130 Israeli Leaders Urge Yad Vashem to Recognize Bergson Group

News Release
June 23, 2008

JERUSALEM- One hundred and thirty Israeli political and cultural leaders –including former Supreme Court justices, cabinet ministers, and cultural figures– have signed a petition to Yad Vashem, Israel’s central Holocaust institution and museum, urging it to add to its exhibits material about the Holocaust rescue activists known as the Bergson Group.

The petition was organized by the Washington,D.C.-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

The Bergson Group was a maverick political action committee in the United States in the 1940s that used rallies and newspaper ads to pressure the Roosevelt administration to rescue Jews from Hitler. Its efforts played a key role in facilitating the rescue of more than 200,000 Jews during 1944-1945.

The signatories on the petition included former Supreme Court chief justice Meir Shamgar and fellow-justice Mishael Cheshin; political leaders from the left such as Meretz Party leader Yossi Beilin and former Education Minister Shulamit Aloni, as well as political leaders from the right such former Defense Minister Moshe Arens and former Justice Minister Dan Meridor; leading novelists and playwrights, among them A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, and Yehoshua Sobol; and senior historians such as Pulitzer Prize winner Saul Friedlander and Mordecai Paldiel, former head of Yad Vashem ‘s Department of the Righteous.

A delegation led by Prof. David S. Wyman and Dr. Rebecca Kook, the daughter of Bergson Group leader Hillel Kook (aka Peter Bergson) delivered the petition to Yad Vashem on June 19.

The delegation also met with Dr. Dan Michman, chief historian of Yad Vashem, to discuss the importance of adding the Bergson Group to Yad Vashem’s exhibit.

Michman told them that “as a matter of principle, Yad Vashem will never change any of its exhibits.”The delegation expressed surprise and disappointment at Yad Vashem’s stance, especially in view of the fact that last year, in a response to a petition by the Wyman Institute, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, D.C., agreed to add material about the Bergson Group to its permanent exhibit. The Wyman Institute’s request to the museum was endorsed former Members of Congress, prominent historians, and Jewish leaders such as Elie Wiesel. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whose father, Congressman Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., was a supporter of the Bergson Group, also spoke out about the Bergson Group’s achievements.

“This is a truly bipartisan cause,” said Dr. Rebecca Kook, who teaches political science at Ben Gurion University and worked with the Wyman Institute in organizing the petition. “Israeli political and cultural leaders from right to left recognize that the omission of the Bergson Group from Yad Vashem is a terrible injustice which must be rectified.”

Prof. Wyman and Dr. Kook noted that the issue of recognizing the Bergson Group should be of particular interest to Americans, since the group’s protests played a central role in pressuring the Roosevelt administration to belatedly create the War Refugee Board in 1944. During the last fifteen months of World War Two, the War Refugee Board helped bring about the rescue of more than 200,000 Jewish refugees. It was the Board which sent Raoul Wallenberg to Nazi-occupied Budapest in 1944 and financed his rescue campaign. (Wallenberg is only one of two non-Americans to ever be granted honorary U.S. citizenship (the other was Winston Churchill). “This crucial chapter in the history of the Holocaust and America’s response to the Holocaust will be recognized in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; it should be recognized in Yad Vashem as well, ” Dr. Kook said.

* * *

The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies

June 19, 2008

Mr. Avner Shalev, Chairman, Yad Vashem Directorate
Yad Vashem – The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority
Jerusalem, Israel

Dear Mr. Shalev:

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recently announced that it will add to its Permanent Exhibit some materials acknowledging the efforts by the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe (the Bergson Group) to promote the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust.

We respectfully urge Yad Vashem to do likewise.

Historians have documented that the Bergson Group’s demonstrations, lobbying in Washington, and hundreds of newspaper advertisements helped shatter the silence surrounding the Holocaust, and put pressure on the Roosevelt administration to take rescue action. These efforts played an important role in bringing about the creation of the U.S. government’s War Refugee Board, which helped save more than 200,000 Jews from Hitler. The War Refugee Board’s efforts included financing the life-saving work of Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest.

