Happy Mother's Day!
The Hungarian government was concerned that the Nazis would take control of Hungary and signed an agreement that involved removing all Jews from the country. The Jews of Budapest, fearing for their safety, turned to the governments of neutral countries for help. The Swedish embassy became involved and began issuing temporary passports to Budapest Jews on a small scale that would eventually grow into a full blown operation. Raoul Wallenberg was approached to become a part of this effort. He readily accepted and joined the Swedish group as the secretary to the Swedish diplomatic mission in Budapest. However, Raoul knew that to be able to do what needed to be done for the Jewish people, he must have complete and full authority to handle all situations as needed, without interference. Fortunately, his request was granted.
Raoul reached Budapest in the summer of 1944. He discovered that the Nazi leader, Adolf Eichmann, a participant in the creation of the "Final Solution", was working furiously to add the Jews of Hungary to his death list. To his dismay, Raoul found that nearly a half-million Jews had already been deported from the country. Only 200,000 Jews remained in Budapest.
As the war came to an end, Jews were being deported in large numbers on trains headed to death camps. As Raoul's situation became more desperate, he climbed onto the tops of the trains and began issuing his passports as quickly as possible to as many people as he could reach. In other situations, he bribed and threatened Nazi authorities to keep them from removing Jews. Raoul continued his fight until the end of the war. His efforts resulted in the rescue of
over 100,000 Jews. Sadly, the story does not end so well for Raoul.
Raoul met the advancing Soviet military with high hopes and relief. He was taken to the Soviet military headquarters located just outside of the city. Raoul became a prisoner of the Soviets. Why? The exact reason is not known. What we do know is that he vanished into the intricate system of Soviet prisons, sacrificing his freedom, and ultimately his life, to preserve the lives and freedom of others.
There is a memorial park dedicated to the memory of Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest. A monument, erected on his behalf, contains an inscription which states: "May this park commemorate as an exclamation mark for the post-Holocaust generations the name of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews. May it also remind all of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish martyrs, of the labour-camp inmates who died unknown, and of all those righteous men and women who, putting their own lives at risk, saved persecutees of certain death."
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