The Righteous Among Nations were those who, despite the moral-decay which surrounded them, operated by a higher code and stood up for humanity, saving thousands of Jews — and thereby a greater number of generations — from the death camps that ultimately claimed 6 million of Europe’s 9 million Jews.
On Tuesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prince Phillipe of Belgium honored 11 families as the Righteous Among Nations for saving Jews during the Holocaust.
“On behalf of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, I thank you from the depths of my heart,” Peres said. “The Righteous Among the Nations brought light into the world, and exhibited bravery and courage in the face of the atrocities of the Holocaust.”
Peres told the families that they “should be very proud because there were not many like you.”
Holocaust survivors from across the world were in attendance, along with Jewish leaders, lawmakers and leaders of faith communities in Belgium, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders praised the Righteous Among the Nations, vowing that future generations would not be allowed to forget the Shoah.
The JTA notes that Belgium has accepted responsibility for its involvement in the Holocaust and recently established a museum in Mechelen — significant due to the fact that it is from where trains bound for Auschwitz departed.
The ceremony to honor these Righteous Gentiles is heartening, particularly in light of the fact that researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, who have spent 13 years uncovering the true extent of the Nazi machine, recently published a study revealing the existence of 42,500 ghettos, concentration camps and death camps that operated during the Holocaust.
Of course the world is familiar with the camps of Birkenau, Dachau, Warsaw and Auschwitz, but even researchers were dismayed by the staggering discovery of additional camps and ghettos since they had only anticipated uncovering a total of roughly 7,000 additional smaller sites.
“The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought,” Hartmut Berghoff, director of the German Historical Institute said.
“We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was,” he said, “but the numbers are unbelievable.”