Project of declaration
The Parliament of the City of Buenos Aires adheres to the international claims regarding the whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg and urges the National Government to express itself on this issue before international organizations and the Russian Government.
The Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has its headquarters in Buenos Aires, New York and Jerusalem. It was created in 1990 as an integrated movement, by people of different religions, to rescue the lives of those anonymous heroes that during the Second World War died or risked their lives to save others, in order to appraise them and point to them as an example for young people; in truth, this is the culmination of a study started thirty years ago by John XXIII. We must remember that John XXIII was a papal nuncio in Istanbul and supported Raoul Wallenberg during the Holocaust in saving thousands of Jews. This foundation is the culmination of a long process and most surely will be understood as an expression of brotherhood for all nations.
Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who in 1944, thanks to a North American initiative, headed a mission to save all Jews living in Budapest, from extermination by the Nazis. Helped by other diplomats, he gave out Swedish identity cards- a neutral nation at the moment of the war- and gave refuge to those that were being persecuted.
Raoul Wallenberg descended from an old Swedish family who had founded a very important bank. His grandfather was a diplomat who represented his country in China, Japan and Turkey. His father, an officer in the Royal navy, died young and Raoul’s grandparents were in charge of his education. His childhood and his youth were happy and unconcerned times for him. After having finished his law studies in France, he turned to another profession: architecture, and traveled to the United States to study. A short while before the beginning of the war, he visited Palestine and took the opportunity to become familiar with what at that moment was the main subject of the Jewish community: the project to create a National Jewish Home. As of this visit, his identification with the cause of the Jewish people, became even stronger. When the war broke out, even Sweden was not an appropriate place to exercise his profession as an architect, therefore Wallenberg had to change his occupation. He took up business and began to manage an international commercial enterprise, the ”Mellaneuropeiska Handells A.B.”. His partner, Koloman Lauer, a Hungarian Jew, slowly became his intimate friend. Wallenberg learnt from him what was happening with the European Jews. In Lauer’s home he met a group of Jews who had escaped from Germany and from other countries occupied by Hitler, and had the opportunity to hear their tales of horror about persecutions.
Wallenberg had another source of information: his uncle, the banker Jacob Wallenberg had a close relationship with Carl Gordeler, ex mayor of Leipzig and one of the leaders of the resistance of the German uprising who prepared the conspiration of the 20th. of July 1944. In 1943, Gordeler went to Stockholm and gave Wallenberg a petition for Churchill, which he had to convey to London.
Raoul Wallenberg considered it his duty to help those who were being persecuted. The struggle of the Danish resistance, which had managed to transport more than 6.000 Jews to Sweden, marked him deeply. At that moment he convinced himself that both the diplomatic notes and the official negotiations were useless, and that if he wanted to succeed, he would have to take greater risks and violate the established legality.
When Lauer’s family began to be in danger due to the effects of the German pressure on Hungary, Wallenberg decided to help and save them. At the same time, he decided to do the same for the greatest possible number of Hungarian Jews. He spoke Hungarian fluently and knew Budapest well thanks to his countless business trips. But when he requested his visa, all sort of difficulties arose. There was also the question of how to obtain the means, in Hungary, essential for him to do things quite seriously. Circumstances helped him to solve these questions little by little. The War Refugee Board, entity created by president Roosevelt to aid victims of racial persecutions, considering that the Swedish nationality was an advantage for these activities, therefore assigned its affairs in Stockholm to the chargé d’affaires of the embassy, Ivar Olsen. Very soon Olsen, informed of Wallenberg’s objectives, created a plan: he destined him to ” Section B”, which represented the interests of the Soviet Union in Hungary and provided him with plenty material resources.
Wallenberg received this plan with great enthusiasm, but first he had to overcome a big difficulty: he was not a career diplomat. Diplomatic immunity was indispensable to him, especially after German troops had entered Hungary. Finally, after long negotiations, Wallenberg was named Secretary of the Embassy. At the beginning of July 1944, after spending a few weeks in the Foreign Office to learn about the prevailing situation in Hungary, he set off for that country. It was quite clear that his mission would be difficult and dangerous. He couldn’t be given precise instructions and he would have to improvise on the spot. He was given two lists: one with the names of the politicians with whom he had to be very careful and discreet , and another, with the names of some Jews whom he had to try to save in the first place.
By his own initiative,”Section B” of the Swedish embassy in Hungary had already granted 650 ”protection passports” to Jews who could prove any sort of bond with Sweden. This fact produced conflicts with the Hungarian and German administrations, who refused to recognize the validity of the passports. From the moment of his arrival in Budapest, Wallenberg began to be personally responsible of granting ”the passports” and for this reason he created a ”Section C”. Till that moment, the passports didn’t look like real documents, because they were certificates and provisional receipts. Wallenberg changed them, giving them the appearance of real documents, with the Swedish shield and the photograph of the holder, whilst he signed each one of them. On the other hand, he granted them in favor of the different countries represented before the Hungarian government by the Swedish embassy. A short while after his arrival there were 5,000 documents in circulation, authorizing the holder to go back to Sweden or to one of the seven countries that she represented” when the military situation allowed it”. In the meanwhile the holder of the document was under the protection of the Swedish embassy. ”Section C” in the embassy became the principal refuge for the Jews. On the other hand, following this stimulating example, embassies of neutral countries, the Nunciature, the churches of other confessions and the Red Cross, also began to extend certificates of protection. It was quite clear that these documents were not in accord with the international protocol and that they were efficient only if the local authorities ”looked the other way”. But Wallenberg was not satisfied with giving out these safe-conducts. Personally he was busy establishing connections with the Hungarian authorities and the administration services and, also with the German services, obtaining releases. He did not ignore the influence that Adolf Eichmann had on the members of the Sztojay cabinet, nor that deportations continued in the provinces. New anti-Jewish laws had been issued in the country and the persecution of Jews on the streets continued.
