To remember those “Houses of life” and their “rescuers,” the Board of Directors of The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation asks everyone who might have appropriate information to provide the addresses of homes that served as refuges during the Second World War, armed conflicts or genocides.
Eduardo Eurnekian, the president of the Foundation, emphasizes in a press release that “this call includes not only the Holocaust, but also other conflicts or situations in which many people left aside indifference and showed their solidarity with anyone who was persecuted. One example is that of the Turkish rescuers who helped save the lives of Armenians in the terrible events of 1915.”
Baruch Tenembaum, the institution’s founder, highlights that “this initiative isn’t inspired by any political agenda, nor does it make distinctions based on the motivations of the rescuer; we simply believe that it is important to recognize those human beings who empathize with other people’s misfortune and offer help to those whose freedom or whose very lives are in danger.”
“The Wallenberg Foundation wants to obtain reliable and detailed information about deeds of rescue that took place in the past or are contemporary, including the names of the protagonists (rescuers and the rescued) and the physical details of the rescue site, in case the people saved were housed in a specific place,” clarified the communiqué issued by the institution.
The first “House of life” was acknowledged in a solemn ceremony on November 19, in Florence, Italy. It is the House of the Holy Name of Jesus, of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary. In 1943, during the Holocaust, the convent offered refuge to 40 Jewish women and children, the majority of whom were not Italian.
Among the people they took in were the two sons of the rabbi of Genova, Ricardo Pacifici, who was murdered in Auschwitz. Since the children were boys and the convent was only for women, the mother superior, Sandra Busnelli, welcomed them with love and then found a refuge for them in a nearby school, the Santa Maria Institute, where they were protected by Mother Marta Folcia. The boys lived there until the liberation of Florence.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation encourages the sharing of trustworthy information about other “Houses of life” whether by e-mail (email@example.com) or by telephone with the Institute’s various centers:
New York: 212-737-3275
Buenos Aires: +54-11-43827872
More information: www.raoulwallenberg.net
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) celebrates Christian sites that welcomed Jews persecuted by the Nazis.
There are the buildings that saw stories of rescue in silence, behind their gates.
There are locations that – for the vast majority of people – kept secrets for seventy years. There are places that were considered religious places, since their origins, -like convents, churches, seminaries, institutes- , and should be considered sacred because their classrooms, their rooms, their attics, protected human lives taking them away from certain death. It happened in Italy occupied by the Germans at the time of the racial laws. Not to forget the meaning of these shelters, often opened by clergy men and women of the Catholic Church to the “big brothers”. These new deeds that recover pieces of stories, individual and collective memories can turn stones into symbols. It’s not just placing a plate in this or that place with our renewed feelings of gratitude; it is remembering the flames lit by the Righteous or by other anonymous human beings in times of darkness.
This is the meaning we give to the unveiling of the commemorative plaque that will be placed today, at 4.00 P.M. in the Casa Santo Nome di Gesù, headquarters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary located in Piazza del Carmine, Florence. It will be honored as a “House of Life”, in memory of what happened there. We remember the acts of courage of Mother Superior Sandra Busnelli and other sisters who responded to the call of Archbishop Dalla Costa and hid Jewish people protecting them from the Nazi fury (until November 27, 1943, when a group of Nazis irrupted inside the building, captured a few dozens of women, including many children, and deported them to the death camps).
Another ceremony of recognition will take place in Rome on Sunday, November 23 at the Curia General of the Capuchins building in Via Piemonte, in memory of the courage of Father Benoit, a French priest then resident near the International College of the Capuchins in Via Sicilia where he held his operation. Not far from there, the Delegazione Assistenza Emigranti Ebrei, “Delegation for the Assistance of Jewish Emigrants” a resistance Jewish organization operating between 1939 and 1947 for the distribution of financial aid to the persecuted Jews, had its operation center and was also supported by non-Jews. The Brigidine Convent in Rome will also be honored as a “House of Life” later on.
The ceremonies will follow during 2015 in other churches and convents, schools and public buildings as well as private houses, not only in Italy but also in Hungary, the Netherlands, France and Poland.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation is a non-governmental organization whose mission is to develop educational programs and public campaigns that promote the moral legacy of those who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, and “to honor the Righteous of all genocides”, promotes the initiative “Houses of Life”.
This well-documented educational program echoes the commitment of many religious clergy who offered shelter to thousands of Jews, asking nothing in return.
Baruch Tenembaum is the founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, named after the Swedish diplomat who saved 100,000 Jews during the Holocaust. One of the founders of the IRWF is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis.
