On 17 January 2004 the 59th anniversary of the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg, arrested by the Soviet army in 1945, took place.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation commemorated in America and Europe the figure and feats accomplished by the Swedish diplomat that saved the lives of tens of thousands of people persecuted by the Nazi regime while fulfilling his official duties in Hungary.
In a ceremony organized in Budapest by the Hungarian Wallenberg Association (HWA), a memorial meeting took place at a Wallenberg commemorative plaque in the XIII District, unveiled 15 years ago. These meetings are made every year since 1989. During the ceremony, Rabbi Robert Garai read a poem by Miklos Radnoti, a poet murdered by the Nazis in 1944. Minister of Interior, Monika Laperth, delivered a speech.
Also in Budapest, Wallenberg’s sister and her grandaughter, Nina and Louise Lagergren, inaugurated an exhibition dedicated to the ”Hero without a Grave”, opened at the ”House of Terror” museum.
Among the people present is worth mentioning the Sweden Ambassador to Hungary, Bengt Ludborg; the representatives of the HWA, Ferenc Orosz and Bela Huff; the mayor of Budapest, Gabor Demszky, and the directors of the museum, Maria Schmidt and Gabor Kiszely.
After the opening, Mrs. Lagergren and her grandaughter visited a secondary school that since September 2004 will bear the name of Raoul Wallenberg.
Following an initiative of the IRWF, Wallenberg was remembered in the USA in several educational institutions. Among them it is worth mentioning Cheadle Hulme School; Gesher Jewish Day School, from Northern Virginia; New Community Jewish High School; Bet Shraga Hebrew Academy; Pardes Jewish Day School and The Greenfield Day School.
Moreover, as part of a remembrance campaign launched by the IRWF, Wallenberg was recalled in the prayers delivered by Rabbis Douglas Kohn, Emanu El Congregation, San Bernardino, California; Claudio Kupchik, First Hebrew Congregation, Wetchester County, New York; Ilana Rosansky, Shalom Temple, Salem, Massachusetts, and Amy Perlin, B’nai Shalom Temple, Northern Virginia.
America and Europe’s media joined the IRWF campaign of remembrance. The prestigious argentine daily newspaper ”La Nación”, published an editorial on the 59th. anniversary of Wallenberg’s disappearance. The paper, founded in 1870 and with an average of 200,000 copies sold per day, also published a letter signed by Baruch Tenembaum, founder of the IRWF. In Britain, another letter signed by Mr. Tenembaum was published by the distinguished London based weekly, The Jewish Chronicle.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the City of Port Phillip commemorated the life and work of Raoul Wallenberg with a ”contemplative seat” outside St Kilda Town Hall. The seat was unveiled by Por Philip’s Mayor, Liz Johnstone, on 18 January.
The seat was designed by landscape architect Andrew Brophy.
Constructed of recycled kauri and metal, the contemplative seat wraps around the liquid amber tree planted in Wallenberg’s honour in June 1994 by the Reverend Tim Costello, the then St Kilda mayor. It includes an inscription from the Talmud in both English and Hebrew: ”…and whoever preserves the life of a single human being … it is as if he preserved an entire world.”
The Star of David is represented in a series of broken lines on metal along the ground reflecting the destruction of Europe’s Jewish population and the dispersal of surviving Jews across the world in a vast diaspora. The memorial has had the support of Lars-Erik Wingren, the Swedish Ambassador.
Frank Vajda (photo), member of the IRWF and saved by Wallenberg in 1944, attended the ceremony.