On May 10th, 2012, the European Parlament established the 6th of March as the European Day of the Righteous. Today, we will celebrate the Day of the Righteous for the first time. On this occasion, it is worthwhile to remember that the Medal of the Righteous Among the Nations (Chasid Umot ha-Olam) is awarded by Yad Vashem — — The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem. Yad Vashem grants awards to individuals and families who risked their own lives to rescue Jews during World War II. The medal bears a quote from the Babylonian Talmud: “He who saves one life – saves the whole world.” In the past, besides the medal and a diploma, the Righteous were also granted the right to plant their own tree in the park surrounding the headquarters of the Yad Vashem Institute; however, because of the lack of space, the custom was abandoned.
The most trees were planted by Poles. The medal has been awarded to 6,339 of our countrymen, among them such famous people as Władysław Bartoszewski, Andrzej and Janina Bogucki, Mieczysław Fogg, Jan Karski, Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, Czesław Miłosz, Irena Sendlerowa, Aleksander Zelwerowicz and Jan Żabiński.
Increasingly, in the historiography of the Holocaust questions are asked about the motivation of the Righteous. Why did ordinary people risk their own and their families’ lives to rescue Jews often unknown to them? Behind each of these stories stand similar questions, which the Righteous had to face and which we face today. The names of the Righteous deserve to be remembered not only on this one day.
On the occasion of the Day of the Righteous, the History Meeting House is organizing a series of events from March 6th to 10th: a panel discussion, film screenings and family workshops (free admission), as well as a piano concert at the Royal Castle in Warsaw (by invitation only). Events are co-organized by the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, the Royal Castle and Media Kontakt. The discussion after the inaugural lecture entitled „Can the concept of Righteous be extended beyond the experience of the Holocaust, who is considered Righteous?” will be attended by: Prof. Pawel Śpiewak (Jewish Historical Institute), Halina Bortnowska (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights), and Paweł Smoleński (”Gazeta Wyborcza”).
The program of events can be downloaded from the website.