This Week in History – August 5, 1912


August 5, 1912: The Swedish businessman-diplomat Raoul Wallenberg became one of the civilian heroes ofWorld War II. He used his position as a neutral Swedish citizen to help about 100,000 Hungarian Jews escape deportation to Nazi death camps. For his selfless work he was granted honorary United States citizenship—only the second foreigner, after Winston Churchill, to be so honored.
Wallenberg was born to a wealthy family of bankers and diplomats in Stockholm, Sweden, on Aug. 5, 1912. In 1935 he became the foreign representative of a European trading firm whose president was a Hungarian Jew. With the help of American and Swedish Jewish and refugee organizations, Wallenberg obtained a diplomatic mission in German-occupied Budapest in 1944. When the Nazis sent mobile death squads into Hungary later that year, Wallenberg used false passports and documents to accomplish daring rescues of Jewish prisoners scheduled for deportation to Nazi concentration camps. Thousands of Jews were then sheltered in safe houses where they were protected under neutral flags.
On Jan. 17, 1945, after Soviet troops entered Budapest, Wallenberg was arrested on trumped-up charges of espionage and sent to a Soviet prison camp. He was never heard from again. The Soviets later admitted that the arrest had been a mistake but insisted Wallenberg had died of a heart attack in a Moscow prison cell in 1947. No proof was ever offered. As late as 1990 reports that he was still alive persisted. But in 2000, Russian investigators admitted that Wallenberg had probably been murdered.
Raoul Wallenberg. (2017). InEncyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from