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Further reading:
The Raoul Wallenberg Case
by Tekla Szymanski (the article is in German and was published in the German newspaper Freitag)


News Flash

Raoul Wallenberg


In January 2013, Sweden declared August 27 to be the country's official annual Raoul Wallenberg Day.

On July 11, 2012, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to award Raoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award given by Congress.

Who Was
Raoul Wallenberg?

Raoul Wallenberg was born in 1912 into a prominent Swedish family.

After finishing his studies in architecture at the University of Michigan and upon returning to Sweden, his grandfather sent him to Cape Town, South Africa, where Wallenberg practiced at a Swedish firm, selling building materials. After six months, his grandfather arranged a new job for him at a Dutch bank office in Haifa, then Palestine.

In 1944, Wallenberg accepted the offer of the "United States War Refugee Board" (WRB), an organization with the purpose of saving Jews from Nazi persecution, to observe the plight of Hungarian Jews in Budapest. He traveled as an envoy of the Swedish Foreign Ministry to Hungary.

Ivar Danielsson was head of the Swedish legation. His closest aide was secretary Per Anger. The Swedish legation in Budapest succeeded in negotiating with the Germans that the bearers of so-called "Schutzpässe" (protective passes, see picture at left) would be treated as Swedish citizens and exempt from wearing the yellow Star of David on their chest. It was Per Anger, who initiated the first of these Swedish protective passes.

Wallenberg headed the department responsible for helping Jews. In the following months, he courageously succeeded in saving 100,000 Jews from being deported and killed. Within six months, he managed to issue thousands of Swedish "Schutzpässe." In addition, he helped hide Jews in 30 safe houses in the Pest part of the city, where Jews could seek refuge, and he provided food and health care.

By power of his diplomatic orders, he was even able to pull a number of Jews off the deportation trains that were headed for the concentration camps in Poland. He climbed the train wagons, stood on the tracks, ran along the wagon roofs, and stuck bunches of protective passes down to the people inside.

In 1945, after Hungary's liberation by Soviet troops, Wallenberg and members of the Swedish consulate in Budapest were arrested. All were later released—except Wallenberg. He was accused of being an "American spy."

In 1966, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem honored Raoul Wallenberg as "righteous among nations." The same honor went to Per Anger in 1982 for his heroic actions to save Jews during the war.

On May 22, 2007, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus held a special briefing on "The Legacy of Raoul Wallenberg, Hero of the Holocaust", discussing the latest development in the mystery of Wallenberg's disappearance. Speakers at the event that was sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), included Congressman Tom Lantos; former Congressman Richard Gephardt; Swedish Ambassador Gunnar Lund; and Professor William Korey, author of The Last Word on Wallenberg, published by the AJC.

Whether Raoul Wallenberg is alive or dead is uncertain. The Russians claim that he died in their captivity on July 17, 1947 of heart failure. A number of testimonies, as late as the 1980s, indicate, however, that he was seen alive.

On August 4, 2012, Wallenberg would have celebrated his 100th birthday.


"Raoul Wallenberg", drawing by Peter Malkin, who caught Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires“In the spiritual sense, [Raoul] Wallenberg is more alive than most of us who are still around living our ordinary, day-to-day lives.
He is more alive than most of us, because of what he has done.”
—Tom Lantos, U.S. Congressman, rescued by Wallenberg

“When you think of what [Wallenberg] did, you ask yourself: 'But how come that there were so few Raoul Wallenbergs?' ”
 —Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary General


As long as Nazi violence was unleashed only, or mainly, against the Jews, the rest of the world looked on passively and even treaties and agreements were made with the patently criminal government of the Third Reich. [...] The doors of Palestine were closed to Jewish immigrants and no country could be found that would admit those forsaken people.

They were left to perish like their brothers and sisters in the occupied countries. We shall never forget the heroic efforts of the small countries, of the Scandinavian, the Dutch, the Swiss nations, and of individuals in the occupied part of Europe who did all in their power to protect Jewish lives.
Albert Einstein (Dec. 10, 1945)

Raoul WallenbergMore than 68 years ago, Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust by issuing diplomatic documents and sheltering them in "safe houses" (see sidebar below) disappeared. But his story is still newsworthy, part of a mystery never solved. Only questions about his fate remain, ever since he vanished without a trace in the last days of World War II, never to be seen or heard of again.

There are those who try to keep his memory alive.
The "International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation" (IRWF*) in New York—founded by Baruch Tenembaum of the Argentinean non-governmental organization "Casa Argentina" in Buenos Aires—remembers the deeds of Raoul Wallenberg (and others) and honors this "Hero Without a Grave" and keeps his legacy alive. They get the word out that there are still some forgotten "Righteous Gentiles," whom humanity owes recognition and deep respect. It is up to us to make sure that this man's mission is duly remembered, because the number of eyewitnesses is dwindling down.

Politicians try to do their part: On July 11, 2012, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to award Raoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award given by Congress. The bill, S. 1591, was introduced by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.).

Raoul WallenbergRaoul Wallenberg's actions have a great impact today; they are proof that even one person can change history. They prove that there is always a need for a person who takes risks and defies a convenient herd mentality to the point of endangering his or her own life. It shows that civil courage, honesty, humanity and compassion are possible even when faced with evil. Wallenberg stands for speaking out openly against injustice, intolerance, prejudice, bias and hate, which are still prevalent today. His deeds remind us that even when evil seems insurmountable, one still has to try to overcome it. Today, that could mean taking a bolder stance against human right abuses and genocides happening in our midst — like in Darfur, Sudan.

