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US Congress gives gold medal to Swedish hero

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Foreign Minister Carl Bildt in front of a picture of Wallenberg. Photo: Bela Szandelszky/TT
14:36 CEST+02:00
Raoul Wallenberg, famous for rescuing thousands of Jews during WWII - and President Obama's personal hero - will be posthumously presented with a Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday.
"It's absolutely fantastic that the congress has chosen to recognize Wallenberg in this way," Lena Posner-Korosi, President of the Council of Sweden's Jewish communities, told The Local on Wednesday.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award bestowed by the US Congress - an honour Posner-Korosi said Raoul Wallenberg certainly deserved. 

"He had truly incredible courage. He pulled people off of trains on their way to Auschwitz. It's wonderful that the values he stood for are actually recognized."
 
Seventy years have passed since Wallenberg's first trip to Budapest as Sweden's diplomatic representative. During six months in Nazi-occupied Hungary, he was able to save the lives of tens of thousands of Jews by granting them Swedish passports. 
 
 
After being arrested by Soviet forces in Hungary on January 17th 1945, Wallenberg was never seen or heard from again. His relatives have made appeals to Obama and Vladimir Putin to learn Wallenberg's fate, to no avail.
 
Ronald Reagan made Wallenberg an "honorary citizen of the US" in 1981, and his legacy has lived on. Posner-Korosi noted that the US was one of the first countries to recognize the good that the Swede had done for the world - and said his example is particularly relevant today.
 
"Especially now, with how the world looks today, and the way people treat minorities...Roma, Jews, and others... it's actually unfathomable that more hasn't changed 70 years on," Posner-Korosi said. 

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"Of course Wallenberg absolutely deserves to be honoured in this way. But we also hope that it will be a reminder of how a single person can and should treat others."
 

Raoul Wallenberg. Photo: Pressensbild/TT

The ceremony takes place in Washington at 3pm, Eastern Time, 9pm Swedish time. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt will participate in the ceremony, along with Speaker of the Riksdag Per Westerberg. 

Last year the Swedish Academy made August 27th Raoul Wallenberg Day to commemorate his legacy each year.

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