The JEWISH POST remembers...
Raoul Wallenberg: A hero without a grave...
In the complete and total hell in which we lived, there was a savior-angel somewhere, moving around." Wallenberg became famous among the Jews of Hungary for his many individual acts of bravery, but it was as a negotiator that he achieved his greatest results. In addition to its International Ghetto, Budapest had a general ghetto, which was guarded and sealed off. The 70,000 Jews kept there as virtual prisoners existed under the most horrible and primitive conditions, unprotected from the violence of the Arrow-Crossmen. Wallenberg got word in the first days of January, 1945 that a final plan, masterminded by Adolf Eichmann before he left Hungary, was soon to be carried out. It was to be completed very quickly, before the Russian army could enter Budapest and open the ghetto. The plan called for the total massacre of the ghetto population, by a combined task force of SS men and Arrow-Crossmen led by a priest, Vilmas Lucska. An additional 200 policemen would encircle the ghetto fence, making certain that no Jews escaped.
All the documents for the extermination plan were ready and the German commander in Budapest was prepared to carry out his orders, even as the Russians shelled the city. Wallenberg had been working behind the scenes for many months with Pal Szalay, a high-ranking Arrow-Crossman who was a senior police official. Szalay was horrified by the atrocities committed by his compatriots, and he quickly became an invaluable ally. In fact, he was the only prominent member of the Arrow-Cross to escape execution after the war by the People's Court; he was set free with no charges. Szalay helped to save many lives in various incidents, but his most important contribution was as Wallenberg's spokesman in negotiations with the German general, August Schmidthuber. Schmidthuber was commander of the SS troops in Budapest, and Eichmann had designated one of his detachments to spearhead the ghetto action.
It was far too dangerous for Wallenberg to meet personally with the SS leader; he was already wanted by the Gestapo, and there had been several attempts on his life. Any direct communication with Schmidthuber would mark Wallenberg as a dangerous international witness to the ghetto extermination. Wallenberg sent Pal Szalay to speak for him with the general. Szalay informed Schmidthuber that, if the planned massacres took place, Wallenberg would see to it that the general was held personally responsible and would be hanged as a war criminal. With the Russian army already approaching the city, the general reconsidered. He issued the order that no ghetto action was to take place. It was Wallenberg's last victory. When the Russian army entered Budapest, they found almost 70,000 Jewish men, women and children alive in the general ghetto. Another 25,000 people were in the protected houses, and an additional 25,000 persons of Jewish origin were found hiding in Christian homes, monasteries, convents, church basements, and other sanctuaries.
In all, 120,000 Jews of Budapest survived the "final solution". They were the only substantial Jewish community left in Europe. At least 100,000 of these people owed their lives directly to Raoul Wallenberg. In Jewish folklore there exists a tale of "36 righteous men." This is the minimum number of anonymous, righteous men who must be living in each generation, as the world exists on their merit. These hidden saints appear in times of great danger to the Jewish community, using their powers to defeat its enemies. Perhaps such a legendary "Lamed-Vovnik," -or- "One of the Just" - made his appearance in the person of Raoul Wallenberg.
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