01. Introduction about Raoul Wallenberg

by Christopher Gann,

Text written by Christopher Gann

In Budapest in mid 1944 a major rescue mission began to protect the endangered Jewish community. The rescue mission « Budapest Jews“ was carried out by a group of individuals who personally took responsibility for various tasks. As an outsider one got the impression this was a national or institutional standing. In reality this was not the case, they were mainly dependent on each other. From time to time instructions given from superiors were ignored. Without the support from many helpers the mission would have been impossible.

Depicted is the desperate struggle, fight against the German National-Socialists and the Hungarian Fascists, as illustrated by Raoul Wallenberg.

Raoul Wallenberg´s arrival in Budapest initiated the rescue campaign.

Raoul Wallenberg and Carl Lutz, Giorgio Perlasca and others showed it was possible to show concern and interest rather than being silent and ignoring the inhumanity.

They put their own lives in danger to help others. In the dark days of the National-Socialists they set an example. They were: « A light in the darkness.“

Biography, childhood,

Raoul Wallenberg Raoul Wallenberg Raoul Wallenberg Raoul Wallenberg Raoul Wallenberg Raoul Wallenberg

02. Childhood and Youth

Raoul Wallenberg was born on August 4, 1912, in Stockholm. His father died of cancer three months before Raoul was born.

Raouls mother and his grandfather, Gustaf Wallenberg, took charge of Raouls education.

Gustaf Wallenberg had been a diplomat in Japan, China and Turkey. When Raoul was six, his mother remarried and Raouls mother remarried 1918, they had two children, Guy and Nina. Gustaf was determined that his grandson should get a broad, cultured approach to life, and that he should learn many languages. After he had graduated from high school, Raoul spent nine months in the military.
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03. Raoul Wallenberg; University and Training:

From 1931 to 1935, Raoul Wallenberg studied architecture in Michigan, USA.He then spent some time in Capetown and Haifa. Here he began to train as a banker. His grandfather would have liked to have seen Raoul follow in the family tradition and become a banker. The Wallenberg family was Sweden´s best known banking family. Raoul discovered early enough that banking was not for him. In a letter to his grandfather Raoul writes: « To tell you the truth, I don´t find myself very bankerisch. … My temperament is better suited to some positive line of work than to sitting around saying no.“
It was in Palestine that Raoul first made contact with the „Hitler-Germany-Refugees“. Here he found out about the Jewish persecution in Germany. Wallenberg returned to Stockholm
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04. Hungary 1933-1944

Hungarys Relationship To NS-Germany:

Miklos Horthy

In 1933 Hungary looked twords Germany for direction, Hitler was chancellor. The Trianon Peace Treaty saw Hungary lose two thirds of its territory and up 60% of its population.
In 1920 Admiral Miklos Horthy was elected regent of Hungary, and because of his political allegiances Germany became Hungarys most important trading partner.
In 1938 Hungary regained a section of the lost territories, however in return an agreement to economic and political concessions was conceded.

Hungary Went To War:

In 1939 Pal Teleki came to power. With regards to Germany he was a very critical prime minister. Horthy decided going to war on Hitler´s side. In protest, Teleki commited suicide. In June 1941 Hungary declared war on the Soviet Union.
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05. Jews in Hungary

History Of The Jews In Hungary till 1933

In the third century Jews lived in the region we know now as Hungary. Following the first world war and the resultant collapse of the monarchy coupled with the effects of the 1918/19 revolution,
a new political anti-semitical ideology developed under the direction of Horthy.
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06. Jews under German Occupation:

Horthy meets Hitler

Adolph Eichmann

In March 1942, following severe anti-Jewish incidents, a new prime minister came to power. Miklos Kallay oppose successfully the deportation plan which was demanded by the Germans. In April 1943, Horthy met Hitler and von Ribbentrop in Germany. Horthy asked what he was to do with the Jews, now that he had destroyed any possible chance of an economical existence, he could not have them all killed. In reply to this question Ribbentrop said: Either extermination or lock them up in concentration-camps. Any other solution was not possible.

