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Maria Elvira Salazar’s Bill Honoring Diplomats Who Helped Jewish Families in the Holocaust Gains Momentum

Back in January, U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., introduced a bill to “grant the Congressional Gold Medal to 60 diplomats who, through their bravery and heroism, saved hundreds of thousands of Jewish families during the Holocaust,” and she now has more than 150 co-sponsors.

“Terrible circumstances have a way of bringing out both the worst and the best of humanity,” said Salazar when she introduced the proposal. “60 diplomats during the Holocaust chose to put their own lives ahead of those of the refugees they were helping, finding them safety in places like Buenos Aires, Mexico City or South Florida. This Congress must recognize those actions as nothing short of what they were—heroic.”

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-NY, led more than a dozen original co-sponsors, including U.S. Reps. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., Michael Waltz, R-Fla., Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Frederica Wilson, D-Fla.

“These diplomats risked their careers and their lives to help Jewish people flee Nazi persecution and the brutality of concentration camps,” said Torres. “I’m proud to be working in a bipartisan fashion to help honor those brave few souls who saved thousands of lives with a Congressional Gold Medal.”

“As we approach the 80th anniversary of the liberation of the death camps, and what subsequently became known as the Holocaust, we are obligated to teach a new generation of what transpired not that long ago. Honoring a small group of diplomats, who understood the humanitarian urgency of saving lives by issuing visas, is that teaching moment. Thank you to Reps. Salazar and Torres for your key role in having the Congressional Gold Medal highlight their heroism and bravery,” said Abe Foxman, the chairman of the Forgotten Heroes of the Holocaust Congressional Gold Medal Committee and the long-time national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“I believe that in today’s world it may be more important to celebrate goodness and human decency than to just to condemn evil. We must teach future generations not only about the evil that man inflicted on man but also the courage and heroism of a small number of decent, moral public servants- diplomats who frequently violated their own countries’ rules in order to save Jews,” said Art Reidel, the co-chair of the Forgotten Heroes of the Holocaust Congressional Gold Medal Committee.

At the end of last week, Salazar announced she now had 150 House colleagues backing her proposal. U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Neal Dunn, R-Fla., Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., Brian Mast, R-Fla., Darren Soto, D-Fla., and Greg Steube, R-Fla., joined on as co-sponsors in the first half of the year. U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., co-sponsored the bill at the end of last month. U.S. Reps. Shelia Cherfilus-McCormick, D-Fla., and Byron Donalds, R-Fla., threw their support behind the bill last week.

“This bill honoring those heroes who risked their lives to save innocent Jews during the Holocaust is building serious momentum,” said Salazar. “In a time when Jewish people in Israel and around the world are facing terrorism and persecution of biblical proportions, Congress must pass this bill to send the message that we in the United States will never forget and will always stay vigilant.”

The bill is before the U.S. Financial Services Committee. U.S. Sens. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., are championing the bill in the U.S. Senate. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

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  • Kevin Derby

    Originally from Jacksonville, Kevin Derby is a contributing writer for Florida Daily and covers politics across Florida.

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