Polish officials, diplomats commemorate Swedish Holocaust rescuer

The Polish Foreign Ministry as well as foreign embassy officials commemorated Raoul Wallenberg in Warsaw on Friday. He was a Budapest-posted Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust during WWII and was said to have died on July 17, 1947 while in a Soviet prison.

The wreath-laying ceremony was held by a plaque commemorating Raoul Wallenberg, located on a street named after him. Among other foreign guests, the ambassadors of Hungary and Sweden were present, as was the deputy US Ambassador.

Recalling Raoul Wallenberg's activity, Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński said that commemorating people like him was part of Poland's mission to guard the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. He also pointed out that three million of them came from Poland.

He added that another reason why Poles held Wallenberg in high esteem was the suspicion that one of the reasons for his 1945 arrest by the Soviets was his knowledge of the 1940 Katyń Forest Massacre, in which Soviet security services executed around 22,000 Polish prisoners of war in western Russia, the vast majority of whom belonged to the Polish interwar intelligentsia.

Presidential aide Wojciech Kolarski said that Poles saw greatness in what Wallenberg did, and recalled that many Poles acted similarly during the Holocaust.

Swedish Ambassador to Poland, Stefan Gullgren noted that Mr Wallenberg had conducted his operations in extremely adverse conditions.

"Raoul Wallenberg showed that courage and determination can enable the achievement of great things, even in the wake of insurmountable odds” he said.

Raoul Wallenberg (August 4, 1912 - disappeared January 17, 1945), was Sweden's special envoy in Budapest between July and December 1944. During that period he saved tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust by issuing them forged passports. He also sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory.

Mr Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviets on suspicions of espionage on January 17, 1945 during the Red Army's siege of Nazi-occupied Budapest, and disappeared. He was said to have died on July 17, 1947 in a Soviet prison. The circumstances of Wallenberg's arrest, incarceration and death, as well as his ties to US intelligence, remain a mystery and are still a source of speculation. He was honoured with the title of the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.