January 19, 2015

Marking disappearance of Swedish diplomat and Holocaust hero Wallenberg

STOCKHOLM, Jan 18 — Nearly 200 people gathered in Stockholm yesterday to light candles and mark the 70th anniversary of the disappearance of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust.

“It’s important to be here and to remember, not only because he saved the lives of Jews, but also because he is a model of civic courage,” said Lisa Ronnback, 42, who attended the memorial with her daughter.

The commemoration was for “Raoul, and for all those who have made a difference,” said Michael Wernstedt, president of the Raoul Wallenberg Academy, a leadership programme.

“These past weeks, events have shown that it’s important to defend democracy,” Wernstedt said, urging demonstrators to light a candle “for all those who spread light.”

Wallenberg was sent as a special envoy to the capital of Nazi-controlled Hungary in 1944, and by early 1945, he had issued Swedish papers to thousands of Jews, allowing them to flee the country and likely death.

Several months before the war ended, the Soviets invaded Budapest and summoned the Swede to their headquarters on January 17, 1945. He was never seen again.

In 1957 Soviet authorities produced a document claiming that a prisoner by the name of Wallenberg had died a decade earlier, but researchers and his family reject this account.

Wallenberg’s 93-year-old half-sister Nina Lagergren, who attended Saturday’s memorial, told AFP previously: “It is possible to find the truth.” — AFP