Choosing to Act: Raoul Wallenberg
Passport photograph of Raoul Wallenberg. Sweden, June 1944. Sven Hagstromer
Hungarian Jews wait in front of the Swedish legation main office in hopes of obtaining Swedish protective passes. Budapest, Hungary, 1944. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Thomas Veres
Swedish "protective pass" issued to Lili Katz, a Hungarian Jew. Budapest, Hungary, August 25, 1944. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Lena Kurtz Deutsch
Swedish protective pass issued to Joseph Katona, the Chief Rabbi of Budapest. Budapest, Hungary, September 15, 1944. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Ferenc Katona
A protective pass issued by the Swiss consulate in Budapest, for Chief Rabbi Joseph Katona. Budapest, Hungary, October 23, 1944. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Ferenc Katona
A group of Hungarian Jews rescued from deportation by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Budapest, Hungary, November 1944. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Thomas Veres
Raoul Wallenberg is present at the Jozsefvaros train station in Budapest where Jews who have been rounded-up for deportation, wait on the platform. Wallenberg stands on the right with his hands clasped behing his back. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Thomas Veres
The year 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, whose courage during the Holocaust saved tens of thousands of lives.
At a time when few in positions of power acted to stop genocide, newly appointed Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg stepped forward to rescue his fellow human beings. Despite his lack of experience in diplomacy or clandestine operations, he led one of the most extensive and successful rescue efforts during the Nazi era.
Preventing the Deportation of Hungarian Jews
By July 1944, Hungarian and German authorities had deported nearly 440,000 Jews from Hungary, almost all to Auschwitz-Berkenau. Nearly 200,000 Jews remained in occupied Budapest; the Hungarians intended to deport them as well in compliance with German requests.
Shortly after his arrival in the Hungarian capital on July 9 of that year and with authorization from the Swedish government, Wallenberg began distributing certificates of protection to Jews. He used War Refugee Board and Swedish funds to establish hospitals, nurseries, and a soup kitchen and to designate more than 30 “safe” houses that together formed the core of an “international ghetto” for Jews with protective documents.
During autumn 1944, Wallenberg repeatedly, and often personally, intervened to secure the release of bearers of certificates of protection and those with forged papers. When Soviet forces liberated Budapest in February 1945, more than 100,000 Jews remained alive—mostly due to the efforts of Wallenberg and his colleagues.
After the Holocaust
Wallenberg was last seen in the company of Soviet officials in mid-January 1945. The exact circumstances of his death are still unknown.
He was posthumously granted American citizenship in 1981, and in 1985 the portion of the street on which the Museum is located was renamed in his honor.
Explore the links on this page to learn more about Raoul Wallenberg and his extraordinary rescue work.
Eyewitness testimony—Eva Brust Cooper
Eyewitness testimony—Agnes Mandl Adachi
Eyewitness testimony—View more testimonies
...and then we were so frozen that we couldn't do it anymore. But without Raoul Wallenberg, we wouldn't have saved even one single person.
— Agnes Mandl Adachi