Holocaust Museum Houston and the American Jewish Committee to Observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day

HOUSTON, TX (Jan. 11, 2012) – Holocaust Museum Houston and the American Jewish Committee will commemorate the United Nations’ International Holocaust Remembrance Day in special ceremonies with Houston’s Consular Corps this January.

This year’s observance, set for 10:00 a.m., Friday, Jan. 27, 2012 at Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District, will honor Giorgio Perlasca, an Italian who posed as a Spanish diplomat and intervened on behalf of Hungarian Jews. He has been honored by the governments of Italy, Hungary and Spain. In 1989, he was proclaimed as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and honored by the Israeli government.

Scheduled speakers include The Honorable Fatou Sall, consul general of Senegal and dean of the Houston Consular Corps; The Honorable Cristobal Valdes, consul general of Spain; The Honorable Fabrizio Nava, consul general of Italy; The Honorable Peter Berkowitz, chairman, Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission; Jack Lascar, president, American Jewish Committee, Houston; Tali Blumrosen, chair, Holocaust Museum Houston; and Ellen Grabois and Dena Palermo, event co-chairs.

Previous honorees have included The Honorable José Arturo Castellanos Contreras of El Salvador, The Honorable Feng Shan Ho of China and The Honorable Gilberto Bosques of Mexico.

Perlasca came up with one of the most unusual ideas to save the life of thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II in Budapest.  Having fought in the Spanish Civil War, he was able to get Spanish citizenship, and with the help of this, and the help of Angel Sanz Briz, the Spanish ambassador to Hungary, he saved the life of many Jews.  His story was not revealed until the 1980s.

Perlasca was in Hungary in September, 1943, when Italy signed an armistice with the alliance.  German forces ordered all Italians in Hungary to return home. Perlasca refused. He is quoted as saying, “I was neither a fascist nor an anti-fascist, but I was anti-Nazi.”

Perlasca was interned in a facility for diplomats. He received a medical pass one day and took refuge at the Spanish Embassy. Perlasca decided to help Briz and his staff thwart the deportation of the Jews. The situation in Budapest grew more dangerous in 1944 as the Russians approached, and Briz left the country.

Perlasca decided to remain in Budapest, and posed as the new ambassador. Perlasca issued safe-conduct passes to Jews using the Rivera law of 1924 that “recognized Spanish citizenship to all Jews of Sephardic ancestry.” Perlasca gave all Jews, whether of Sephardic ancestry or not, the passes.  The embassy staff issued thousands of false documents, and established and defended eight safe houses under Spanish jurisdiction.

The observance will include with area high schools and members of the Houston Consular Corps laying stones of remembrance in the Eric Alexander Garden of Hope. Music will be provided by the St. John’s Upper School Chamber Choir.

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.

The American Jewish Committee, the country’s oldest human relations organization, works to promote pluralistic and democratic societies where all minorities are protected. With 26 offices across the U.S. and 13 institutes and offices worldwide, AJC is engaged in foreign affairs, immigration and energy issues. Locally, the AJC creates diplomacy on the domestic and international scene by building relationships with faith, ethnic, diplomats and companies.

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