Obama honours Raoul Wallenberg’s legacy

Obama honours Raoul Wallenberg's legacy
US president Barack Obama praised the "selfless acts" of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg in a special video message released Thursday to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“When the Jews in Budapest were marked with that yellow star, he shielded them behind the blue and yellow of the Swedish flag,” said Obama.

“All these years later we still remember Raoul Wallenberg as he was, a young man in his early 30s, who earned his place forever in the righteous among nations.”

In his two minute video tribute to Wallenberg, who famously saved the lives of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during World War II, Obama also praised the Swedish diplomat because he “reminded us of our obligations to our fellow human beings”.

The video was played during a ceremony at Stockholm’s Kulturhuset that was attended by Swedish democracy minister Birgitta Ohlsson, author Ingrid Carlberg, who recently published a book about Wallenberg, as well as US ambassador Mark Brzezinski.

“I feel both great hope and sorrow today when I think of this young man who gave his life for our fundamental values,” Brzezinski told TT.

In addition to the ceremony in Stockholm, another ceremony took place in the rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington, DC in which Sweden’s Princess Madeleine and Riksdag speaker Per Westerberg participated.

Earlier this week, the US House of Representatives voted unanimously to posthumously award Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal.

The medal, first awarded to first US president George Washington, is given to honour “the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions”.

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Despite his heroic efforts on behalf of Hungary’s Jews, the fate of Wallenberg, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in August, remains shrouded in mystery.

He was detained by Soviet forces in 1945 and later disappeared. In 1957, the Soviet’s issued a statement saying that Wallenberg died of a heart attack in 1947, but the exact circumstances of his death remain a mystery.

Thursday’s ceremonies were some of several events planned by Sweden to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Wallenberg and honour him for being “a diplomat who chose not to be indifferent and to rise to a higher moral calling” in the words of US ambassador Brzezinski.

David Landes

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