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Sweden marks first-ever Raoul Wallenberg Day

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Sweden marks first-ever Raoul Wallenberg Day
Raoul Wallenberg Day
12:38 CEST+02:00
Sweden celebrated its first official Raoul Wallenberg Day on Tuesday to honour the famed Swedish diplomat who rescued thousands of Jews from the Holocaust, an event hailed as "important" by one of his descendants.

"It's fantastic," Cecilia Åhlberg, Wallenberg's great-niece, told The Local.

Åhlberg, whose grandmother Nina Lagergren was Wallenberg's half-sister, will be joined by ministers Erik Ullenhag and Birgitta Ohlsson on Tuesday afternoon to speak at a Raoul Wallenberg Day event to be held at a Stockholm town square named after the late diplomat, whose exact fate remains shrouded in mystery.

The event is one of several being held across Sweden as part of the country's first official Raoul Wallenberg Day following a decision taken by the Swedish Academy earlier this year to designate August 27th, Raoul Wallenberg's name day, as an official day of commemoration in the Academy's official calendar.

SEE ALSO: Wallenberg death still 'shrouded in mystery'

The move by the Academy came in the wake of lobbying that began in 2012, which the government designated as a year to commemorate Wallenberg with a slew of events organized in Sweden and abroad and that coincided with the 100th anniversary of Wallenberg's birth.

"Last year we worked hard to prepare for the 100th anniversary and since the spring we have worked night and day to get here. Finally it's happening and it feels great," Åhlberg added.

RELATED GALLERY: What do Swedes know about Raoul Wallenberg?

Wallenberg is credited with saving 100,000 of Jews while he was stationed in Hungary during World War II. He was last seen in Budapest on January 17, 1945, when Soviet forces took the city from German troops. Soviet records state he died in a Moscow prison in 1947. However, his exact fate remains unknown, much to the frustration of his surviving family.

"It's has always been very important to the family; we've been working on this for many years, firstly to try and have him released from the Soviet Union and secondly to learn the truth about what happened to him," said Åhlberg. "We would really like to find out."

SEE ALSO: Pressuring Russia on Wallenberg's fate 'a matter of principle'

She emphasized that it's important to honour her great-uncle's legacy as a "fantastic example of good leadership that demonstrates how one person can make a difference".

Åhlberg said she hopes the inauguration of an official Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Day will help raise awareness about his legacy among Swedes.

"It is particularly important now that we begin to recognize him here in Sweden," she told The Local.

"He has been better known overseas for many years. The US and Canada have made him an honorary citizen and US, Canada and Argentina already have Raoul Wallenberg Days. It is only really now that we are beginning to recognize him in Sweden.

"It's about time."

SEE ALSO: 'Other Swedes in the Gulag complicate Wallenberg search'

Tara Sonnorp and David Landes

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