(JNS.org) To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama posthumously honored Americans who saved Jews during the Holocaust at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC. This was the first time such a ceremony is held in the U.S.
"Too often, especially in times of change, especially in times of anxiety and uncertainty, we are too willing to give in to a base desire to find someone else, someone different, to blame for our struggles," Obama said. "So here tonight we must confront the reality that around the world anti-Semitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it."
The Americans honored Wednesday were Roddie Edmonds of Knoxville, Tenn., and Lois Gunden of Goshen, Ind., in addition to Polish citizens Walery and Maryla Zbijewski of Warsaw. They were recognized by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and research institute with the Jewish state's official "Righteous Among the Nations" title, awarded to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Edmonds served in the U.S. military during World War II. He was taken captive by Germans along with other prisoners of war. When the Germans wanted to send all Jewish prisoners of war to report for deportation, Edmonds kept the Jewish POWs from being singled out by telling the 1,000 U.S. servicemen to step forward and declare, "We are all Jews here."
Gunden, who was a French teacher, founded a children’s home in southern France in which she hid Jews smuggled out of a nearby concentration camp. The Zbijewskis also hid a Jewish child in their Warsaw home.
Obama’s participation in the ceremony is “a worthy tribute to the worthiest among us,” said Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S.