Reagan Confers Honorary Citizenship on Wallenberg
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Reagan Confers Honorary Citizenship on Wallenberg

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President Reagan said yesterday that Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who is credited with saving the lives of 100,000 Hungarian Jews in World War II, may still be held in a Soviet prison. “Wherever he is, his humanity burns like a torch.” The President made these remarks as he conferred honorary citizenship on Wallenberg, the second person ever granted this honor. The first was Sir Winston Churchill.

Like Churchill, the wartime British Prime Minister, Wallenberg exemplified compassion, Reagan said at a White House ceremony attended by the missing diplomat’s half-brother Guy von Dardel and half-sister Nina Lagergren. He said that the U.S. had asked Sweden in 1944 to cooperate in protecting Hungarian Jews who faced extermination at the hands of the Nazis. “The United States supplied the funds and the directives, and Raoul Wallenberg supplied the courage and the passion,” Reagan said.

The President said that Wallenberg’s seizure by Soviet troops in 1945 at the end of the war was “in violation of diplomatic immunity and international law.” He was referring to the fact that the Swedish government gave Wallenberg diplomatic status in 1944 and assigned him to Budapest where he issued Swedish passports and pressed Hungarian authorities to improve the treatment of Jews and Roman Catholics.


Sponsors of the measure to make Wallenberg an honorary U.S. citizen said it would strengthen the U.S. hand in seeking information about Wallenberg’s condition and demanding his release if he is found to be alive. Soviet officials claim that he died in prison in 1947, but there have been repeated accounts from former Soviet prisoners that he is still alive. If so, he would be 69 years old. Sweden still lists Wallenberg as missing and rejects the Soviet account that he died of heart failure and the Soviet contention that he was detained, as a suspected spy, as a result of the excesses of the Stalin era.

Reagan’s action followed a joint resolution passed by both Houses of Congress last month which called on the President “to take all possible steps to ascertain from the Soviet Union the whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg and to secure his return to freedom.” The resolution described Wallenberg as “a prisoner in the Soviet Union since 1945.”

At a reception last night sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League to mark Reagan’s conferring honorary citizenship on Wallenberg, former Vice President Walter Mondale said that Americans had not acted as Americans should have during the Holocaust. He said that if they had acted as did Wallenberg, they could have saved hundred of thousands of lives and perhaps millions.

Two days of ceremonies in honor of Wallenberg will end tonight when members of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington and the Lutheran Place Memorial Church will hold a candlelight ceremony across the street from the Soviet Embassy.

This afternoon, von Dardel and Ms. Lagergren are scheduled to be present at the District of Columbia Building when Mayor Marion Barry declares today Wallenberg Day in Washington.

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