Remarks by Abraham H. Foxman, National Director
Courage To Care Award to
Gilberto Bosques Saldivar
Los Angeles, CA
November 14, 2008
One of the great lessons of the Holocaust is that it is hard, but not impossible, to maintain one's decency in the face of moral evil.
To help another person whom your community, your society, or your nation has turned into a pariah, and knowing that to do so can earn you scorn, contempt, and perhaps even threaten your life, is to take a moral stand of incalculable value.
Those who defended and aided Jews and other victims of the Nazi onslaught therefore merit our recognition and our eternal thanks, because they did what so many others dared not do, dared not even think of doing.
They were individuals who followed the call of conscience. Through their actions, they proved that it was possible to disrupt what certainly appeared an omnipotent reign of terror.
What motivated this relatively small group of people is sometimes difficult for us to comprehend because they seem to have possessed the moral courage to face impossible choices of life and death, good and evil, honor and dishonor, which few of us ever confront.
Difficult to comprehend because they frequently risked everything, including the lives of their families, to help people who, very often, they did not know at all.
Difficult also because -- apart from their willingness to help others -- they do not seem to have had much in common. They were Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Evangelical, Baptist, Lutheran, and also Muslim. They were farmers, doctors, diplomats, priests, peasants, and kings.
If they survived to tell their tale, few would ever admit to having had extraordinary courage or say what they did was not done in a spirit of heroics. They did the right thing because they were impelled to do it. Their internal moral compass held true.
Gilberto Bosques Saldivar is an outstanding example of a man who answered the call of his own conscience.
Posted by Mexico to Marseilles, France in 1939 to serve as his government's consul general, Bosques instructed the consulate personnel to help anyone who wished to flee to Mexico as the Nazi persecution gathered force.
He rented two chateaux to house and protect European Jews and other refugees, including leaders of the resistance and Spanish Republicans, who were marked for deportation to concentration camps by the Nazis.
In addition, in the port town of Marseilles he chartered ships to transport Jews and those threatened with persecution to African countries where they later moved on to Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and other countries. In two years time, under his auspices, as many as 40,000 visas were issued to those fleeing Nazi tyranny.
In 1943, the Gestapo forcibly took Bosques, his wife and three children and 40 consular staff members into custody, and held them for a year's captivity in the German town of Bad Godesberg, near Bonn.
Released by an agreement between Mexico and Germany, Bosques was able to return to his native country. In 1944, he wrote, "I implemented my country's policy, a policy of help, of material and moral support to the heroic defenders of the Spanish Republic, to the relentless brave people who fought against Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Petain and Laval."
Later in his career, Bosques served as ambassador of Mexico in Portugal, Finland, Sweden, and Cuba. Gilberto Bosques Saldivar died in 1995 at the age of 103.
He has come to be known as "the Mexican Schindler." Bosques' life is a shining example of human decency, moral courage and conviction, and his actions highlight the less well known initiatives of Latin Americans who helped to save Jews during the Holocaust.
I stand here before you because of someone like Gilberto Bosques Saldivar. As a young boy in Poland, I had the good fortune to be sheltered by a brave and decent woman in an overwhelmingly unfriendly and disinterested Europe.
Bronislawa Kurpi was my Polish Catholic nanny who baptized me and raised me as a Catholic. Were it not for her, I would not be alive today to bear witness.
I know first hand how essential it is to have the help of just one person who, at a moment of moral collapse, does not forget the essential principal of leading a moral life: do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Those from that time whom we in the Jewish community call the "righteous" provide our morally compromised world with their example. Often, what we recognize as their bravery went unnoticed, yet through their actions, they prove that it is possible to do the right thing, the just thing, against overwhelming odds and without hope of commendation or advantage.
I want to also take this opportunity to thank Eileen Ludwig-Greenland for her generosity through the years in sponsoring this Courage to Care Award. Eileen, please join me at the podium for the presentation.
It is now my great privilege and honor to call forward the daughter of Gilberto Bosques Saldivar, Laura Bosques Manjarrez, to accept ADL's Courage to Care Award on behalf of her father.
Response by Laura Bosques Manjarrez:
Distinguished members of the Anti-Defamation League.
Every homage is an act of generosity and the one today has a special value and meaning for it comes from the Anti-Defamation League and the Braun Holocaust Institute.
This ceremony is one more symbol of human solidarity. That is why, today, I address myself with the deepest emotion and sincere gratitude for the recognition that you offer to my father, Gilberto Bosques, and their admirable colleagues, who in the most intense human drama carried a journey of rescue of all the persecuted by the Nazi fascism order during the Second World War.
The men of that generation who faced the fertile time towards a new tomorrow, who embraced the most critical problems for Mexico and the world, till the universal conception of history in their dialectic way of thinking, who directed the restlessness of their thoughts over large and deep perspectives, owned the best means of expression able to put the idea and their actions on the same wave length.
As i Have said it in other moments, once more I want to honor the Jewish people, that through the years have earned the honor, for having chosen to pay attention to history, search for it and by doing this, belong to history forever.