The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, commented that, “The crimes of the Holocaust can be forgiven, but we cannot forget” at a meeting with Evangelical leaders in Rio de Janeiro over the weekend.
Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, replied immediately. “It is not the place of any person to determine whether the crimes of the Holocaust can be forgiven,” the world’s principle authority on the Holocaust wrote.
Israel President Reuven Rivlin responded saying, “We will never forgive and never forget. No-one will order the forgiveness of the Jewish people, and it can never be bought in the name of interests.”
Some have accused the Brazilian president of using his visit to Israel as merely a political play to his strong Evangelical base. Forgiveness is a central theme in Christianity.
In a rebuke of Bolsonaro’s controversial remark, Rivlin pointed out that, “Political leaders are responsible for shaping the future. Historians describe the past and research what happened. Neither should stray into the territory of the other.” The President of Israel went on to compare the Nazis to the chief enemy of the Chosen People from biblical times: “All that Amalek has done to us is engraved on our memory, the memory of an ancient people. We will never lend a hand to those who deny the truth or try to make us forget it,” he said.
The Brazilian president, who is known for controversial comments, said after he visited Yad Vashem on April 2nd that “there is no doubt that the Nazis were a left-wing movement.” It is widely accepted that Nazism was a far-right movement. According to Yad Vashem’s in-depth historical research, Germany’s defeat in World War I “created fertile soil for the growth of radical right-wing groups in Germany, spawning entities such as the Nazi Party.”
President Bolesonaro is considered a pro-Israel leader, which is a key factor in his rising popularity among the growing Evangelical population in the South American country. Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo, reported that Brazil was prepared to move their embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.