March 26, 2015

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The governor of Utah designated April 8, 2005, "Elbert Thomas Day," to honor the late Utah Senator's efforts to promote U.S. rescue of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.

During the Holocaust, Sen. Thomas, a devout Mormon, championed a Senate resolution that put pressure on President Roosevelt to establish the War Refugee Board.  The Board played a key role in rescuing some 200,000 European Jews, in part by sponsoring and financing the life-saving work of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.

Sen. Thomas often said that his efforts to help Jewish refugees and his support for creating the State of Israel were based on his religious beliefs as a Mormon.

The initiative for the "Elbert Thomas Day" proclamation came from The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and the Weber State University Holocaust Commemoration Committee, in Ogden, Utah (Senator Thomas's home town).

The proclamation of Elbert Thomas Day will be read aloud by Governor Jon Huntsman's representative at a special event in the Weber State University Library on Friday, April 8, 2005 at 11:00 am. 

Members of Senator Thomas's family will take part in the April 8 ceremony, including Thomas's daughter, Edna Thomas Hansen, and Thomas's grandchildren Lawrence Hansen, Brian Hansen, and Peggy Sherlock. Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey and Wyman Institute associate director Benyamin Korn will also participate.

Korn, the former editor of Jewish newspapers in Florida and Pennsylvania, will also speak at Weber State on Thursday, April 7, on "The American Media and the Holocaust: What Did They Report and When Did They Report It?"

Earlier this year, the Wyman Institute persuaded the Chicago City Council to name a street after Ben Hecht, the playwright and Hollywood screenwriter who was involved in Holocaust rescue efforts.  Hecht and Senator Thomas were both active in the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, also known as the Bergson Group.

Wyman Institute Dr. Rafael Medoff said:  "At a time when too many people and governments turned their backs on Hitler's Jewish victims, Senator Elbert D. Thomas was a voice of courage and humanitarianism on Capitol Hill.  He played a major role in the campaign leading to the creation of the War Refugee Board, a U.S. government agency that helped rescue over 200,000 Jews from the Holocaust.  Every resident of Utah can take special pride in the knowledge that their Senator spoke out when others were silent."

The Wyman Institute is providing Utah high school principals with background information about Senator Thomas's efforts during the Holocaust, and urging them to have teachers discuss Thomas's record on Elbert Thomas Day.

For a background memo on Elbert Thomas and the Holocaust, please click here.