August 4, 2007

Raoul Wallenberg’s Birthday (1912 – ?)

Today we commemorate the birth date of the man who saved the lives of over 100 000 Jews during the Holocaust, and who made the ultimate personal sacrifice for this cause: Raoul Wallenberg.

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has organized a variety of events to celebrate Raoul Wallenberg’s legacy. Volunteers and staff of the Foundation visited the Wallenberg Memorial in front of the United Nations, where they laid flowers aside the monument. Also visited was the nearby Wallenberg Walk street sign – marking the section of road where the monument stands.

The IRWF marked Raoul Wallenberg’s birthday at Camp Young Judea in New Hampshire. With the direction of Abigail Tenembaum, the children at the camp performed scenes from Raoul Wallenberg’s life. Some children told the stories of survival of their own grandparents, many saved by anonymous rescuers. Wayne Goldstein of camp Young Judea concluded that ”if of all the Judeic program at the camp the one thing the children take with them is the notion that, like Wallenberg, they can make a difference and should not stay silent when faced with injustice, I am very happy.”

Children aged 8-10 at the Manhattan JCC Summer Camp were treated to a celebration during their afternoon activities, during which they were able to participate in a dramatization of Wallenberg’s life, decorate a banner declaring ”Happy Birthday Wallenberg”, design and write about their own ideas of what a ‘hero’ might be. Visits to other summer camps are planned during the month of August.

For the past two years the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has been actively campaigning for the establishment of Raoul Wallenberg Days throughout the United States. Most recently, the state of Iowa officially named August 4th Raoul Wallenberg Day. In New York state, Raoul Wallenberg Day is October 5th – the date in 1981 that Wallenberg was granted honorary U.S. citizenship. Other states that recognize a Raoul Wallenberg Day include Connecticut, Michigan, Nevada, and New Jersey. Many countries around the world, from Canada to Argentina, also celebrate Raoul Wallenberg day.

It is of the utmost importance for the IRWF to preserve Raoul Wallenberg’s legacy, as well as celebrate his cause. In the words of the Foundation’s Vice President Abigail Tenembaum, ”These events not only raise awareness of the past, but also enable us to enjoy the freedom and acceptance that Raoul Wallenberg gave his life for.”

Raoul Wallenberg traveled to Hungary in 1944 as a Swedish diplomat, and while there, issued protective passports enabling Jews to escape persecution in Hungary. Wallenberg also created and maintained a variety of safehouses in which Jews, or anyone facing Nazi discrimination, were able to seek refuge. In 1945, Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviet government, and never seen again. To this day there is no solid conclusion to his story. Today would have been Raoul Wallenberg’s 95th birthday.

The IRWF is committed to preserving his legacy for future generations, and upholding the values of solidarity and civic courage, which are the ethical cornerstones of the Saviors of the Holocaust.

For more information about the IRWF and related events, please visit our website, at www.irwf.org.