“Seventy years after the end of World War II, “Houses of Life” is a proper tribute to those who have risked their lives for others, but is also an example of great educational value, “- affirmed President of the NGO Eduardo Eurnekian.]]>
Irwin Cotler, M.P., Mount Royal, was awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Medal by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) on October 28.
The reception was co-hosted by Andrew Scheer, Speaker of the House of Commons, John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thomas Mulcair, NDP leader, Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party, and the IRWF.
In 1985, Wallenberg was named Canada’s first honourary citizen; in 2001, January 17 was established as Raoul Wallenberg Day in Canada and in 2012, the City of Montreal bestowed honourary citizenship on Wallenberg.
Master of ceremonies Prof. Irving Abella, scholar, historian and author, referred to Irwin Cotler as ‘the conscience of Canada’ in his remarks. Speaker Scheer greeted the assembled guests noting how the House of Commons – ‘a House of professional speakers’ – becomes respectfully silent when Irwin Cotler rises.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird brought greetings from Canadian Prime Minister Harper and saluted Prof. Cotler as ‘a great Canadian and citizen of the world’ and noted how in the darkest hour of history, Wallenberg through his heroic actions shined a light.
Murray Rankin representing Leader of the Official Opposition Thomas Mulcair, shared that Prof. Cotler was one of his personal heroes in Parliament who “practices what he preached” around the world. As a fellow law professor, Rankin marveled how students still recall Cotler’s law lectures even 40 years later.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau shared how Cotler embodies the Biblical passage from Deuteronomy “Justice, Justice shall you pursue,” adding a personal note of being reminded of his own father [the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau] and over the years being able to turn to Cotler for his logic, fierce intelligence and devotion to what is right and just. Trudeau characterized Cotler as “an inspiration, a dear friend and mentor” to him and to all 308 Members of the Canadian Parliament.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May thanked Cotler for all he has given Canada, including as Minister of Justice bringing “an extraordinary blend of intelligence, kindness, and compassion” – being a mentor to others rather than using his skills to “cut opponents to ribbons”. She recalled Cotler was the most frequently arrested Justice Minister that Canada has ever had, referring to his arrests while defending political prisoners.
Prof. Cotler humbly accepted the Wallenberg Centennial Medal from Dr. Mordecai Paldiel, who represented the IRWF, sharing the teachings of his parents who taught him the values that shaped his life. Cotler paid tribute to his wife Ariela who nurtured and imparted these human rights and justice values in their four children, while being the true politician in the family in the trenches all these years.
Said Cotler, “I am very moved to receive the Wallenberg Centennial Medal in remembrance of and in tribute to Canada’s first honourary citizen – this hero of humanity who demonstrated that one person with the compassion to care and the courage to act can confront evil, resist and transform history…it is tragic that the person who saved so many could not be saved by so many who could. I join the Wallenberg family in calling on President Putin to open the archives – to fill in the blank spots of history – to render the justice denied for so long to Wallenberg who redeemed humanity in the darkest days of the Holocaust.”
In his remarks accepting the Medal, Cotler noted this year marked the 70th anniversary of Holocaust (Shoah) of Hungarian Jewry and the 70th anniversary of the rescue of the remnant of Hungarian Jews.
Professor Cotler was recognized by the IRWF for his longstanding commitment to preserving the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jews during the Second World War before being arrested by the Soviet Union in 1945, and disappearing into the Soviet prison system. Wallenberg was named Canada’s first honorary citizen in 1985.
The IRWF recognized Professor Cotler’s efforts in Holocaust education, in the combating and prevention of mass atrocity, and in the defence of political prisoners worldwide, including Natan Sharansky and Nelson Mandela.
Professor Cotler served as counsel to the Wallenberg family in the 1984 U.S. case Von Dardel v. USSR, which found the evidence “incontrovertible” that Wallenberg hadn’t died in 1947 as the Soviets claimed. In 1990, Professor Cotler chaired the International Commission on the Fate and Whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg with professor Guy von Dardel – Wallenberg’s brother, and in 2001, he was instrumental in establishing January 17 as Raoul Wallenberg Day in Canada.
Past recipients of the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Medal include former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, and leaders of Greece, Denmark, Slovakia, and Armenia.]]>
A niece of Mr. Wallenberg, who perished in a Soviet prison after the war, Swedish and Czech officials took part in the naming ceremony to mark the United Nations Day, devoted to remembering humanitarian achievements.
