Today, August 5th, 2013, a ceremony took place to commemorate the 101st birthday of and to rededicate the 18-foot sculpture of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish hero who saved the life of tens of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. The Raoul Wallenberg square is at the intersection of Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. It is the first time an intersection has been named after an individual.
The sculpture, standing for nearly 25 years, which many do not know exists, today came to be a center of attention. It was created and donated by the Italian artist Franco Assetto and was first unveiled on December 4th, 1988. Raoul Wallenberg was The Swedish Angel Of Rescue. The statue features a bronze silhouette of a man with his hand extended, flanked by two stainless steel wings, symbolizing Wallenberg’s role as an angel of rescue.
The drive to create the monument was spearheaded by John Brooks, a Hungarian Jew who was saved by Wallenberg, and Zev Yaroslavsky, the outgoing Los Angeles County Supervisor.
Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish architect, businessman, diplomat and humanitarian. His memory is celebrated for his successful efforts to rescue about 100,000 Jews in Nazi occupied Hungary during the Holocaust from Hungarian Fascists and the Nazis during the later stages of WWII. While serving as Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest, between July and December 1944, Wallenberg issued Schutz-Passes, meaning protective passports, and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory and thus saved tens of thousands of lives of men, women and children.
Raoul Wallenberg was a young man, a son of Sweden, a man of the world who possessed monumental courage and heroism. He shielded Jews behind the blue and yellow flag of Sweden in order to rescue them and did not hesitate to follow Jews on the march to their death with food and water while defying the Nazis’ orders.
Many Holocaust survivors, Mr. Oliver Pinter, Deputy Consul General of Hungary and a long list of government and city officials attended the ceremony, emceed by Terry Friedman, president of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles; the ceremony took place under the auspices of Jewish Family Service in Los Angeles, David Segal, the Consul General of Israel, Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Committee, Chase Bank, on its property the statue stands, CBS television, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Claims Conference on Jewish Material, Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, The Jewish Federation and Councilmember Paul Koretz.
What was missing were the youths, the generation that must carry on the torch of ‘Never Again’.Much was written about Raoul Wallenberg and the reader can search for detailed information of this hero. What Raoul Wallenberg did must set the tone of rescue, resistance and world responsibility. For Mr. Wallenberg the conventional rule did not apply.
For his heroism Raoul Wallenberg received the American Gold Medal and he is part of a short list of only 31 non-Americans who received the Medal.
For Raoul Wallenberg it was always about to do the right thing, no matter what. He fearlessly challenged the Nazis. He followed the Jewish saying, he who saves a single life as if he saved the entire world. And Wallenberg personified that by his actions. It is the Jewish nation’s responsibility to enshrine his legacy.
Take a drive to Raoul Wallenberg square, face history and look it in the eye. Pay homage to a man whose kindness and lack of selfishness were unstoppable; a righteous man who did not think that there is any other way but to jump on the trains that carried Jews to their death and try pull, even if one Jew off the train and save him or her.
Raoul Wallenberg was a young man with courage only a few have. His fate is unknown and his life mission never fully fulfilled. But when alive he risked it all for the sake of humanity and made the difference like only few have done.
On the bank of the Danube River in Budapest there is a monument made of shoes of Jewish men and women who did not have that luck to be saved by Raoul Wallenberg and Andrew Stevens (Rebel with a Cause: The Amazing True Stories of an Urban Partisan in WW II, by Andrew E. Stevens (Author – http://www.amazon.com/Rebel-Cause-Amazing-Partisan-INSCRIBED/dp/B00CQ1WHJS) who used the pen and their craftiness and compassion to save life. Their motto was, when the stakes are high we have the obligation to rectify.
It is not enough to bear witness to the evil of man. One has to take charge and responsibility and do something to fulfill the ‘Never Again’.