A Tribute to Raoul Wallenberg
During World War II, millions of Jews perished in the Holocaust. Some, however, were saved by the efforts of courageous groups and individuals, such as Raoul Wallenberg who is credited with saving more than 100,000 Hungarian Jews.
At the end of June 1944, Mr. Wallenberg was appointed First Secretary at the Swedish Legation in Budapest with the mission to start a rescue operation for the Jews there. Wallenberg used creative methods and unorthodox diplomacy to achieve this goal. Based on an original idea of his colleague, Per Anger, he designed a Swedish pass to help protect Jews against German and Hungarian officials who were trying to deport them. Mr. Wallenberg was also able to establish safe houses for many Jews in Budapest. The Swedish flag was hung above the doors of these houses and Mr. Wallenberg declared them Swedish territory, ensuring that the Nazi army did not visit to take their occupants to detention camps.
During the war, many Jews were being deported from Hungary on foot and by train. Reports suggest that Mr. Wallenberg handed out protective passes, food and medicine to people on these forced marches, and that he climbed onto the trains and pushed bundles of passes to people inside. He then threatened and bribed officials until they agreed to free those who were in possession of these Swedish passes.
During the last days of World War II, in response to concerns that the Nazis were planning to kill the 115,000 inhabitants of the Budapest Jewish ghetto, Mr. Wallenberg warned that if the massacre were carried out, he would ensure that the perpetrators would be tried as war criminals. The ghetto was left alone and Mr. Wallenberg is frequently credited with saving its inhabitants.
Raoul Wallenberg disappeared on January 17, 1945. The Soviet army declared that he had likely been killed by the Nazis. In 1957, the Soviet Union admitted to having held him in prison where he died on July 17, 1947, at the age of 34. However, some people have claimed that he was alive in the 1950s and 1960s, and even possibly into the 1980s.
In 1985, in recognition of his humanitarian deeds, Canada declared Raoul Wallenberg its first honorary Canadian citizen. Since 1987, a number of parks and monuments in Canada have been dedicated to his memory.
Raoul Wallenberg's legacy - to respect human dignity across national, ethnic and religious differences and to act courageously to combat hate and prejudice - is taken up by those who work to protect and promote human rights in Canada and around the world.
*This information is drawn from a number of sources, and in particular from the Biography of Raoul Wallenberg by "The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise", and People and Events: Raoul Wallenberg (1912-?). Links to these documents are included below.
Raoul Wallenberg, Honorary Canadian Citizen: Hansard, Commons Debates, December 9, 1985
Commemorating Raoul Wallenberg (January 17):
- Announcement, Hansard, Commons Debates, June 5, 2001
- Statements by members in the House of Commons: Clifford Lincoln and Irwin Cotler
- Senate speeches
Lending Hand Award: A community award in Ottawa established in homage to the humanitarian works of Raoul Wallenberg. It recognizes the selfless actions of volunteers who help those in need. Jamie Fisher, a deputy mayor of the former City of Ottawa and chairperson of the selection committee, said "We wanted to create an award that acknowledges citizens who volunteer their time and effort to those needing a lending hand and who fall through the cracks of our safety nets. It is for people whose humanitarian work is not seen or known by the community as a whole."
Annual Human Rights Lectureships: The Faculty of Law at McGill University has a number of endowed lecture series that bring a slate of notable speakers to the campus. The Raoul Wallenberg Lecture in Human Rights is one of the four human rights lectures presented annually.
Raoul Wallenberg: Buried Alive: This Canadian film contains a wealth of archival material that graphically shows the rise of the ruthless "Arrow Cross Nazis" in Hungary. Astounding footage of ghetto pogroms and the enforced death marches are interwoven with interviews with survivors who owe their lives to Mr. Wallenberg, and those who have reported seeing him alive. (To order: Direct Cinema Limited)
Raoul Wallenberg Monuments and Parks in Canada:
- People and Events: Raoul Wallenberg (1912-?)
- The Raoul Wallenberg Project Interviews: Interviews with victims of the Nazis in Budapest, rescued by Raoul Wallenberg during the late years of World War II, published by the Department of Cultural Studies and Library and Information Science at Uppsala University
- Report on the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg: Raoul Wallenberg: Report of the Swedish-Russian Working Group (Stockholm, 2000)
- Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
- The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
- The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States
To access the Portable Document Format (PDF) version you must have a PDF reader installed. If you do not already have such a reader, there are numerous PDF readers available for free download or for purchase on the Internet:
Please note that all saveable and fillable PDF forms require Adobe Acrobat Reader version 8.1 or higher.