Thursday, April 19, 2012

Raoul Wallenberg (1912-?)

In 1938, the Hungarian government created laws similar to those created in Germany in 1935. These laws punished Jews for being Jews. Because of these laws, thousands of Jews lost their jobs. In 1940, the Hungarian government committed itself to supporting the German government. As a result, the Hungarian army joined the German army in the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Raoul Wallenberg was born in 1912 near Stockholm, Sweden. After high school, he studied for a year in Paris. Then he went to a university in the United States and studied architecture. He graduated in 1935.

After graduation, Wallenberg worked for six months in Cape Town, South Africa. Then he worked for another six months in Haifa, Palestine (now Israel). In 1936 he returned to Stockholm and started working for a company owned by Kalman Lauer, a Hungarian Jew.

After 1941, Lauer could not travel safely to Budapest, the capital of Hungary, any longer. Wallenberg took his place. When visiting Budapest on business, Wallenberg would also visit members of Lauer’s family to make sure they were well. He even learned to speak Hungarian.

In March 1944, the German army took control of Hungary. In April, the German government started to send Jews in Hungary to Auschwitz. Soon more than 12,000 Jews each day were being sent to Auschwitz.

By early July 1944, almost 440,000 Jews had been sent to their deaths. Suddenly Hungarian leaders started to disobey their German masters. They could see that the Germans were losing the war. They were afraid that they would be punished after the war for sending Jews to Auschwitz.

At this time Wallenberg went to Budapest and started to work for the Swedish government there. His job was to save as many Jews as possible. Maybe only 200,000 Jews were still alive in all of Hungary.

Wallenberg gave Swedish passports to as many Jews as he could. With these passports, Jews were treated as citizens of Sweden. They were not loaded onto trains and did not have to wear yellow stars marking them as Jews.

Wallenberg also rented 32 buildings in Budapest. Every building he rented became part of the land of Sweden and displayed a very large Swedish flag. In this way Wallenberg also protected the 10,000 Jews who lived in them.

In October 1944 the Soviet army began to attack Budapest. By the end of December, it had the city completely surrounded. It captured the city in February 1945.

In January 1945, during the siege of Budapest by the Soviet army, Wallenberg talked with German leaders. As a result, they did not kill the 70,000 Jews still living in the Budapest ghetto.

On January 17, Wallenberg himself was arrested by Soviet agents and taken to Lubyanka prison in Moscow. He was never seen again. The reasons for his arrest, and the date of his death, remain unknown.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.