Raoul Wallenberg was only 34 years old when he died in a Soviet prison – if the USSR's account is correct. The Swedish diplomat is remembered for his work in Budapest, where he saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews. Wallenberg was born 100 years ago, on 4. August 1912, near Stockholm.
His ancestors were bankers, diplomats and officers, and the Wallenbergs are still the richest family in Sweden. Raoul's father died before he was born. His mother remarried, and he had a cordial relationship with his stepfather and half-siblings. After his school years, Wallenberg studied architecture in the USA. At the request of his grandfather, however, he began a banking education and worked in South Africa and Palestine. There he first met Jews who had fled Hitler's Germany. These encounters made a great impression on the young man. On the other hand, he did not like banking very much. "I think my character is more suited to a positive attitude toward life than to sitting behind a desk and saying "no" to people," he wrote to his grandfather on. He was increasingly drawn to the diplomatic service.
During this period of professional orientation – Wallenberg was working in the company of a Hungarian Jew – he was approached by the War Refugee Board (WRB). In January 1944, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt set up this task force to rescue mainly Jews in Hungary from the concentration camps. In neutral Sweden, the WRB was looking for a suitable person who was willing to implement the rescue operation. This person should be intelligent, with a good reputation, good contacts and non-Jewish. The choice fell on Raoul Wallenberg. On 7. July 1944 he traveled to Budapest on behalf of the Swedish government. Shortly before, on 27. April 1944, the first trains had rolled out of Hungary toward Auschwitz.
As an attache of the Swedish legation, Wallenberg had diplomatic status and sufficient financial means through the WRB.
He was also able to ie letters of protection. These papers guaranteed entry into Sweden. Wallenberg managed to get 4.was allowed to ie 500 of the coveted passports, eventually even more than 8.000. They were actually intended for only one person, but Wallenberg unceremoniously entered entire families in them.
The procedure was laborious and time-consuming, because the fiction had to be maintained to the Hungarian authorities that the Schutzbrief holders actually had connections to Sweden. At times Wallenberg employed up to 400 Jewish employees, who were thus under the protection of the Swedish embassy. Raoul Wallenberg was not the only one to act in this way.
The Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz and the Papal Nuncio in Budapest, Angelo Rotta, also ied letters of protection. Wallenberg's momentum carried away the humane representatives of the neutral states. They bombarded the government with protest notes.
The deportations ended only with the invasion of the Red Army. Until then, Wallenberg was restless on the road, maintained contacts in all directions. It is possible that this activity was his undoing in the end. On 17. January 1945, he set out with his chauffeur to talk to the Soviet military about further relief measures for the Hungarian Jews. After that the trace of the two men disappears. It was only years later that the Soviets, who until then had denied knowing anything at all about Wallenberg's whereabouts, declared that he had died on 17. July 1947 died in prison. Whether this is true, what he actually died of, and what the background to his imprisonment is, remains unclear to this day.