Cotler, Irwin

Canadian deputy.

Has been searching together with the Soviet-International Commission on the Fate and Whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg Who Investigated the Kartoteka of the Vladimir Prison in August, 1990. See more at Marvin Makinen and Ari Kaplan report.

Irwin Cotler had contacts with Andrei Sakharov,  both convinced that Raoul Wallenberg was still alive in the 80’s and planned to visit a psychiatric prison between Moscow and St Petersbourg, but the project was never fullfilled as A. Sakharov passed away just before the planed date.

2008

Irwin Cotler is a Member of the Canadian Parliament and the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. He helped established Canada’s Raoul Wallenberg Commemorative Day.

Remembering Raoul Wallenberg

January 17, 2008

Today is an important moment of remembrance and reminder. It marks the 63rd anniversary of the January 17th, 1945 disappearance in the former Soviet Union of Raoul Wallenberg, the lost hero of humanity, whom former Israeli President Chaim Herzog called « the Saint Just of the Nations. » Wallenberg, a Swedish non-Jew who saved thousands of Jews in the Holocaust, is the embodiment of the Talmudic idiom that whoever saves a single life, it is as if they have saved an entire universe.

Wallenberg – the lost Hero of the Holocaust – confronted the Nazi killing machine and showed not only that one person can make a difference, but that one person can resist, that one person can confront, that one person can indeed prevail over radical evil.

Raoul Wallenberg’s incredible heroism included:

  • The granting of the Shutzpasses – diplomatic passes which provided protective immunity to their recipients and, in fact, influenced other governments – the Swiss, the Portuguese, the Spanish, and the Vatican legations – to follow his example. As a result of this singular provision of diplomatic immunity, thousands were saved by this route alone
  • The establishment of protective havens – the international ghetto as it came to be called – 32 safe houses protected by neutral legations. Once again, he inspired other legations to follow his example, and with this initiative alone, some 32,000 people were saved.
  • Wallenberg’s organization of hospitals, of soup kitchens, of child-care centres – the staple of international humanitarian assistance – provided women, children, the sick, the elderly – the most vulnerable of victims – with a semblance of human dignity in the face of the worst of all horrors and evil.
  • He rescued thousands from deportation and death in October 1944 alone when the Arrow Cross – the Nazi puppet government in Hungary – unleashed a wave of murderous deportations and atrocities. At the railway stations, Wallenberg provided, once again, the protectiveShutzpasses to remove Jews about to be deported to a certain death.
  • In November 1944, as thousands of Jews – mainly women and children – were sent on a 125-mile death march, Raoul Wallenberg followed, distributing food, medical supplies, and improvised certificates. To the Jews, Wallenberg was the Guardian Angel. For Adolph Eichmann, the bureaucratic desk murderer responsible for the Final Solution of Hungarian Jewry, Wallenberg was the Judenhund Wallenberg, Wallenberg the Jewish dog.

Wallenberg’s last rescue was perhaps the most memorable. As the Nazis were advancing on Budapest, they threated to blow up the Budapest ghetto and liquidate the remnants of Hungarian Jews, some 70,000 in the Budapest ghetto alone. Wallenberg put the Nazi Generals on notice – including Nazi General Schmidhuber -that they would be brought to justice, if not executed, for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. The result was that the Nazi Generals desisted from their assault, and 70,000 more Jews were saved, rescued by the incredible courage of one person who was prepared to confront evil and resist.

Israel should establish a Raoul Wallenberg Commemorative Day in recognition of its Honorary Citizen. Israelis would be invited to learn about, reflect upon, and be inspired by the incredible heroism this great humanitarian who, in his singular protection of civilians in armed conflict, signified the best of international humanitarian law; who, in his singular organization of humanitarian relief, exemplified the best of humanitarian intervention; who, in his warning to Nazi generals that they would be held accountable for their crimes, foreshadowed the Nuremberg principles; who, in saving 100,000 Jews, personified the Talmudic idiom that if a person saves a single life it is as if he or she has saved an entire universe; and who, in having the courage to care and the commitment to act, showed that one person can confront radical evil, prevail, and transform history.

Today, Raoul Wallenberg deserves to be remembered not only for his heroism, but as a reminder and inspiration for action – each one of us has an indispensable role to play in the struggle for tikun olam; human rights begins with each of us—in our homes, in our schools, in our workplace, in our human relations, in our daily capacity for acts of care and compassion on behalf of some victim of discrimination or disadvantage somewhere.

The Rambam teaches us that the world can be seen as balanced between half-good and half-evil; and so one good deed by any one of us can tilt the balance in favour of the good, and have a transformative impact on the universe as a whole – that would be living the Raoul Wallenberg legacy.
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