Yad Vashem includes material pertaining to various aspects of the Allies’ disappointing response to the Holocaust, including the Evian refugee conference; the voyage of the S.S. St. Louis; and the Allies’ failure to bomb Auschwitz. It would therefore be appropriate for Yad Vashem to also include some recognition of those in the Allied countries who did speak out for rescue. Surely a museum which acknowledges the work of Raoul Wallenberg should likewise acknowledge that the War Refugee Board made Wallenberg’s work possible, and that the Bergson Group was indispensable to the creation of the War Refugee Board.

Including the Bergson Group in Yad Vashem is important for the sake of historical accuracy. It is also important because the Bergson Group’s work demonstrates the possibility of ordinary citizens taking action, through the democratic process, to change government policy for the better. The Israeli public, and especially young people, need to hear that message.


Hon. Meir Shamgar
President Emeritus
Supreme Court of Israel

Hon. Mishael Cheshin
Deputy President Emeritus
Supreme Court of Israel

Prof. Saul Friedlander
Department of History, University of California-Los Angeles
Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction (2008)
Recipient of the Israel Prize (1983)

Hon. Shimon Shetreet
Professor of Law, Hebrew University
Minister of Economy and Planning, 1992-1995;
Member of Knesset (Labor), 1988-1996; Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, 1998-2003

Hon. Moshe Arens
Minister of Defense, 1983-1984, 1990-1992; Foreign Minister, 1988-1990;
Ambassador to the United States, 1982-1983
Member of Knesset (Likud), 1973-2003

Hon. Shulamit Aloni
Member of Knesset (Labor; Meretz), 1965-1996
Minister of Education, 1992-1993
Recipient, Israel Prize; Founder, Citizens Rights Movement

Hon. Yossi Beilin
Chairman, Meretz-Yachad
Minister of Justice, 1999-2001; Minister of Economy and Planning, 1995
Member of Knesset, 1988-1999 (Labor) and 2006-present (Meretz-Yachad)

Hon. Dan Meridor
Minister of Justice, 1988-1992; Minister of Finance, 1996-1997
Cabinet Secretary, 1982-1984
Member of Knesset, 1984-1999 (Likud), 1999-2003 (Center Party)

Hon. Rabbi Avraham Ravitz
Deputy Minister of Welfare and Social Services (2005-2006)
Deputy Minister of Education (2001-2003)
Deputy Minister of Housing and Construction (1990-1992)
Member of Knesset (United Torah Judaism), 1988-present

Hon. Ophir Pines-Paz
Member of Knesset (Labor), 1996-present
Chairman, Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, 2005-present
Minister of the Interior, 2005-2006; Minister of Science, Culture, and Sport, 2006

Hon. Arieh Eldad
Member of Knesset (National Union), 2003-present

Hon. Eti Livni, Esq.
Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, 2003-2006
Member of Knesset (Shinui), 2003-2006

Hon. Aryeh Lova Eliav
Member of Knesset (Labor), 1965-1979, 1988-1992
General Secretary of the Labor Party, 1971-1973
Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, 1965-1967
Deputy Minister of Absorption, 1967-1969
Sociologist, teacher, educator, writer Recipient of the Israel Prize and the Ben-Gurion Prize

Hon. Geula Cohen
Deputy Minister of Science (1990-1992)
Member of Knesset (Likud/Tehiya), 1973-1992

Hon. Yoash Tzidon
Member of Knesset (Tzomet), 1988-1992

Hon. Shmuel Katz*
Co-founder, Herut Party
Member of Knesset (Herut), 1949-1951
Adviser to the Prime Minister, 1977-1978

Hon. Uri Avnery
Member of Knesset, 1965-1969 (HaOlam Hazeh), 1977-1981 (Sheli)
Publisher, HaOlam Hazeh, 1950-1993
Founding Chairman, Gush Shalom, 1993-present

Hon. Michael Kleiner
Member of Knesset, 1981-1984, 1996-2001 (Likud/Herut)

Hon. Shlomo Lahat
Mayor of Tel Aviv (1974-1993)
Major General, Israel Defense Forces (ret.)

