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Swedish Martyr: Raoul Wallenberg

Raoul Wallenberg

Raoul Wallenberg was born on the 4th August 1912, into a family of bankers, diplomats and politicians in Stockholm, Sweden.  His interests lay in architecture.  He went on to graduate in the Russian language in 1930 and in 1931 studied architecture at the Ann Arbor Michigan University gaining a bachelor’s degree in science and architecture in 1935.

He returned to Sweden in 1935, seeking employment, but the options were limited.  Gustav Wallenberg, his grandfather arranged six months work in Cape Town then onto Hafia, Palenstine working in a Dutch Bank.

It was here, Raoul had his eyes opened for him, with regards to actions taken by Germany, from Jews he had come into contact with, who had fled Hitler’s new Germany.

He travelled through Nazi-occupied France and Germany, for a Swedish based import and export firm, owned by Koloman Lauer, an Hungarian Jew.

In the spring of 1944, the world understood what Hitler’s final solution to the Jewish problem actually meant.  In the May, eyewitness accounts of what was taking place at Auschwitz reached the world.

Germany transported Jews out of Hungary after the country’s occupation by German forces on the 19th March 1944, sending them to Poland and certain death.

Budapest feared what was to come for them.  The Swedish Legation in Budapest, arranged through Hungarian authorities a passport, as issued to Swedish citizens.  What started out as 700 was suddenly running out of control, for thousands of Jews required these passports for survival.

Raoul was recruited by the U.S. War Refugee and in June 1944 appointed Secretary of the Swedish diplomatic mission in Budapest, taking up his post in July 1944.

Raoul Wallenberg struggled against the German authorities, and proved to be a thorn in their side an unwelcome witness to their atrocities.

Wallenberg created so called “Swedish Houses” which hung the flag of Sweden over its door, advertising to all, it is Swedish territory.  It was a place where Jews could seek shelter.  Passports were issued, stating they be under the protection of Sweden’s neutrality, it didn’t take long for other countries to open their houses, offering shelter to the Jews.

When Russian forces arrived in Budapest, they found 120,000 Jews had survived the round-up by German forces.

On the 17th January 1945, Raoul Wallenburg was escorted to the Soviet Headquarters in Debrecen, East of Budapest, never to be seen or heard from again.

According to Soviet prison officials, he is believed to have died in 1947, yet the exact date and circumstances of his death, remains unknown to this day…

If one travels to Jerusalem, there stands “Yad Vashem” a memorial to murdered Jews of World War Two.  In the “Avenue of the Righteous” stands a line of trees, to non-Jewish individuals who risked their lives to save Jews.  A plaque on one of the trees is dedicated to Raoul Wallenberg.

In 1981, Raoul Wallenberg was declared an honary citizen of the United States, and in 1985 of Canada, and in 1986 of Israel.

Since the end of Second World War, both Sweden and the United States continue to ask the same question, time and time again; what happened to Raoul Wallenberg!

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