President Reuven Rivlin and Abdallah Chatila
President Reuven Rivlin and Abdallah Chatila Mark Neiman/GPO

President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday hosted Abdallah Chatila, the Lebanese-born Swiss businessman who bought artifacts associated with Adolf Hitler that were auctioned two weeks ago.

World Chairman of Keren Hayesod Sam Grundwerg and Chairman of Yad Vashem Avner Shalev also participated in the event.

The president thanked Chatila for his important act and for the significant thought that stood behind it, saying, “Your donation is of great importance at this time, when people are trying to deny historical truth. These artifacts, which you are generously making available to Yad Vashem, will help convey the legacy of the Holocaust to the next generation who will not meet survivors.”

The president added, “What you did was seemingly so simple, but this act of grace shows the whole world how to fight the glorification of hatred and incitement against other people. It was a truly human act. I know you have been thanked many times, but it was important for me to say it loud and clear here at Beit HaNasi in Jerusalem – we appreciate it and thank you for it very much.”

Chatila told the president, “Mr. President, it is a great honor to be here. When I read about the artifacts being for sale, I immediately thought I have to buy them and destroy them. Then I thought I have no right to decide what to do with the items, and am so glad they are now at Yad Vashem. I feel a shiver when I understand how important this is for the Jewish people, but I think there is a wider message for the whole world, that ‘never again’ is not a meaningless slogan. Through acts such as this, we can ensure that these things never happen again.”

Chair of Yad Vashem Avner Shalev thanked the president for the meeting and Chatila for his act, saying, “What you did as a spontaneous act ensures that these artifacts do not end up in the wrong hands. You stopped that, and brought them to the place where history is told and where the next generation is educated. Thank you very much.”

Sam Grundwerg, World Chairman of Keren Hayesod, said, "What you have done by this action is take a very dark chapter from Jewish history and the history of humanity, and shed light on it by advancing tolerance and hope. You reminded humanity that there are good and decent people in the world who seek tolerance and justice."

Chatila was honored on Sunday and given a personal tour of the National Institutions House in downtown Jerusalem by Yaakov Hagoel, the Vice Chairman of the World Zionist Organization and chairman of the World Likud.

The landmark building, built from 1928 to 1936, was home to the Jewish Agency prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, and later hosted the Knesset’s first sessions after the state was established. Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, was inaugurated in the building in 1949, along with the first government of Israel.

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