‘Raoul Wallenberg Promenade’ is a pedestrian lane near the Swedish embassy and leading into the Petrin hill park adjacent to the Prague castle. The Wallenberg memorial ceremony in Prague coincides with another holocaust-linked remembrance due to take place in the Czech capital. On Tuesday, Sir Nicholas Winton, a British philanthropist who rescued hundreds of mostly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia1939, will be awarded the highest state decoration of the Czech Republic.
In 1944 Mr. Wallenberg, posted in Budapest, granted visas and provided refuge to Jews in the Hungarian capital to prevent their deportation by the Nazis to concentration camps.
In early 1945 during the Red Army’s siege of Budapest Mr. Wallenberg was detained by the Soviet authorities for alleged espionage. He and his driver subsequently disappeared. Mr. Wallenberg is believed to have died in a Moscow prison in 1947. However, exact details of his disappearance and imprisonment in Russia still remain unknown despite numerous international efforts to have them explained by Soviet and Russian authorities.
The Czech capital joined Budapest and other cities in the U.S. or Israel to unveil a public memorial to Mr. Wallenberg.
In June the Hungarian capital installed a monument honoring the Swedish diplomat on Erzsebet Square in downtown Budapest.]]>
A man aged 105 known as “the British Oskar Schindler” is to receive the Czech Republic’s highest honour. Sir Nicholas Winton saved 669 Czech Jewish children from the Nazi Holocaust. He used his powers as a diplomat to organise their transport to the UK before the Second World War. Sir Nicholas will fly from London to Prague to receive the Order of The White Lion from Czech President Milos Zeman on October 28. His family initially told the Czechs he would not be able to take the honour personally because of his “poor health”. But the Czech president’s office says Sir Nicholas has personally confirmed he will travel to the capital Prague to receive it. Spokesman of the President’s office Jiri Ovcacek said: “Our protocol manager Jindrich Forejt has been in daily touch with Sir Nicholas. “The President hopes and believes that Sir Nicholas will come to Prague Castle on 28th October and will take the highest honour.”
Protocol manager Jindrich Fojt visited Sir Nicholas in his London residence in July on the occasion of his birthday. He brought him a congratulation card and a present from President Zeman. Shortly after the invitation was sent to Sir Nicholas, his family said he was too weak to travel for the 600-mile journey to Prague. But critics of President Zeman have said he should travel to London where the British war hero lives or to ask the president’s representatives to deliver the White Lion to Sir Nicholas. Before the start of WWII the diplomat used his visa powers to organise the transport of 669 Czechoslovakian Jewish children from Bohemia and Moravia to Great Britain where he found homes for them. The transportation of the children was known as Czech Kindertransport. His activities had not been known for many years until holocaust historian Elisabeth Maxwell revealed them. In 1998 Czech president Vaclav Havel gave him Order of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. Sir Nicholas was awarded an MBE in 1983 for his work in establishing the Abbeyfield homes for the elderly in Britain. In 2002 he was knighted in recognition of his work on the Czech Kindertransport.]]>
Under the pretext of the war in Ukraine, Russia and its neighbouring states are attacking human rights defenders and the media. Democratic states must work to protect those in danger.
At a time were the war that rages in eastern Ukraine brings the relations between Russia and Occidentals back to the bygone pre-Gorbatchev era, an internal struggle between liberal forces and authoritarian regimes makes a bad turn in Russia and several ex-Soviet republics.
In Russia in the North Caucasus, civil activist and blogger Timur Kouachev has recently been found dead after receiving an injection of an unknown substance in the armpit, raising presumptions of murder.
13 months ago, Akhmednabi Akhmednabiev, journalist at the 24/7 Internet agency Caucasian Knot, was shot to death at his doorstep. For lack of suspects, authorities have recently closed the inquiry. Many NGOs for Human Rights had to report themselves as “foreign agents” to avoid fines that would lead them to closing, yielding to a procedure reminiscent to the yellow star Jews had to sew on their clothes.
In Azerbaijan, authorities have arrested several Human Rights eminent defenders. Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist of international renown, was struck by a travel ban. Activists such as Rasul Jafarov, who launched the campaign Sing for Democracy during the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, Intiqam Aliyev, Leyla and Arif Yunus, were imprisoned and accused of high treason. On August 21, unidentified people attacked the office of the Resource Center for NGO Development and Democracy in Nakhchivan. Ilqar Nesibov, known defender of Human Rights, who works at the Center, was atrociously beaten. This new wave of repression has not raised eyebrows among international media focused on Gaza, Iraq and Ukraine.
