December 29, 2004

Waiting for Raoul

Sixty years after the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg

January 17th 2005 will mark the 60th anniversary of the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg. Six decades have elapsed since this light of universal hope was extinguished.

A protestant by faith and the son of a powerful Swedish family of industrialists and bankers, Wallenberg obtained his degree in architecture at the University of Michigan and, after having made a few attempts in this field, he went into business.

He travelled to Eastern European countries where he witnessed the plight of the Jews and other victims of Nazism.

Tenacious, courageous and with a persuasive personality, in 1944 a group of prominent countrymen suggested that he should be entrusted with the dangerous mission of saving the lives of the Hungarian Jews. He accepted this mission, risking not only a comfortable way of living but also his own life.

When he was only 32 years old he was appointed First Secretary of the Swedish diplomatic mission in Budapest. On arriving at the Hungarian capital he found that only about 200,000 Jewish citizens had not yet been sent to the death camps. Adolf Eichmann himself was efficiently carrying out this macabre task.

Raoul started by designing a security passport which was honoured by the authorities thanks to his own efforts. He increased to thirty the number of ”Swedish Houses”, a series of buildings that enjoyed the same neutrality status that Sweden had during the war, which served to lodge Jewish and other groups persecuted by the Nazis. He escorted the Jews along the death marchs where he continued to deliver documents that guaranteed immunity, as well as food and medicines. He had no scruples when it came to persuading and threatening whomever he deemed necessary, ignoring diplomatic protocols if this meant that more lives could be rescued. The success attained by his methods led his colleagues in other diplomatic delegations to follow suit.

He was last seen on January 17th 1945, when Soviet military men escorted him to the headquarters of the Red Army in Debrecen, east of Budapest. Russian intelligence felt that sheltered behind his rescue mission, Wallenberg was carrying espionage activities for the United States.

Since then Wallenberg’s whereabouts remain unknown.

After six decades of his disappearance, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation will start a worldwide campaign to collect 100,000 signatures, as many as the lives saved by the ”Hero without a grave”, which will be presented to the United Nations to urge the solution of one of the most controversial and unresolved cases of modern history.

The wealth of nations is not only the result of accumulating capital, but above all, a precious benefit that important countries obtain and preserve by looking at their past, directly and without shame, regardless of how atrocious it may have been.

We find that life comprises things that are more important than life itself. One of these things is truth. When we renounce truth the fall is unavoidable and unlimited.

In this regard the Republic of Chile has just set an example when the report of the National Committee on Political Prisoners and Torture was released. Thanks to this historically significant report, the Chilean people as well as the rest of the world will finally be in a position to learn the truth about the responsibility of the State in times of the military dictatorship that ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990.

In an article published by the French newspaper Le Monde on December 10th,2004, the President of Chile, Mr Ricardo Lagos, wrote the following:

” … every society needs to find the way through which its true facts can be reinstated into History. In 1988 the people could at last put an end to the dictatorship, expressing their civic enthusiasm fervently. The whole world witnessed how Chile said No!, and rejected the authoritarian regime.”

”Fifteen years ago, also in the month of December, we could freely choose a President and a Parliament to return to the democratic path. Since then we have advanced, in a mature and prudent manner, but we have never halted on account of the hindrances that had kept the truth hidden.”

”… if we do not want to ever undergo such an experience we should never again deny it.”

We do endorse the spirit of these wise words of the Chilean President in order to exhort the Russian Federation, on a strictly humanitarian basis and since they are the only ones in a position to do so, to find a definitive answer to one of the most tragic mysteries in the history of mankind.

Translation: Josefina Prytyka