The Raoul Wallenberg Case by Tekla
Szymanski (the article is in German and was published
in the German newspaper Freitag)
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.
Was Raoul Wallenberg?
Wallenberg was born in 1912 into a prominent Swedish family.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1945, after Hungary's liberation by Soviet troops, Wallenberg and members of the
Swedish consulate in Budapest were arrested. All were later releasedexcept
Wallenberg. He was accused of being an "American spy."
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.
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.
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.
August 4, 2012, Wallenberg would have celebrated his 100th birthday.
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
you think of what [Wallenberg]
did, you ask yourself: 'But how come that there were so few Raoul
Annan, U.N. Secretary General
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.
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)
More 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 Yorkfounded by Baruch
Tenembaum of the Argentinean non-governmental organization "Casa Argentina"
in Buenos Airesremembers 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.).
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,
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.
Without A Trace
was captured in 1945 by Soviet troops during the liberation of Budapest and vanished.
to Russian officials, Wallenberg died in captivity.
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 sistermy 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 peoplewhere were they?' "
Honorary American Citizen
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.
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 eraor more recent secrets,
and not just Russian ones."
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.
all, Wallenberg is not news anymore.
Formal Inquiry Begins
August 2004, Wallenberg would have celebrated his 92nd birthday. Many people believe
that he is still aliveuntil 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]."
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
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.
initial report is available in Swedish, English, and Russian.
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).
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.
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