Today is designated as RAUL WALLENBERG DAY. He was a Swedish diplomat and hero of the Holocaust who saved more Jews in Hungary during the Second World War than did any single government. It is estimated that Raul Wallenberg was responsible for rescuing many tens of thousands of Jews (some claim more than 100,000), and that he did so virtually single-handedly.
When Wallenberg arrived in Budapest in July of 1944, the campaign against the Jews of Hungary had already been underway for several months. Between May and July of that year, Eichmann and his associates had deported more than 400,000 Jews to Auschwitz. By the time that Wallenberg arrived in Budapest there were only some 230,000 Jews remaining in Hungary and he knew well the fate that awaited them unless some action was taken on their behalf.
Raul Wallenberg took it upon himself to issue “protective passports” which identified the bearers as Swedish subjects and thus prevented their deportation. Although not legal, these documents looked official and were generally accepted by German and Hungarian authorities who were not above accepting bribes for looking the other way.
Sabdor Ardai who worked for Raul Wallenberg recounted what he saw him do when he intervened on behalf of 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 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 were so dumbfounded they let him get away with it.”
As our world grapples with heart-wrenching terror and cruelty in so many places, Raul Wallenberg’s inspirational and shining example reminds us how one person with the compassion to care, and the courage to act, can confront evil and transform history. Would that such courageous people remain steadfast in their resolve to act humanely in spite of the evil that surrounds them. Yes, such extraordinary people are out there!