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Obama Honors 4 Who Protected Jews During Holocaust

  • Zlatica Hoke

U.S. President Barack Obama has posthumously honored four people who risked their lives to protect Jews during the Holocaust.

The ceremony, which took place for the first time in the U.S., was held Wednesday -- International Holocaust Remembrance Day -- commemorating the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland.

Israel confers Righteous Among the Nations medals to non-Jews who helped Jews during the Holocaust.

Ceremony

Obama joined Jewish leaders and Holocaust survivors at the Israeli Embassy in Washington for the ceremony honoring Americans Roddie Edmonds of Tennessee and Lois Gunden of Indiana, and Polish citizens Waley and Maryla Zbijewski.

"The Talmud teaches that if a person destroys one life, it is as if they've destroyed the whole world, and if a person saves one life, it is as if they've saved an entire world," Obama said.

In his speech, Obama said anti-Semitism and intolerance are on the rise again, and he encouraged everyone to stand against such movements.

Earlier in the day, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington hosted an event honoring the victims of the Holocaust. Holocaust survivors, foreign dignitaries and other guests lit candles for the victims. Many of the survivors now live in the United States.

Alfred Munzer, a Holocaust survivor, said, "I was born in the Netherlands, in Holland. My life was saved by an Indonesian family living in Holland, and especially their Muslim nanny. I was 9 months old when when I was left with this family. They really risked their lives to take in a Jewish baby. And that's why I am able to be here today."

'Grace of the Lord'

Nesse Godin, a Holocaust survivor from Lithuania, said, "As a little child from 13 to 17, I lived through a ghetto, concentration camp, four labor camps and a death march. How did I survive? By the grace of the Lord in heaven by whatever name we call him."

German ambassador Peter Witting said Germany is aware of its special responsibility to prevent genocide in the future.

"We Germans today share your pain and the memory of the unspeakable horror. But most importantly, we share a vision for our common future. Our confrontation with the past is the moral compass that guides our actions so that Jewish citizens can live in peace and security in Europe and everywhere in the world," Witting said.

Later Wednesday, German, French and EU ambassadors held a roundtable discussion on combating hate in Europe.

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