war-torn city until its full liberation in February 1945. He was recognized as a Righteous person in 1964.
Dr. Mordecai Paldiel
Director, Dept. for the Righteous Among the Nations,
Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
The stamp features the portraits of the above five diplomats. On the background of the stamp and the first-day cover, appears a photo of the crowd outside the Japanese Consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania, waiting to apply for Japanese transit visas, as well as a photo of a Protective Pass seal. Photos and text were provided by Yad Vashem Archives and the Department for the Righteous Among the Nations.