Rabbi She’ar Yashuv Cohen
Chief Rabbi of Haifa

Dr. Mordecai Paldiel
Former Director, Yad Vashem Department of the Righteous

Peleg Tamir
Jabotinsky Institute

Yossi Ahimeir
Director General
Jabotinsky Institute

A.B. Yehoshua
Novelist, Essayist, Playwright
Recipient of the Bialik Prize, the Israel Prize for Literature
and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Dov Lautman
Founder, Owner & Chairman of the Board of Directors, Delta Galil Industries LTD (until 2007)
President, Manufacturers Association of Israel (1986-1993)
Recipient of the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2007)

HaRav Simcha Kook
Chief Rabbi of Rehovot

David Grossman
Recipient of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Creative Work (1984)
Recipient of the EMET Prize for Arts, Science and Culture (2007)

Giora Rosen
Ombudsman, Israel Second Television and Radio Authority

David Kolitz
Chairman & CEO, Elul Group Ltd.
Executive Committee member of the Jewish Agency
Vice Chairman, Israel Federation of Chambers of Commerce (1994-2003)
Chairman, Beth Hatefutsoth / Diaspora Museum (2002-2003)

Amb. Yossi Ben-Aharon
Director General, Office of the Prime Minister (1986-1990)
Deputy Director General, Foreign Ministry (1983-1986)
Israeli diplomat in the U.S. and Asia (1956-1980)

Prof. Arnon Zuckerman
President, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design

Eri M. Steimatzky
General Manager and Chairman (1963-2007),
Steimatzky Bookstores

Sami Michael
Author and President of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)
Recipient of the Prime Minister’s Prize, the President’s Prize, the Brenner Prize, and the EMET Prize for Art, Science and Culture

Isi Leibler
Longtime leader of the World Jewish Congress
and the Australian Jewish community

Prof. Judith Buber Agassi
Division of Social Science, York University
Author, The Jewish Women Prisoners of Ravensbruck

Prof. Joseph Agassi
Professor of Philosophy (emer.)
Tel Aviv University and York University

Zvi Rafiah
Consultant on U.S.-Israel relations
Former Israeli diplomat

Haim Guri
Poet, novelist, journalist, documentary filmmaker
Recipient, Bialik Prize for Literature (1975) and Israeli Prize for Poetry (1988)
Academy Award nomination for documentary feature for
writing, co-producing, and co-directing the film The 81st Blow

Rabbi David Rosen, KCSG
Chairman, International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations
International Director of Interreligious Affairs, American Jewish Committee

Yossi Harel *
Commander of the Exodus

Yosef Begun
Former Prisoner of Zion in the USSR

Dr. Michael Oren
Senior Fellow
The Shalem Center

Rabbi Berel Wein
Author & Lectuer
Founder and director, The Destiny Foundation

Yoram Kaniuk
Writer, painter, journalist, theater critic
Recipient of the President’s Prize (1998), the Bialik Prize (1999),
the Brenner Prize (1987), and in France, the Prix de Droits de l’Homme

Prof. Moshe Zuckerman
The Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas
Tel Aviv University

Micha Shagrir
Founder and CEO
Shiba-Tapuz Communications

Yitzhak Ben-Ner
Writer, screenwriter, playwright, film critic
Recipient of the Prime Minister’s Prize (2005)
Recipient of the Agnon-Jerusalem Prize (1981)

Yair Sheleg
Member of the Editorial Staff, Ha’aretz
Senior Researcher, Israel Democracy Institute, Jerusalem

Yehudit Hendel
Recipient of the Jerusalem Prize, Bialik Prize (1996), and Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2003)

Shin Shifra
Poet & Author
Recipient of the Brenner Prize for Poetry (2008), the President’s
Prize (2004), the Ze’ev Prize (2001), and the Amichai Prize for Poetry (2001)

Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich
Former Prisoner of Zion in the USSR

Baruch Tenembaum
Founder, International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation

Galila Ron-Feder-Amit
Author of more than 250 children’s books
Winner of First Prize at the Frankurt Children’s Film Festival (1972)
Recipient, World Zionist Organization Award for Lifetime Achievement (2008)

Dr. Judith Elizur
Dept. of International Relations & Communications
Hebrew University (emer.)

