In St Petersburg University the exhibition «Not on duty, but on the call of the heart. Diplomats awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations » has opened. The exhibition has been organised by the General Consulate of Israel in St Petersburg.
The exhibition is dedicated to nine diplomats from different countries: Japan, Great Britain, Czechoslovakia, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Sweden and Peru. These people saved the lives of Jews during the Second World War, risking their careers, the well-being of their families and their own lives. The exhibition includes memoirs of the diplomats themselves and the people they rescued, archival materials, as well as detailed historical information on the events and activities of diplomats.
The Righteous of the Nations of the World is an honorary title conferred by the Israel National Catastrophe Memorial (Holocaust) and the heroism of Yad Vashem. The title of the Righteous Among the Nations applies to non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust; and has been awarded to representatives of 44 countries.
Head of Division for Youth Affairs of St Petersburg University, Vladimir Savinov, thanked the representatives of the Consulate General of Israel for organising the exhibition within the walls of the University. «We are grateful that we can contribute to ensuring that history continues to live in our memory and be passed on from generation to generation,» Vladimir Savinov stressed. It is significant that on the eve of the opening of the exhibition, on 11th September, the celebration of the Jewish New Year — Rosсh HaShanah — took place.
The Consul General of the State of Israel, Olga Slov, noted that the University is a wonderful place for the exhibition «Not on duty, but on the call of the heart» — both from the point of view of education and from the standpoint of history.
«The Second World War was very difficult for the whole world. For my people it was a Catastrophe. Six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis. We remember all the dead — not only as victims, but as people who were heroes. The Holocaust was remembered forever for the fact that the Jewish people were to be completely destroyed, » the Consul General of the State of Israel, Olga Slov, said. «But during the Holocaust there were people of non-Jewish origin who could not stay away, despite the fact that this often endangered their lives and the lives of their relatives. Thirty-six diplomats from different parts of the world, being in the countries where the Holocaust occurred, found the strength to go above their official duties and do what their conscience told them.»
The exhibition is open in the building of Twelve Colleges of St Petersburg University until 5th October.
Many of these diplomats paid a heavy price for their moral choice of career and prosperity. Some of them were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations and recognised in their homeland after their death. Olga Slov noted that, fortunately, around the world there are thousands of the Righteous People of the World; and it is our responsibility to preserve the memory of these people.
Head of the Department of Jewish Culture, Professor of St Petersburg University Igor Tantlevsky in his address stressed the importance of holding such events at a high level. He said «Today it’s hard to imagine that people in the centre of Europe, in the centre of European civilisation, were destroyed on the grounds of religious affiliation, social status, but nationality — men and women, children and the elderly». Such events, according to Igor Tantlevsky, help us not to forget about the crimes against humanity and remember the heroes who resisted violence.