April 16, 2012
Holocaust Hero, Raoul Wallenberg, Re-discovered in Australia
by Robert G Cope
A Holocaust Hero, a Swedish Student, Raoul Wallenberg (1912
- ) is surprisingly 're-discovered' in Australia by this
alum of his American university. His life, now 100 years
since his birth, inspires individuals who can make a difference.
Down under, driving, looking left, I saw a monument to
an alum of my distant university. Months later, discovering
it's the 100th year since Raoul Wallensberg's birth in Sweden,
I re-visit the monument at the edge of a small, intimate,
tropical garden. I took a few pictures.
Today, I recall my astonishment at seeing his image in
Melbourne. Raoul Wallenberg who attended and graduated from
the University of Michigan in the 1930s. Thirty years later,
I walked the same campus paths, but it was not until 1984,
when asked for a contribution to The Wallenberg Endowment
Fund, I began to know his story.
You see, he rescued Jews in Hungary. It was 1945. Not a
few Jews thousands. And he did it alone.
Even before the Endowment, only the second person so honored,
he was made an honorary citizen of the United States. That
was 1981. The first being Winston Churchill.
Why? Because that honors-student in architecture, who hitch-hiked
around America during school breaks, is the archetype of
hero one who risks life for people not known, and
whose religion or race not shared.
Probably someone who works nearby enjoying the peaceful
garden in the midst of a large city. What Wallenberg and
those of his kind wish for the world.
In 2011 the 21st Wallenberg Medal was awarded to Aung San
Suu Kyi. Still restricted (less than a year ago) from travel
from Burma, she spoke via Skype to the more than 700 people
in Ann Arbor about fear, overcoming fear, hers and the fear
despots experience attempting to maintain control.
Recent humanitarian Medals have been awarded to Lydia Cacho
(Mexico) and Ginetta Sagan (Italy), whom each in
their way demonstrate his legacy: One person
can make a difference. The 22nd Wallenberg Lecture,
on October 23rd, will be delivered by Maria Gunnoe, described
as a fearless advocate for environmental and social justice.
Despite threats to her life as too often the lot
of advocates she crusades against American coal industry
practices. Only a week ago, I attended a presentation by
Afghanistan's youthful, Malalai Joya, a brash advocate for
women; she has survived six attempts on her life.
Raoul Wallenberg (1912 - ) had no opportunity to present,
lecture or write about individuals making a difference.
As a Swedish citizen, in Nazi-controlled Budapest, with
diplomatic credentials, he quietly arranged safe houses
and gave all the exit visas possible to every Jewish person
he could reach until he was taken into Russian custody and
disappeared. His disappearance remains one of the great
unsolved mysteries of the Second World War.
The monument, bringing all this to light again, was the
last work of Karl Duldig (1902 - 1985), a sculpturer, evacuated
to Australia in 1940.