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Tribute to Raoul Wallenberg


Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California)

this moving tribute to Raoul Wallenberg, Congressman
Lantos captures the courage and character Wallenberg embodied.  He struggled at great personal risk to assure
the safety of Hungarian Jews with whom he had nothing in common.  Among those saved were Rep. Lantos and his


On March
19, 1944
, as the
Nazi’s campaign of terror and genocide finally overtook my native
land of Hungary, a young idealistic Swede named Raoul Wallenberg made his way to Hungary to try to save the lives of unarmed tens
of thousands of Jews facing deportation and annihilation in
Auschwitz and other extermination camps.

the time Wallenberg arrived in
Budapest, some 600,000 Jews from the Hungarian countryside
– men, women, and children – had been packed into cattle cars and shipped to
the gas chambers of
Auschwitz, where most of them perished.  But Raoul
Wallenberg’s work in
Budapest enabled as many as 100,000 of the remaining Jews to
survive. My wife, Annette, and I were among those who owe our lives to this
hero of the Holocaust.  Because of our debt of gratitude, both of us have
dedicated years of our lives to seek the release of Wallenberg, to make his
story known and to honor this great man.

issued Swedish Schutzpaesse (protective
passports) to those who managed to reach him at the Swedish legation in
Budapest. He brilliantly negotiated with the
Nazis and later the Arrow Cross gangsters (Hungarian Fascists) who ran Hungary
in the final few months of the German occupation, until they recognized the
validity of these fictional documents and exempted their owners from
deportation and having to wear the yellow star.

bought or leased 32 large apartment houses and succeeded in declaring them
Swedish territory within
Hungary. Thousands of people were crowded into
these protected houses, many of whom Wallenberg personally brought back from
the forced marches heading towards death camps. He rushed the saved persons to
the protected Swedish houses in
Budapest. He even brought people back from the
railroads cars, pulling them out of deportation trains and from the banks of
Danube River where they were to have been summarily

the Wallenberg story is not complete.  On
January 17,
, after the Soviet Union liberated Budapest, the leader of the Red Army summoned
Wallenberg to his headquarters in eastern
Hungary.  The story becomes unclear after
that point.  We know he disappeared into the Soviet Gulag, but we know
little of the details thereafter.

Annette and I began our work on behalf of Wallenberg in 1975, we had two goals
in mind. First and foremost, we wanted to find him and free him from the
horrors of the Soviet Gulag where he was languishing. Our second goal was to
educate the world about Raoul Wallenberg’s life and
accomplishments and to inspire all those who are touched by his story to become
better, more unselfish, and more caring human beings who are willing to
transcend the barriers of race, religion or nationality in their concern for

Wallenberg was the son of
Sweden‘s most distinguished, powerful, and
wealthy family.  He had endless horizons and opportunities before
him.  But he voluntarily left behind the security, comfort, affluence, and
joy of peaceful
Stockholm to go to the hell of Budapest.  With courage that defies
description, he placed his own frail, unarmed body between the Nazi war machine
and the intended, innocent victims.

did not go to
Budapest because the people of Budapest were part of his community.  
He was a citizen of
Sweden, and were
citizens of
Hungary. He spoke Swedish, and we spoke
Hungarian.  He was a very wealthy man, and we were destitute.  He was
a Christian Lutheran, and we were Jews.  But he came of his own free will
to Hungary and daily offered his life as he confronted the Nazi murders in the
attempt to save innocent people whith whom he had
nothing in common except his humanity.  And he saved as many as one
hundred thousand.

Wallenberg not only fought evil,  he also fought
indifference, which is the twin of evil. Those who kill are murderers, but
those who stand by and do nothing in the face of
murder share a complicity in crime.  Wallenberg’s message was loud and
clear: we must not only fight evil, but we must also struggle against

We do
not know if Wallenberg is still alive, but there is no question that today he
lives because of what he has done. He not only saved lives, but he saved our
faith in humanity. Every day his story continues  to
touch the lives of thousands of young people the world over, who, learning of
his heroism are inspired to be better people and to dedicate themselves to
fight for the rights of others who are still persecuted and oppressed
throughout the world.

Long after the sound and fury of the twentieth century are
relegated to the garbage heap of history, the ideals and the memory of Raoul Wallenberg will live on. He will live on to teach
future generations perhaps the most important lesson of human history – that in
order to survive, in order to create more livable conditions in this world, we
must accept the responsibility of becoming our brother’s and our sister’s
keepers. This is the meaning of Wallenberg’s legacy and this is the meaning of
our struggle for human rights across the globe.