Wallenberg, Raoul

born Aug. 4, 1912, Stockholm, Swed.
died July 17, 1947?, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R

Swedish businessman and humanitarian.

The scion of a family of bankers, industrialists, and diplomats, in 1936 he became the foreign representative of a Hungarian trading company whose president was Jewish. When the Nazis sent troops to round up Jews in Hungary (1944), Wallenberg asked to be sent to Budapest as a diplomat. There he rescued thousands of Hungarian Jews by sheltering them in "protected houses" under the Swedish flag or securing their passage out of Hungary through bribes or counterfeit documents. Soon after Soviet troops occupied Budapest (1945), he was arrested on suspicion of espionage. He was sent to Moscow, where he allegedly died of a heart attack in prison in 1947. Unconfirmed reports from freed Soviet prisoners reported him alive in 1951, 1959, and 1975.

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▪ Swedish diplomat
born August 4, 1912, Stockholm, Sweden
died ? July 17, 1947, Moscow, U.S.S.R. [now Russia]

      Swedish businessman and diplomat who became legendary through his efforts to rescue Hungarian Jews (Jew) during World War II and through his disappearance while a prisoner in the Soviet Union.

      A descendant of a wealthy and prestigious family of bankers, industrialists, and diplomats, Wallenberg studied architecture in the United States and in 1936 became the foreign representative for a central European trading company, whose president was a Hungarian Jew. After the Germans sent troops and SS (Nazi paramilitary corps) units into Hungary in March 1944 to round up “subversives” and Jews, Wallenberg, with the help of Jewish and refugee organizations from Sweden and the United States, persuaded the Swedish Foreign Ministry to send him to Budapest on July 9 with a diplomatic passport. There, several thousand Jews (estimates vary from 4,000 to 35,000) were enlisted and sheltered by Wallenberg in “protected houses” flying the flags of Sweden and other neutral countries. By this time, some 438,000 Hungarian Jews had already been deported to the Nazi (Nazi Party) extermination camps (extermination camp)—Wallenberg arrived just after the deportations came to a halt. He also dogged the Germans at deportation trains and on “death marches,” distributing food and clothing to the Jewish prisoners and trying to rescue some of them with papers and money for their passage out of the country. In the process, he was threatened more than once by Adolf Eichmann (Eichmann, Adolf).

      Soon after Soviet troops reached Budapest, Wallenberg reported to the occupying authority on January 17, 1945, but was immediately arrested for espionage—his money, radio, and dubious diplomatic status making him suspect. According to Swedish authorities, the Soviets later privately admitted that his arrest had been a mistake, during a confused period at war's end, but that their only information was that Wallenberg had died of a heart attack in a Moscow prison cell in 1947. There were unconfirmed reports from freed Soviet prisoners, however, that he had been seen alive in prison, notably in 1951, 1959, and 1975.

      On September 22, 1981, the U.S. Congress (Congress of the United States), under the leadership of Representative Tom Lantos—who had himself been rescued by Wallenberg—granted honorary citizenship to the missing Wallenberg. Such honorary citizenship had been granted only once before, to Sir Winston Churchill.

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Universalium. 2010.

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