Ballads and stories embrace the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg

Renowned Swedish folk musician Ben Olander brought music, pictures, and an inspirational message to Svenska kyrkan (Church of Sweden) and Yeshiva Har Torah school in New York on Nov. 14. The singer’s ballads and stories embrace the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from certain death during the Nazi regime. In songs about the hero, Olander promotes Holocaust awareness and encourages his audiences to believe that through courage and selflessness, each individual can change the world, just as Wallenberg did when he issued false passports and established safe houses to rescue 100,000 lives.

”[Wallenberg] showed us that empathy in combination with unselfishness is the finest gift we can give our fellow man,” Olander says in the liner notes to his music. ”If each and every one of us acts in the spirit of Wallenberg we can reach far in the search for a better world.”

Olander performed in association with the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to develop educational programs honoring the legacy of Holocaust saviors and enabling people to learn from the past. On Olander’s last visit to New York in March, his performances at six schools engaged students aged 8 to 21 in riveting historical discussions, slideshows, and musical performances, all while guiding them to be kind to others, accepting of people who appear different, and courageous to stand up for good against evil.

Olander’s own commitment to the past and passion for spreading Wallenberg’s message began when he was a 7 year-old hearing the stories of his Danish grandparents. They had helped to smuggle Jews and resistance fighters from Denmark to Sweden during World War II.

Wallenberg inspired Olander particularly on two songs. In ”Our Gleam of Hope,” a rock ode to the Swedish diplomat, Olander sings of ”This solitary man amongst us, Now with glory to his name, Became our gleam of Hope, In a world of guilt and shame.” The other song, ”No Hesitation,” challenges people to emulate Wallenberg’s morality in their everyday interactions, so that ”Raoul Wallenberg will live amongst us – for all time to come.”