Remembering missing hero of the
October 04, 2006
Special to the Times
LAWRENCE -- Perhaps no other man
in the history of the Holocaust can be attributed to saving as many lives as Raoul Wallenberg.
diplomat sent to Bu dapest, Hungary, in
1944, Wallen berg is credited with saving
approximately 100,000 Hungarian Jews who had been marked for ex termination. Arrested by the Soviet army at age 32 and imprisoned for the rest
of his life, the exact date and location of his death still re main elusive
Last night in Rider University's
student center was a gathering to recognize the 25th anniversary of
Wallenberg's Honorary United States Citizenship, bestowed on him on Oct. 5,
1981, by President Ronald Reagan. Wallenberg was the second person in U.S. history to
receive this honor.
sponsored by Raoul Wallenberg Committee of New Jersey and the New
Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, featured the Sharim
V'Sharot Choir and various speeches by those of both
Jewish and Christian faiths.
keynote speaker was Marvin Makinen, a former Soviet
prisoner and member of several international groups dedicated to investigating
Wallenberg's final whereabouts. Rider
University President Mordechai Rozanski, the son of
Holocaust survivors, and Vera Goodkin, a child
survivor of the Holocaust who was rescued by Wallenberg, also spoke.
wasn't for Raoul Wallen
berg, I never would have enjoyed growing up with my wonderful parents who, in
turn, now have the privilege of enjoying their grandchildren," said Goodkin, author of the recently published "In Sunshine
and In Shadows," a narrative of her family's experiences trying to escape
"I try to
carry on Wallenberg's legacy of prejudice reduction through the lessons of the
Holocaust," said Goodkin.
While in Hungary as
first secretary of the Swedish Legation, Wallenberg witnessed the horror that
the Jewish community was facing under the Nazis and their Hungarian
collaborators. For six months after his arrival, he worked to save as many as
possible using his diplomatic status.
The Soviet army
arrested Wallenberg in 1945 on suspicion of espi onage. He was transferred to Lubi
anka Prison in Moscow
and later to Vladimir Prison. In 1947, Russian officials reported that
Wallenberg died of a heart attack at age 34 while in prison. However, later
that year the Soviet Foreign Ministry informed the Swedish government that
"Wallenberg is not in the Soviet Union
and is unknown to us."
In the 1990s, Makinen collaborated with Ari
Kaplan, a Lawrence
High School graduate and
data base expert, on researching Wallen berg's final
location and cause of death. Along with a research team, the two traveled to Russia to gain
access to classified prison records.
a female staff member who had been working at the Vladimir Prison since 1946
lead Makinen to believe she had seen Wallenberg held
in isolation after his supposed date of death.
conclusion was that the records documenting the presence of Wallenberg in Vladimir had been removed
from the prison archives," said Makinen.
Russian officials ad mitted Wallenberg was probably
executed, but offered no evidence. Wallenberg's name was also officially
cleared of all wrong-doing, and a formal apology was issued to Sweden and the
after all these decades, Russia
finally cleared the air," said Kaplan. "What was most moving for me
was realizing Wallenberg is not a mythological figure. He is a real person who
helped change the world in a significant way. The descendants of the 100,000
people Wallenberg saved represent 1 percent of the entire Jewish population.
Never think that your life cannot make a difference."
Ari Kaplan's Home Page