This year, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in Budapest at the end of World War II.
Raoul Wallenberg was born on August 4, 1912. After studies in architecture and languages at the University of Michigan, Wallenberg returned to Sweden in 1935. There, he found that his degree from the US didn’t qualify him to work as an architect. Instead, Wallenberg worked at a branch of the Holland Bank in Haifa. During this time, he first came into contacts with Jews who had fled Hitler’s Germany.
In 1944, Raoul Wallenberg was appointed second secretary at the Swedish diplomatic mission in Budapest. His job was to launch a rescue operation for Jews and he became head of a special department at the legislation. By issuing protective Swedish passports and renting buildings, Swedish Houses, where Jews could seek shelter, Wallenberg was instrumental in saving thousands of lives.
On January 17, 1945, Wallenberg was imprisoned by Soviet forces. To this day, his fate remains unknown. Russia claims he died in a Soviet prison on July 17, 1947, but many witness reports suggest he may have been alive much later. In October 2001, the Swedish government appointed an official commission of inquiry, the Eliasson Commission, to investigate the actions of Sweden’s foreign policy establishment in the Raoul Wallenberg case. In 2003, a report was issued in which Swedish political moves were summarized under the heading ‘A diplomatic failure’.
Raoul Wallenberg has been recognized around the world. In 1981, he was named an honorary citizen of the US. In 1985, he was given the same honour in Canada, and a year later in Israel.
This year, an exhibition about Raoul Wallenberg and his deeds in Budapest is touring the world. ‘To Me There’s No Other Choice’ was first shown in Budapest, opening on January 17, 2012. Originally planned to be shown also in Russian, Israel, Germany, the US and Canada, additional locations have been added. The exhibition will be shown in Ottawa mid-November and in Toronto January 12 – 23, 2013. In Toronto, it will be shown at the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street.
In connection with the exhibition, a couple of conferences will be organized. The theme for the two conferences/seminars is ‘Human Rights’, building on the values Raoul Wallenberg and his actions represent. One of the conferences will be specifically designed to address students in the public school system.
A few other activities are also being planned. On August 4, 2012, 8.30 am, a ceremony will be held in front of the Raoul Wallenberg bust at the Earl Bales Park in North York. This event is open to anyone who wants to honour Wallenberg.
Later in the fall, Swedish organizations in Toronto together with others will have a tree planted in the park in his honour in the vicinity of the bust. At a date to be determined, a plaque will be unveiled. Again, this event will be open to anyone who wants to attend, including members of the Swedish Canadian Chamber of Commerce. More information will follow. There will also be events recognizing Wallenberg during the Holocaust Week in November.
Source: The Swedish Institute
Read more about him at the Swedish Government site (click here)