Hon. Sarah Sirota*
Vice President Tel Aviv District Court (Emeritus)

HaRav Nahum Kook
Ramat Gan Rabbinate
Yakir Ramat Gan

Prof. Gideon Doron
Tel Aviv University
President, Israeli Political Science Association

Michael Goldmann Gilead
Police Officer – Member of “Bureau 06” Unit (Adolf Eichman Investigation – 1961)
Personal Assistant to the Chief Prosecutor Gideon Hausner at the Eichmann Trial
Member of Yad Vashem Council (1986 – present)
Member of Yad Vashem Committee for the Righteous Among the Nations (1993-present)

Alon Garbuz
Director, Tel Aviv Cinematheque

Yuval Elizur
Former Financial Editor and Deputy Managing Editor, Ma’ariv
Author, 31 Shapers of the First 60 Years of Israel

Prof. Menachem Fisch
Chair of the Graduate School of Philosophy
Joseph and Cell Mazer Professor of History and Philosophy of Science
Tel Aviv University

Prof. Aryeh Naor
Department of Public Policy and Administration
Ben Gurion University
Cabinet Secretary, 1977-1983

Yehoshua Sobol
Playwright, writer and director at theaters in Israel and abroad
Recipient of numerous awards, including the David’s Harp Award for
Israel’s Best Play of the Year (five times), the London Critics Circle
Award for Best New Play; and three awards for Play of the Year in Japan

Yair Garbuz
Artist, Writer, Teacher
Director, Beit Berl Art Teachers College, Kalmania

Prof. Ehud R. Toledano
Director, The Graduate School of Historical Studies
Tel Aviv University

Prof. Moshe Halbertal
Professor of Jewish Thought & Philosophy, Hebrew University
Fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute
Recipient of the Goren Goldstein Award for Best Book in Jewish Thought

Helit Yeshurun
Editor and Translator (of Beckett, Simenon, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche,
Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, and more)

David Grossman
Environmental Graphic Designer
President, Israel Community of Designers
Past President, International Council of Graphic Design Associations

Micha Bar-Am
Photographer, Curator, and Israel Prize Laureate for Visual Arts 2000

Anatoly Rubin
Holocaust Survivor & Former Prisoner of Zion in the USSR
Author of Brown Boots, Red Boots: From the Minsk Ghetto to Siberia

Aliza Tur-Malka Greenberg
Recipient of the 2007 Akum Prize for her life’s work in poetry

Dr. Racelle R. Weiman, Executive Director,
Global Dialogue Institute
Temple University, Philadelphia and Haifa, Israel

Prof. Vittorio Dan Segre
Professor Emeritus of Zionism and Jewish Political Thought
Haifa University
Author, Memoirs of a Fortunate Jew

Prof. Allon Gal
Department of Jewish History (emer.)
Ben-Gurion Institute for the Study of Israel & Zionism
Ben-Gurion University

Yisrael Medad
Director of Information Resources
Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Jerusalem

Dr. Ouzi Elyada
Dept. of History & Communications
University of Haifa

Yoella Har-Sefi
Attorney and Journalist
Tel Aviv

Doron Rosenblum

Amnon Barzel
Founding Director, Pecci Museum of Contemporary Art, Italy
Past Director, Jewish Museum of Berlin

Michael Brizon (alias B. Michael)

Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak Alfassi
Senior Lecturer, Bar Ilan University and Hashahar College
Recipient, Prime Minister’s Award

Dr. Reuven Pedhatzur
Former Israeli air force pilot
Lecturer on security affairs
Commentator on military and security affairs in Haaretz

Prof. Bernard Avishai
Duke University
Consulting Editor, Harvard Business Review

Iris Mor
Arts and Leisure Editor, Ha’aretz

Menashe Kadishman
Sculptor, Painter
Recipient of the Israel Prize (1995)

Ze’ev Factor
Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims

Dani Karavan
Recipient of the 1977 Israel Prize
Recipient of the Japanese annual Premium Imperiale Art Prize

Prof. Hanna Herzog
Chair, Department of Sociology, Tel Aviv University
Editor, Israeli Sociology (2001-2005)
President, Association for Israel Studies (1999-2001)

Prof. Sasson Sofer
Associate Professor and Past Chair, Dept. of International Relations
Hebrew University