What remains the most disturbing is the lack of strong reaction from the main institutions for Human Rights, such as the Council of Europe (CE). General Secretary, Mr. Thorbjorn Jagland issued a statement of a remarkable weakness, while Azerbaijan continues to preside the Committee of Ministers, which takes the most important decisions of the EC. In Azerbaijan the Council of Europe is failing to protect the values it is supposed to embody.
Many states have detailed the principles of protection for defenders of Human Rights, but their embassies are unable to support them against the new wave of repression.
There are recent examples of defenders on the run, who received absolutely no support from the embassies of Western countries for the simple reason that they were “expecting new ambassadors”. Despite the proclaimed principles, the current protection system seems totally inadequate.
Even if the wave of arrests may be a temporary phenomenon, the real problem is that democratic states should establish a new system of measures if they really intend to support and protect Human Rights. Unfortunately, the work this defenders is becoming more and more dangerous. There are four simple ways to help journalists and local activists in case of an emergency that we would like to propose.
Defenders and their families should obtain multiple entry visas for Europe and North America countries, just in case they need to leave during an emergency. The current visa regime is heavy and does not allow a long-term stay if the applicant has not made several trips to the United States (or Europe).
Embassies require established procedures to evacuate immediately defenders at risk. If Raoul Wallenberg were a diplomat today, how would he act?
Democratic states should support the implementation of scholarships and internships for Human Rights defenders in their universities, research centres and institutions. Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is about to establish a program for professors from the Russian Caucasus universities, which includes courses in Moscow and Oslo. Similar projects facilitate the flow of information, the transfer of skills and can also help solve security problems, if they provide opportunities for long-term scholarships.
Imprisoned Human Rights defenders should also be supported: prisoners may need food, medicine; their families may face financial problems. Memorial, a Russian centre recognized for the defence of Human Rights, recently published a list of 45 political prisoners under detention in Russia, some of which are defenders of Human Rights. The number of political prisoners in Azerbaijan approaches a hundred, according to the list drown up by local defenders (currently in prison too).
With the aim of creating an effective defence mechanism, a procedure for recognition of defenders at risk should be introduced. The major international organizations for Human Rights (Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Frontline, the International Federation for Human Rights, Amnesty International, the Helsinki Network, The Human Rights House Foundation among others) can provide essential information on these cases. Undoubtedly, there should be a procedure planned for these groups so that they can be able to present it, which is actually most often occurring ad hoc.
Lawyer Gao Zhisheng, one of the leading advocates for Human Rights in China, was recently released from prison after three years detained. Gao appears to have suffered a serious injury, he is unable to communicate adequately and it is unclear whether he will ever be able to lead a normal life. To avoid such tragedies from affecting people who risk their lives fighting for the rights of their fellow citizens, democratic states must move from words to deeds.
It’s not complicated. It’s not expensive. This is a correct thing to do. In the memory of the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of lives at the end of the Second World War, the “Raoul Wallenberg procedure” must be created in order to protect Human Rights and journalists in danger.
Grigori Chvedov (Internet Agency Caucasian Knot and editor-in-chef)
Aage Borchgrevink (Advisor at the Norwegian Helsinki Committee)
Translation: Margarita Trovato, IRWF]]>
Wallenberg did not hesitate to get into the trains directed to Auschwitz and rescue the Jews who were on their way to the camp. A strong leader with an efficient network of connections, he was able to do so, and the stories of heroism and courage about him are the testimonies of the thousands he rescued.
In 1997, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation was founded by Baruch Tenembaum, an Argentinean Jewish businessman, candidate to the Nobel Prize, who decided to dedicate his passion and efforts to keep alive Raoul Wallenberg actions and his legacy.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) is based in New York, with other three subsidiaries offices in Israel, Argentina and Germany.
One of the IRWF’s initiatives has been to proclaim October 5th Raoul Wallenberg Day to commemorate the second man in history who was awarded the honorary citizenship in the United States. The campaign had positive results and today tens of states officially proclaimed the day. Among them we can mention the State of New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie proclaimed October 5th in commemoration of the activist.
The IWRF outreached the New Jersey community as well, and the Mayor of the Borough of Tenafly, Peter Rustin, was the first to declare October 5th Raoul Wallenberg Day in his district.
The proclamation was read during the Council meeting in Tenafly on September 30, and Representatives of the foundation, Manager Zvi Kichel and Special Consultant Dr. Mordecai Paldiel were in attendance.
