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There but by the grace of God go I

    (John Bradford 1510-1555, English Protestant martyr)

    He was the modern St. George who saved thousands of people, fighting the ferocious occupying power, his only arms being sagacity temerity and wit, motivated by compassion for the persecuted, the tortured, while he himself becoming the victim of another totalitarian power.

    I close my eyes and try to remember when it was I saw him for the last time. It was around 16th January 1945. Budapest was liberated – or occupied, depending on people’s ideology – by the Soviet troops. We were a small group of the Swedish Special Mission employees, staying at the vaults of the former British Embassy and the National Bank and were supposed to spend the night in the air raid shelter. It was probably too dangerous to go home in the evening. Somewhere in the building there must have been a burst pipe, water was rising always higher and we were moving up from one wooden shelf to a higher one, wondering if, having survived the German occupation and the Szalasy Arrow Cross government, are we now going to be drowned or only frozen to death? But our Guardian Angels saved us, the water stopped and we fell into an exhausted sleep.

    Next morning with bleary eyes we said goodbye to Wallenberg who came by for a short visit prior to his going to Debrecen where he was to meet the Provisory Hungarian Government. We never saw him again. The Swedish Mission was rounded up; their task of saving the remaining Jewish population of Budapest was accomplished as far as was humanly possible.

    I Was There, Tom Veres

      Train yard photo taken by Tom from inside Wallenberg’s car. Wallenberg stands at right, hands clasped behind him, overseeing his “Book of Life.”

      I’m a professional photographer. For many years, my offices in New York were only three blocks from the United Nations, where signs designate “Raoul Wallenberg Walk.” Those who know of Wallenberg think of him as someone who saved nearly 100,000 lives in Budapest, Hungary, in the last fierce days of World War II. To me, Raoul Wallenberg not only saved lives, he also left a mark on those he saved. I know. He left a deep mark engraved in my heart and mind, one that has shaped my thoughts and actions ever since.
      I first met Wallenberg on October 17, 1944, when I was a young man. By then, the Nazis had “cleansed” the Hungarian countryside of Jewish people; more than 430,000 men, women, and children had vanished, at the rate of 12,000 a day, never to be seen again. Now, in the closing days of the war, the Nazis prepared to exterminate the last large population of Jews alive in Europe, those in Budapest.

      Raoul Wallenberg, a young Swedish architect, had been sent to Budapest in July for the sole purpose of saving lives. By then, U.S. government intelligence could no longer pretend they didn’t know what washappening to the Jews of Europe.