In Praise of Raoul Wallenberg

Raoul Wallenberg Memorial

If you have a moment, maybe you could to stop whatever it is you are doing and meet an extraordinary man, a man who saved tens of thousands of lives only to lose his own — Raoul Wallenberg.

During the Second World War, the 32-year-old Raoul Wallenberg acted as a Swedish special envoy in Budapest, issuing protective passports and sheltering Jews. Not only that, but he used his own charisma to rescue Jews that were being taken away for deportation.

Raoul Wallenberg did not use traditional diplomacy. He more or less shocked the diplomats at the Swedish legation with his unconventional methods. Everything from bribes to extortion threats were used with success.

In the second week of January 1945, Wallenberg discovered that Eichmann planned a total massacre in Budapest’s largest ghetto. The only one who could stop it was general August Schmidthuber, commander-in-chief for the German troops in Hungary. Wallenberg’s ally Szalay was sent to deliver a note to Schmidthuber explaining how Wallenberg would ensure that the general be held personally responsible for the massacre if it proceeded and that he would be hanged as a war criminal after the war. The massacre was stopped at the last minute thanks to Wallenberg’s action.

— From the Jewish Virtual Library

In January 1945, during the Siege of Budapest, Wallenberg was detained by the Red Army on suspicion of espionage and subsequently disappeared. He was never seen again. His fate remains unclear, but it is most likely that he died in prison.

Why did they detain him? It’s unclear. Perhaps the Soviets could not understand why a Swedish man would take so much trouble to save Jews. But what is there to understand about kindness, about mercy, about hope, about love, about self-sacrifice?

It’s enough to read about a man like Raoul Wallenberg to be grateful to be alive, to be proud that you are human.

Raoul Wallenberg

I invite you to read more about Raoul Wallenberg:

Or at least to listen to this short podcast about him from the BBC:

10 thoughts on “In Praise of Raoul Wallenberg

  1. We all forget the heroes because the villains are so much more interesting. It is sad that so many people did wonderful things during WWII only to be overshadowed by those who did unspeakable evil. It is good to see someone remembering the good in the world nowadays when all around us hate is allowed to grow.

    1. You are so right Jay! The villain is always in the spotlight. Still, there are many people and many communities who remember and admire Raoul Wallenberg, and it is safe to say that so long as people have memories, he will never be forgotten.

  2. I agree with we give to much attention to villains and not heroes. Maybe because the hero’s fates were no good overrun with terrorists like we shortly can say “we were”.Perhaps in a decade or so when we survive the human annihilation situation we can find hero’s more inviting then villains that always seemed to live longer with more. Then the hero’s will live better. Very interesting post. Thanks. Makes you think.

  3. An amazing man who risked his life on a daily basis to save others. I know he was only one of many who helped where they could, but millions didn’t. Why do some people use their humanity and others ignore it. Even today, after all the lessons of WWII I hope there are people like this in Ukraine.

  4. Heroes are everywhere. As are the villains.
    The rest of us agonize over what’s right, what difference we can make, and being overwhelmed with daily living.
    I applaud those who find ways to rise above it and oppose evil.
    How did you find him?

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