Dr. Paldiel addressed the audience with a few words on behalf of the IRWF and at the end one of the council men, Maxim Bash, said with tears in his eyes: “I owe a debt of gratitude to Raoul Wallenberg”. Bash’s mother, who passed away last year, was a Holocaust survivor. He added that she as in Budapest at the same time that Wallenberg acted there. At the age of 19, she was smuggled to Sweden and was then adopted by a family until the end of the war. After her passing, Bash looked for the second generation of his family survivors and was able to bring them together in New York a few months ago.
The IRWF works on a various array of programs related to rescue, such as research on saviors and their recognition, identification of houses, convents and hospitals that sheltered children during the Holocaust period, and the award of diplomas and medals in acknowledgement of people who played a role in rescue operations, risking their lives.
In reference to the report, Wallenberg Foundation off the hook in Argentina libel case, published on 21 August, we would like to stress that the ruling by the Supreme Court of Argentina overturned a judgment in favor of a relative of Luis H. Irigoyen, a diplomat stationed at the Argentine Embassy in Berlin during WWII. The relative sued the Wallenberg Foundation after it transmitted scholarly and journalistic works about Irigoyen and the role he played vis a vis Argentinean Jews persecuted by the Nazis.
This affair has its roots in two previous developments in which the Wallenberg Foundation was involved.
One of them was the “Directive 11”, an “strictly confidential” order issued in 1938 by the then Foreign Minister of Argentina, Jose Maria Cantilo, whereby all the Argentinian embassies and consulates around the world were instructed to deny visas to “undesirables or to individuals who were expelled from their countries”, a clear reference to the Jews, among other persecuted. The Directive 11, an equivalent of a death warrant, was revoked in an official ceremony that took place at the Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires, on 9 June 2005. The ceremony was presided by President Nestor Kirchner and his Foreign Minister, Rafael Bielsa.
A few days earlier Minister Bielsa had ordered the removal of a plaque that was placed inside the Argentinian Foreign Ministry Building in homage to twelve Argentinian diplomats that allegedly have worked in favor of persecuted Jews in Europe.The plaque had been unveiled back in 2001 by the Foreign Minister, Adalberto Rodriguez Giavarini, in a ceremony attended by representatives of the Embassy of Israel as well as of other major Jewish organizations. The list of names included in the plaque was provided by the Commission for the Clarification of Nazi Activities in Argentina (CEANA), created in 1997 by President Carlos Menem.
The Wallenberg Foundation had been voicing its unequivocal objection to this tribute, stating that not only was there no evidence that the honored diplomats went beyond their call of duty but, in other cases, e.g. Irigoyen, rather quite the contrary, according to Professor Haim Avni’s book “Argentina & the Jews. A history of Jewish immigration”.This legal struggle was crowned with success and debunks stories about “alleged” saviors. It is not a matter of money. Far beyond that, what was at stake was the legacy of the Righteous among the Nations, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Eduardo Eurnekian is the chairman of The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, and Baruch Tenembaum is the organization’s founder
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) and the Kaloosdian/Mugar Chair at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University join forces in a major research effort under the supervision of Prof. Taner Akcam.
Eduardo Eurnekian, the chairman of the IRWF, announced the ambitious research project that aims to identify Turks and Kurds that reached out to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. “The main mission of the IRWF is to unveil untold stories of rescue and solidarity,” he said. “The issue of the Muslim rescuers who went out of their way to save Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century was not properly studied yet. This is an unchartered territory waiting to be discovered.”
“It is a great honor to join forces with Prof. Taner Akcam and his chair at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in an attempt to identify and honor the many Turks and Kurds that lent a hand to their Armenian neighbors in one of the darkest periods of mankind,” he continued. “We do the same concerning the Holocaust. Rather than focusing on the evil, we strive to highlight the spirit of solidarity of the women and men who, like Raoul Wallenberg, oftentimes risked their own lives to save others. This is our duty towards those saviors and, above all, our obligation to the young generations that should be aware of these role models.”
The research project will start in the next weeks, under the professional supervision of Akcam, a world-renowned Turkish historian and sociologist who has devoted his efforts to try and reconcile the narratives of the Armenian and Turks.
The investigation will be conducted by in-depth and painstaking research “on the ground,” in Muslim (Turkish and Kurdish) provinces where most of the killings occurred, and where most of these stories have been passed on verbally from generation to generation.
The project and its funding was approved by the Board of the IRWF and is expected to last one year. Once concluded, the research will be published and the IRWF will pay tribute to the Muslim rescuers by incorporating their stories into its educational programs.
