• Issue: June 1983
  • Designer: R. Beckman
  • Stamp size: 25.7 x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 60
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: Government Printers
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat, who was responsible for saving tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazis and their all-too-willing Hungarian collaborators during the second World War, was born in 1912 to a distinguished aristocratic Swedish family, whose members had achieved eminence in their country's banking, foreign service, army and Church. His mother was the great-grandchild of a Jewish dealer in jewels and precious stones who served as financial adviser to the kings of Sweden, and it was from her that he imbibed a feeling for the fate of the Jewish people and a pride in his Jewish ancestry.

He received a comprehensive education, studying law, architecture, banking and international trade in France and the USA and travelled widely. In 1936 he lived in Haifa where he was working at the Holland Bank, and it was there he had his first contact with German refugees who had fled from the Nazis, and learned from them the realities of Hitler's persecution of the Jews.

On his return to Sweden, he joined the army and was a very successful commander of men. At a later stage, he began to seek his true vocation - one that would enable him to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious ancestors and give meaning to his life. He felt a deep sympathy for the Jewish people and identified himself with their fate, and resolved to do all he could to help them in their darkest hour. In July 1944, in response to the request of the World Jewish Congress, the American Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency following the deportation of nearly half a million Hungarian Jews to the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, he was sent by the American government's War Refugee Board to Budapest as a volunteer diplomat. At that time there were still 250,000 Jews living in the Budapest Ghetto and Wallenberg undertook the impossible task of slowing down the German death-machine. Working from the Swedish Embassy, he got together a rescue staff made up of several hundred Jewish volunteers, declared 32 apartment buildings housing 20,000 Jews to be under the protection of the Swedish flag and took care of all the residents' needs. He issued "protective" Swedish passports to tens of thousands of Jews and thus gave them a degree of immunity from the continual harassment of their oppressors. He organized the most daring and audacious methods for saving the lives of Jews - turning up at the railway station that served as the assembly point for transporting the victims to the death camps, and used his diplomatic privileges to snatch dozens of victims from the trains on the grounds that they were under Swedish protection. When the Germans organized their notorious "Death-marches" in which tens of thousands of women, old men and children were marched hundreds of miles through the snow and hundreds died of exhaustion, starvation or cold, or were shot by their guards, Wallenberg, accompanied by his band of helpers, would appear as a "ministering angel", handing out clothing, food, drink and medicaments and, by his presence, not only gave encouragement to the unfortunate victims,

but even curbed the excesses of their sadistic guards. Through his fearless actions, imagination and self-sacrifice, Wallenberg and his helpers were able to save the lives of 25,000 Jews during the period from July 1944 until the middle of January 1945 and, by inspiring and cajoling other organizations to play their part in this humanitarian work, were able to save about 100,000 Jews from certain death.

On the 17th January 1945 the Red Army reached the outskirts of Budapest and Raoul Wallenberg went to a fateful meeting with Marshal Rodion Malinovsky in the town of Debrecen. He was given a military escort and, as he parted from his assistants at the Embassy, he hinted to them that he "wasn't sure whether he was going as a guest or as a prisoner". The Soviet government immediately informed the Swedish government and Wallenberg's family that he had been taken into "protective custody" but later denied this, claiming that they knew nothing of his whereabouts and that "we cannot discover the source of the original announcement". In view of the weight of evidence that Wallenberg was in their hands, the Soviets were forced to admit this in 1957, but claimed that "he died of a heart attack in Moscow's Lubyanka prison on the 17th July 1947 and his body was cremated".

This version of the facts was refuted in later years by dozens of witnesses, several of whom gave evidence before the Swedish Supreme Court, who claimed that they had seen Wallenberg alive many years after he had been declared dead by the Soviets. Since then, unceasing efforts have been made to discover the truth and to find out if Raoul Wallenberg is still alive. "Free Wallenberg" committees have been formed in Sweden, the USA, England, Germany and Israel to help in unravelling the mystery and to pay tribute to this outstanding humanitarian. Raoul Wallenberg has become a legend to people of goodwill all over the world. The government of the USA has made him an honorary citizen - only the third person to be awarded this great honour (after General Lafayette and Sir Winston Churchill) and he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. On the occasion of the visit of Raoul's brother and sister to Israel, a tree was planted in his name in the "Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles" at "Yad Ve-Shem" in Jerusalem and a Wallenberg Forest of 10,000 trees was planted in his honour in the Galilee. His memory will be forever treasured by the Jewish people in whose history he has carved himself a very special niche.

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Raoul Wallenberg