Less than 24 hours after it was inaugurated by Sweden’s king and foreign dignataries, a monument to Raoul Wallenberg was defaced by spray paint on August 25, 2001. There were no words or message or claim of responsibility.
Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf unveiled the 12, elongated bronze figures, which look like faceless people or gnarled dogs, on a stone walkway leading to the Baltic Sea waterfront. Nearby is a large bronze replica of Wallenberg’s signature, as it appeared on the many lifesaving passports he signed between June 1944 and January 17, 1945 when he was arrested by Soviet troops in Budapest. He was 32 years old at the time. His fate is still unknown.
Wallenberg -a member of one of Sweden’s wealthiest and most prominent families- distributed Swedish passports to Jews, which allowed them to stay in Budapest, Hungary. He won diplomatic protection for whole neighborhoods and organized the distribution of food and medical supplies. His efforts are credited with saving tens of thousands of lives.
Danish artist Kirsten Ortwed designed the memorial.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; his wife Nane, Wallenberg’s niece; and Nina Lagergren, sister of Wallenberg attended the ceremony.
‘It’s great. It really triggers your imagination, and doesn’t allow you to remain indifferent. I hope it would become a meeting place for young children and their teachers to gather and hear about Raoul’s heroic acts.’- Lagergren said of the memorial.
‘No attack will prevent to continue with the erection of Raoul Wallenberg memorials commenced during the last years in Buenos Aires, New York, Toronto and other cities in the world’. He added that: ‘These atrocities instead of intimidating us, encourage us to work even harder. At the request of a Nina Lagergren’s idea we have initiated a campaign with the aim of naming schools all around the world with the name of Raoul Wallenberg; be it in Buenos Aires or in Peking.’
King Carl Gustaf XVI said that the work is ‘a great example to those of us who want to live as fellow humans’. The UN Secretary General said Wallenberg is ‘an inspiration for all of us to act when we can and to have the courage to help those who are suffering and in need of help.’