A Hero’s Many Faces
Raoul Wallenberg in Contemporary Monuments
By Tanja Schult
Raoul Wallenberg is widely remembered for his humanitarian activity on behalf of the Hungarian Jews in Budapest at the end of World War II, and known as the Swedish diplomat who disappeared into the Soviet Gulag in 1945. Today, Wallenberg’s example is used to communicate humanitarian values and human rights in many democratic societies. His story incorporates a classical hero narrative which has survived the ‘un-heroic’ 20th century.
In 2008, there exist thirty-one Wallenberg monuments in twelve countries on five continents, from Hungary to Sweden, from Canada to Chile, from Australia to Russia. The rich diversity of the monuments invites to discuss the different concepts of Wallenberg and heroism as expressed in the artists’ works. The art-historical focus of this interdisciplinary study makes it a valuable contribution to the discussion of personal monuments, as well as to the socio-historical research on the commemoration of Wallenberg and the concept of the hero.
TANJA SCHULT is a researcher at Stockholm University and is working as a freelance curator. She was previously employed at Södertörn University College. Educated in the History of Art and Scandinavian Studies in Erlangen, Lund and Berlin, she completed her PhD in 2007 at Humboldt University, Berlin.