Zvi Yanai
Author and Philosopher
Recipient of the 2008 Sapir Award for Literature (for Yours, Sandro)
Former editor of the IBM periodical Mahshavot
Former director general, Ministry of Science

Yosl Bergner
Recipient of the Israel Prize (1980)

Yedidia Meir
Journalist, Ha’aretz

Nili Mirsky
Editor and Translator at Am Oved
Recipient of the 2008 Israel Prize for Translation

Dr. Abraham Meidan
CEO, WizSoft
Chairman, Afeka Engineering College
Tel Aviv

Prof. Maoz Azaryahu
Department of Geography
University of Haifa

Dr. Miriam Kidron
Hadassah University Hospital, Jerusalem
Recipient, Bern Schlanger Award

Ze’ev Jabotinsky
Tagar Computer Systems Ltd

Prof. Michael J. Cohen
Lazarus Philips Chair of History, Bar-Ilan Un iversity
Author, Churchill and the Jews

Rabbi Dr. David Golinkin
Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem

Dr. Karny Rubin
Ombudsman, Ministry of Health (emer.)

Yossi Klein Halevi
Contributing Editor, The New Republic
Senior Fellow, The Shalem Center

Prof. Bat-Ami Zucker
Bar Ilan University
Author, In Search of Refuge

Dr. Nimrod Bar- Am
Department of Communications
Sapir College of the Negev

Dov Arbel, Esq.
General Manager
Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims

Emanuel Kook
CEO, IBI Investments
Tel Aviv

Fred A. Lazin
Lynn and Lloyd Hurst Family Professor of Local Government
Chair, Department of Politics & Government
Ben Gurion University

Jack Padwa
Producer of the famed 1955 Israeli feature film, “Hill 24 Does Not Answer”
Honorary Chairman, Anti-Defamation League in Israel

Shlomo Segev, MD
Medical Director
Institute for Medical Screening
Sheba Medical Center
Tel Hashomer

Prof. Monty N. Penkower
Professor of Jewish History (emer.)
Machon Lander Graduate School for Jewish Studies, Jerusalem
Author, The Jews Were Expendable: Free World Diplomacy and the Holocaust

Prof. Gulie Ne’eman Arad
Dept. of Jewish History
Ben Gurion University

Dr. Nathaniel Laor
Professor of Psychiatry
Yale University Child Study Center & Tel Aviv University

Prof. Nurit Gertz
Department of Film and Television
The Open University

Prof. Haim Genizi
Bar Ilan University
Author, American Apathy: Christian Refugees from Nazism

Prof. Michla Pomerance
Von Hofmannsthal Professor of International Law
Hebrew University

Jonathan Rosenblum

Prof. Michael Segre
Professor of History of Science
Gabriele d’Annunzio University

Louise von Dardel
Niece of Raoul Wallenberg and
spokeswoman for the Wallenberg Family

Charley J. Levine
CEO, Lone Star Communications

Dr. Tzvia Greenfield
Author and Educator
Founder, Mifne Institute for Democracy and Cultural Identity

Prof. Mordechai Nisan
Department of Middle East Studies
Hebrew University

Dr. Ursula von den Driesch-Segre
BID – Beratung Italien Deutschland

Rabbi Ari Kahn
Senior Lecturer Jewish Studies and Director of Foreign Students’ Program Bar Ilan University
Vice President, Migdal Ohr Institutions

Rabbi Joe Wernik
Past Executive Vice President of Mercaz Olami and past Director of Masorti Olami
Past Member, World Zionist Organization Executive and Jewish Agency Board of Governors
Past Chairman, World Zionist Organization Department for Zionist Activities

Prof. Ehud Duchovni
Department of Particle Physics
Weizmann Institute and CERN

Dr. Noga Duchovni-Tamir

Larry Pfeffer
Jerusalem Working Group

Dr. Rebecca Kook
Department of Politics & Government
Ben-Gurion University

Nili Kook
Kfar Shmaryahu

Astra Temko
Clinical Psychologist

Prof. David S. Wyman
Josiah E. DuBois, Jr. Professor of History (emer.)
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Author, The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941-1945

(Institutions listed for identification purposes only.)

* Passed away prior to the publication of this petition.