Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish architect, businessman, diplomat, and humanitarian. He is widely celebrated for his successful efforts to rescue tens of thousands to about one hundred thousand Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust from Hungarian Fascists and the Nazis during the later stages of World War II. While serving as Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest between July and December 1944, Wallenberg issued protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory saving tens of thousands of lives.
Using skill, legal maneuvering and cunning, Raoul managed to out fox the Nazis and rescue over 100,000 Jewish men, women and children from the gas chambers of Auschwitz. A feat no other rescuer was able to achieve.
After the war Raoul went to discuss reconstruction of Hungry with officers of the Soviet Army and was never seen again. Rumors had flown out of the Soviet Union that Raoul was in a Soviet gulag. Officially the Soviet Union claimed that he died in the Lubjanka prison infirmary. The date of his death is not known to the West, but it is now certain that he is dead.
Raoul Wallenberg was given honorary citizenship by the United States (1981), Canada (1985) and Israel (1986).
In November 2000, Alexander Yakovlev, the head of a presidential commission investigating Wallenberg’s fate, announced that the diplomat had been executed in 1947 in the KGB’s Lubyanka Prison in Moscow. He said Vladimir Kryuchkov, the former Soviet secret police chief, told him of the shooting in a private conversation. The Russians released another statement in December admitting that Wallenberg was wrongfully arrested on espionage charges in 1945 and held in a Soviet prison for 2½ years until he died. The statement did not explain why Wallenberg was killed or why the government lied about his death for 55 years, claiming from 1957 to 1991 that he died of a heart attack while under Soviet protection (Washington Post, (December 23, 2000). Washington Post, (December 23, 2000).
Hungary paid tribute Friday to Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Jews during World War II, in a modest ceremony in Budapest’s Holocaust museum marking 100 years since his birth.
“Evil must be rejected,” Zoltan Balog, minister for human resources and social affairs, said at the event in the city where Wallenberg rescued Jews from the Nazi occupiers by issuing them protective passports in the final months of the war.
“Those who knew how to confront hate and who saved lives were perhaps unable to prevent the evil and the destruction, but their memories should be cherished as strongly as possible,” Balog said.
Budapest, where Wallenberg was posted in July 1944, was also the city where he was last seen alive on January 17, 1945 as Soviet forces ousted German and pro-Nazi Hungarian troops.
Mystery surrounds his fate but according to the official Soviet account, he died in prison in Moscow in 1947.
The Hungarian government has declared 2012 “Wallenberg Year”, but apart from a Swedish travelling exhibit called “To me there’s no other choice”, which made a brief stop in Budapest earlier this year, there have been few other activities.
Hungary has meanwhile seen a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in recent months, including pig’s feet left on a statue of Wallenberg in May, and a Jewish graveyard was vandalised only last month.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban has meanwhile overseen a rehabilitation of sorts for wartime leader Miklos Horthy, a one-time ally of Hitler, with monuments erected in his honour and parks named after him.
The climate in Hungary prompted Nobel peace laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel in June to return the country’s top honour, slamming what he called the “whitewashing” of the past.
One hundred years ago G-d sent the soul of an angel to Raoul’s parents. That angel saved over 100,000 men, women and children. That angel was murdered by the G-dless Soviets who saw the angel and destroyed it. And yet the Soviets could not destroy the memory of the angel or the great deed he did.