Dr. Bourla, 60, said he was donating the entire sum to the museum in his native city where his parents were among the 2,000 Jews who survived.
In January, Bourla was named the winner of the 2022 Genesis Prize, the “Jewish Nobel” that “honors extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values.”
The award was formally presented to him by Israeli President Isaac Herzog at a ceremony in Jerusalem last week.
What an incredible week in Israel—a country that has been an important partner of Pfizer’s in the battle against #COVID19, and one with a deep and enduring commitment to democracy, justice, and equity. pic.twitter.com/CTS6mlYngw
— Albert Bourla (@AlbertBourla) July 1, 2022
“Albert Bourla was not deterred by high stakes, by naysayers, by conspiracy, or by politics,” said President Herzog. “He believed in the vaccine, and invested every ounce of himself in realizing what seemed at the time a far-fetched fantasy.”
Founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation Stan Polovets said: “To save a human life is a fundamental Jewish value. Today we honor Dr. Bourla—a living embodiment of this ancient Jewish principle. We also celebrate the immense contribution of Jewish doctors who were on the frontline of the COVID pandemic for two years and who continue to save lives of people suffering in Ukraine today.”
In a recent interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Bourla said that he is committed to helping preserve the Jewish history of Thessaloniki.
“In this city, there is nothing left to remind of the great history of Jews, because of the Holocaust,” he said.
He said it is “unacceptable” that there isn’t a Holocaust museum in Thessaloniki—and he is working to change that.
Bourla received the most votes in a global digital campaign conducted by the foundation, during which 200,000 people in 71 countries voted, according to the award announcement. Bourla was then unanimously endorsed by the award’s selection committee.
Bourla’s parents narrowly survived the Holocaust of Jews in Thessaloniki, Greece
If it hadn’t been for the kindness of an uncle and the insight of his grandfather, Bourla himself would never have been born due to the Holocaust.
The scourge of Nazi occupation brought a horrific end to tens of thousands of these people, wiping much of Thessaloniki’s Jewish population off the map and robbing most of the Jewish population in the city of its future.
Bourla spoke extensively about how his parents narrowly escaped death in Thessaloniki.
His father and uncle happened to be out of the ghetto on the day the Nazi forces surrounded it. When they returned to the ghetto, they asked their father, Bourla’s grandfather, what was happening. “Just disappear, go,” he told them, Bourla recounted. That afternoon, the whole ghetto was marched to a train station—on its way to Auschwitz.
“Once the war was over they came back, they found nothing,” Bourla said about his father and brother. “They started building (their lives) from scratch.”
Bourla’s mother has an even more dramatic story.
Much of her family in Greece was sent to Poland, where they would all be murdered by the Nazis.
She stayed in Greece with her sister and brother-in-law, spending most of the occupation in hiding. Toward the end of the war, she was found out and arrested, but at that point, Bourla said, captured Jews were no longer being transported to camps, but rather executed.
Her brother-in-law, who was Christian, bribed a Nazi commander to spare Bourla’s mother’s life—to keep her in prison, but not to execute her.
Pfizer establishes facilities in Thessaloniki
In October 2021, Bourla opened two brand-new Pfizer facilities in Thessaloniki. They are the pharmaceutical company’s Global Center for Digital Innovation (CDI) and its Global Center for Business Operations and Services.
Pfizer’s investment will contribute €650 million to the city of Thessaloniki’s economy and create jobs for approximately 700 employees.
“We have expanded our footprint by bringing our operations center here,” Bourla stated at the event. He added that Pfizer had initially decided to invest in Thessaloniki two years ago. Pfizer’s priorities, he said, are aligned with Greece’s reformist policy.