Rescuing an altruistic hero

Reviving the character of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg means remembering a hero who saved over a hundred thousand people form a definite death in hands of the Nazis. Undoubtedly remembered in Argentina, he is a role model and plays a key part in preventing serious violations of human rights (which have marked our countries’ past and recent history) from happening again.

Wallenberg carried out a titanic operation: he designed fake passports that would be given out to those targeted by the Nazis. Thus he created the Schutz-Pass: Swedish passports that in fact were just papers painted in blue and yellow (the Swedish colors) and showed the three crowns together with a cluster of stamps and signatures. These documents were used to initiate the rescuing tasks. In addition, he opened thirty Swedish Houses which sheltered 15.000 people. His stile was not very diplomatic for according to the circumstances, he sometimes yelled, threatened, or also bribe the Nazis.

When Adolf Eichmann began to deport Hungarian Jews in cargo trains, Wallenberg decided to intensify the rescue operations. While the railroad cars’ stopped at the different stations, he smuggled into the vehicles and gave out fake passports. One time, German soldiers were given the order to shoot him, but they were so impressed by the diplomat’s courage that they deliberately shot their weapons to the open.

Wallenberg’s deeds echo on our society through the testimony of the victims who survived due to his aid. This is how Architect Tomás Kertesz remembers the Swedish diplomat: ”I was among a large group of people; we had to enter the railroad cars but he came to save those of us who had a Swedish passport. Because of him I am alive. He handed me a passport that saved my life more than once”. This memory is enough to distinguish and value Wallenberg’s work. His labor transcended frontiers, extending its influence to the four corners of the world.

The Wallenberg Foundation is playing a very important role because it shows to the new generations an outstanding role model. Reviving nowadays the so called ”angel of the rescue” or ”Hero without Grave” (because of his missing status under Stalin’s regime), plays a central part in allowing memory to be the fuel for future actions, and in preventing past mistakes and tragedies to happen again.

As the Undersecretary of the United Nations’ Humanitarian Commission, Jan Eliasson, said: ”Raoul Wallenberg did not have an alternative. There is not such a ‘thing as a taking choices process’ when facing evil”.

Wallenberg never complained about having to go to Hungary to save Jews. He simply did it and in numbers that surmount the 100.000. He knew the path he had to follow and did it with a decisive attitude. Raoul Wallenberg was a role model: a regular man who showed us that action is not only possible, but also crucial; he demonstrated us that it is not always necessary to ‘be ready’ or to discuss our decisions to do what is right.

It is an established fact that truth is the first of war’s many victims. When conflict emerges, genuine behaviors surface. Wallenberg’s heroic deeds, which saved many lives from the Nazi massacre, contrast with the secrecy surrounding his disappearance after being taken hostage by soviet soldiers. Now we are inquiring about his fate.

Wallenberg’s vanishing reminds us the thousands of Argentinean citizens who have also ”disappeared”. We claim truth and justice also for them.
Silvia Fajre
Minister of Culture of Buenos Aires

Translation: Ileana Cheszes