House Passes Velázquez Bill Honoring Hero of Jewish Resistance During Holocaust
Bill Would Award the Congressional Gold Medal to Rabbi Michoel Ber Weissmandl
Washington, DC –This evening, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass legislation authored by Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) to award a Congressional gold medal to Rabbi Michoel Ber Weissmandl, whose heroic actions saved countless lives during the Holocaust.
“Today, my colleagues came together to support awarding a Congressional gold medal, the highest civilian honor, to a man who dedicated his life to saving others from Hitler’s unconscionable attacks on the Jewish people,” said Velázquez. “After the war, Rabbi Weissmandl made his way to New York City where his legacy in the Jewish community is still heavily felt today. He is in every way deserving of this award.”
During World War II, Weissmandl spearheaded multiple efforts to prevent the deaths of the Jewish people of Slovakia facing the Nazi regime. In his role as a key member of an underground organization called the Bratislava Working Group, Weissmandl led an effort to negotiate ransom with German and Slovakian officials in order to delay mass deportations. Weissmandl also wrote the first known appeal for the use of aerial bombs to destroy the rail lines and tunnels leading to Auschwitz.
In 1945, Weissmandl arrived in New York, where he immediately started working to better the lives of Holocaust survivors. To do so, Weissmandl established a home for survivors and the Yishiva of Nitra in Mount Kisco, New York, the first Yeshiva campus in America.
“The Congressional Gold Medal was designed to honor those whose remarkable achievements live on in our history,” said Velázquez. “During some of humanity’s darkest hours, a period we must never forget, Rabbi Weissmandl undertook great personal risk to save others and lessen the suffering of the Jewish people.”
H.R. 2740, the Rabbi Michoel Ber Weissmandl Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2017, was introduced by Velázquez and Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) and co-sponsored by 296 bipartisan Members of Congress. Having passed the House, the bill will now move to the U.S. Senate for consideration.