BUDAPEST, July 5 (JTA) — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his wife, Nane Lagergren, have paid tribute to Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who helped save tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II.
“There has never been a hero who was so powerfully present in his absence,” Kofi Annan said in his speech at a ceremony at the memorial to Wallenberg that was unveiled here last year.
Lagergren is Wallenberg’s niece.
Lagergren visited the Jewish community center, the famous Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest and another Wallenberg statue erected 15 years ago.
Wallenberg was last seen being taken into custody by Soviet troops on Jan. 17, 1945.
It is possible that Wallenberg, who was 32 at the time of his disappearance, remains alive, although it is widely believed that he is dead.
United States Ambassador Peter Tufo said efforts to find out Wallenberg’s fate should intensify.
Other diplomats, Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky and local Jews saved by Wallenberg attended the ceremony, which was held near where Wallenberg centered his efforts in issuing false passports and placing Jews in safe houses.
In a related development, filming is under way in Hungary on a documentary about the life of a Swiss diplomat also instrumental in saving thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II. Carl Lutz is credited with being one of the largest issuers of Schutzbriefs, or protective letters, during the war.