January 17, 2005

60th anniversary of Raoul Wallenbergs Disappearance

I want to join in with the other bloggers who mention the 60th anniversary of the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg.

Wallenberg is perhaps the most famous of the Righteous Gentiles/Persons who saved untold numbers of Jews and others during the Holocaust.
Miriam found a link to a story that I was unaware of. It is from the Chicago Sun-Times and it tells an amazing story about Wallenberg and some of his aides.

Check this out:
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Toward the end of 1944, Nazis decided an efficient way to murder Hungarian Jews was to take them to the shore of the icy Danube River, tie three together, shoot the middle one, and toss them in.

High school swimming champ

Two weeks before Christmas 1944, Wallenberg walked into his offices at the Swedish Legation in Budapest and asked who among his aides could swim. Agnes, then 26, raised her hand. (She had been the best swimmer in her high school class.)

What happened next is nothing short of superhuman.

"Raoul said, 'Let's go!' Two diplomats and myself, we went down to the Danube with the Swedish Red Cross, we turned off the lights and we synchronized with the shooting. And the three of us jumped in fully clothed. I was in a fur coat," Agnes was telling me the other day, recounting her amazing tale with the enthusiasm of, well, a 26-year-old.

Agnes, who was Wallenberg's assistant, and the two diplomats dived into the freezing river, over and over again, untied the ropes, and swam the victims to safety.

"Anyhow, we saved about 80 people," she said, nonchalantly.

Charmingly subversive

A few years ago, when someone claiming to be from the Ku Klux Klan called her home and threatened to kill her, she scared the guy off by telling him her phone was tapped by the FBI. It wasn't. It's a trick she says she learned from Wallenberg.

Agnes was in town this week to attend a humanitarian awards dinner in Wallenberg's honor given by the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois.

She particularly relishes telling stories about how clever Wallenberg, who was 32 at the time he orchestrated the rescue of those 100,000 souls, fooled the Nazis with elaborate lies. Big whoppers. Theatrical in scope. The kind that save lives.

The feat Wallenberg is perhaps best known for: distributing thousands of Schutz-Pass, protective documents issued by Sweden (a neutral country), allowing the carrier to live relatively unmolested by the Nazis, that were a total fabrication.

They had no official power, but they kept thousands of Hungarian Jews and others alive, Agnes explained.
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Read the whole story, it is entirely worth it.

1 comment:

Stacey said...

He epitomizes the word "hero."