(JTA) – Ceremonies in Budapest inaugurated Raoul Wallenberg Year, a series of events marking the centennial of the birth of the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Israeli Cabinet minister Yossi Peled opened observances in Budapest on Tuesday, the anniversary of the day in 1945 that Wallenberg was last seen after being arrested by the Soviet Red Army. Holocaust survivors and members of Wallenberg’s family also attended the ceremony at the National Museum.
Hungary, as well as Sweden, will mark Wallenberg Year with exhibitions, conferences, concerts and other commemorative events, including the issuing of stamps in both countries.
Wallenberg, a neutral Swedish diplomat in Budapest after the German occupation in 1944, issued Swedish travel documents – known as “Wallenberg passports” – to at least 20,000 Jews and also set up more than 30 safe houses for Jews. Other neutral diplomats collaborated in the effort.
The details of Wallenberg’s fate have remained a mystery. He disappeared while being escorted out of Hungary toward the Soviet Union. The Soviets claimed that he died of a heart attack in 1957, but other evidence indicates that he was killed in Lubyanka prison or that he may have lived years longer.
The stated goals of Hungary’s Wallenberg Year include “moving closer to clarifying Wallenberg’s fate,” as well as commemoration of Holocaust victims and their rescuers, education about human rights and minority issues, and “exposing the crimes of National Socialism and Communism.”