On the 19th May 1944, Germany occupied Hungary. The new government was headed by Döme Sztojay. Edmund Veesenmayer, the newly appointed German ambassador to Hungary and Reich plenipotentiary, travelled to Budapest. Adolf Eichmann was given responibility for solving the « Jewish Question“ in Hungary. He ordered the foundation of a Jewish council, a large number of anti-Jewish laws followed.
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07. The Extermination

Deportation, Auschwitz:

 

End of April 1944, Adolf Eichmann organized the first deportation of Jews from Hungary. From the middle of the May four groups daily, each concisting of 3.000 Jews, started for Auschwitz.

By the 9th of July the entire Jewish population with the exception of Budapest, were deported. According to Veesenmayer a total of 437.402 Jews had been deported.

Protest from Abroad

In July, the remaining 200.000 Budapest Jews were due for deportation. End of June, Horthy was commissioned by the King of Sweden, the Vatican and Switzerland to protect the remaining Jews. Horthy ordered a stop to the deportation. Another reason being the Allies landed in Normandy, this proved very convenient for Hungary´s internal struggle for power. In the meantime, Eichmann secretly tried to deport 1.700 Jews from an internment camp in Kistarcsa. This was stopped by Horthy.
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08. Plans to Help Hungary´s Jews:

The Foundation Of The « War Refugee Board“

Until 1944 the Allies played no active part in the fate of the European Jewish Community. In January 1944 th „War Refugee Board“ was funded by U.S. president Roosevelt. The board was also concerned with rescuing the Jews. The necessary financial aid was mainly provided by Jewish organizations. Most of the American ministers were indifferent to the board. A repeated proposal to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz was denied.

Rescue Efforts In Sweden

In neutral Sweden, steps were taken to prepare to help Hungary´s Jews. Norbert Masur, a representative of the « Jewish World Congress“, Chief Rabbi Marcus Ehrenpreis and Koloman Lauer considered the best way in which they could help. Masur suggested they find a person suitable to offer help in Budapest.

Proposed Is Raoul Wallenberg

End of May 1944, Koloman Lauer proposed his business partner Raoul Wallenberg for the position. Following some initial hesitation due to Wallenberg´s age, he proved successful in talks with War Refugee Board represantative Olsen and the U.S. amassador Johnson.

Wallenberg was the correct man for the task.
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09. Wallenberg Appointed to Diplomatic Corp.:

Raoul Wallenberg proposed some new demands. The prime minister agreed to his demands. Wallenbergs appointment to the Diplomatic Corp. Filled him with pride:

« When a Wallenberg is chosen to serve his country abroad, it is his duty to live up to the Wallenberg standard.“

He was officially trading for Sweden. The fact that instructions and financial aid came from America was kept secret.

Preparing For Departure

Two days long, Wallenberg studied the minister for Foreign Affairs´ report on the situation in Hungary. Subsequently he made the following comment, regarding Koloman Lauer:

« I can´t remain in Sweden any longer. Every day costs people their lives. I shall prepare to travel as quickly as possible.“ Rabbi Ehrenpreis gave Wallenberg a letter for the chairman of the « Budapest Jewish Council“, Samu Stern. Ehrenpreis blessed the protestant Raoul before he departed. On saying goodbye to his friends, Raoul made the following comment regarding his task:

« I shall try and save as many lives as possible from the „Claws Of Death.“ On the 7th July Wallenberg flew to Berlin. Following a meeting with his sister he then took the train to Budapest.
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10. Raoul Wallenberg In Budapest

Arrival in Budapest

On the 9th of July 1944 Raoul Wallenberg arrived in Budapest. First he informed himself about previous Swedish measures taken to help the Jews. 650 Jews who had a strong bond to Sweden, were given passports. These were an exception to the rule.

The Swedish Protection Pass

Wallenberg got an office in the legation department C. He showed the Swedish envoy Carl Ivar Danielsson the protection pass („Schutzpass“) which he designed. The detailed pass stated the owner was under the protection of the swedish legation. The passes were signed by Danielsson. Following a meeting between Horthy and the head of police, Ferenczy, the protection pass was in August 1944 officially recognized by Hungary. Wallenberg was allowed to distribute 4.500 of the passes. The Minister of Foreign Affairs gave his consent. In a report to the swedish ministery of Foreign Affairs, Wallenberg stated: „In a way the majority of the Jews have to be awakened from their apathy with regard to their destiny. On the other hand these peoples apathy has changed since my last report.“
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