EDUCATION FOR ALL
Gordon Brown was today awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Medal for his services to educating young people about the Holocaust and its rescuers.
At a ceremony hosted at the Residence of the Swedish Ambassador by Her Excellency Nicola Clase, Mr Eduardo Eurnekian, Chairman of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) presented Mr Brown with the award. The ceremony was attended by a number of Holocaust survivors and rescuers, including Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 Czech children before the outbreak of the war in September 1939 by evacuating them and aiding them in rebuilding their lives.
The Centennial Medal is awarded in honour of Raoul Wallenberg, who used his position as Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest, Hungary to protect the lives of tens of thousands of Jews near the end of the Second World War. Wallenberg was detained by the Soviet Army in 1945 and disappeared in their custody in suspicious circumstances. Whilst his actual fate remains unknown, his courage and humanity have inspired many. His legacy has been preserved by the IRWF, which promotes the values of “solidarity and civic courage” through education and public awareness campaigns.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Brown said: “To be here with Sir Nicholas today is a huge privilege. For forty years he sought no award or recognition. Only later was the full extent of his bravery known. He really is a hero of our country.”
Accepting the medal, he continued: “This is an award that should have gone to my father. He inspired me to think of the sacrifice of people in the Holocaust and made me aware very early in life of the story of Raoul Wallenberg. Hailing from a neutral country, Wallenberg volunteered to go and do what he could to help. This story of courage beyond endurance is a story that must be told for generations to come.”
As Chancellor in 2005, Mr Brown allocated funds to the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) to allow British school pupils to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. So far, 18,000 pupils have visited the site where over one million people perished at the hands of the Nazi regime. In 2009, shortly after visiting the camp himself, the British Hero of the Holocaust Award was also established to recognise the heroism of British nationals during the Holocaust, with Sir Nicholas amongst its recipients.
Presenting the medal, Mr Eurnekian said: “This award is bestowed upon Gordon Brown in recognition of his lifelong commitment to promote story of Raoul Wallenberg. The award is also a recognition to the brave British rescuers of the Holocaust – one of whom is here today, Sir Nicholas Winton, who turned 104 last month. We hope this award elevates the recognition of such honourable and courageous actions.”
The Swedish Ambassador said: “As we remember Raoul Wallenberg’s life and work, as well as other heroes´ courageous actions, we reaffirm our common aspiration for moral understanding and justice in the world. His story will forever live and inspire future generations”.
Mr Brown has long been vocal about the Wallenberg story. He profiled Wallenberg in his 2007 book ‘Courage’, describing him as “an inspired leader whose strength of character summoned others to his cause and whose bravery defied all logic of self-preservation.”