The only two European-born members of Congress are sponsoring a resolution to honor Rooul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who is credited with saving some 90,000 Hungarian Jews from Nazi death camps during World War II. Rep. Ted Weiss (D. NY), who fled from Hungary with his family in 1938, and Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R. Minn.), who was born in Berlin and left Germany with his family in 1936, have introduced identical resolutions in the House and Senate.
The resolution notes Wallenberg was sent by the Swedish government to Hungary in the summer of 1944 at the request of the American War Refugees Board, founded earlier that year to organize the rescue of persecuted individuals. In Nazi-occupied Budapest, he issued protective Swedish passports to 20,000 Hungarian Jews, giving them Swedish citizenship and assuring free passage out of Hungary. He assisted an additional 70,000 Jews through collaboration with other neutralist envoys in Hungary. Albert Einstein nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949.
A statement by Weiss says that after Soviet forces defeated the Germans in Hungary in December, 1944, Soviet authorities, “apparently unaware of his true mission in Budapest,” placed him in “protective custody.” The Soviets “denied any knowledge of Wallenberg until 1957 when they reported that a prisoner known by that name had died in his cell 10 years earlier,” Weiss said. “Periodic reports, how- ever, have indicated that Wallenberg might be alive in the Soviet Union.” The resolution directs the State Department to investigate this matter and seek his release if he is still incarcerated.
Noting that if Wallenberg is alive he would be 68 years old today, the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies at Yeshiva University in Los Angeles, issued a request to “all Americans to commemorate the legacy of this giant of humanity.” Last January, the Swedish government released documents showing that its diplomatic efforts with the Soviet Union have not fully clarified Wallenberg’s status.
Due to this uncertainty, a Free Rooul Wallenberg Committee has been formed by prominent Swedish and American citizens. The Swedish Rooul Wallenberg Association and the International Sakharov Committee will hold an informal hearing soon to analyze the information now known and decide on further action on Wallenberg’s behalf.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.