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Obama honors Holocaust heroes, cautions against rising anti-Semitism

By Amy R. Connolly   |   Jan. 28, 2016 at 6:43 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama warned against the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States as he honored two American soldiers and two Polish citizens who saved Jewish lives during World War II.

Obama, at the Righteous Among the Nations awards ceremony, said an attack on any faith is an attack on all faiths and urged "all nations that prize diversity and tolerance and pluralism" to speak out against attacks on any religious minorities. In delivering his address Wednesday night, Obama was the first sitting U.S. president to speak at the Israeli Embassy.

"Here, tonight, we must confront the reality that around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it," he said. "An attack on any faith is an attack on all of our faiths. It is an attack on that golden rule at the heart of so many faiths -- that we ought to do unto others as we would have done to us. For Americans, in particular, we should understand that it's an attack on our diversity, on the very idea that people of different backgrounds can live together and thrive together. Which is why ... we are all Jews."

The ceremony was part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day to commemorate the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Six million Jews were killed by Nazis and collaborators during the Holocaust.

Among those posthumously recognized was Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds of Knoxville, Tenn. After being taken prisoner by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge, the Germans ordered Edmonds to identify Jewish U.S. soldiers. Edmonds refused, saying "We are all Jews." The German soldiers backed down.

Also recognized were Lois Gunden, an American teacher in France who helped smuggle Jewish children out of an internment camp and into a children's home she established, and Walery and Maryla Zbijewski, who secretly housed a Jewish child in Warsaw for several months.

Obama's appearance at the embassy comes after several tense months with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vehemently opposed the Iran nuclear deal.

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