|Raoul Gustav Wallenberg|
Wallenberg passport photo from June 1944
|Born||August 4, 1912
Lidingö Municipality, Sweden
|Died||presumed July 17, 1947 (aged 34)
presumed Soviet Union
|Alma mater||University of Michigan|
|Parents||Raoul Oscar Wallenberg
Maria "Maj" Sofia Wising
Raoul Wallenberg (August 4, 1912 – July 17, 1947?) was a Swedish humanitarian who worked in Budapest, Hungary, during World War II to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. Between July and December 1944, he issued protective passports and housed Jews, saving tens of thousands of Jewish lives.
On January 17, 1945, he was arrested in Budapest by the Soviets after they wrested control of the city from the Germans, and was reported to have died in March. The exact circumstances of his death have long been in dispute. In 1957, the Soviets claimed that Wallenberg had actually died of a heart attack in 1947 at the age of 35. There had been reports, however, from prisoners in the same facility, that he was seen alive long past 1947. In 1991, Vyacheslav Nikonov was assigned by the Russian government to find out the truth; he concluded that Wallenberg did indeed die in 1947, executed while a prisoner at Lubyanka.
Wallenberg has been honored numerous times. He is an honorary citizen of the United States, Israel, Canada, and Hungary; Yad Vashem designated him one of the Righteous Among the Nations; monuments have been dedicated to him; and streets named after him throughout the world. A Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States was created in 1981 to "perpetuate the humanitarian ideals and the nonviolent courage of Raoul Wallenberg" and gives out the Raoul Wallenberg Award to that end.
Wallenberg was born in Kappsta, Lidingö (near Stockholm) where his maternal grandparents, professor Per Johan Wising and his wife Sophie Wising, had built a summer house in 1882. His paternal grandfather, Gustaf Wallenberg, was a diplomat, and envoy to Tokyo, Istanbul, and Sofia.
His parents, who married in 1911, were Raoul Oscar Wallenberg (1888–1912), a Swedish naval officer who died of cancer three months before his son was born, and Maria "Maj" Sofia Wising (1891–1979). In 1918, his mother married Fredrik von Dardel (d. 1979); they had a son, Guy von Dardel, and a daughter, Nina Lagergren.
In 1931, Wallenberg went to study architecture at the University of Michigan in the United States. In college, he learned to speak English, German and French. He used his vacations to explore America. Despite the wealth of the Wallenberg family, he worked at odd jobs in his free time. He joined other young men students as a passenger rickshaw handler at the 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago.
On his return to Sweden, his American degree did not qualify him to practice as an architect. Eventually, his grandfather arranged a job for him in Cape Town, South Africa, in the office of a Swedish company that sold construction material. Between 1935 and 1936, he was employed in a minor position at a branch office of the Holland Bank in Haifa. He returned to Sweden in 1936 and obtained a job in Stockholm with the help of his uncle and godfather, Jacob Wallenberg, at the Central European Trading Company, an export-import company trading between Stockholm and central Europe, owned by a Hungarian Jew, Kálmán Lauer.
In 1938, Hungary, under the regency of Miklós Horthy, passed a series of anti-Jewish measures restricting professions, reducing the number of Jews in government jobs, and prohibiting intermarriage. Lauer found it increasingly difficult to travel to Hungary, and Wallenberg became his trusted representative. Wallenberg soon learned Hungarian, and from 1941 made frequent travels to Budapest. Within a year, Wallenberg was a joint owner and the International Director of the company.
In April and May 1944, when the loss of the war was a foregone conclusion, the Germans and their Hungarian accomplices began the mass deportation of Hungarian Jews, at the rate of 12,000 per day. The persecution of the Jews in Hungary soon became well known abroad, unlike the full extent of the Holocaust. In late spring 1944, George Mantello publicized what is now called the Wetzler-Vrba Report. World leaders Churchill, Roosevelt and others worked to assist Horthy in stopping the deportations.
