August 7, 2012

The IRWF commemorates Raoul Wallenberg’s 100th birthday in London

Our commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Raoul Wallenberg’s birth was held on August 4th,  2012, at 12.30 at the Wallenberg memorial near Marble Arch in London.  The ceremony was jointly arranged by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, the Western Marble Arch Synagogue and the Church of Sweden.  The IRWF was represented by Mr Alexander Blonsky and Ms. Jill Blonsky. About 200 people attended and they included the Swedish Ambassador, Ms Nicola Clase;  the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Angela Harvey along with Councillor Audrey Lewis; the Rausing family, whose funding paid for the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial;  Michael Sternberg, representing his father, Sir Siggy Sternberg who was unable to attend owing to mobility problems; Carl Nisser, a Swedish attorney and a relative of Raoul Wallenberg); and Brian and Raoul Mooyaart.  Mr Mooyaart’s mother – Barbara Mooyaart-Doubleday -translated the Diary of Anna Frank into English.  His son, Raoul, is named after Wallenberg.  The ceremony began with Rabbi Rosenfeld of the Synagogue speaking of Wallenberg’s incredible achievement against all odds and about our debt to him and  inviting the gathering to recite Psalms of Thanksgiving for the life of Raoul Wallenberg.  We began with Psalm 120.  He and members of the Synagogue congregation then sang Psalm 121, and the recitations ended with the gathering all reciting Psalm 124, the psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance.

After the psalms, those who had brought flowers, namely the Swedish Embassy, the Church of Sweden and the Rausing family, and the IRWF placed them on the memorial bearing a statue of Raoul Wallenberg.

The Very Reverend Michael Persson of the Church of Sweden spoke several words about the character of Wallenberg.  How his friendly caring nature took him to Budapest and naturally predisposed him to helping others rather than entering the family’s banking business which did not suit him at all.  The Swedish Ambassador spoke of her pride at Raoul being the country’s main hero and how the Swedish Government will never give up pushing for the truth about his fate.  The Lord Mayor spoke of her feeling of honour and privilege to mark this occasion in London and how this is a more important event even than the Olympics now being held in the British capital. .

After the speeches a Swedish choir sang a Swedish summer song which brought a fitting end to the tributes.

My Tribute to Raoul Wallenberg, by Jill Blonsky

It is given to few people to save a life:  still fewer can claim to have saved several lives, but to have saved the lives of tens of thousands marks an unsurpassed victory of courage, compassion and sanity in a world which plunged into madness during those dark days of Nazi Germany.  But as Raoul himself said, he went to Hungary to “save a nation” and in this he succeeded magnificently, defeating Hitler’s evil plan to destroy totally the Jews of Europe.

Sadly, after saving so many lives, Raoul was unable to save his own.  Along with his driver, Wilmos Langfelder, he disappeared into the Stalinist prison system and his fate remains a mystery to this day.  In recent years, tantalising snippets of information have been released about his arrest and interrogation and it is to be hoped that before long the world will know what happened to this great man.

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, established to promulgate Raoul’s life, work and example, pays tribute to this remarkable man on this the 100th anniversary of his birth.  For me personally he serves as a shining example of what we should all strive to be.  He is my greatest hero, a beacon of humanity and it is befitting that we should be making this tribute at a time when the world is coming together in the name of sport and friendship.  The world was made a richer place by Raoul’s presence in it and Sweden must be justifiably very proud of one of her greatest sons.

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