Statement on Raoul Wallenberg Day
01/17/21: Today marks Raoul Wallenberg Day in Canada to honour and celebrate the life and heroism of Raoul Wallenberg. A Swedish diplomat and humanitarian known for saving thousands of Jewish people during the Holocaust, Wallenberg "disappeared" (presumed kidnapped and murdered) on this day - January 17th, 1945.
Wallenberg is credited with saving more Jewish people from the horrors of Nazi Germany than any single person or organization.
As a result of his efforts, Wallenberg has been recognized by Canada as an honourary citizen, in addition to numerous humanitarian hounours including: honourary citizenship of the United States, Hungary, Australia and Israel. He has been named Righteous Among the Nations and numerous streets and monuments have been named to honour his life and legacy during the Holocaust.
Wallenberg risked his own life by launching a rescue effort from his post in Budapest. He provided special passports called Schutz-passes to thousands of Jews to save them from deportation to Nazi concentration and death camps. He created a network of safe houses, hospitals, youth centres and soup kitchens to assist Jews fleeing the Nazis.
Sandor Ardai, one of the drivers working for Wallenberg, recounted what Wallenberg did when he intercepted a trainload of Jews about to leave for Auschwitz:
"...he climbed up on the roof of the train and began handing in protective passes through the doors which were not yet sealed. He ignored orders from the Germans for him to get down, then the Arrow Cross men began shooting and shouting at him to go away. He ignored them and calmly continued handing out passports to the hands that were reaching out for them. I believe the Arrow Cross men deliberately aimed over his head, as not one shot hit him, which would have been impossible otherwise. I think this is what they did because they were so impressed by his courage. After Wallenberg had handed over the last of the passports he ordered all those who had one to leave the train and walk to the caravan of cars parked nearby, all marked in Swedish colours. I don't remember exactly how many, but he saved dozens off that train, and the Germans and Arrow Cross were so dumbfounded they let him get away with it".
As we witness the rising tide of Antisemitism once more and Holocaust denial, we must remember the valiant effort of people lie Raoul Wallenberg who fought and eventually died in this vein. His courage has left a legacy for all humanitarians to follow and act.
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