Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Hero
Under the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the War Refugees Board was established in January 1944 to aid civilians that fell victim to the Nazi and Axis powers in Europe. One of the War Refugee Board’s top priorities was protection of the 750,000 Hungarian Jews still alive. It was decided that Raul Wallenberg, aged 31 at the time, would be most effective in protecting Jews and victims of the Nazis in Hungary under the War Refugee’s Board. He was recruited by Iver Olsen, an agent for the Office of Strategic Services, and sent to Budapest, Hungary under his official profession as a Swedish diplomat. He was instructed to use passports and other creative means to save as many lives as possible.
Wallenberg created a new Swedish passport, the Schutzpass, which looked more imposing and official than the actual Swedish passport. He reportedly put up huge place cards of it throughout Budapest to make the Nazis familiar with it. He unilaterally announced that it granted the holder immunity from the death camps. The Schutzpasses alone are credited with saving 20,000 Jewish lives. Using the money the United States put into the War Refugees Board, Wallenberg was able to purchase about thirty buildings, which he used as hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, and safe houses for over 8,000 children whose parents has already been deported or killed.
Even as the war was coming to a close, Wallenberg remained vigilant and attentive to the people under his care. Adolf Eichmann, the SS colonel charged with the extermination of Jews in Eastern Europe, was determined to exterminate the 70,000 Jews kept as prisoners in a guarded ghetto in Budapest. As soon as Wallenberg heard of the plot, he sent Pal Szalay, an Arrow-Crossman senior official, who defected and turned to Wallenberg. Szalay was sent to speak to General Schmidthuber, who was ordered to spearhead the ghetto extermination in Budapest. Szalay informed Schmidthuber that, seeing as the war was coming to an end, if the planned massacre took place, Wallenberg would see to it personally that Schmidthuber would be prosecuted as a war criminal and hanged. The plans were ultimately abandoned and considered Wallenberg’s last big victory. Of the 120,000 Jews that survived in Hungary, Raoul Wallenberg, acting under the War Refugee Board, is credited with saving over 100,000 of these lives in a six month period, never once resorting to violence.
Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Commission
Project Legacy is a proud supporter and participant of the effort of the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Commission that worked on a national campaign to highlight the incredible heroism exhibited by Raoul Wallenberg.
Please see some of our activities on this page.
Raoul Wallenberg Way in Brooklyn
Ceremony hosted by Councilmembers David Greenfield and Brad Lander, who co-sponsored the co-naming legislation in the NYC Council Sunday, December 9th 12:00 pm 13th Avenue at 50th Street Brooklyn, NY.