On the religion beat: Rescuer of Jews in WWII honored

  • Article by: ROSE FRENCH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 3, 2012 - 8:28 PM

One of the heroes of the Holocaust who helped thousands of Jews escape Nazi-occupied Hungary is being honored in the Twin Cities.

Saturday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, credited with saving up to 80,000 people during World War II.

To commemorate his efforts, the Minneapolis-based American Swedish Institute and Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) are recognizing Wallenberg's birth by sharing his story with audiences not familiar with his role in saving Hungarian Jews.

The groups collected the stories of two Twin Cities Holocaust survivors from Budapest: retired University of Minnesota professor of pediatrics and author Robert Fisch andretired American Red Cross Field Service Manager Charles Fodor. The men shared their stories and admiration for Wallenberg at the institute on Tuesday

"In the darkest moments of the Holocaust, he was among the greatest of the righteous, both in his audacity and bravery and in the number of people he was able to rescue in cooperation with other like-minded people," said Steve Hunegs, JCRC executive director.

Last month, Gov. Mark Dayton issued a recognition of Wallenberg's works. Other events in honor of Wallenberg will be held at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., on Oct. 26, and at the Swedish Institute Oct. 28.

Wallenberg was sent to the Swedish embassy in Budapest in 1944 and assigned to provide relief for Jews. He worked with foreign diplomats to establish safe houses, created passports and freed people from trains headed to Auschwitz.

Wallenberg disappeared in 1945 and reportedly died in prison in Moscow in 1947 -- thought by Russians to have been a spy for the West.

"Wallenberg is one of the greatest examples in history of pure humanitarianism," Hunegs said. "He's a common icon to the Swedish and Jewish communities."

Rose French • 612-673-4352

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