In spring 1944, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent Iver Olsen to Stockholm as an official representative of the American War Refugee Board. He was looking for someone willing and able to go to Budapest to organize a rescue program for the Jews. Olsen believed that Wallenberg was the right man.
On July 9, 1944, Wallenberg travelled to Budapest as the First Secretary to the Swedish legation in Budapest. Together with fellow Swedish diplomat Per Anger, he issued "protective passports" (German: Schutz-Pass), which identified the bearers as Swedish subjects awaiting repatriation and thus preventing their deportation. Although not legal, these documents looked official and were generally accepted by German and Hungarian authorities, who sometimes were also bribed. The Swedish legation in Budapest also succeeded in negotiating with the Germans so that the bearers of the protective passes would be treated as Swedish citizens and be exempt from having to wear the yellow Star of David on their chests.
With the money raised by the board, Wallenberg rented 32 buildings in Budapest and declared them to be extraterritorial, protected by diplomatic immunity. He put up signs such as "The Swedish Library" and "The Swedish Research Institute" on their doors and hung oversize Swedish flags on the front of the buildings to bolster the deception. The buildings eventually housed almost 10,000 people.
Sandor Ardai, one of the drivers working for Wallenberg, recounted what Wallenberg did when he intercepted a trainload of Jews about to leave for Auschwitz:
... he climbed up on the roof of the train and began handing in protective passes through the doors which were not yet sealed. He ignored orders from the Germans for him to get down, then the Arrow Cross men began shooting and shouting at him to go away. He ignored them and calmly continued handing out passports to the hands that were reaching out for them. I believe the Arrow Cross men deliberately aimed over his head, as not one shot hit him, which would have been impossible otherwise. I think this is what they did because they were so impressed by his courage. After Wallenberg had handed over the last of the passports he ordered all those who had one to leave the train and walk to the caravan of cars parked nearby, all marked in Swedish colours. I don't remember exactly how many, but he saved dozens off that train, and the Germans and Arrow Cross were so dumbfounded they let him get away with it.
At the height of the program, over 350 people were involved in the rescue of Jews. Sister Sára Salkaházi was caught sheltering Jewish women and was killed by members of the Arrow Cross Party. Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz also issued protective passports from the Swiss embassy in the spring of 1944; and Italian businessman Giorgio Perlasca posed as a Spanish diplomat and issued forged visas. Barbara Smit, the daughter of Lolle Smit, a Dutch spy working for the British MI6, also assisted Wallenberg and, according to her son, had a romance with him.
Wallenberg started sleeping in a different house each night, to guard against being captured or killed by Arrow Cross Party members or by Adolf Eichmann's men. Two days before the Russians occupied Budapest, Wallenberg negotiated with both Eichmann and General Gerhard Schmidthuber, the commander of the German army in Hungary. Wallenberg bribed Arrow Cross Party member Pál Szalai to deliver a note in which Wallenberg persuaded them to cancel a final effort to organize a death march of the remaining Jews in Budapest by threatening to have them prosecuted for war crimes once the war was over.
People saved by Wallenberg include biochemist Lars Ernster, who was housed in the Swedish embassy, and Tom Lantos, later a member of the United States House of Representatives, who lived in one of the Swedish protective houses.
The Soviet Red Army closed in on Budapest in early 1945, and on January 17, 1945, Wallenberg was called to Marshal Rodion Malinovsky's headquarter in Debrecen on suspicion of being a spy for the United States and that the War Refugee Board was engaged in espionage. Wallenberg's last recorded words were, "I'm going to Malinovsky's ... whether as a guest or prisoner I do not know yet." In 2003, a review of wartime Soviet correspondences indicated Vilmos Böhm may have provided Wallenberg's name to Stalin as a person to detain.
Information about Wallenberg after his detention is mostly speculative, though there were many witnesses who claim to have met him during his imprisonment.