“Recognition of goodness is one of the pillars of our mission, and we are confident that this ambitious research will enable us to add more names to the list of rescuers,” Eurnekian stressed.]]>
It was exactly on that day as the Congressional Gold Medal was presented to Wallenberg that culminated the final chapter of a three year long effort to honor and commemorate his memory. With the presence of the US Congress, Wallenberg Family members, Swedish government officials who gathered to honor the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, in the presence of descendants of people who had been saved by Wallenberg. His sister, Nina Lagregen, accepted the medal on his behalf.
In January of 1944, the US Treasury Department with the financial support of the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) established the War Refugees Board which sent Wallenberg on his mission of saving the remnants of Hungarian Jewry in Nazi occupied Budapest. Among other heroic actions Wallenberg became famous for distributing to thousands a Hungarian Jews a Swedish ‘Schutz-Pass’ which conferred upon them official Swedish protection thus preventing the German from deporting them to concentration camps.
Out of the 120,000 Hungarian Jewish lives that were saved, Wallenberg is credited with saving around 100,000. Unfortunately and tragically, the fate of Raoul Wallenberg is a mystery. In early 1945, he had tried to contact the Soviet Union in an attempt to obtain food for the Jews he was still protecting in Hungary. Wallenberg left for a meeting with Marshal Malinovsky, a Russian commander, accompanied by his driver but never returned. There have been unclear accounts of his possible fate over the decades but none have ever been confirmed.
The commemoration of Wallenberg began in 2011 with the creation of the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Commission (RWCCC) by Ezra Friedlander under the chairmanship of Peter Rebenwurzel in collaborative partnership with the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation which spearheaded the effort to honor Raoul Wallenberg with a Congressional Gold Medal n honor of his centennial;legislation that was introduced by Representatives Gregory Meeks and Nan Heyworth in the House and in the Senate by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and unanimously passed in 2012-the year of his centennial.
Prior to the actual ceremony, a luncheon was held to honor Eduardo Eurnekian, the Chairman of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF), and its founder Baruch Tenembaum. The IRWF’s mission is to preserve and spread awareness regarding the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg through research, commemoration activities and educational programs.
Both, Mr. Eurnekian and Mr. Tenembaum are highly dedicated to promoting human rights and learning from and exemplifying heroes, such as Raoul Wallenberg. They are also committed to discovering the whereabouts and fate of Raoul Wallenberg, and have offered an award of half a million US dollars to anyone with valid and confirmable information.
The Luncheon honoring Mr. Eurnekian featured the participation of Senators Cruz, Gillibrand, Kirk, Cardin, Graham, Levin, Isakson, Franken, Blumenthal, and Representatives Meeks, Schneider, Paulsen, Van Hollen, McDermott, Hultgren, Goodlatte, McGovern, Pittenger, Harper, Schakowsky, as well as US Treasurer Rios who all acknowledged Nina Lagergren and members of the Wallenberg family who flew in from Sweden along with the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Per Weterburg and Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt who all paid tribute to Wallenberg’s heroism and highlighted the memory of the late Guy von Vardel, Wallenberg’s half-brother, who spent much of his life to discover Wallenberg’s fate.
The luncheon turned out to be the perfect beginning to set the tone for a day of remembrance in honoring Raoul Wallenberg’s legacy. The ceremony in the afternoon included the participation of Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senate Majority Leader Reid, Republican Leader McConnell, and Democratic Whip Hoyer.
Directly following the ceremony, there was a brief reception to close out the events with a special presentation by NYS State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to honor Peter Rebenwurzel who was the Chairman of the RWCCC and whose father-in-law, Alexander Herman, was actually saved by Raoul Wallenberg. Rep. Chaka Fattah and Rep. Paul Gosar made remarks along with members of the Wallenberg Family and Annette Lantos, the wife of the late Rep. Tom Lantos, who was also saved by Wallenberg.
“Having Wallenberg receive the Congressional Gold Medal 70 years to the day that he arrived in Budapest was a Kiddush Hashem (Sanctification of God’s name) and an opportunity for the world to see both survivors who were saved by Wallenberg as well as descendants of those he saved gather in Washington for no other purpose than to say thank you in the presence of Wallenberg’s sister Nina”- said Peter Rebenwurzel who chairs the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Commission established by Ezra Friedlander, CEO, The Friedlander Group which advocated for the Bill’s passage.
Overall, the long day of events was an emotional and momentous occasion but also a culmination of many groups of people all connected and inspired by Wallenberg to come together and honor an incredible hero.]]>