Raoul Wallenberg and the Holocaust
The Holocaust and the extermination of over 6 million Jews during World War II is one of the most tragic and perplexing scars in the world’s history. What could bring human beings to ruthlessly eradicate other humans? Why didn’t more people recognize the atrocities and why was so little done so late? In the face of almost overwhelming odds, the story of Raoul Wallenberg, “Angel of Mercy”, stands apart. In what has been described as the most dramatic life-saving operation of the war, he directly or indirectly rescued over 100,000 Hungarian Jews; Raoul Wallenberg, Swedish hero activist, chose to make a difference during the Holocaust.
Born in Lidingo, Sweden in 1912, Raoul Wallenberg’s upbringing and career set him on a path that would eventually intersect with wartime Europe and German-occupied Hungary. Raoul Wallenberg’s parents came from prominent Swedish families: his father’s family was diplomats, and his mother’s father was a prominent neurologist. Very likely, Raoul Wallenberg was raised with a sense of duty and service to country. Raoul Wallenberg’s dream was to be an architect, and he travelled to the US to study and complete his degree at the University of Michigan. With limited work in Sweden for an architect, in 1936 Raoul Wallenberg’s career eventually landed him with Koloma Lauer, a Hungarian Jew who owned a Swedish-based export-import company. Raoul Wallenberg travelled to Europe, learned the Hungarian language, and soon became indispensable to the company. In 1942, he became joint owner and International Director for the company’s mid-European trading operations. This was wartime Europe, and Raoul Wallenberg was able to experience German bureaucracies and occupation first-hand.
Signed into existence by FDR in January 1944 to “rescue the victims of enemy oppression who are in imminent danger of death”, the American War Refugee Board could not have found a more effective leader for the Hungarian...
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