August 5, 2009

IRWF New York reunites Wallenberg survivors for the first time

”When I look at my children, at my grandchildren; when I look at my family, I see Raoul Wallenberg’s face,” said Kayla Kaufman, one of the many Holocaust Survivors rescued by Raoul Wallenberg. Along with Kaufman, the lives of 100,000 people would change their course thanks to the birth of the Swedish diplomat on August 4th, 1912. Wallenberg’s heroism was crowned by tragedy. In 1945 he was arrested by Soviet troops. His fate still remains a mystery.

In order to celebrate what would be his 97th birthday, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) has organized a variety of events in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Montevideo, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and London. In New York, dozens of survivors saved by Wallenberg gathered for the first time to celebrate the man who saved their lives. Accompanied by relatives and friends, the reunion turned out to be a touching experience for many of them.

It certainly was for Sylvia Jonas and Agnes Adler. The meeting brought together these two women who studied in the same school when growing up in Budapest – the Scottish Girls’ School. In March 19th 1944, the Nazis invaded Hungary and their destinies were split apart, only to be reunited again more than sixty five years later. Similar stories filled up the rooms of the IRWF headquarters, located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Trying to survive the Holocaust, David Adler and George Schwartz found refuge in the same safe house. Protected by the neutral status of the Swedish flag, these buildings established by Wallenberg provided shelter to persecuted people. Armed with the same Schutz-Passes provided by Wallenberg that saved their lives, Wallenberg survivors shared their stories of rescue.

The importance of Wallenberg’s acts was also remembered by Baruch Tenembaum, Founder of the IRWF, Ms. Margareta Barvaeus, Deputy Consul of Sweden in New York, and Dr. Mordecai Paldiel, Research Consultant for the IRWF, who claimed for Wallenberg’s real fate to be revealed. Even though Raoul Wallenberg can undoubtedly be considered one of the biggest heroes humankind has ever seen, he was arrested by the Soviets in January 1945 after they wrested control of Budapest from the Nazi regime. What happened after that, no one knows. Following Dr. Paldiel’s words, guests signed IRWF’s worldwide campaign aimed at uncovering Wallenberg’s fate. More than 27,000 people have already supported the cause which will later be sent to the President of the Russian Federation.

”Let this only be the last year Wallenberg’s birthday is celebrated while he is still missing,” said Tenembaum.