Jewish National Fund - We Only Have ONE ISRAEL

The JEWISH POST remembers...
Raoul Wallenberg: A hero without a grave...

Raoul Wallenberg was born August 4, 1912. His parents came from two of Sweden's most outstanding families, whose members included diplomats, bankers, and bishops of the Lutheran Church, as well as artists and professors. Wallenberg's birth was surrounded by tragedy. His handsome father (after whom he was named), an officer in the Swedish Navy and the sone of the Swedish ambassador to Japan, died after a brief illness at the age of 23 - eight months after his marriage and three months before the birth of his son. Raoul's mother, Maj Wising Wallenberg, was only 21 at the time. Three months after Raoul's birth, his grandfather Wising died suddenly of pneumonia. Many years later, Nina Lagergren, Raoul's half-sister said, "All of a sudden, in that once-happy house, there were two widows and this baby boy." The two bereaved women focused all of their love on the child who, says Nina Lagergren, "gave and received so much love that he grew up to be an unusually generous, loving, and compassionate person." In 1918, Maj Wallenberg remarried. Her second husband, Fredrik von Dardel, was a young civil servant in the health ministry. He later became the administrator of Karolinska, Sweden's largest hospital, world famous for its medical research. Two more children were born to Maj von Dardel, Guy and Nina. Both serve as leaders of the international Raoul Wallenberg effort. Ambassador Gustav Wallenberg, Raoul's grandfather, insisted that Raoul receive an education befitting a member of the Wallenberg family. Accordingly, after high school in Sweden and nine months of compulsory Swedish military service, Raoul was sent to Paris for a year. Then, at his own insistence, he attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he completed the five year program at the School of Architecture in three and one half years. He graduated in 1935, along with his classmate, future President Gerald Ford. When Raoul returned to Sweden, his grandfather insisted that it was time for his to begin studying banking and commerce. This decision was to have far-reaching implications. Raoul's first position was with a Swedish firm in South Africa. In 1936 his grandfather arranged a position for him at the Holland Bank in Haifa, Palestine. There Raoul began to meet young Jews who had already been forced to flee from Nazi persecution in Germany. Their stories affected him deeply.

In 1939, he went to work with a Jewish refugee from Hungary named Koloman Lauer. Lauer was owner of the Central European Trading Company, which dealt in foodstuffs. In eight months Raoul was a junior partner of the firm. Raoul often traveled to Hungary. His partner had close relatives living in Budapest. Through them, Raoul began to know the Hungarian Jewish community. As a Swedish Christian from an outstanding family, he was able to travel freely in Germany as well as in Nazi occupied France. He became familiar with the eccentricities of Nazi bureaucracy and was unusually successful in his required business dealings with Nazi officials. Wallenberg was increasingly concerned with the fate of Europe's Jewish communities. Actress Viveca Lindfors, a friend of Raoul's during his bachelor days in Stockholm, recalls an evening when he took her back to his office. There, he began to tell her of the plight of the Jews in Nazi Europe. His stories, told with frightening intensity, sounded impossible to her. In the United States, at the behest of President Roosevelt, the War Refugee Board was established. Its goal was to save Jews and other Nazi victims. The WRB was well funded.

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