Bipartisan legislation would award a Congressional Gold Medal to certain U.S. and foreign diplomats who risked their lives and careers to save Jews fleeing Europe
United States Senators Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) Thursday introduced the Forgotten Heroes of the Holocaust Congressional Gold Medal Act, a bill to honor 60 World War II-era diplomats from the United States and around the world in recognition of their bravery and heroism during the Holocaust.
The Hagerty-Kaine legislation would posthumously award a Congressional Gold Medal to these diplomats who took heroic actions to save Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, including issuing passports and travel visas and setting up safehouses and getaways to hide Jews from Nazi authorities.
In many instances, these courageous diplomats jeopardized the lives of themselves and their own families, as well as their careers, in order to save others during the Holocaust.
“As U.S. Senator and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, I am pleased to introduce this bipartisan legislation to posthumously honor 60 U.S. and foreign diplomats who risked their lives and careers to assist Jews who were fleeing Nazi tyranny during the Holocaust,” said Senator Hagerty. “These 60 diplomats were beacons of light during a time of unimaginable darkness in the world, and by their individual acts of hope and bravery, saved the lives of so many. The diplomats of today and future generations — and everyone else who hears their stories — can look to these men and women of courage and be inspired by their lives of heroism and sacrifice.”
“These diplomats from over 20 nations risked everything to help Jews escape Nazi-occupied Europe,” said Senator Kaine. “The world will forever grapple with the dark questions of the Holocaust – how did so many participate in it, how did so many turn a blind eye to it, how can we be vigilant in never letting it happen again. Today, ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, let us also shine history’s spotlight on these unsung heroes who did not turn a blind eye and who used every means at their disposal to save lives. Let us honor and learn from these diplomats’ heroic actions under extremely difficult circumstances.”
“As we approach the 80th anniversary of the liberation of the death camps, and what subsequently became known as the Holocaust, we are obligated to teach a new generation of what transpired not that long ago,” said Abe Foxman, Chairman of the Forgotten Heroes of the Holocaust Congressional Gold Medal Committee. “Honoring a small group of diplomats, who understood the humanitarian urgency of saving lives by issuing visas, is that teaching moment. Thank you to Senators Hagerty and Kaine for your key role in having the Congressional Gold Medal highlight their heroism and bravery.”
“I believe that in today’s world it may be more important to celebrate goodness and human decency than to just to condemn evil,” said Art Reidel, Co-Chair; Forgotten Heroes of the Holocaust Congressional Gold Medal Committee. “We must teach future generations not only about the evil that man inflicted on man but also the courage and heroism of a small number of decent, moral public servants- diplomats who frequently violated their own countries’ rules in order to save Jews.”