The JEWISH POST remembers...
Raoul Wallenberg: A hero without a grave...
In this situation, Jeno Levai recalls, "It was of the utmost importance that the Nazis and the Arrow-Crossmen were not able to ravage unhindered - they were compelled to see that every step they took was being watched and followed by the young Swedish diplomat. From Wallenberg they could keep no secrets. The Arrow-Crossmen could not trick him. They could not operate freely. They were held responsible for the lives of the persecuted and the condemned. Wallenberg was the 'world's observing eye', the one who continually called the criminals to account. As the Germans found themselves increasingly on the military defensive, they were less able to supply Eichmann with trains and trucks for deporting Jews from Hungary. On November 8, 1944, as the Russian army moved closer to Budapest, Eichmann ordered all Jewish women and children rounded up and marched on foot 125 miles to Hegyeshalom on the Austrian-Hungarian border for deportation to the death camps. The men were brought to a work camp in another location. It took one week to walk in freezing cold and snow, with no food or heavy clothing. Women in high heels, rounded up in the street, children, and the elderly were forced to keep up with the pace set by the gendarmes. All along the route lay the dead and the dying.
Wallenberg, Per Anger, then second secretary of the Swedish legation, and their driver went along the route of the march by car, giving out food, clothing, fresh water and Swedish protective passports whenever possible. On the first day of the march, they rescued about 100 people with the protective passports. A few others they rescued by sheer bluff. In the days that followed, Wallenberg made repeated trips along the march route and continued his rescue efforts at the border. He organized Red Cross truck convoys to deliver food and set up checkpoints for those with "Schutzpasses".
About 1,500 people were thus rescued from transport to Auschwitz. At the end of November, Eichmann was ordered back to Berlin by Heinrich Himmler, who was preparing to put out peace feelers to the Allies. The marches were halted and Eichmann was instructed to cease all liquidation efforts. In December 1944, Wallenberg reported to Stockholm about the death marches. "It was possible to rescue some 2,000 persons from deportation for some reason or another." He added, almost as an afterthought, that the Swedish mission had also secured the return of 15,000 laborers holding Swedish and other protective passes. John Bierman, in his book on Wallenberg, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE, has included a moving eye-witness account of Wallenberg's work. They are the words of Tommy Lapid, now director-general of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority.
In 1944 Lapid was 13 years old and one of 900 people crowded into a Swedish protected house. His father was dead, and he had been allowed to remain with his mother. "One morning, a group of Hungarian Fascists came into the house and said that all the able-bodied women must go with them. We knew what this meant. My mother kissed me and I cried and she cried. We knew we were parting forever and she left me there, an orphan to all intents and purposes. Then two or three hours later, to my amazement, my mother returned with the other women. It seemed like a mirage, a miracle. My mother was there - she was alive and she was hugging me and kissing me, and she said one word: Wallenberg." "I knew whom she meant because Wallenberg was a legend among the Jews.
Return to News ArchivesBack to Top