Birth of Raoul Wallenberg

Birth of Raoul Wallenberg

US #3135 pictures Wallenberg at the Swedish legation.

Humanitarian and diplomat Raoul Gustaf Wallenberg was born on August 4, 1912, in Lidingö Municipality, Sweden.

Wallenberg was born to a prominent family of bankers, industrialists, and diplomats.  After high school, he spent eight months in the Swedish military before going to Paris to study. 

After a year in Paris, Wallenberg transferred to the University of Michigan to study architecture.  Though he came from a wealthy family, he worked a variety of odd jobs.  Among them was a rickshaw handler at Chicago’s Century of Progress. Wallenberg also used his school breaks to travel the US by hitchhiking.  He claimed that because it kept him alert at all times and in contact with new people, it provided excellent training in diplomacy and tact.

US #3135 – Classic First Day Cover.

Wallenberg graduated in 1935, but found when he returned to Sweden that his degree didn’t give him the qualifications to work as an architect there.  Over the next few years, he worked for a construction company in Cape Town, South Africa, a bank in Haifa, Israel, and a trading company in Stockholm. 

US #3135 – Fleetwood Plate Block First Day Cover.

Wallenberg was one-sixteenth Jewish and worked with Kalman Lauer, a Hungarian Jew.  In the years leading up to World War II, Hungary began passing laws restricting Jewish people from working in certain professions.  This led Wallenberg to serve as Lauer’s personal representative, traveling out of the country for business.  These experiences gave him an up-close look at the Nazi government that he would later put to use.

US #3135 – Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

In 1944, Wallenberg was appointed as a special diplomatic envoy to the Swedish Mission in Budapest, Hungary.  He had been recruited by the War Refugee Board to provide aid to the Hungarian Jews.  Although more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews had already been deported by this time, Wallenberg immediately sought to rescue the thousands of remaining Jews assigned to Nazi death camps.

Item #M11110 was issued on the anniversary of his arrest, designated as Raoul Wallenberg Day in Canada.

Often using his own money, Wallenberg established “safe houses” under the Swedish flag where Jews could find food, shelter, and safety from persecution.  In addition, he also distributed Swedish passports and false identification papers to over 20,000 Jews.

Item #M11307 – Wallenberg Canada First Day Cover.

Soviet authorities arrested Wallenberg on January 17, 1945 for alleged espionage.  A Soviet report claimed he died of a heart attack on July 17, 1947.  However, reports that he was alive somewhere within the Soviet prison system continued to circulate through the 1980s.  In 1981, President Ronald Reagan declared Raoul Wallenberg an honorary US citizen.  Tom Lantos, one of the thousands of people Wallenberg saved, introduced the bill that led to this. 

Sweden #1643 honors Wallenberg.

Wallenberg was the first person to be granted honorary Canadian citizenship and made an honorary citizen of Hungary, Australia, and Israel too.  The US has also established the Raoul Wallenberg Committee, to “perpetuate the humanitarian ideals and the nonviolent courage of Raoul Wallenberg.”  They give out an award to people that carry on Wallenberg’s ideals. 

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
[Total: 6 Average: 3.7]

Share this article

10 responses to "Birth of Raoul Wallenberg"

10 thoughts on “Birth of Raoul Wallenberg”

  1. Thank you Mystic for today’s article about a man who was a shining light during a dark time in the history of mankind. I had not heard of this gentleman previously and will share how he dedicated his life to helping others. What a great lesson.

    Reply
  2. Happy Birthday.To a Swedish-Born Humanitarian who SAVED OVER 20.000 LIVES During ww2.Thank you very much Mystic for todays article about VERY GOOD MAN.Very great lesson.Olha and Volodymyr Musiyenko.8/4/19. 3.20pm.

    Reply
  3. See the made-for-television film on Wallenberg( Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story, 1985) starring Richard Chamberlain and this unknown hero will come alive.

    Reply
  4. Raoul was truly sent by God. I hope that history will remember him forever and that more people will step up and help those who are persecuted because of their religious beliefs.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Love history?

Discover events in American history – plus the stamps that make them come alive.

Subscribe to get This Day in History stories straight to your inbox every day!