January 9, 2006

Celebrate an overlooked hero

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Jan. 16 is Martin Luther King Day. Americans dedicate the day to the memory of this great fighter for equality and human rights. The irony is that just one day later we commemorate a great American tragedy.

It’s the heroism of another American (honorary) citizen, who fought for human rights, just like King; who paid the ultimate price, just like King; but who, years after that terrible fate, unlike King, still did not receive the recognition he deserves.

Raoul Wallenberg saved tens of thousands of people from certain death by the Nazis in World War II. No one in history has saved so many lives. And he paid the price when on Jan. 17, 1945, he was taken by the Soviet Army. King has a grave his family can visit. Wallenberg’s fate and whereabouts remain a mystery.

As we celebrate King’s legacy, we must remember it should be implemented toward doing everything we can to bring Wallenberg home. The justice of having a day dedicated to King, a great humanist, is overshadowed by the indifference that obviously we have not done enough as a nation and as individuals to fight for justice for Wallenberg. Let’s together bring Wallenberg home.

Baruch Tenembaum, founder, The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, New York.