July 13, 2012

US Congressional Gold Medal bestowed upon Raoul Wallenberg

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation salutes US Senate and House of Representatives

Legislation to recognize World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg with the country’s highest civilian honor was passed unanimously on July 11th by the senate.  The bill, S. 1591, was introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, in an effort to award Wallenberg with a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal, in recognition of his heroic acts during the Holocaust and is expected to be signed by President Obama shortly.

“Raoul Wallenberg’s heroic rescue of Hungarian Jews during one of the darkest hours of human history exemplifies his outstanding spirit, his dedication to humanity and the responsibility for us all to speak out against atrocities,” Senator Gillibrand said.

“I am proud that Congress has recognized Raoul Wallenberg’s extraordinary and enduring courage by passing my bipartisan bill bestowing him with the Congressional Gold Medal.”

“This is a day of joy and celebration for all the people that devoted their lives to the cause of Raoul Wallenberg”, said Eduardo Eurnekian, Chairman of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

Wallenberg was recruited by President Roosevelt’s War Refugee Board to save Hungarian Jews from deportation in 1944 and was given a diplomatic passport, a large sum of money and instructions to save as many lives as possible, using any means at his disposal.  He is credited with saving thousands of Hungarian Jews over a period of six months by creating multiple safe houses, removing Jews from trains departing to Auschwitz, pursuing convoys carrying Jews, threatening and bribing both German and Hungarian officers and issuing forged identification papers, including the Schutzpass, an impressive looking but counterfeit Swedish passport, which spared the lives of 20,000 Jews.  Wallenberg was arrested by the Russian Red Army in January of 1945 and his fate remains unknown.

“We can not but express our gratitude to the US Congress and to the people of the United States for this outstanding gesture. May God bless them all”, stated Baruch Tenembaum, founder of the Wallenberg Foundation.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan made Raoul Wallenberg an honorary citizen of the United States, an honor only previously extended to Winston Churchill.

A Congressional Gold Medal is created by the United States Mint to specifically commemorate the person and achievement for which the medal is awarded. Each medal is therefore different in appearance, and there is no rule of reaching a standard design. Congressional Gold Medals are also considered “non-portable”, meaning that they are not meant to be worn on a uniform  or other clothing, but rather displayed much like a trophy. Often, bronze versions of the medals are struck for sale.

Among the recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal it worth mentioning John Wayne, Elie Wiesel, Simon Wiesenthal, Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, Winston Churchill, Charles Lindbergh, Howard Hughes, Irving Berlin, Robert Frost, Bob Hope, Walt Disney, Robert Kennedy, Joe Louis, Frank Sinatra, Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Dalai Lama, Jonas Salk, Thomas Edison and Aung San Suu Kyi.