July 12, 2002

Wallenberg at School – To educate in order to preserve personal freedoms


The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation presented its educational program ”Wallenberg at School”, an initiative which aims at preserving individual freedoms taking as role models the actions of solidarity carried out by thousands of saviors during the Second World War.

Raoul Wallenberg, whose 90th birthday is on August 4th, is the Swedish diplomat who, in only six months saved thousands of Jews from deportation and extermination by the Nazis in Hungary during the Second World War. He was kidnapped and disappeared by the Soviet Army on January 17th, 1945.

Under the coordination of the IRWF volunteer Jean Pierre Bendahan, and based on an idea developed by the institution´s vice-president Natalio Wengrower, the new presentation took place at the ”Nuevo Horizonte” school located in the Constitución area of Buenos Aires. With the presence of a group of students who actively participated in the debate after his intervention, the special guest speaker, journalist Nicholas Tozer, described the cases of Wallenberg and other saviours. He particularly stressed the contribution made by the Polish underground hero Jan Karski, the first eyewitness who gave testimony about the Holocaust to the allied forces.

Far from being something ”of the past”, the stories of those who risked their lives to save others are models to be followed in a world by scoured by violence and discrimination against minorities and those who are different. ”The preservation of individual freedoms is a fundamental work which must be carried out when they are in effect; in the same way that we must preserve our health while we have it, and not once we have lost it and it is already too late”, said Baruch Tenembaum, founder of the IRWF.

Over the 80 minutes of the presentation, the most frequent questions by the students were: ”How can Wallenberg’s example can be applied to our reality?”. ”Is it really possible to change reality by actively participating to modify its injustices?”

The initiative had the support of the of the school´s principal, Beatriz Montes de Oca, who is now carrying out a poll among students asking them to give their opinions and suggestions in order to improve these presentations. The program ”Wallenberg at School” is carried out in consultation with Dr. Beatriz Kunin de Levy, who is the Pedagogical Director of the Private Education General Direction of the government of the city of Buenos Aires.

The inauguration of the series took place on Friday, June 28th at the ”Proyecto 3” school in the Nuñez area of Buenos Aires. The next series of conferences will count with the presence of the historian José Ignacio García Hamilton, among other intellectuals and teachers committed to this project.