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The universal value of the Righteous in the Holocaust

interview with Roberto Jarach

Roberto Jarach, Vicepresident of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities and of the Holocaust Memorial Museum Foundation of Milan

Roberto Jarach, Vicepresident of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities and of the Holocaust Memorial Museum Foundation of Milan

How to keep memory alive, the importance to honor rescuers in the European day of the Righteous, the universal value of the experiences of the Righteous in the Holocaust, the message of these exemplary figures. Interview with Roberto Jarach, Vicepresident of UCEI and Deputy chairman of the Foundation of the Holocaust Memorial Museum of Milan. 

What do the activities through which a wide community of teachers, scholars, associations and other groups keeps memory alive mean to you? 

In my opinion memory has essentially an educational and formative value for the young people, in other words its purpose is to pass on the values of ethics and morals to build the future by learning from past events. 

Within this framework of principles, what is the importance of remembering the victims? And the rescuers?

I think it is important to remember the events and their causes, even before remembering single people. It is in facts extremely valuable to remember those are particularly significant for what they expressed in their lives and the values they bring, but I think it is not a matter of what single individuals have done. As far as the memory of rescuer is concerned, actually it is a matter of single individuals, instead. It is the affirmation of a principle through the deeds of some people. 

What did these people, these Righteous, teach us and what do they still teach us now, with their experiences? 

The highest value is generally assigned to the definition of Righteousness, i.e. providing a shelter for the persecuted even at one’s life risk, for the defence of universal values and principles. 

How does Jewish culture pass on this message to the younger people? 

Holocaust history has strongly affected the concept of Righteousness and its current representation. What the Righteous recognized by Yad Vashem represent has a universal value: from the tragic events that took place in the Holocaust we must draw the affirmatiion and defence of the value of peaceful living together and non aggression for all peoples on earth. 

Is the value of the Righteous in the Holocaust thus universal, valuable for the whole humanity?

Definitively, as the Holocaust in its uniqueness and specificità was the most tragic event in the past century, and thus now it is quite understandable that a Righteous person in that context becomes and example for all other expressions of violence that have occurred over the years. 

What can be done to make the “never more” that we say after every genocide actually concrete and binding? In this sense is the memory of the Righteous still valuable?

What we can do for me is mainly one thing, which may not be the only one but is surely essential: education. It thus means to teach young people the principles of civil coexistance and non violence towards the others and those who are different from us. This is the first value that we need to pass on to them. Along this path, examples are alwats useful, and the experiences of the Righteous are surely very peculiar and characterized by virtuous behaviour. 

In order to spread these values, what do you think of a day to honour the rescuers? 

It is surely an importance occasion, but it needs not remain confined to a single moment. I always say, regarding Holocaust Remembrance Day, that its value is not the 24 hours from midnight of 26 to the midnight of 27 January, but the fact of establishing a reference point for the start or the completion of  a path, always as a means to educate and learn. This recurrence must prompt us to further investigate and understand the values that we want to trasmit.

Martina Landi, Gariwo Editor; translation by Carolina Figini

24 February 2014

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The European Day of Righteous

The value of individuals and personal responsibility

On May 10, the European Parliament in Strasbourg adopted the Written Declaration establishing March 6th as European Day in memory of the Righteous.
The concept of Righteous, born from the elaboration of the Yad Vashem Memorial to remember the non-Jews who rescued the Jews, becomes the patrimony of all humanity.
The term "Righteous" is no longer confined to the Holocaust only; it becomes a point of reference for those who remember the genocide and totalitarianism in all their efforts to defend human dignity.

The significance of this decision is reminiscent of one of the cornerstones of European culture: the value of the individual and personal responsibility.


Interview to Ivan Havel, Vaclav Havel's brother

recorded at the EU Day of the Righteous held in Milan on 6 March

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