Kobi Kabalek

“The Commemoration before the Commemoration: Yad Vashem and the Righteous Among the Nations, 1945–1963”

The article examines the place of the “Righteous Among the Nations” (non-Jews who helped save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust) in the commemoration plans and activities of Yad Vashem from its early years to the establishment of the official mechanism for honoring these people. The article’s main argument is that, while the subject of the Righteous Among the Nations was not seen as a central facet of Yad Vashem’s purpose until the early 1960s, it was not completely neglected in the Remembrance Authority’s early years. In fact, in much of the debate about Yad Vashem, there were repeated appeals for recognition of “the Righteous,” but the Yad Vashem Executive had difficulty deciding on the appropriate way to express that recognition. Because of this and other problems, no official and organized decision was made on the subject during the 1950s. Yet while the executive delayed, the Holocaust survivors among the Yad Vashem employees took action themselves, paying homage to the acts of “the Righteous” in a series of publications. Furthermore, appeals from Israel and the world, in which the survivors played a major role, were an important factor in the creation of the commemoration mechanism for the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem as it exists until this day.