January 18, 2005

Remembering Raoul Wallenberg


He saved thousands of Jews from Nazi persecution and was abducted by the Soviet Army.

Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jews and other groups persecuted by the Nazis in Hungary during the Second World War, was honored yesterday, in Buenos Aires, 60 years after his disappearance in Budapest.

Wallenberg, a devoted benefactor, was abducted by the Soviet invader on January 17th, 1945. He was transferred to military barracks of the Red Army east of Budapest and since then his whereabouts remain a mystery, despite some indications that he died in Russia.

At the corner of Figueroa Alcorta Ave. and Austria St., where his monument is located, Mrs. Linnea Arvidsson, the Swedish Commercial Attaché, stated that ”he was a man like us”, who committed his life to justice.

The ceremony was also attended by the ambassadors of Germany, Mr. Rolf Schumacher; Austria, Dr. Gudrun Graf, and Rumania, Alexandru Micula; the Chargé d’Affairs from the Hungarian embassy, Zoltan Bács; the Secretary of the Netherlands embassy, Reneko Elema; the Counselor of the Uruguayan embassy, Daniel Castillos, as well as Amiel Sandrine and Jean Marie Cabrieres, from the embassy of France.

Historian Lucía Gálvez; the AMIA Great Rabbi, Salomón Ben Hamú; Buenos Aires’ congressman Norberto Laporta, and the head of the ”Cidicsef” Sepharadic centre, Mario Cohen, also attended ther cerermony. Every person attending the ceremony laid white carnations at the base of the monument.

The ceremony was organized by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. Also among those present were its founder, Baruch Tenembaum, an Argentinian who resides in the United States, as well as Gustavo Jalife, a member of the Foundation who mentioned that similar tributes were being paid in Beijing, Budapest, Montevideo, and other cities.

Two survivors from Nazi persecution whose lives were saved by Wallenberg, Laszlo Ladanyi and Tomás Kertesz, laid wreaths to honor him. Ladanyi said that he was 23 years old when he received the passport that Wallenberg gave him. Today he is 83 and still keeps it in his house, as a token of gratitude.

Wallenberg was a Protestant architect who belonged to a family of industrialists. He himself designed the passports and then he managed to have the authorities respect them. Likewise, he increased to 30 the number of safe houses located in Budapest, which were granted neutrality status to lodge the refugees.

Now, six decades after the disappearance, the Wallenberg Foundation will launch a worldwide campaign to collect 100,000 signatures and request the United Nations to demand that his disappearance be cleared up. Tenembaum urged the Russian Federation to finally clarify this tragic mystery. The monument reads: 4 August 1912 – ?

Translation: Josefina Prytyka