Welcome remarks

Raoul Wallenberg, Man Amidst Inhumanity

Raoul Wallenberg, a descendant of a Swedish merchant family, arrived to the Hungarian capital after the German occupation of Hungary, in July 1944, four months after the German troops marched in the country, just at the time when Governor Miklós Horthy – ceding to significant foreign and church pressure – had the deportation of the Jews stopped. The temporarily improving atmosphere was favourable for saving human lives, into which the Swedish diplomat joined in right away. Already in August, he issued 4500 protective passports, which he had the Hungarian authorities accept as “family documents”, thus every issued document could save the life of several persons. From the very beginning, he cooperated efficiently with the Red Cross, with the diplomats of neutral states and with Hungarian rescuers. Though the situation in Hungary took a dramatic turn after Horthy’s unsuccessful attempt to exit from the war, with the Arrow Cross Party’s coup, the rescuers – and among them the more and more important Raoul Wallenberg – did not give up: they continued to save the lives of the continuously menaced ten thousands, often risking their own lives. While he was saving the lives of people from the Nazis, Wallenberg could not foresee that in a couple of weeks he would become the victim of another oppressive regime. On 17 January 1945, the Soviet troops carried him off, and he could never return from the Soviet Union.

Raoul Wallenberg is a symbolic figure of rescuers in Hungary and in Europe at the time. “Man amidst inhumanity” in the horrors of the Holocaust. Hungary highly values and treasures the memory of the martyr Swedish diplomat. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Government of Hungary has decided to declare the year 2012 as Wallenberg Year and to found a Commemorative Committee. Our purpose was to bow before his human greatness, and also to commemorate all those who saved lives jointly with him or similarly to him, amidst the inhumanity of oppressive regimes. This anniversary is a good occasion to draw lessons from the past, and to review, in their light, current human rights and minority issues, and to address the future and the young generations.

In the programmes of the Raoul Wallenberg Year we shall present Raoul Wallenberg, the diplomat and man, and his partner rescuers in Hungary, the conditions of the saving of lives, the dangers of exclusion and discrimination. With all this, we intend to call the attention to the importance of the protection of human rights and to the importance of having the courage of defending our values of several thousand years. The events of the past and their effects on the present and their lessons for today will be made tangible for all generations and all visitors in 2012 by exhibitions, conferences, concerts, competitions, meetings with witnesses and Hungarian Righteous Among the Nations.

Zsolt Németh
Wallenberg Commemorative Committee, Chairman