October 7, 2002

Raoul Wallenberg square inaugurated


After several false starts, Raoul Wallenberg, a humanitarian credited with saving the lives of thousands of Jews during World War II, has a patch of turf honouring him in Montreal.

Yesterday, a dedication ceremony baptized a charming downtown terrace tucked behind Christ Church Cathedral as Raoul Wallenberg Square.

Wallenberg illustrated how peace ”cannot be found in ignoring injustice against any human being in the world,” the Most Rev. Andrew Hutchison, Anglican Archbishop of Quebec and Eastern Canada, told a mostly Jewish audience peppered with diplomats.

That lesson is especially relevant in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the archbishop told the consul-generals of Israel, Hungary, Russia and France, as well as the ambassador of Sweden.

The attacks marked the ”end of an era of invulnerability for the United States and, more importantly, the end of an era of impunity” that had been taken for granted since World War II, Hutchison said.

”The consequences of actions taken or failure to act in other parts of the world have indeed come home to the heart of North America,” he said.

The talented and privileged Wallenberg was only 32 when Sweden appointed him to its Hungarian embassy. As one observer noted yesterday, he became ”almost intoxicated with a mission” to save Jews bound for Nazi concentration camps.

His direct actions – and his example, which inspired others to join the fight – are credited with saving about 100,000 lives.

In January 1945, he was arrested by Soviet troops and has not been seen since. He would have been 90 this year.

Wallenberg, who was not a Jew, has been made an honorary citizen of Canada, the United States and Israel.

In the late 1990s, the Canadian Friends of Raoul Wallenberg asked the city to recognize Wallenberg by various measures, including planing an oak grove in Montreal’s Botanical Garden. A city committee was asked to look at parks suitable for renaming but the process didn’t yield positive results.

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