At the young age of 32, Raoul Wallenberg was detained by the Soviet forces in Debrecen, Hungary, and his fate has been unknown ever since.
Nearly 27,000 days have elapsed since January 17, 1945, the day of his disappearance – agonizing days for his loved ones, for the people he saved and for all those who cherish his courageous legacy.
During these 73 years, the world has seen dramatic changes. Countries, regimes and ideologies have faded from the face of the Earth, giving rise to new ones. Science and technology have made quantum leaps. The very same regime that abducted and probably killed both Wallenberg and his loyal aide and driver, Vilmos Langfelder, back in 1945, imploded and collapsed almost three decades ago.
History is fluid, but not for Mr. Wallenberg. For him, it stopped on the day he was apprehended by his captors.
His promising future was cut short in the most undeserving manner. All of a sudden, a war hero was turned into an anonymous prisoner, devoid of all basic rights.
This remarkable man gave up a comfortable life and a bright future and immersed himself into a nightmare in wartime Hungary. Risking his own life to save scores of innocent people from the claws of the Nazis, he became himself a defenseless victim of another tyrannical regime, as if he were a war criminal of the worst kind.
Wallenberg the rescuer was left literally alone. His own country, Sweden, did very little to bring him back home; successive Swedish governments had made a few timid attempts that most likely gave the Stalinist regime the impression Wallenberg was expendable.
His own relatives back in Sweden, owners of the most powerful economic group of their country, led at that time by Marcus and Jacob Wallenberg, also seemed to have chosen silence rather than any meaningful measures to extricate their cousin from the Soviet Union.
Even the United States, co-sponsors with Sweden of Wallenberg’s risky mission, did not apply any sizable pressure on Stalin.
THE STRUGGLE for his release was by and large a solitary endeavor led by Raoul’s half-brother, Prof.
Guy von Dardel, until his passing in 2009. Nowadays, Raoul’s half-sister, Nina Lagergren, age 97, is still waiting for him to come back home, and the search for answers is mainly conducted by Prof. von Dardel’s daughters, Louise and Marie.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation was established with a mission to preserve and divulge Raoul’s legacy as a rescuer and to remind the world that he is still a victim and as such, he deserves all our efforts to be redeemed.
One way of remembering him is through our Houses of Life program, which identifies physical places in Europe that gave shelter to the victims of Nazism, mainly children left by their parents before being deported to the death camps. So far, we have located more than 500 Houses of Life in Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Albania, Greece and Denmark, and the numbers are growing by the day. Our aim is to affix a commemorative plaque in each of those Houses of Life, to remind visitors and passersby that people had been saved there by courageous rescuers.
Raoul Wallenberg was not alone in his rescue efforts, but he was singular in terms of his determination and efficacy. What he achieved in his short-lived mission in Budapest (which lasted seven months) is flabbergasting.
Thanks to his courage, ingenuity and resourcefulness, he managed to save scores of lives. He spared no means to achieve his goal, using all kind of tactics and methods and on many occasions, putting his own life in jeopardy.
When the Soviets liberated Hungary from the Nazis, Wallenberg decided to get in touch with the Soviet military commander in order to arrange the future of the refugees. Instead, his hosts detained him and his chauffeur, and even today it is not clear why. The man who did so much for others, was unable to avoid his own tragic fate.
If we had to define the mission of our NGO in a few words, we would use the term hakarat hatov (“recognition of goodness”). We acknowledge Raoul Wallenberg’s goodness and we pledge to keep his legacy alive for the sake of the young generations.
We are proud to fulfill this duty and we hope that the Russians will acquiesce to provide credible information into the fate and whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg.
He deserves a proper burial, next to his loved ones.Eduardo Eurnekian and Baruch Tenembaum are the chairman and founder respectively of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, a global-reach NGO devoted to preserving and divulging the legacy of the Swedish hero.
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