By VIN News
In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day that will be commemorated in the US Capitol on Thursday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act, by a vote of 377-0, with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats.
The bill was sponsored by Congressman Gregory W. Meeks and Congresswoman Nan Hayworth of New York. If the Senate consents, this bill will bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on a hero who is credited with saving a hundred thousand Jewish lives during the Nazi occupation of Hungary in World War II.
Raoul Wallenberg was the Swedish envoy to Budapest on a diplomatic mission established in collaboration with the American War Refugee Board and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to initiate a rescue operation for Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary. Over 500,000 Hungarian Jews had already been deported to Nazi death camps by the time Wallenberg arrived in Budapest.
Many prominent Hungarian rabbonim were among those saved by Wallenberg including Rav Yisroel Weltz OBM who was the Rosh Bais Din in Budapest, Rav Yonosen Shteif OBM who led the Viener Kehila as well as previous Liska Rav OBM.
Many prominent Americans also owe their lives to Wallenberg’s heroic actions, including the late Congressman Tom Lantos. Through issuance of fake Swedish “protective passes” and sheltering in official Swedish diplomatic houses, Wallenberg unrelentingly sought to save Jews from the Germans and their accomplices, risking his own life numerous times in the process.
In 1945, during the Soviet siege of Budapest, Wallenberg was detained by Soviet authorities on suspicion of espionage and was never heard from again; producing differing accounts of Wallenberg’s fate, none of which have enough merit to be fully accepted today. Congresswoman Hayworth and Congressman Meeks and other supporters of the bill believe that awarding the Congressional Gold Medal during the centennial celebration of his birth is a fitting memorial to a man to whom so many Americans owe their lives.
Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group, told VIN News “the process leading up to this vote was an emotional opportunity for the Wallenberg Board that consist of individuals with a direct connection to Wallenberg like Peter Rebenwurzel, Leon Goldenberg, Sidney Greenberg, Erol User and Ken Abramowitz to thank members of Congress especially Nan Hayworth and Gregory Meeks and their respective staffs for honoring a hero whose selfless sacrifice and heroism directly saved their families and is still remembered close to 70 years after the fact.”
Flushing Bank and Health Plus are corporate sponsors of the Wallenberg Commission.
The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest civilian decorations in the United States, awarded to an individual who performs an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States. In 1994, it was given to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for dedicating his life to education.