Monday, July 13, 2015

Remembering Raoul Wallenburg

From the World War II Database:
In spring 1944, American diplomat Iver Olsen arrived in Stockholm, looking for someone who was willing to help the American War Refugee Board to work in Hungary to help Hungarian Jews. Having already wanted to take on a greater cause in his life, [Wallenburg] accepted the task when Olsen approached him. He arrived in Budapest, Hungary in the summer of 1944 as a secretary assigned to the Swedish embassy on the pretense that he was a newly assigned secretary. In this role, he issued many protective passports to Hungarian Jews, which effectively made them Swedish objects, and Wallenberg could then prevent them from being deported by the Hungarians to concentration camps. To house these Jews, he rented 32 buildings in Budapest of various sizes (using funds provided by the War Refugee Board); he declared these buildings extraterritorial much like the general treatment of embassies on foreign soil. Soon, he took on actions that put him directly between Hungarian authorities and the Jews. On more than one occasion, for instance, he arrived at railroad stations where Hungarian police were loading Jews onto rail cars; he walked among the Jews, either making up stories of how he recognized some of the Jews as those working with Swedish firms, or whispering instructions to them to answer his later call of fake names, ignoring warning rifle shots that the Hungarians fired over his head. It was a generally accepted estimate that he had saved the lives of more than 10,000 Hungarian Jews. (Read more.)

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