Holocaust Hero Honored on Postage Stamp

United States Postal Service: Postal News
May 8, 1996
Stamp News Release Number 96-039

Washington — Raoul Wallenberg, credited with saving as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews during World War II, will be honored on a postage stamp in 1997. Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA), Postmaster General Marvin Runyon, and Postal Service Governor S. David Fineman unveiled the stamp design today in a ceremony held at Wallenberg’s bust in the capitol.

Representative Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress said, ”It is most appropriate that we honor Raoul Wallenberg with a U.S. stamp. In this age devoid of heroes, Wallenberg is the archetype of a hero — one who risked his life day in and day out, to save the lives of tens of thousands of people he did not know whose religion he did not share.”

Lantos was born in Budapest, Hungary and was sixteen when Nazi Germany occupied his native country. He and his wife Annette were saved by Wallenberg. ”I am very proud that my country is honoring Raoul Wallenberg with such a lasting memorial,” said Fineman. ”The commemorative stamp we unveil today will ensure that his story is told anew to generations and generations of Americans.”

[Marvin] Runyon said, ”Raoul Wallenberg epitomizes human morality, the good that we all aspire to in life. His heroism and compassion should never be forgotten. A United States postage stamp will be a fitting tribute to this man of great honor, a man who showed us all that one person can make a difference.”

Born August 4, 1912, an heir of a prominent Swedish banking family, Wallenberg studied architecture at the University of Michigan in the 1930s. In 1944, he was appointed a Swedish special diplomatic envoy to Hungary. With disregard to his safety, Wallenberg went to Hungary and proceeded to save tens of thousands of Jews from Nazi death camps, primarily by issuing them falsified Swedish passports. Wallenberg is credited with saving 70,000 lives when, by boldly threatening a Nazi general, he prevented the bombing of a Jewish ghetto. Wallenberg disappeared while on a trip to the Soviet zone and was rumored to have been arrested there. According to documents released in 1991, he died in a Soviet prison on July 17, 1947.

In 1981, acting on legislation initiated by Representative Lantos, President Ronald Reagan approved a special Act of Congress, making Wallenberg an honorary American citizen, a distinction awarded to only one other person — Sir Winston Churchill. The Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Churchill in 1965. A montage, the stamp features a profile portrait of Wallenberg on the telephone. In the background, a group of Holocaust survivors looks over his shoulder. A Schutzpaß, the false passport he often issued, is included in the upper left corner. Burt Silverman, the designer of the stamp, is an established artist whose work has appeared on the cover of The New Yorker magazine.

Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

February 5, 1997

Shira Tidings, Secretary
Holocaust Genocide Project
New York, USA

Dear Ms. Tydings:

I want to thank you for contacting me to seek information about Raoul Wallenberg. I am very impressed and proud of you for choosing this victim of injustice for your work on the Holocaust/Genocide Project. I am always encouraged to hear that young people care about the fate of one of the greatest humanitarians in history. Thank you also for sending me a copy of An End to Intolerance. It is clearly a publication of the highest quality, and I would be very pleased to contribute.

As you may know, I was rescued by Wallenberg after the Nazi occupation of Budapest. My wife, Annette, also was saved by his efforts. I was only sixteen when I was placed in a forced labor camp outside of the capital. Luckily, after twice escaping, I returned to Budapest and found protection in one of Wallenberg’s ”safe houses.” At that time, I joined the anti-Nazi underground.

Because Raoul Wallenberg protected me during that period, I survived the war. Two years after the communist takeover in Hungary, I emigrated to the United States. Annette and I were later reunited in America. We believed Wallenberg had died in Soviet custody but later began to hear of reliable evidence suggesting he was being held in prison.

Our crusade began to educate people about the great deeds of this hero to pressure the Soviet government into releasing Wallenberg. While I am proud to say that the case of Raoul Wallenberg has been well publicized around the world and has been taken up by countless humanitarian organizations, I cannot claim equal success for our efforts to free him from prison or learn the truth about his ultimate fate. This we may never know.

I choose to think of Wallenberg, and speak of him, in the present tense, holding out hope that he yet lives. What is of equal importance, however, is the lesson we can all learn from his life. Annette summed it up best when she wrote in an article for Moment magazine the following:

During that whole dark nightmare, no one else so directly confronted Nazi cruelty. No one else had the audacity to follow the death marches, to jump in front of guns leveled at Jews, to pull people off deportation trains. Raoul Wallenberg not only saved 100,000 lives; he saved our faith in humanity.

Wallenberg showed us that one individual — motivated by a genuine and personal concern for human rights — can face evil and triumph; that one person can make a difference; that there are genuine heroes to illuminate our age.

Thank you for writing to me about your interest in Raoul Wallenberg. If you would like to submit to me a list of questions about my experience in Budapest, I will endeavor to accommodate your needs. I am grateful to you for telling his story and keeping hope alive.

Sincerely yours,

Tom Lantos
Member of Congress

Source: iEARN