Swedish humanitarian worker Raoul Wallenberg is credited with saving tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from deportation to Nazi concentration camps during World War II. But after Soviet troops took control of Budapest in 1945, he was arrested and never seen or heard from again.
On what would have been his 97th birthday, August 4, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation brought together survivors rescued by Wallenberg to renew the call for Russian officials to unseal the record of his fate.
Many of the people in their 70s and 80s who gathered recently at the have made his heroism more widely known. But as Holocaust historian Mordecai Paldiel notes, "We still don't know what happened to the man." Paldiel says there is every reason, however, to believe that former Soviet officials are still alive who have direct knowledge of what happened to Wallenberg. Even younger former KGB operatives, he notes, such as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, might be privy to the truth.
So, the Foundation and the survivors continue to press for Russian leaders to encourage the story to be told, and to release all records relating to Wallenberg. "It's in the interests of everyone, including the Russian authorities, to come out with the full story, to put it behind us," Paldiel says. But he believes that those who were involved in Wallenberg’s imprisonment and possible execution will never disclose what they know unless they are given judicial immunity by Russia’s government.
To publicize their campaign, the Foundation gathered together for the first time New York-area survivors saved by Wallenberg. The elderly men and women, together with friends and family, marked what would have been Raoul Wallenberg's 97th birthday by adding their signatures to a poster for a worldwide campaign, "100,000 Names for 100,000 Lives," aimed at discovering Wallenberg's fate. The plea will be delivered to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.