Hungary commemorates Wallenberg centenary

March 30, 2012 by J-Wire
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The Capital Jewish Forum and B’nai B’rith have hosted the Hungarian Ambassador to Australia during the year in which Hungary commemorates the centenary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg…the Swedish diplomat responsible saving countless Jews during WWII.

Manny Waks (CJF President), Ambassador Anna Siko, Anna Marks (BB Vice President) & Jim Altman (BB President) Pic: Candice Williams

Hungarian ambassador to Australia Anna Siko addressed the joint meeting of the Capital Jewish Forum and B’nai B’rith in Sydney this week.

She listed the upcoming events in Hungary.

Raoul Wallenberg

The Hungarian Government adopted a resolution on 3 November 2011 in which it declares the year 2012 as Wallenberg Year. The President of Hungary, H.E. Mr. Pál Schmitt took on the Patronage of the Centennial. A Wallenberg Commemorative Committee has been set up to oversee the preparations of the Year. The motto of the Year: “A Human in an Inhuman Age.”

Besides bowing before Raoul Wallenberg’s greatness of soul and getting closer to clearing up Wallenberg’s fate, we aim to commemorate the horrors of the Holocaust and expose the crimes of National Socialism and Communism. We also aim to reach out to the younger generations by supporting the idea of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. The centennial also gives us the opportunity to commemorate other rescuers or to discuss current human and minority rights issues.

Since Wallenberg saved lives as a diplomat, the Centennial also provides us with the opportunity to draw light on the responsibility of the diplomatic corps in inhuman times. The established Wallenberg Commemorative Committee is chaired by Minister of State Zsolt Németh and co-chaired by the Ambassador of Sweden to Budapest. The cross-party political support is ensured by the participation of LMP (Politics can be Different) and MSZP (Hungarian Socialist Party) in the Committee. Governmental and non-governmental organizations, the Wallenberg family, survivors of the Holocaust, the Ambassador of Israel to Budapest are part of the Committee.

Jan Anger and Ambassador Siko

In the course of the year, the Wallenberg Commemorative Committee plans a wide variety of events: exhibitions, conferences ad concerts. In particular it is our firm commitment that the Wallenberg Year’s message should reach younger generations.

The Wallenberg Year though is a national cause and national remembrance. That is why the official opening ceremony took place in the Hungarian National Museum on 17th of January, the day when Raoul Wallenberg disappeared. The event was hosted by H.E. Mr. János Martonyi, Foreign Minister of Hungary and H.E. Mr. Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister of Sweden. Yoseph Peled Israeli Minister at the Prime Minister’s office was a guest of honour to the event.
On the occasion, the “To me there’s no other choice – Raoul Wallenberg 1912 – 2012” Swedish exhibition was also opened.

On the occasion of the centennial, it is important for Hungary to remember Raoul Wallenberg respectably. The commemorations in Hungary may contribute to

•    paying tribute to the greatness Raoul Wallenberg demonstrated by his actions;
•    moving closer to clarifying Wallenberg’s fate;
•    commemorating the horrors of the Holocaust;
•    exposing the crimes of National Socialism and Communism;
•    commemorating the rescuers, finding out about their role more in detail;
•    conveying, on the basis of lessons of the past, values for the future to our citizens and especially the younger generations; supporting the idea of tolerance and peaceful coexistence;
•    discussing current human rights and minority issues;
•    further strengthening of European integration and transatlantic relations based on common values.

Raoul Wallenberg is a symbolic figure of rescuers in Hungary and in Europe in his time. A “Man amidst inhumanity” fighting the horrors of the Holocaust. Hungary values highly and treasures the memory of the martyr Swedish diplomat.

He is an icon who saved lives, an example to follow for many people all around the world. He turned against the patterns of his time did not bow to the conventions, rules and spirit that was dictated by the majority. And that is one of the main morals of the Holocaust, that there are peoples who turn against the tide in order to save lives. Beside Raoul Wallenberg there were others Carl Lutz and Giorgio Perlasca.

Wallenberg was well ahead of his time, has done something that was recognized only generations later. It is important that he himself was not a Jew, he acted on purely moral grounds, against rules and conventions. Talmud says: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”

It is of utmost importance that we give forth the example of Raoul Wallenberg to the younger generations and learn from his greatness.

The Ambassador noted that there will be a special session in the Australian Federal Parliament in order to commemorate Raoul Wallenberg on the occasion of this centenary year (when he would have turned 100 years old). This was the result of a jointly signed letter by the Hungarian, Swedish and Israeli ambassadors to Australia requesting this from the Australian Government.
A search is currently underway for an appropriate street in Canberra to be named after Raoul Wallenberg. It is anticipated that this initiative will be extended to other cities in Australia as well.
In response to a recent poll conducted by the US-based Anti-Defamation League, which found that Hungarians have the most antisemitic attitudes in Europe, the Ambassador noted that she believed that while unfortunately antisemitism does indeed occur in Hungary, it is not more antisemitic than other European countries. Importantly, there have not been reports of violent antisemitic attacks there, unlike in some other European countries, including most recently in France. Certainly the Hungarian Government is not antisemitic. The antisemitism in Hungary that does exist predominantly stems from the major economic challenges facing the country.
Holocaust education is mandatory within the national curriculum.

The CJF president Manny Waks told J-Wire: “This was a particularly poignant event as a number of the audience members present survived the Holocaust due to the bravery of Raoul Wallenberg and had met him in person. It was a real privilege not only to hear the Ambassador’s candid remarks on this Righteous Among Nations but also to hear the first-hand experiences of the survivors. It was certainly a fitting tribute to the extraordinary human being that Raoul Wallenberg was.
Jan Anger, the son of a former Swedish diplomat to Hungary, Per Anger, who worked with Raoul Wallenberg to help save Hungarian Jews and later became Sweden’s Ambassador to Australia, also shared with us his father’s incredible story.
The CJF was delighted to hold this unique event jointly with B’nai B’rth.”



One Response to “Hungary commemorates Wallenberg centenary”
  1. Peter says:

    Regarding the Jewish community in Sydney embracing the Hungarian Ambassador to Australia, I am absolutely disgusted. I would like to say that Raoul Wallenberg saved my mother’s life and several others in my family. Hungary decided to commemorate Raoul Wallenberg on the anniversary of his 100th birthday. However, this is the same country, same Government, which is giving tacit approval to open anti-semitism, anti other minorities – especially the Roma. I feel that the Jewish community in Australia should condemn Hungary, rather than embracing it through their representative, the Ambassador.
    Dr Peter Barta

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