LONDON (Jan. 14)
The Hungarian government has paid an unprecedented official tribute here to Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat jailed by the Soviet Union after saving thousands of Jews during World War 11.
It has also hinted that it is ready to rehabilitate a national monument to Wallenberg erected in Hungary after the war, at a time when Wallenberg, declared dead by the Russians, was actually a secret prisoner in Moscow.
The 18-foot-high statue, by sculptor Pal Patzay was commissioned by Jewish bankers, in gratitude to their young Swedish savior. It depicted a man wrestling with a snake. A medallion of Wallenberg’s profile and an inscription in his honor were fixed to its plinth.
It disappeared in 1949 on the night before it was to have been unveiled in Budapest, and was quietly re-erected four years later at a pharmaceutical works in the town of Debrecen. Stripped of all reference to Wallenberg, it now stood as a vague symbol of man’s fight against disease.
AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT BY HUNGARIAN ENVOY
This week, however, the Hungarian Ambassador to Britain, Dr. Matyas Domokos, declared that his country honors the memory of Wallenberg and affirmed that the anonymous statue is really a tribute to the missing Swede.
His statement, in a letter on behalf of the Central Committee of the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party, is an acknowledgement of the widespread international interest evoked by the Wallenberg affair in recent years. It also reveals Hungary’s embarrassment over the shoddy fate of Wallenberg himself in Soviet hands.
The Ambassador’s letter was addressed to actress Pamela Mason, a member of the British Wallenberg Committee, who had written about the statue to the Hungarian leader Janos Kadar on the occasion of his recent official visit to Britain.
At the British Wallenberg Committee’s request, the issue was also raised informally with senior Hungarian Communist officials by British delegates to the recent East-West cultural forum in Budapest.
U.S. ENVOY LAYS WREATH IN SWEDE’S HONOR
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has learned that during the forum, United States Ambassador Walter Stoessel laid a wreath in Wallenberg’s honor in the Budapest street which bears his name. Three years ago Wallenberg was named an honorary U.S. citizen.
Budapest’s Wallenberg Street, in the area where many Jews were saved by the Swedes, was given its name immediately after the liberation of the city from the Nazis. Unlike the statue with Wallenberg, the street was left intact.
The first sign of Hungary’s official uneasiness about the fate of the statue appeared two years ago in a lengthy article in the official Hungarian magazine, Historika, by Janos Poto. It recounted the origin of the statue, and how it disappeared from Budapest’s Saint Stephens Park. Without delving into the fate of Wallenberg himself, the author noted caustically that “the same thing happened to the statue as to its inspirer — it disappeared. ” He also expressed shock at its use for a completely different purpose.
Poto disclosed, too, that two more copies of the monument later appeared in other places — outside a Budapest clinic and in faraway Indonesia — in both cases without any clue to the sculptor’s original purpose.