Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Top Brass at Yad Vashem

Yesterday the IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen visited Yad Vashem (Mullen’s second visit in recent years) at the Admiral’s request.

As the delegations arrived at the plaza at the entrance to Yad Vashem, there was a group of some 50 soldiers and high school students who were leaving the International School at Yad Vashem and were asked to wait on the side for a few minutes while the delegation arrived and entered the museum. Lt. General Ashkenazi arrived first, and, spotting the soldiers and students off to the side, he headed directly over to them to the sound of cheers and clapping from group. Several minutes later, Admiral Mullen arrived and he too, went to greet the group, and said, “It is a great thrill to be here, and to be back in your country. I have a great relationship with your chief of defense. As I look around at your very bright eyes and your very young faces, I just want you to know that one of the reasons we do this is to make sure your future is secure.”

After his visit to the Holocaust History Museum and Children’s Memorial, Adm. Mullen remarked: “I just want to express my appreciation to all those who have worked so hard to make Yad Vashem possible. It is such an important place to remember the tragic side of humanity and we are so committed to making sure nothing like this ever ever happens again...I specifically asked to make sure in a compressed tour that I could see the children’s part of the museum…So much of what we are focused on, all of us who serve in any country, is a brighter future for our children…It is an honor for me to be here with Gen. Ashkenazi, and all those who have sacrificed so much for your country’s future and made such a difference for the future. It’s very special.”

Gen. Ashkenazi added, “It is a privilege and an honor to be here with Adm. Mike Mullen, my colleague, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, who is also a dear friend to myself, and the IDF, and the State of Israel…I think both of us understand our commitment that such an atrocity should never happen again.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Around the Grounds

Monday, February 8, 2010

Around the Campus Today

Preparing the Museum for Visitors

In the Museum

The Museum of Holocaust Art

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In Tribute to Ivan Vranetic, Righteous Among the Nations

Yad Vashem was saddened to learn that Ivan Vranetic, a Righteous Among the Nations from Croatia, has passed away at the age of 84. Vranetic was recognized by Yad Vashem in 1970 providing assistance and hiding places to Jews during the Holocaust. He moved to Israel, and for more than 20 years served as chairman of the Organization of Righteous Among the Nations in Israel.

Ivan (Ivica) Vranetic was born in Vrbas, Yugoslavia, in 1927. In September 1943, after the German occupation of Italy and the territories under its control, the Yugoslav partisans arrived at the Island of Rab in the Adriatic Sea. They released the Jews interned on the island’s camp, and helped them reach the area in southern Yugoslavia that was under their control. Some of the Jews joined the ranks of the partisans, while the women, children and infirm among them stayed in the villages, principally in the village of Topusko in southern Croatia. Many of the village’s residents were connected to the Ustaša, the Croatian ruling party responsible for the murder of most of the Jews in Croatia. These residents ignored the distress of the Jews, and those that did help them only did so for fear of the partisans.

Seventeen-year-old Ivan (Ivica) Vranetic aided the Jews from the moment they reached Topusko. Vranetic befriended a number of Jewish refugees and found them places to live. He carried children and elderly people on his back over and over again to their places of refuge. Among the refugees was Arna Montilio, whose husband had been killed in the Jasenovac camp, as well as her small daughter and elderly mother. Vranetic found them a hiding place.

At the end of 1943, a German army unit came to the region, and battles between them and the Yugoslav partisans began. The Jewish refugees were forced to flee the areas in which the battles were taking place, and to make their way from one place of refuge to the next. Vranetic used to warn the Jews of upcoming battles, find them new places to hide and even escort them to these places and take care of all their needs there. In one case, when a rumor broke out that the Germans were approaching, a number of Jews fled in error towards the Ustaša forces. Vranetic worried about them and after two hours found them and directed them towards safety.

In hiding the Jews and his actions taken on their behalf, Vranetic risked his life over and over again. After the war, he kept in contact with many of the Jews he saved, among them Arna Montilio. Montilio immigrated to Israel, but kept in constant written contact with her rescuer. Some 20 years later, Vranetic came to Israel and married Arna. In 1970 Yad Vashem honored Ivan (Ivica) Vranetic as Righteous Among the Nations. He was awarded honorary citizenship of the State of Israel, and in 1986 was elected chairman of the Organization of Righteous Among the Nations in Israel. In 2009, during Pope Benedict XVI visit to Israel, Vranetic greeted the Pope during his visit to Yad Vashem.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On January 27, 2010, Polish President Lech Kaczyński awarded Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. He was honored for “eminent services in educational and museum work commemorating the victims of the Nazi German labor camps, concentration camps, and extermination centers, and for their accomplishments in the development of the Polish-Jewish dialogue.” Shalev was in Poland for the official commemorative events marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day and 65 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Polish President Kaczyński also awarded decorations to United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Director Sara Bloomfield and Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Director Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński. Former recipients of the award include Janusz Korczak and Righteous Among the Nations Irena Sendler.