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Special to the JTA Thousands of Jews, Non-jews Visit Exhibition on the Holocaust

November 2, 1982
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The most important exhibition dealing with the Holocaust ever held in London closed its doors yesterday after being seen by thousands of Jews and non-Jews from all over Britain.

The exhibition, in St. Martin in the Fields Church in the heart of the British capital, was intended primarily to illustrate the case of Rooul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II only to be taken after the war to the Soviet Union from where he has never returned.

But the exhibition’s pictures of Auschwitz have also given many younger Britons their first shock lesson of the savagery of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews, which racist organizations have for years been trying to portray as a figment of the Jewish imagination.

It has also helped to deepen understanding between Jews and Christians at a time when events in the Middle East have been contributing to growing anti-Semitism in Britain and the deepening anxieties of the Jewish community.


The exhibition was arranged by an inter-faith committee of individuals and organizations concerned about the Soviet Union’s failure to give a satisfactory account of Wallenberg despite incessant entreaties from his family, the Swedish government and other Western countries, including the United States and Britain.

Part of the money for mounting the exhibition was provided by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, but most of it came from small individual donations by people of different religious persuasions.

Among those who acted as stewards were members of the Sisters of Sion, a Roman Catholic order of nuns; the Council of Christians and Jews; the British Herut Movement; and the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women.

It has also received strong moral support from the British and Swedish governments when it was opened two weeks ago by Per Anger, the former Swedish Ambassador to Australia and Canada. Anger served with Wallenberg in Budapest and last spring was himself designated a “Righteous Gentile” by Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust and Martyrs Memorial Foundation.


Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in a public tribute to Wallenberg, described him as “a hero of our times” and pledged that Britain was willing to assist any constructive initiative to find out what happened to him.

“We hope the Soviet authorities will at last cooperate in the international efforts to discover the facts,” she said. His qualities of compassion and courage were “an example to all who fight against tyranny and carry the standard of liberty and freedom,” she declared.

A similar pledge was made by Foreign Office Minister Malcolm Rifkind when he received Anger for a 30-minute briefing on the eve of the exhibition’s opening. Anger was accompanied by Lars Ake Nilsson, the Swedish Minister in London, and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent in Britain, Maurice Samuelson, who founded the United Kingdom Wallenberg Committee four years ago.

(Samuelson’s JTA coverage of the Wallenberg case in the late 1970’s helped to fuel interest in it in the U.S. where Wallenberg was made an honorary citizen by the U.S. Congress a year ago.)

The organizer of the exhibition was Colin Shindler, a lecturer, who as a student leader in the early 1960’s, started campaigning for Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union at a time when most Jewish leaders regarded the Soviet Jewish community as defunct and incapable of revival.

From London, the exhibition will go on tour throughout Britain, beginning with Birmingham, where it will be seen in the city’s cathedral.

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