US Coins

Medal bill to honor diplomats gets House approval

Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany aboard the German-built “St. Louis” liner were forced to return to Europe after both Cuba and the United States denied them refuge in spring 1939.

Image courtesy of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Proposed legislation seeking a congressional gold medal to collectively recognize 60 diplomats from 21 countries passed the House June 11.

H.R. 537, proposed as the Forgotten Heroes of the Holocaust Congressional Gold Medal Act, was originally introduced Jan 26, 2023, by Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Florida.

The bill was received in the Senate on June 12 and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs for further consideration.

The 60 diplomats to be singled out for their bravery and heroism are identified in the text of H.R. 537, accessible online at Congress.gov.

A similar bill, S.91, was introduced in the Senate Jan. 26, 2023, by Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tennessee.

Adolf Hitler began the Nazi invasion of Europe on Sept. 1, 1939. According to the text of H.R. 537, “While the armies of countries were fighting each other, a handful of diplomats, from around the world, stepped forward and took heroic actions to save Jews fleeing Europe.

“This was an incredibly dangerous process. If the Nazis discovered the actions of these diplomats, they would be expelled, as a few of them were.

“Also, while worrying about the Nazis, diplomats had to worry about their careers and livelihoods back home. Many of them had strict orders from their home countries to not aid the Jewish population in any way.”

Further, “These diplomats used every means at their disposal to help Jews fleeing persecution. One of the most powerful tools the diplomats had to use was the issuing of passports and travel visas contrary to the instruction of the governments of the diplomats. This process alone is responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of Jewish families in Europe. ... They were able set up safehouses and getaways to hide Jews and especially Jewish children from Nazi authorities. ...”

Should legislation be passed and signed into law by the president, a single gold medal would be designed and struck by the U.S. Mint for a collective presentation, to the eldest next of kin of each of the 60 diplomats named in the legislation. The gold medal would then be forwarded to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for display and further research.

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