Wallenberg's story also shows us that we can act individually by becoming whistleblowers in our own community, in our schools, among our peers; we just need to be curious and interested in other points of view. We need to become less complacent. But Wallenberg's story also reminds us that sometimes, even when we are just and righteous, evil might prevail and we initially might not win. But we should always try.

Vanished Without A Trace

Wallenberg in his officeWallenberg was captured in 1945 by Soviet troops during the liberation of Budapest and vanished.
According to Russian officials, Wallenberg died in captivity.

"When you think of what he did," U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (who is married to the niece of Raoul Wallenberg) was quoted in Time Magazine (Sept. 4, 2000), "you ask yourself: 'But how come that there were so few Raoul Wallenbergs?' When you talk to his sister—my mother-in-law," Anan continues, "she says he was not a daredevil but a very calm, gentle man. Yet he had a kind of inner strength that let him do what he needed to do to save people. You ask yourself: 'there were all these other, more powerful people—where were they?' "

An Honorary American Citizen

On October 5, 1981, Wallenberg became an honorary American citizen. At the time, only one other person had been made an honorary American citizen: Sir Winston Churchill. The legislation, initiated by Congressman and Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) — who owed his life to Wallenberg's deeds — sped through Congress, and President Reagan signed it into law in the Rose Garden that fall. "Our hope was that we could save [Wallenberg] by using a tactic similar to the one Wallenberg himself had so creatively applied during the war to save us and so many others," explains Lantos. "We would create an American citizenship document to give the United States an opportunity and reason to work for his protection. Some of us in Congress continued to press the Soviets through the years, using the vehicle of Wallenberg's honorary citizenship. Unfortunately, our progress in solving this mystery has been minimal."

On October 8, 1986, the street in Washington, D.C., where the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was about to open to the public was renamed Wallenberg Place. And a bust of Raoul Wallenberg stands in the U.S. capitol.

"Many honors have been given, and will continue to be given, to preserve the memory of Wallenberg's achievements," says Lantos. "[In November], he will be made an honorary citizen of Budapest. Such honors are helpful in educating the world about Wallenberg's selfless and courageous work....The international community, and most especially the American government, must redouble their efforts to establish the facts of what happened to him. Additional pressure must be brought to bear against Russia to open all archives related to his case, even if it means unleashing embarrassing secrets of the Soviet era—or more recent secrets, and not just Russian ones."

The media, however, are not doing what they should to honor this man and commemorate his deeds. My numerous requests to grant Wallenberg some recognition in newspapers and magazines, is usually met with silence.

After all, Wallenberg is not news anymore.

A Formal Inquiry Begins

SchutzpassIn August 2004, Wallenberg would have celebrated his 92nd birthday. Many people believe that he is still alive—until they receive conclusive evidence and substantial information proving otherwise. In 2001, Sweden's Prime Minister, Goran Persson, announced, "It cannot be said [Wallenberg] is dead," and he concluded, "There is no evidence of what happened [to him]."

In November 2000, Russian officials acknowledged for the first time that Raoul Wallenberg had been sentenced to death and probably been shot in 1947. "This important pronouncement should prompt Russian President Vladimir Putin to issue a decree," demanded the New York Times in its editorial of November 29, 2000, "at long last acknowledging that Wallenberg was a victim of Stalin's repression....It is time for Mr. Putin to set the record straight about Raoul Wallenberg's last years."

In September 1991, a Swedish-Russian working group on Raoul Wallenberg was commissioned to inquire about his fate. The working group presented its findings at a press conference in Stockholm on January 12, 2001.

Their initial report is available in Swedish, English, and Russian. The report by the Russian side of the working group was published in 2004. A complete presentation of all the documents released by the working group can be found here (or copy/paste the following link into your browser: www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/3105/a/18447;jsessionid=a-XHNjuFTPB4).

Six decades after Wallenberg's disappearance, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation will start a worldwide campaign to collect 100,000 signatures, as many as the lives saved by the “Hero Without a Grave”, which will be presented to the United Nations to urge the solution of one of the most controversial and unresolved cases of modern history.

Baruch Tenembaum: "The wealth of nations is not only the result of accumulating capital, but above all, a precious benefit that important countries obtain and preserve by looking at their past, directly and without shame, regardless of how atrocious it may have been. We find that life comprises things that are more important than life itself. One of these things is truth. When we renounce truth, the fall is unavoidable and unlimited."


Go to Raoul Wallenberg Study Aid


* The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation in New York can be reached at: irwf@irwf.org


For further reading:

UN Officials Pay Tribute to Raoul Wallenberg Sept. 20, 2012

"Why Raoul Wallenberg’s Centennial Matters," op-ed by Robert Rozett, JTA, June 2012: http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/06/27/3099321/op-ed-why-raoul-wallenbergs-centennial-matters

"Wallenberg's Life-Giving Legacy," op-ed by Hillary Clinton, The New York Times, Jan. 16, 2012: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/opinion/wallenbergs-life-giving-legacy.html?scp=1&sq=wallenberg&st=cse

The Jewish Virtual Library: http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/biography/wallenberg.html

The Raoul Wallenberg Project Interviews: http://rwa.bibks.uu.se/

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation: http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/

The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States: http://www.raoulwallenberg.org/

Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs: http://www.utrikes.regeringen.se/inenglish/wallenberg.htm

"Raoul Wallenberg and the Rescue of Jews in Budapest" and a Raoul Wallenberg Bibliography, compiled by the Holocaust Learning Center of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington.

Storyteller Syd Lieberman on his family's rescue by Raoul Wallenberg (audio excerpt)

The Raoul Wallenberg International Movement for Humanity


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