Raoul Wallenberg photoOn a chilly day, a United States Congressional delegation and other officials laid a wreath at the Budapest monument to Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who is credited with saving the lives of as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews during World War II. Friday’s commemoration in Hungary’s capital was part of a series of events marking the Raoul Wallenberg Year commemorating the centennial of his birth.

While serving as Swedish envoy in Budapest from July 1944, Wallenberg gave Hungarian Jews Swedish travel documents and set up safe houses for them.

Among the thousands he saved was the late Tom Lantos, who was the first Holocaust survivor to be elected to the U.S. Congress.

Wallenberg is also credited with dissuading German officers from massacring the 70,000 inhabitants of Budapest’s main Jewish ghetto.

Republican Representative Dan Burton, who led the Congressional Delegation, described Wallenberg as a special humanitarian.  “Raoul Wallenberg is one of those people that throughout history is very, very rare. He risked his life, saved over 100,000 people, and paid dearly for it,” he said.

It was a reference to the difficult life of the diplomat who eventually died in, what was, the Soviet Union where he had been taken by the invading Soviet Red Army, according to the political director of Hungary’s Foreign Ministry, Peter Sztaray.

The United States has made Wallenberg an honorary citizen, a rare honor that was only bestowed on two other persons, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Mother Theresa.

And, marking the Raoul Wallenberg Year commemorating his 100th year of birth, U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks, a Democrat, wants to go even further.

“I have the privilege along with Nan Hayworth in the United States to sponsor a bill to give him the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest medal that the U.S. Congress can give,“ he said.

Raoul Wallenberg monument Budapest -by Misibacsi -CCAbout 600,000 Hungarian Jews died during World War II, when Hungary for the most part was a close ally of Nazi Germany.

“Wallenberg fought against a dictatorship and consequently disappeared in the prisons of another totalitarian power, the Soviet Communist regime,” said Sztaray.

Moscow claims he died of a heart attack on June 17, 1947, in Soviet custody, but unverified witness accounts and newly uncovered evidence suggest he may have lived beyond that date.

While there is still no known grave of Raoul Wallenberg at which to lay flowers, Sweden announced last month it wants to reopen an investigation into Wallenberg’s disappearance.

(Source: VOA News)

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