LOS ANGELES (Aug. 7)
Agnes Keleti, winner of II Olympic medals in gymnastics for Hungary during the 1940’s and 1950’s, and whose family was saved by Raoul Wallenberg during World War II, joined Swedish Olympic officials here in honoring the legendary Swedish diplomat at a 72nd birthday tribute.
The ceremony, attended by more than 200 Americans, Swedes and Israelis was held at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to focus on the fate of Wallenberg who saved an estimated 100,000 Hungarian Jews during the Nazi occupation of Budapest in 1944.
Keleti, 63, a resident of Israel since 1956, said that Wallenberg “was a true humanitarian who came through for my family and thousands of others during our hour of need. It is an honor to me to represent Jews from all over the world in remembering this wonderful man.”
Her mother and sister were saved by Wallenberg in Budapest in 1944. He provided them with false Swedish diplomatic papers and sheltered them in so called “Swedish safe houses” enabling them to elude certain deportation and imminent death at the hands of the Nazis. Keleti, herself, was saved by purchasing Christian documents and working as a housekeeper until the end of the war. Her father was deported to Auschwitz and murdered.
Joining Keleti in honoring Wallenberg were Swedish Olympic officials Gustav Anderberg and Bo Bengston, chairman and secretary-general, respectively, of the Swedish Olympic Committee’s executive committee. Other participants included Swedish Consul-General for Los Angeles Margareta Hegardt; Steven and Lillemor Anderson, co-directors of the Ad Hoc Committee of Swedish Americans for Wallenberg; and Bernice Ringman, a close friend of Wallenberg when he was a student at the University of Michigan during the 1930’s.
MESSAGE FROM SWEDISH KING, NANCY REAGAN
Hegardt read a message from King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden which said, in part, that the memory of Wallenberg “lives strong in the hearts of many people, and for all citizens of Sweden, Raoul Wallenberg will always be a symbol of peace and humanity.”
Ringman read First Lady Nancy Reagan’s personal message, stating, in part, that Wallenberg, “is not merely a citizen of Sweden, but by decision of the United States Congress, an honorary citizen of the United States.” And, she added, “In many respects, he is a citizen of the world.”
A California State resolution proclaiming “Raoul Wallenberg Week,” sponsored by State Sen. David Roberti (D. Hollywood), was presented by California Jewish community leader J.J. Kaplan. The proclamation said that it is hoped that it would “send a message to the USSR that Raoul Wallenberg is not forgotten.”
NOTES BITTER-SWEET TRIBUTE
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who headed the tribute committee, said “this marks a very bitter-sweet birthday tribute. One the one hand, the power of Raoul Wallenberg’s legacy is inspiring on ever-increasing number of people from all over the world — Christians and Jews alike — who take heart from the deeds of the greatest humanitarian of the 20th century. On the other hand, the increasing notoriety of Wallenberg’s plight may have come too late to save him from the Soviet gulag because for nearly four decades the free world, those he saved and his own government forgot him.”
Cooper also reviewed the current status of a $39 ## berg’s illegal imprisonment by the Soviet Union — a move which has been underwritten by the Wiesenthal Center and the Stockholm-based International Wallenberg Committee. The suit, Cooper said, is currently pending in federal court in Washington.