WASHINGTON (Oct. 7)
Gordon Zachs, a national Jewish leader from Ohio, said Tuesday night that he was “outraged” that it was not until 1981 that he learned about Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat, who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis during World War II and then was imprisoned by the Soviet Union. “I have been active all of my life in behalf of the Jewish people” and had read all of the Holocaust literature, but “I never heard the name Raoul Wallenberg,” he said at a Capitol Hill reception.
The reception, sponsored by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and the American Jewish Committee, marked the sixth anniversary of the signing by President Reagan of legislation making Wallenberg an honorary citizen of the United States.
Zachs and others praised Rep. Tom Lantos (D. Calif.) and his wife, Annette, for bringing Wallenberg’s name to national and international attention. The couple as teenagers were among the Hungarian Jews saved by Wallenberg.
It was Annette Lantos who began the effort to learn whether Wallenberg is still alive in a Soviet prison, as many believe, and seek his freedom.
Lantos, who introduced the legislation making Wallenberg an honorary citizen, noted that parks, streets, museums and schools have been named for Wallenberg throughout the world.
He said that in Hungary, where a statue to Wallenberg was stolen 40 years ago just before it was to be unveiled, a new monument to Wallenberg was erected in Budapest through the efforts of Nicholas Slago, the U.S. Ambassador to the Hungary at the time. Slago said the statue was not a monument to Wallenberg’s memory but to keep his memory alive.
LEGISLATION TO ERECT WALLENBERG STATUE
Lantos, who is co-chairman of the Human Rights Caucus, announced that legislation is being introduced in the House to erect a similar statue on the National Mall here, near the planned U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The street in front of the museum has already been named Raoul Wallenberg Place.
Richard Schifter, Assistant Secretary of State for Humanitarian Affairs. said he raised the issue of Wallenberg’s whereabouts during his recent visit to Moscow and received the official Soviet answer that Wallenberg died in 1947.
The Soviet Union “owes the world a full explanation of what happened to one of the true heroes of our time,” Schifter said. He pledged to continue raising the issue with the Soviets.
Lantos stressed that “we are strong as ever” in the determination that Wallenberg be set free if he is alive, or that “the Soviet authorities tell us what happened” to him.
The AJCommittee was honored at the reception for being the first Jewish organization to back the effort in behalf of Wallenberg. The AJCommittee sponsored a press conference in 1979 which announced the formations of a Free Wallenberg Committee by Sens. Claiborne Pell (D. RI), Daniel Moynihan (D. NY) Rudy Boschwitz (R.Minn.) and the late Frank Church (D. Idaho).
Theodore Ellenoff, AJCommittee president, called Wallenberg a “true hero of our time” who proved that “one person can make an extraordinary difference in history.”
Schifter noted that Wallenberg’s efforts proved right those who argue that the U.S. and its allies could have done more to save the victims of the Holocaust.
Also honored at the reception was Rabbi Frederick Werbell, aSwedish author who wrote “The Last Hero:” The Mystery of Raoul Wallenberg.”