Dr. Albert Bourla views the Auschwitz Album on display in Yad Vashem's Holocaust History Museum
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27 June 2022
Today, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer Dr. Albert Bourla visited Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, dedicated to preserving the memory of the Shoah for generations to come.
Dr. Bourla is in Israel to receive the Genesis Prize – known as the “Jewish Nobel" – which recognizes the Laureate’s humanitarian impact, commitment to Jewish values and support for Israel. The award will be presented by the President of the State of Israel H.E. Mr. Isaac Herzog, on 29 June 2022.
The emotional visit to the Mount of Remembrance was charged with personal and communal significance. The 2022 Genesis Prize Laureate, who is the son of Holocaust survivors from Greece, was greeted by Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan who accompanied Dr. Bourla throughout his tour of the Holocaust History Museum.
Born in Thessaloniki, one of the oldest and brightest areas of Jewish culture in Europe prior to World War II, Albert Bourla comes from a Sephardic family that personally experienced the horrors of the Holocaust. His parents were both young when they survived the near-total destruction of the Greek Jewish community during the Nazi occupation. Dr. Bourla’s mother narrowly escaped death as she was pulled away from a firing squad at the last moment. A non-Jewish brother-in-law had paid a bribe to the Nazis to guarantee her life; yet the teenage girl was sent to be shot anyway. The relative found out that she was being taken for execution and called the Nazi officer demanding that he honor the promise, resulting in a miraculous last-minute rescue.
Dr. Albert Bourla said:
“Yad Vashem is not like any other place I have visited. It is an incredibly powerful and moving experience, and one that I will never forget. On the one hand, it is an essential reminder of what happens when antisemitism and hatred is left unchecked as well as the consequences of diminishing the value of human life. On the other hand, it highlights the experiences of the Jewish people during the Shoah while being deeply inspiring, with the courage and resilience of the survivors giving us hope and reminding us that we should treat each life as sacred and worth celebrating.”
During their visit to Yad Vashem, Dr. Bourla and his wife Myriam participated in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance. The two rekindled the Eternal Flame and laid a memorial wreath on the slab under which ashes of Holocaust victims are buried. Dr. Bourla then visited the Children's Memorial, commemorating the 1.5 million children murdered during the Holocaust, and signed the Yad Vashem Guestbook.
The visit to Yad Vashem concluded with a special musical performance in Greek and Ladino, an ancient Judeo-Spanish language once spoken by the Sephardic communities across Europe and the Balkans. The performance was attended by Dr. Bourla, Dani Dayan and Genesis Prize Chairman Stan Polovets in Yad Vashem's Synagogue. The concert featured renowned Israeli singer Aharon Ferera and violinist Sania Kroitor, accompanied by Alex Gold, and paid special tribute to the folk music from Greek Jewish culture. Also in attendance were a group of Holocaust survivors from Greece, including member of the Yad Vashem Directorate Moshe Ha-Elion, Gavriel Almozninos, Yaakov Kapetas, Rachel Meseritz and Eli Nahmias.
Chairman of Yad Vashem Dani Dayan remarked:
“It was an honor to welcome Dr. Bourla today to Yad Vashem and I thank the Genesis Prize Foundation for arranging this visit. The Shoah chronicles the destruction of the once rich and effervescent Jewish life that thrived across Europe and North Africa. It is important for the public to continue to remember and commemorate the vibrant heritage, culture and traditions of these irreplaceable communities. To hear the sounds of the ancient Jewish language of Ladino coming out of the Mount of Remembrance is truly remarkable.”
Founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation Stan Polovets said:
“I was honored to accompany Albert on his visit to Yad Vashem, and to witness firsthand his emotional and personal connection to six million souls lost in the Holocaust, along with his profound dedication to the saving of millions of lives today through his leadership at Pfizer.”