November 18, 2018

Sale of Nazi-Era Pass Recalls Hero Wallenberg

A life-saving document for two Hungarian Jews, signed by the late Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, has been sold for $13,750, according to a spokesman for Nate D. Sanders Auction of Los Angeles.

The sale brings renewed attention to one of the most elaborate and effective acts by a Christian, backed by his government, to foil the Nazi death machine.

The so-called “protective pass” conferred Swedish citizenship on Jewish siblings Emilne Tanzer and Iren Forgo. The passes spared them the fate of more than 300,000 Hungarian Jews killed by the SS, mainly at Auschwitz.

Specifically, the passes exempted the Jewish bearers from wearing the yellow Jewish star patch,by declaring that they were Swedish citizens awaiting reparation to their homeland.

Though the passes had no actual legal standing, the ruse worked well enough to be accepted by German and Hungarian officials most of the time.

Wallenberg disappeared in early 1945, and it is generally believed that he was arrested when Russian troops wrested Budapest from the German army, and that he died in a Russian labor camp.

In line with its policy, Sanders Auction did not identify the seller or buyer of the historical document.

In addition to issuing “protective passes,” Wallenberg used American and Swedish funds to establish hospitals, nurseries and a soup kitchen for the Jews of Budapest.

According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia, published by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Wallenberg was born in Stockholm in 1912, studied in the United States, and in June 1944 was recruited by the U.S. War Refugee Board to travel to Hungary. Given status as a diplomat by the Swedish delegation, Wallenberg’s assignment was to assist and rescue as many Hungarian Jews as he could.

Although completely inexperienced in diplomacy and clandestine operations, Wallenberg led one of the most extensive and successful rescue efforts during the Holocaust.

In addition to issuing “protective passes,” Wallenberg used American and Swedish funds to establish hospitals, nurseries and a soup kitchen. In addition, he designated more than 30 “safe” houses that together formed the core of the “international” ghetto in Budapest, which was reserved for Jews and their families holding certificates of protection from a neutral country.

Spurred by Wallenberg’s example, diplomats from other neutral countries joined in the rescue effort. Swiss Consul General Carl Lutz issued certificates of emigration to some potential emigrants to Palestine.

Italian businessman Giorgio Perlasca, posing as a Spanish diplomat, established safe houses, including one for Jewish children.

Wallenberg’s decision to put his own life at risk to help save Jews was summed up by a friend many years ago who reportedly told Wallenberg that he should worry about his own safety. Wallenberg reportedly responded, “For me, there’s no choice. I’ve taken on this assignment, and I’d never be able to go back to Stockholm without knowing inside myself I’d done all a man could do to save as many Jews as possible.”

Hungarian Jews collect money, food for Middle East refugees

Hungarian Jews have collected about $5,000 and half a ton of food and nonperishables for refugees from the Middle East.

In the collection drive on Friday, the Mazsihisz umbrella group of Hungarian Jewish communities and its youth department gathered food and nonperishables at three depots in Budapest, including a synagogue and Jewish community center.

“There are currently between 100 and 150 Hungarian Jews that I know of involved in the relief effort,” said Zoltan Radnoti, chairman of the Mazsihisz rabbinical council.

Hungary has been one of the main entry points into the European Union by tens of thousands of migrants from the Middle East, including many refugees from Syria and Iraq, where sectarian violence erupted and has been ongoing since 2011.

Last month, as international media outlets produced jarring reports about thousands of deaths by people who perished at sea or on land en route to Europe, thousands of migrants moved into Hungary – a European Union member state – from neighboring Serbia, which is not part of the European Union. Many crossed into Hungary to continue to richer EU countries north of it, and Hungarian authorities in some instances helped the migrants cross into Austria.

Some 340,000 migrants from the Middle East have crossed into the European Union this year, according to United Nations figures.

Evoking the lessons of the Holocaust, several prominent European rabbis, including the chief rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, and the former chief rabbi of Britain, Jonathan Sacks, have urged European governments to treat the migrants generously and find a solution to their plight.

“As Eastern European Jews, we carry the knowledge of how it feels to flee our homes,” Radnoti told JTA.

Hungary’s Orban acknowledges country’s complicity in Holocaust

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban apologized for Hungarians’ role in deporting Jews to concentration camps, his first acknowledgement of Hungarian complicity in the Holocaust.

In a speech Monday at a Jewish cemetery in Budapest, Orban called the Holocaust a “national tragedy” for Hungarians.

“We were without love and indifferent, when we should have helped, and very many Hungarians chose bad instead of good, the shameful instead of the honorable,” Orban said, according to the French news agency AFP.

Orban also paid tribute to Jewish Hungarian soldiers who fought in World War I.

“Without the sacrifices that Hungarian Jews made during the First World War, it would have been impossible to defend our homeland,” Orban said Monday at a ceremony to mark the renovation of World War I-era graves in the Kozma Street Cemetery, the largest Jewish burial place in the Hungarian capital.

Orban said hundreds of Jewish soldiers who fought in the war, from 1914 to 1918, were buried in the cemetery. The Hungarian government provided funding for the graves’ recent renovation.

Some Hungarian Jews criticized the timing of the event, one day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau. Half a million Hungarian Jews were killed at the concentration camp.