January 18, 2005

Service honours Wallenberg


Members of Saskatoon’s Jewish community held a service Monday honouring Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who helped save tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Second World War.

”Today I’m here to thank Raoul Wallenberg,” Leslie Fenyes said at the service at Agudas Israel Synagogue. ”Not just for saving 100,000 Jews in Budapest, but especially for saving one — my mother.”

Wallenberg, an honourary Canadian citizen, risked his life issuing protective passes and setting up safe houses that helped rescue 100,000 Jews in Hungary during the Second World War.

Taken from her Budapest home by Nazis in 1944, Fenyes’s Jewish mother was one of the people lucky enough to receive Wallenberg’s protection.

”If it wasn’t for Raoul Wallenberg, there’s very little chance that my mother would have been a survivor . . . pretty well impossible,” said Fenyes in an interview after the service.

Six years ago, Fenyes returned to Budapest with his family and visited the Raoul Wallenberg memorial.

”We all quietly looked at each other and smiled, and walked away,” he said.

Wallenberg was arrested in the closing days of the war by the former Soviet Union and taken to a Soviet prison. Soviet authorities said he died in 1947, although his fate remains uncertain. Today he is celebrated as a human rights champion who risked his life to save thousands of others.

Monday marked the 60th anniversary of his arrest. Raoul Wallenberg Day is observed in Canada every Jan. 17.

Blackstrap MP Lynne Yelich, Saskatoon Eastview MLA Judy Junor, and Mayor Don Atchison also spoke at the event.