Wallenberg was transported by train from Debrecen, through Romania, to Moscow. The Soviets may have moved him to their capital in hopes of exchanging him for defectors in Sweden. Vladimir Dekanosov notified the Swedes on January 16, 1945 that Wallenberg was under the protection of Soviet authorities. On January 21, 1945, Wallenberg was transferred to Lubyanka prison and held in cell 123 with fellow prisoner Gustav Richter, a police attaché at the German embassy in Romania. Richter testified in Sweden in 1955 that Wallenberg was interrogated once for about an hour and a half, in early February 1945. On March 1, 1945, Richter was moved from his cell and never saw Wallenberg again.
On March 8, 1945, Soviet-controlled Hungarian radio announced that Wallenberg and his driver had been murdered on their way to Debrecen, suggesting that they had been killed by the Arrow Cross Party or the Gestapo. Sweden's foreign minister, Östen Undén, and its ambassador to the Soviet Union, Staffan Söderblom, wrongly assumed that they were dead. In April 1945, William Averell Harriman of the U.S. State Department offered the Swedish government help in inquiring about Wallenberg’s fate, but the offer was declined. Söderblom met with Molotov and Stalin in Moscow on June 15, 1946. Söderblom, still believing Wallenberg to be dead, ignored talk of an exchange for Russian defectors in Sweden.
On February 6, 1957, the Soviets released a document dated July 17, 1947, which stated "I report that the prisoner Wallenberg who is well-known to you, died suddenly in his cell this night, probably as a result of a heart attack or heart failure. Pursuant to the instructions given by you that I personally have Wallenberg under my care, I request approval to make an autopsy with a view to establishing cause of death... I have personally notified the minister and it has been ordered that the body be cremated without autopsy." The document was signed by Smoltsov, then the head of the Lubyanka prison infirmary, and addressed to Viktor Semyonovich Abakumov, the Soviet minister of state security. In 1989, the Soviets returned Wallenberg's personal belongings to his family, including his passport and cigarette case. Soviet officials said they found the materials when they were upgrading the shelves in a store room.
In 1991, Vyacheslav Nikonov was tasked by the Russian government to investigate Wallenberg's fate. He concluded that Wallenberg did indeed die in 1947, executed while a prisoner in Lubyanka.
In Moscow in 2000, Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev announced that Wallenberg had been executed in 1947 in Lubyanka prison. He claimed that Vladimir Kryuchkov, the former Soviet secret police chief, told him about the shooting in a private conversation. The statement did not explain why Wallenberg was killed or why the government had lied about it. Pavel Sudoplatov claimed that Raoul Wallenberg was poisoned by Grigory Mairanovsky. In 2000, Russian prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov signed a verdict posthumously rehabilitating Wallenberg and his driver, Langfelder, as "victims of political repression". A number of files pertinent to Wallenberg were turned over to the chief rabbi of Russia by the Russian government in September 2007. They will be housed at the Museum of Tolerance in Moscow, scheduled to open in 2011.
Several former prisoners have claimed to have seen Wallenberg after his reported death in 1947. In February 1949, former German Colonel Theodor von Dufving, a prisoner of war, provided evidentiary statements concerning Wallenberg. While in the transit camp in Kirov, en route to Vorkuta, Dufving encountered a prisoner with his own special guard and dressed in civilian clothes. The prisoner claimed that he was a Swedish diplomat and that he was there "through a great error."
Renowned Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal also searched for Wallenberg and collected several testimonies. For example, British businessman Greville Wynne, who was imprisoned in the Lubyanka prison in 1962 for his connection to KGB defector Oleg Penkovsky, stated he talked to, but could not see the face of a man who claimed to be a Swedish diplomat. Efim (or Yefim) Moshinsky claims to have seen Wallenberg on Wrangel Island in 1962. An eyewitness asserted that she had seen Wallenberg in the 1960s in a Soviet prison. During a private conversation about the conditions of detention in Soviet prisons at a party reception in the mid-1970s, a KGB general is reported to have said that "conditions could not be that harsh, given that in Lubyanka prison there is some foreign prisoner who had been there now for almost three decades. The last reported sightings of Wallenberg were by two independent witnesses who said they had evidence that he was in a prison in November 1987.
