Wallenberg memorialised

November 27, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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The life and legacy of a man who transcended geographic, political and humanitarian borders has been memorialised in Canberra at the Centre of European Studies at Australian National University.

Bob Carr, Hungarian ambassador Anna Maria Siko, Israeli ambassador Yuval Rotem and Swedish ambassador Sven-Olof Petersson

Swedish-born diplomat Raoul Wallenberg was bestowed the title ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ on November 26, 1963 for his noble and heroic work issuing protective passports and providing shelter to Jews in Nazi occupied Hungary during the Second World War. Forty-nine years later on the same day, a unique tribute to Wallenberg was hosted by the embassies of Sweden, Israel and Hungary to honour a man who has no grave and whose end still remains shrouded in mystery.

Wallenberg’s efforts are credited with saving the lives of tens of thousands from death and deportation. One century after his birth, Wallenberg is held in profound global esteem and events commemorating his life have taken place around the world in 2012 to celebrate his life, work and humanity.

The university was an ideal location for the memorial given its capacity to link students with lessons from the past; allowing them to shape a future imbued with the experience of humanity throughout history.

Raoul Wallenberg

This special event featured the unveiling of a plaque and a memorial plantation that was dedicated by Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who fervently spoke on the life and character of Raoul Wallenberg as a man who truly embodied Edmund Bourke’s famous words, ‘all that is required for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing’. At the invitation of the three embassies, Ervin Forrester, a Hungarian Jew who was rescued through the efforts of Raoul Wallenberg, travelled from Sydney to attend the memorial.

Ervin’s grand-daughter, Rebecca Carpenter gave a moving speech about her grandfather’s incredible story of personal bravery. As a young Hungarian boy, Ervin was forced by the Nazis into the Working Army in 1944. He escaped and fled to Budapest where he was sheltered by the Red Cross, but was later recaptured and sentenced to death for his desertion.

He told the Nazis he was a Swedish citizen and the authorities contacted the Swedish embassy where Raoul Wallenberg came to him in his prison cell and said “I’m going to save your life”. Ervin was issued with a Swedish passport and protected by the state of Sweden. Later in 1950 he moved to Australia.

A combination of 10 pine and maple trees were planted on the grounds of the Australian National University to represent the ten decades passed since his birth.

The trees stand as an enduring symbol of life and growth; transporting the memory and spirit of Wallenberg to the truly diverse community of Canberra.

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