Raoul Wallenberg, whom my father, Bruce Teicholz, knew and worked with in Budapest, was someone he admired.
Bruce Teicholz had arrived in Budapest in early 1942, a refugee from Poland. (He was born Benzion Teichholz, and was also known by the first names Bernhard, Ben, Bronislaw, Boris, and Bruno). He alerted the Jewish community to what was occurring to the Jews in Poland but they did not believe the same could happen in Hungary. Undaunted, my father began to organize an underground unit that built bunkers, forged baptismal certificates and other identity papers, and smuggled people across the border.
By the time Raoul Wallenberg arrived in Budapest in July 1944, Teicholz, under the code name ”Glück”(which means ”luck”) was leading a ”technical” unit of hundreds of young men and women working in the underground.
Wallenberg was a few years younger than Teicholz, but Wallenberg made a strong impression him.
Wallenberg, he later recalled … was up early at the train depots handing out Swedish passports and saving lives. All day he ran from place to place, making sure the Swedish Houses were safe.
What my father so admired in Wallenberg was that he risked his life to save Jews when he didn’t have to. My father, as a Jew, felt obligated to do so it was a matter of life and death for him and his people. But Wallenberg had no such reason, and the zeal with which he did so impressed my father all the more.
He witnessed Wallenberg at 3 or 4 in the morning pulling people off the cattle cars destined for Auschwitz.
Wallenberg and my father met on several occasions. Most significantly they met to discuss the fact that my father’s underground group was copying Wallenberg passes. When Wallenberg issued one, my father’s group printed 100. Wallenberg was concerned that the Germans might invalidate them suspicious of so many Swedes. Part of the problem was that the Swedish passes often went to the richest Jews. Teichholz’s forged passes were more democratic the underground passed them out to Jews all over Budapest.
After they met, Wallenberg approved of Teicholz making the counterfeit passes. Together they were able to save many more lives than Wallenberg would have been able to alone.
My father last saw Wallenberg in January 1945 as the Russians first entered Budapest. He heard a few days later that Wallen! berg had been arrested by the Russians. My father always assumed the Russians suspected Wallenberg of being a spy. He never saw him again.
My father, having lived until 1941 in Poland, always believed that Raoul Wallenberg died in prison either during an interrogation or due to harsh prison conditions and that the Russians wanted to cover that up. It was my father’s experience that if someone was alive in the Russian gulag, there were many ways for them to get a verifiable message out. That Wallenberg did not succeed in doing so meant that he was dead.
Nonetheless, my father always supported the efforts of the various government inquires and Wallenberg committees to arrive at the truth of what happened to Raoul Wallenberg.
My father spoke about Wallenberg on many occasions to historians and&nb sp; journalists. He was interviewed and appears in the book by Thurston Clarke and Frederick Werbell, ”Lost Hero: The Mystery of Raoul Wallenberg,” as well as Elenore Lester’s ”Wallenberg: The Man in the Iron Web” and the NBC miniseries ”Wallenberg” (1985) as well as in works of history by Randolph Braham and Yehuda Bauer. He was honored by the Jewish community of Budapest in 1988 and a plaque exists at the base of the Holocaust memorial in Budapest acknowledging Bruce Teicholz ”for the lives he saved.” Bruce Teicholz died in 1993.