January 4, 2013
Swedes to get Raoul Wallenberg memorial day
Top Swedish politicians have introduced an official memorial
day for the "great Swede" Raoul Wallenberg, who
saved 100,000 people from the Holocaust in Budapest during
World War II.
In an opinion article published on Friday in the Dagens
Nyheter (DN) newspaper, Wallenberg's sister Nina Lagergren,
Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, and United Nation's
Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson lead the call for
a new memorial day on August 27th to honour the famed Swedish
"It is time to manifest the individual's responsibility
to tackle oppression and xenophobia, and to underscore Sweden's
traditions of openness and tolerance," they wrote.
"Far too many people avert their eyes when someone
finds themselves in trouble or are being threatened. Far
too many decide not to react when they see bullying and
injustices." "Courage is tested in small ways
in everyday life." The declaration of a memorial day
comes after the conclusion of a year marking what would
have been Wallenberg's 100th birthday. It was filled with
events to honour and celebrate his legacy. "It's important
that the wide range of activities surrounding Raoul Wallengberg
during 2012 don't end in silence," they wrote.
Siavosh Derakhti, founder of Young Muslims against anti-Semitism
(Unga muslimer mot antisemitism), the head of the National
Education Agency (Skolverket) Anna Ekström, and Eskil
Franck, chief curator at Swedish museum The Living History
Forum (Forum för levande historia), were also on the
list of co-signatories. "It is deeply symbolic that
Raoul Wallenberg sacrificed his life in fighting one of
the 1900s evil ideologies, Nazism, and fell prey to Stalin's
Communism," they wrote. The authors said that a recent
review showed that school history books rarely mention Wallenberg.
They said perhaps the silence was due to 'Swedish shame'
at not investigating his disappearance in the Soviet Union
They also noted that he was more famous abroad, where Canada,
Argentina and several US states already had Raoul Wallenberg
memorial days. "What he stood for is not just about
history. It is, unfortunately, relevant today. Anti-Semitism
is not a painful historical experience, but a reality that
lives on," they wrote. "History may not repeat
itself in exactly the same way, but the echoes of history
permeate our era. The internet is overflowing with Holocaust
deniers and attempts to link every ill deed, from 9/11 to
Utöya, to a Jewish conspiracy." "These conspiracy
theories about Jewish power and hidden motives are classic
elements of anti-Semitism."
They linked the need to fight anti-Semitism to rising xenophobia
of all hues that had worsened due to the financial crisis.
They called anti-Islam rhetoric a relative of anti-Semitism
and asked people to step up against intolerance. The authors
note that there is no official process for introducing a
memorial day in Sweden, but that the chosen date is meant
to coincide with the start of the school year and will make
it easy for educators to plan activities to boost awareness
of Wallenberg's legacy among Swedish schoolchildren.