A Swedish-Russian working group was set up in 1991 on Guy von Dardel's initiative to search 11 separate military and government archives from the former Soviet Union for information about Wallenberg's fate. Raoul Wallenberg's brother, Professor Guy von Dardel, a well known physicist, retired from CERN, is dedicated to finding out his half-brother's fate. He travelled to the Soviet Union about fifty times for discussions and research, including an examination of the Vladmir prison records. Over the years, Professor von Dardel has compiled a 50,000 page archive of interviews, journal articles, letters, and other documents related to his quest to understand the fate of his brother. Many, including Professor von Dardel and his daughters Louise and Marie, do not accept the various versions of Wallenberg's death and continue to request that the archives in Russia, Sweden and Hungary be opened to impartial researchers. Wallenberg's niece, Ms. Louise von Dardel, is the main activist in the family and dedicates much of her time to speaking about Wallenberg and lobbying various countries to help uncover information about her uncle.
In 1953, the Hungarian State Protection Authority (Hungarian: Államvédelmi Hatóság or ÁVH) initiated a show trial to prove that Wallenberg had not been moved to the Soviet Union in 1945, but was the victim of cosmopolitan Zionists. This was part of Stalin's anti-Zionist campaign.
In April 1952, Miksa Domonkos, László Benedek and Lajos Stöckler, three leaders of the Jewish community in Budapest, were kidnapped by ÁVH officials to extract confessions. Two purported eyewitnesses – Pál Szalai and Károly Szabó – were also arrested and interrogated using torture.
The idea that the "murderers of Wallenberg" were Budapest Zionists was primarily supported by Hungarian Communist leader Ernő Gerő, which is shown by a note sent by him to First Secretary Mátyás Rákosi. The show trial was to be held in Moscow. However, after the death of Stalin and Lavrentiy Beria, the preparations for the trial were stopped and the prisoners were released. Miksa Domonkos spent a week in hospital and died at home shortly afterwards, mainly due to the torture to which he had been subjected.
Raoul's mother and stepfather both committed suicide by overdosing on pills two days apart in 1979. Their daughter Nina Lagergren, Raoul's half-sister, attributed their suicide to their despair about never finding Raoul.
Wallenberg was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1948 by more than 50 qualified nominators and in 1949 by a single nominator (At that time, the prize could technically be awarded posthumously, but the idea of such awards was controversial).
In Melbourne, there is a small memorial in honour of Wallenberg at the Jewish Museum Holocaust and Research Centre; a monument dedicated to him on the corner of Princess Street and High Street, Kew; and a tree and memorial seat at St Kilda Town Hall. The Australian Centre for Clinical Neuropharmacology in Melbourne adopted the name 'The Raoul Wallenberg Centre' on the occasion of Raoul Wallenberg's 89th Birthday. In Sydney there are a Raoul Wallenberg garden and sculpture in Woollahra, and a statue inside the Jewish Museum of Australia. Commemorative trees have been planted in front of federal Parliament and in many other locations.
Numerous memorials, parks, and monuments honouring Wallenberg can be found across Canada including Raoul Wallenberg Corner in Calgary, Raoul Wallenberg Park in Saskatoon, Parc Raoul Wallenberg in Ottawa, Ontario, and a memorial behind Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Montreal, where a bust of Wallenberg and a caged metal box (styled as a barbed-wire gate) stand beside each other.
There are streets named after Wallenberg in both east and west Berlin. A Wallenberg-Straße (named in 1967) is in the western district of Wilmersdorf, while Raoul-Wallenberg-Straße with a station of the S-Bahn (named in 1992) is in the eastern district of Marzahn.
In Budapest, where Wallenberg worked, he was made an honorary citizen in 2003. There are a number of sites honoring him, including Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park, which commemorates those who saved many of the city's Jews from deportation to extermination camps, and the building that housed the Swedish Embassy in 1945.
