Feast of Raoul Wallenberg (December 19)   Leave a comment

raoul-wallenberg

Above:  Raoul Wallenberg

Image in the Public Domain

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RAOUL GUSTAV WALLENBERG (AUGUST 4, 1912-JULY 17, 1947?)

Righteous Gentile

Raoul Wallenberg was a merely decent human being.

Robert Ellsberg explains:

Unlike many rescuers, Wallenberg left no record of soul-searching, conversion, or even profound reflection on the meaning of his efforts.  He did not come from a particularly religious family, and his privileged upbringing had fairly insulated him from much contact with suffering.  He simply rose to the ethical demands of the situation as though it were the self-evident duty of a human being.  He did what needed to be done.  The Nazis did not know what to make of this.  More than once it seems they put the question to him:  “Why would a Christian go to such trouble to save some Jews?”  There is no record of his ever having dignified the question with a reply.

All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), pages 556-557

Wallenberg, born at Lidingo, Sweden, on August 4, 1912, came from a prominent family that included bankers and industrialists.  He, an excellent student, preferred architecture and commerce to banking, the profession for which certain members of his family were grooming him.  After graduating from high school and serving the mandatory eight months in the Swedish Army our saint studied architecture at the University of Michigan from 1931 to 1935.  He graduated with honors then returned to Sweden briefly.  Wallenberg’s grandfather sent him to work at a building materials firm in Cape Town, South Africa, for six months.  Then the grandfather arranged for our saint to work in a Dutch bank office in Haifa, Palestine.  There the part-Jewish Wallenberg encountered Jews who had escaped from Germany.

The Protestant Wallenberg returned to Sweden in 1936.  Eventually he became a joint owner and international director of the Mid-European Trading Company.  In that capacity he traveled across Europe.  In July 1944 our saint arrived in Budapest, Hungary.  Officially, he was part of the Swedish legation there.  He was actually in Hungary because of a diplomatic agreement between the governments of Sweden and the United States; he was associated with the U.S. War Refugee Board.

Wallenberg saved the lives of many Jews in Budapest.  By the time he arrived the Hungarian Jewish population, once nearly 750,000, had shrunk to about 230,000.  Our saint distributed Swedish passports to many of them and helped them leave the country.  He also protected Jews by bribing, browbeating, and threatening to blackmail Hungarian government officials, who were subject to the Nazis.  Our saint also confronted Adolf Eichmann, the chief architect of the Holocaust.  Wallenberg’s diplomatic status protected him for a few months.

Then that protection failed.  He could have left Hungary with other diplomats in December 1944, but our saint remained behind to protect Jews he could not get out of the country.  The NKVD arrested him on January 16, 1945; they thought he was a spy for the United States of America.  The last confirmed sighting of Wallenberg alive was on the following day.  According to Soviet government sources, our saint died of a heart attack on July 17, 1947.  A revised version of the story retained the date of death but changed the cause of death to execution.  Nevertheless, reports of him being alive continued into the 1960s.

Wallenberg laid down his life for strangers in a foreign land.  He made the supreme sacrifice for his neighbors.  His deeds revealed his creed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANNE STEELE, FIRST IMPORTANT ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Raoul Wallenberg, to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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