Raoul Wallenberg: Holocaust Essay Example

  • Category: History, Holocaust,
  • Words: 1353 Pages: 5
  • Published: 05 May 2021
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Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish businessman and a diplomat. He worked as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest during the Second World War. There he led a rescuing mission of Hungarian jews. He ended up saving thousands of them, even being so daring to rescue those that already were on the trains to the death camps. Later on, towards the end of the war, he disappeared in a rather mysterious way. No one has seen him since then.

Wallenberg was born in Stockholm on the twelfth of August in 1912. He was born fatherless and was raised by his mother. His grandfather, Gustav Wallenberg, was a very influential figure in his life. He wished for Wallenberg to learn about foreign cultures. This led to Wallenberg being sent on trips to other countries. Especially in Europe. Thanks to this, he ended up speaking German, French, and English in addition to Swedish. His English skills were useful when he began studying to become an architect at the University of Michigan in the US between the years 1931-1935. Studying offboard was also his grandfather’s idea. He wished for Wallenberg to improve his English, but also to take inspiration from the American mentality. His grandson might have taken notes of it, but his career in architecture was short-lived. Instead, he ended up working in business, which led to him traveling a lot. His traveling led to him gaining knowledge about things like race discrimination. It was also how he first heard of the Germans’ treatment of the Jews. He learned this from Jews who were fleeing from Germany three years before World War ll started. This was during a time where he was working at a bank in present-day Israel. In the early 40s, Wallenberg began working for a trading company. His boss there was Jewish, which wasn’t very popular among the Nazis. It simply wasn’t safe for him to travel, so Wallenberg traveled for him. 

During this time the Nazist had occupied Hungary and were sending the Hungary jews to concentration camps in Poland. The War Refugee Board wished to save some of the Jewish from this faith. They reached out to the neutral countries in the war to send a diplomat to Budapest. Sweden was one of these neutral countries and Wallenberg was the perfect candidate for the job. His language skills, traveling experience, and compassion for Jews were all factors that led to him being recruited. Some sources even say that Wallenberg’s Jewish boss was the one to put a good word in for him. Anyhow, Wallenberg began the rescue mission in the summer of 1944. He worked in a Swedish embassy office, where he saved thousands of Jewish people by giving them protective passports. These passports made it seem as if the owner came from Sweden. The protective passports weren’t legal and didn’t give them Swedish citizenship though, but it looked like they were to the Nazists. This protected the jews from being deported to concentration camps. With the help of donations, Wallenberg managed to build safe houses, shelters for the jews. He even tried to save jews on their way to the concentration camps by handing out food and protective passports. This led to both Germans and Arrow cross men screaming at him to get down, which he ignored. The Arrow cross men could even start shooting right above his head, yet his courage didn’t falter. Some sources tell of how he interrupted death marches to help at least a single person there. His heroism led to him managing to save approximately 11 000 to 35 000 jews. 

Wallenberg’s work was dangerous, and in my opinion, it became the cause of his death. When the war was coming to its end the Soviet Union was invading Hungary. Wallenberg was, for unknown reasons, going on a meeting with the Soviets. But the meeting never took place, since the Soviets captured him instead. What happened to him after that isn’t too clear. All we know for sure is that he wasn’t seen in public since then. He had presumably died in the Soviets’ jail in 1947, most likely due to being executed. Although, some evidence suggests that he might have been alive after 1947. 

The Swedish government didn’t officially declare him dead until 2016. Sweden was extremely passive in trying to save him or even trying to find anything on what happened to him. Nothing was done for him up to the 50s, and at that time, it was already too late. Wallenberg’s half-sister, Nina Lagergren, was one of the people who tried to find out what happened to him. Unfortunately, it didn’t lead anywhere due to a lack of interest from the state. The lack of interest most definitely contributed to the failure of getting any clarity on what happened to him. Furthermore, this probably made sure that the Soviets thought that Wallenberg wasn’t worth keeping alive. 

When rumors and evidence surfaced of the possibility of Wallenberg being alive, protests started. This was during the late 70s and early 80s. Many of those who took part in the protests were saved by Wallenberg himself. The goal was to get him released, it wasn’t very successful. An investigation on Wallenberg’s case was later launched in the 90s by Russia’s current president, Boris Yeltsin. Since the investigation didn’t lead to any new clues or evidence, Russia still claims that he died in 1947. They even officially declared that they had unjustifiably arrested Wallenberg. 

Raoul Wallenberg’s bravery left a permanent mark on our world. Not only is he remembered in Hungary, but also countries further away. Wallenberg has, for instance, an honorary citizenship in Australia, the USA, Canada, and Israel. He became an honorary citizen in America during the 80s, which makes him the second person in American history to receive one. One of the people who made sure that Wallenberg gained citizenship was one of the people that he saved. 

Today he has streets, schools, and monuments in his honor in twelve different countries. In his native country, Sweden, there is a day in his honor. It is on the 27th of August. There also is a prize that is handed out on this date, also in honor of Raoul Wallenberg. The prize is handed out by the Raoul Wallenberg Academy. To win this prize one could, for example, have worked in Sweden against intolerance among the younger generations. In 1990, the University of Michigan began handing out a medal in honor of Raoul Wallenberg. The medal can be earned by humanitarians who act in defense of those who are oppressed, as Wallenberg himself did. The first one to earn this medal was a Holocaust survivor named Elie Wiesel. 

In my opinion, Wallenberg’s work shows selflessness. As opposed to most heroes that we hear about, he didn’t fight against relevant issues in his own country. He didn’t fight to specifically protect people that were in his country. Nor did he fight for people who faced the same issues as he did. Wallenberg could have chosen not to do anything and it would have had any direct negative impact on his life. The Nazist wouldn’t have been a threat to him if he did that, nor would the Soviets. He freely chose to leave his safety in Sweden to protect foreigners. Why? Because he knew that they were suffering. Therefore I believe that Wallenberg is a perfect example of what a hero is. A hero is, in my opinion, someone who looks past their fears to achieve something of the greater good. Seeing as you can’t control what you fear, but you can control what you chose to do with that fear. That is the difference between a hero and a normal person. Wallenberg lived through a time where Sweden was sticking its head in the sand. He didn’t have his government to trust in protecting him when he decided to lead the rescue mission. Other people who fought in kindred spirit didn’t necessarily either have their country behind their back. For example, Chiune Sugihara, who, like Raoul Wallenberg, was a diplomat. Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who went against the pro-Nazi government during the Second World War to help save Jewish refugees. He risked his job and his life to do what was right, similarly to Wallenberg. Sugihara and Wallenberg both show that bravery is a choice that can be made. 

And that it can come with great consequences as shown with Wallenberg’s rather mysterious faith. He also ended up having a high-status Nazist, Adolf Eichman, hunting after him. Wallenberg had a goal and he had a great commitment to this goal. He is a great example of how you can and should try to make the world a better place, even if you don’t truly gain anything from it.

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