(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Israeli President Shimon Peres began his visit to the European Union on Tuesday with a ceremony in which, together with Belgian Crown Prince Philip, awarding the Jewish state’s Righteous Among the Nations honor (given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust) to 11 families.
“On behalf of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, I thank you from the depths of my heart. The righteous amongst the nations brought light to the world, in the face of the atrocities of the Holocaust, they exhibited courage and heroism. The righteous amongst the nations are the greatest example of humanitarian values and humanity itself,” Peres told the families.
“The Nazis were great in number and the saviors were few, but the candle of the righteous brought light to the world which will be remembered for generations. It is a privilege for us to see you here, with families, you should be very proud because there were not many like you. Today, we are all one family which wishes to see a world without cruelty and bloodshed,” he said.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders spoke on behalf of the Belgian government. He said, “The righteous amongst the nations showed that even in the darkest times when lives are in danger it is possible to say no to cooperation with cruelty.”
In the last year Belgium has taken responsibility for its involvement in the fate of Jews during the Holocaust, and last year Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo apologized for the first time on behalf of the entire country during the inauguration of a new Holocaust museum in the city of Mechelen.
In January 2013 the Belgian Senate passed a resolution to examine requests for reparations and also to support and to fund studies into Holocaust research and preventing anti-Semitism.