Text and pictures by John Dunkelgrün
On July 14th the ambassador of Argentina, H.E. Mr. Mario Oyarzábal gave a garden reception for the delegation from the “Centro Ana Frank Argentina”.
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, this was the 11th time they visited The Hague! The Centro Ana Frank runs a museum in Buenos Aires and organizes many lectures and other activities to teach young people about the horrors of the Holocaust fostering an awareness that will hopefully help that this horrible history will not repeat itself.
The reception, entirely held in the lovely gardens of the residence, was attended by many ambassadors and diplomats from fifteen countries! The visit this time was extraordinary because Mr. Hèctor Shalom, director of the Centro, had brought along a big delegation from the Historias Desobedientes, familiares de genocidas por la Memoria, la Verdad y la Justicia.
This is a group of descendants and relatives of the perpetrators of Crimes against Humanity under the various dictatorships in Latin America. Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp spoke movingly as only he can and told about the SS officer in charge of a razzia detail on his parent’s house. He was immediately taken by the three-month-old Awraham.
“What a beautiful baby, it’s such a pity he is a Jew.”
Awraham’s father looked at him, “You don’t need to feel pity, at least he will never have a murderer for a father.”
At this the officer said “Dirty Jews. You’re too filthy to put on a train. Get cleaned up and we’ll come and get you tomorrow”. Of course, the family fled that same evening. Rabbi Soetendorp spoke of the family that had taken him into hiding, pondering on the momentous decision such saviours took, often without having time to think. “These instant acts of supreme mercy are the specks of light that together form a beam that illuminates our humanity.”
“I am the daughter of a criminal” were the first words of Véronica Montenegro a member of Parliament from Buenos Aires. She came with the group of the Historias Desobedientes to help keep our collective memory alive to the dangers of dictatorships. Her parents were twenty and eighteen, and she was just thirteen days old, when they were arrested.
The parents were never heard of again and she was taken into the home of an army colonel, where she was raised as his own child and called Maria Sol. She was married with three children before she found out that she was not their daughter and that her father was killed, probably in one of the infamous death flights.
The colonel was convicted to four years in prison, where he died. She is still searching for what happened to her mother. It took her seven years to search for a new equilibrium. Her book, Hasta ser Victoria, details this difficult journey.
Despite all that had happened, she loved her foster parents to the very end. She has devoted her life to a better society and to help teach as many people as possible about what had happened in the hope of helping to make this a better world.
All those present were deeply touched and grateful to the Embassy of Argentina for organizing this very special event.