Wallenberg was granted honorary citizenship by Israel in 1986 and was honored at the Yad Vashem memorial as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, recognizing non-Jews who saved Jews from the Holocaust. There are many tributes to Wallenberg in Israel, such as at least five streets. Along one such street in Tel Aviv, there is since 2002 a statue identical to one in Budapest (see below), made by sculptor Imre Varga.
There is a memorial to his fame in the courtyard of the Russian Rudomino Library of Foreign Languages in Moscow and an educational institute in Saint Petersburg carries his name.
In 2001, a memorial was created in Stockholm to honour Wallenberg. It was unveiled by King Carl XVI Gustaf, at a ceremony attended by the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his wife Nane Maria Annan (Wallenberg's niece). It is an abstract memorial depicting people rising from the concrete, accompanied by a bronze replica of Wallenberg's signature. At the unveiling, King Carl XVI Gustaf said Wallenberg is "a great example to those of us who want to live as fellow humans." Kofi Annan praised him as "an inspiration for all of us to act when we can and to have the courage to help those who are suffering and in need of help."
There is also a memorial to Wallenberg in Göteborg, near Hagakyrkan (Haga Church). Again, Kofi Annan attended the unveiling ceremony.
There are Raoul Wallenberg memorials at Great Cumberland Place in London outside of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue. On separate occasions in the 1990s and 2000s, Queen Elizabeth II and Charles, Prince of Wales paid tribute to Wallenberg at the Western Marble Arch site. A separate memorial stands near the Welsh National War Memorial in Alexandra Gardens, Cardiff.
Wallenberg was made an Honorary Citizen of the United States in 1981, the second person to be so honored by Congress, after Winston Churchill. (Unlike Churchill, neither of Wallenberg's parents had been born in the United States.) In 1985, the portion of 15th Street, SW, in Washington, D.C., on which the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum sits, was renamed Raoul Wallenberg Place by Act of Congress.
The United States Postal Service issued a stamp to honor him in 1997. Representative Tom Lantos, one of those saved by Wallenberg's actions, said: "It is most appropriate that we honor [him] with a U.S. stamp. In this age devoid of heroes, Wallenberg is the archetype of a hero – one who risked his life day in and day out, to save the lives of tens of thousands of people he did not know whose religion he did not share."
The Raoul Wallenberg Monument is located on Raoul Wallenberg Walk in Manhattan, across from the headquarters of the United Nations. It was commissioned by the Swedish consulate and was designed by Swedish sculptor Gustav Kraitz. Kraitz’s piece, Hope, is a replica of Wallenberg’s briefcase, a sphere, five pillars of black granite, and paving stones which once were used on the streets of the Jewish ghetto in Budapest. Another memorial is in front of the Art and Architecture building at the University of Michigan, where he received his architecture degree in 1935.
Other places named after Wallenberg include Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High School in San Francisco, and the PS 194 Raoul Wallenberg School in Brooklyn, New York.
Statue of Raoul Wallenberg, Wallenberg st., Tel-Aviv, Israel.
Place Raoul Wallenberg, Montreal
Memorial at Great Cumberland Place, London
Sign commemorating Wallenberg in Budapest
Monument in Stockholm
Köszönöm, a monument at the University of Michigan in honor of its alumnus.
One of the memorials in Budapest
The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States bestows the Raoul Wallenberg Award "on individuals, organizations and communities that reflect Raoul Wallenberg's humanitarian spirit, personal courage and nonviolent action in the face of enormous odds."
The Wallenberg Endowment at the University of Michigan awards the Wallenberg Medal and Lecture to outstanding humanitarians. The university's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning also awards Wallenberg Scholarships to exceptional undergraduate and graduate students, many of which are given to enable students to broaden their study of architecture to include work in distant locations.
A number of films have been made of Wallenberg's life, including the 1985 made-for-television movie Wallenberg: A Hero's Story (1985), starring Richard Chamberlain, the 1990 Swedish production God afton, Herr Wallenberg (Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg), featuring Stellan Skarsgård, and various documentaries, such as Raoul Wallenberg: Buried Alive (1984) and Searching for Wallenberg (2003).