The best known Righteous Gentile honoured by Jews around the world is Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat and businessman who rescued around 60000 Hungarian Jews during World War 2.
In July 1944 the Swedish Foreign Ministry, at the request of Jewish and refugee organizations in the USA, sent Wallenberg on a rescue mission to Budapest as an attache to the embassy there.
When Wallenberg reached the Swedish legation in Budapest in July 1944, the campaign against the Jews of Hungary had already been underway for several months. Between May and July 1944, Eichmann and his associates had successfully deported over 400,000 Jews by freight train. Of those deported all but 15,000 were sent directly to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in southern Poland. By the time of Wallenberg’s arrival there were only 230,000 Jews remaining in Hungary.
Wallenberg immediately began issuing Swedish ‘protective passports’ (German: Schutz-Pass) with the less well-known diplomats Carl-Ivan Danielsson (1880-1963) and Per Anger (1913-2002). He also set up a series of safe houses placing flags of neutral countries on houses where Jews could seek asylum. He even followed deportation trains, distributing food and clothing and actually pulling some people off the cars along the way.
When the Soviet army entered Budapest in January 1945, the authorities arrested Wallenberg for espionage and sent him to Moscow. In the early 1950s the Soviet Union announced that he had in fact died of a heart attack in 1947. Several reports later suggested that Wallenberg was still alive, but none was ever confirmed.
It is commonly believed that Wallenberg was executed by the Soviets, who suspected him of spying for the USA.
Memorial of gratitude to Wallenberg on the Pest side of the river Danube, in Szent István Park. The original of this memorial made by Pál Pátzay was erected from public donation on the initiative of the Wallenberg Foundation in 1945. The communist dictatorship demolished it in 1949. The re-erection took place 50 years later from donations, on the initiative of the Wallenberg Statue Committee ’98.
Relief of Wallenberg and inscription in Hungarian: Raoul Wallenberg – The Deputy of the Swedish Nation. From the beginning of July 1944 until January 1945 he coordinated the brave and noble humanitarian activity of the Royal Swedish Embassy in Budapest. He became a legendary hero in that dark period of destruction. May this monument announce our imperishable gratitude in the middle of the city which riddens were protected by his persistent humanity in an inhumane era’s night.
Killing the snake – the monument got this politically neutral title after its demolition, when the sculptor Pál Pátzay had remade it and participated with it in exhibitions. The Wallenberg relief had not yet been put back on it.
Next to the pedestal on black marble tablets the names of those who contributed to the re-erection of the memorial can be seen.
Street named after him in 13th district, Budapest. Since 1945, earlier Phoenix street; the “Swedish houses” were here. The bronz relief is work of Gerő Gábor Bottos, unveiled in 1989. The year on it shows the date of his birth (1912) but not the year of his death. Many assume that 1947, according to the official Soviet report about the year of his death in prison, is in fact fiction and Wallenberg could have still been alive somewhere for a long time.
The inscription in Hungarian: To the memory of Raoul Wallenberg – secretary of the Swedish Embassy who saved tens of thousands of ridden with his brave acts and deeds during the Arrow-Cross regime.
Statue of Wallenberg in Buda 2nd district. Made by sculptor Imre Varga this memorial was erected by the Wallenberg family, Nicolas M. Salgó the ambassador of the USA in Hungary. Budapest City Council 1987.
The statue is located on Szilagyi Erzsebet street, a street with high traffic but way out from the city center. The sculptor had been commissioned to make the monument as a replacement for the one demolished in 1949, that used to stand on the Pest side (picture 1).
On the back of the marble stones the imprint of the ‘Killing the snake’ statue can be seen, that had been destroyed in 1949 and re-erected in 1999. The latin inscription: Donec eris felix multos numerabis amicos tempora si fuerint nubila solus eris – Until you are lucky, many friends you have, once the sky turns cloudy, alone you remain.
Remembering Raoul Wallenberg
On January 17th 2012 in the Hungarian National Museum the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Year was launched. Hosts of the event: minister for Foreign Affairs in Hungary Janos Martonyi and in Sweden Carl Bildt, guest of honor Yoseph Peled minister from Israel.
Calendar of events:
- January 17: ‘To me there’s no other choice – Raoul Wallenberg 1912 – 2012′ Swedish photo exhibition opened (this is the day he was last seen on in Hungary)
- January 27: UN Holocaust remembrance day
- 14 February: Seminar on Raoul Wallenberg´s activities in Budapest. Seminar organised by Living History Forum and City of Lidingö, Stockholm
- April 15th: Wallenberg commemorative concert in front of the House of Terror Museum (www.terrorhaza.hu). March of the Living, a march along the streets of Budapest down to the Danube embankment to remember the victims of the Holocaust (www.eletmenete.hu).
- April 16th: Hungarian Holocaust remembrance day
- April 17th: 25th Auschwitz – Birkenau Pilgrimage
- May 10th: Wallenberg stamp issued by the Hungarian and the Swedish Post
- May 15th: research conference: “Can we say no?” in the Holocaust Documentation Center (www.hdke.hu).
- June 16th: planned conference on democracy and human rights
- August 4th (Wallenberg’s birthday): “Righteous among the Nation´s award” meeting for Hungarian citizens who have been presented the “Righteous among the Nations” award in the Holocaust Memorial Center
- August 5th: memorial evening in the Dohany street synagogue
- September 9th: Raoul Wallenberg 100 – evening
- November 18th: charity concert in the Dohany street synagogue
For more details and events connected to the Raoul Wallenberg 2012 memorial year please visit : http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/15418