GENEVA (Jun. 22)
The Yad Vashem’s “Medal of the Just” has been conferred posthumously in Jerusalem on Friedrich Born of Switzerland. As a delegate of the International Red Cross in Budapest during World War II, Born worked with Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg to rescue Hungarian Jews from deportation to Nazi death camps.
Unlike Wallenberg, whose deeds have been honored by Jews and non-Jews the world over, Born’s activities remained a secret for more than 40 years. He mentioned them to no one, not even members of his family. He died in 1963.
Born worked in close collaboration with Wallenberg and in consultation with the Swiss Consul in Budapest, Carl Luntz.
While he made use of his Red Cross status, his mission was personal and he assumed sole responsibility. According to the Swiss Weekly “Construire,” Born had no choice. Max Huber, who was president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the time, opposed any action to save Jews. Huber considered the plight of Jews an internal problem of the Hungarians in which the humanitarian organization should not interfere.
The world finally learned of Born’s courage and dedication to saving Jewish lives through the tireless research of an Israeli lawyer, Arich Ben-Tov, 63, whose family perished at Auschwitz. Ben-Tov gained access to Red Cross archives in Geneva and interviewed officials of the Swiss government in Bern and the World Jewish Congress.
Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat, saved Jews by sheltering them in the Swedish Embassy and providing Swedish documents. Born acted similarly. He recruited 4,000 Jews as employees of the Red Cross, issuing them ICRC papers. He pressured Hungarian government officials and confiscated hospitals and homes where he hid many Jews under the Red Cross flag.