Wallenberg managed to get an interview with Sztojay and succeeded in getting him to refuse a German ultimatum on the deportation of Jews from Budapest. He even obtained a promise of collaboration from influential people in the city’s public life, like Horthy, to save the Jews of Budapest. When the pro-nazi sympathizers of ” Crosses of Arrow” tried to take power, Horthy won them to it and named Lakatos as Prime Minister. Wallenberg had a meeting with him and asked him to dismiss Eichmann and his staff and turn over to the Hungarians the administration of the detention and work camps. The new chief of government accepted the suggestion and passed it on to the German ambassador Veesenmayer, who surprisingly sent it on its course. Thanks to his many informers, Wallenberg knew well what was happening with the Jews in Budapest and that deportations had not been annulled but only postponed, for fear of the reaction of the neutral observers in the city. The Germans went on sending small convoys to Auschwitz, and sometimes Wallenberg managed to pull out a few victims who were already on the railway platform.
Round-ups were cause for concern. Wallenberg, with his ambassador’s authorization, registered about thirty buildings owned by Jews, as Swedish property and put them under Swedish protection; thousands of Jews found refuge there. The German reply to Horthy didn’t take long. His government was dismissed, the authority was passed on to the hands of Szalassy, chief of the Crosses of the Arrow, and Horthy was deported to Germany. Eichmann went back to Budapest and the government declared that ” protection passports” were not worth anything. From that moment the rights of the Jews were restricted. In this period, the road to Auschwitz had been cut off by the soviet army and Eichmann organized a march on foot towards Vienna, of about 25.000 people, most of them women. Thousands died during the march: of hunger, thirst and fatigue. Wallenberg followed them with a caravan of trucks loaded with food and medicines, trying to separate the greatest number of people with their ”protection passports” from the column. But as the guards were Hungarian, they could verify what type of documents those were and this led to the failure of his intentions. Wallenberg managed, with the help of the baroness Kemeny, wife of the Minister of the Foreign Office, for Szalassy to acknowledge his passports. In exchange for this, he promised her the protection of the Swedish government once the allies had won the war.!
At the same time as the soviets were getting near to Budapest, the city was being dominated by chaos, which got much worse when gangs of Hungarians and Germans organized collective murders in the Saint Stephen park.15.000 Jews are estimated to have died in three weeks. The 15th. of January 1945, the soviets entered in the city. Wallenberg sent an agent to see his ambassador, asking permission to place himself with his Jewish protégés under the soviets. All communications with Stockholm had been interrupted and the ambassador authorized him under his own responsibility. On the 17th. of January Wallenberg was seen entering his office accompanied by an officer and two men of the soviet military police. He picked up some things, he called his assistant Muller and his cashier Biro, to whom he gave money and told them that he was under the custody of the soviet police and that together with his friend and chauffeur Debreczen he was on his way to see marshal Malinowski. He himself ignored if they had to consider themselves prisoners or not.
After this, nobody saw Wallenberg again even though every effort was put in the search. In July 1945, the Jewish community of Budapest sent him a message through the Swedish Foreign Office, in which they informed him that the recently reconstructed Jewish hospital, would be called Wallenberg Hospital. But the message received no answer. Later on a monument was inaugurated in his honor in the Saint Stephen’s Park , which had been the work of the sculptor Patzay, representing an athlete fighting with a serpent and at its foot all his heroic feats. In March 1946, when the whole personal of the embassy in Budapest went back to Stockholm, the soviet embassy in Hungary confirmed to the Swedish government that Wallenberg was under the ”protection” of the red army. His
fate moved the Swedish public opinion, and there were several summons in parliament, a ”Wallenberg commission” was created, he was proposed as candidate to the Nobel Prize for Peace, and infinite diplomatic steps were taken with Moscow, a petition with more than a million signatures was sent to Stalin asking for his release. But during more than ten years the soviet government always gave the same answer: they knew nothing of Wallenberg. When after Stalin’s death the period of revision of soviet politics began, in 1957 Gromyko announced that a prisoner called Wallenberg had died of a heart problem in 1947 in the prison of Lubianka in Moscow. Notwithstanding, prisoners of different nationalities, later set free from the soviet prisons and concentration camps , assured that after 1947 Wallenberg was still alive and some of them remembered having talked to him around 1950 or 1951.
The mystery around Raoul Wallenberg’s fate, a witness of the tragic days of the Second World War who victoriously defied an authoritarian system to be help his fellow men, has not yet been revealed. His humanitarian and courageous activity, helping the Jews in Hungary, allowed him to enter in the gallery of the ”Righteous Gentiles of the World”, those gentiles that defied all sorts of risks and put their own lives in danger, and demonstrated that even in the worst moments there can be a profound sentiment of solidarity and humanity. Let us then honor the memory of all of them …
Having said this I request the approval of the present project.
Translation: María Pensavalle