Chronology of Rescue by Raoul Wallenberg, Sweden
Raoul Wallenberg volunteered as a civilian employee of the American War Refugee Board in 1944. He was credentialed as a diplomat by Sweden and arrived in Budapest on January 9, 1944. His mission was to save as many Budapest Jews as possible. Raoul Wallenberg redesigned the Swedish protective papers. Wallenberg issued Swedish diplomatic papers to thousands of Hungarian Jews. He prevented the Nazis from deporting and murdering Jews in the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. With his staff of Jewish volunteers, Wallenberg rescued thousands of Jews who were being forced on death marches. He also established dozens of safe houses throughout Budapest. He tirelessly protected the safe houses from Nazi and Arrow Cross raids. In January 1945, shortly before the Soviets liberated Budapest, Wallenberg prevented the Germans from blowing up the Jewish ghetto in Pest and killing its inhabitants. Shortly thereafter, Raoul Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviets and disappeared. He was honored as Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel in 1963. In 1981, Wallenberg was bestowed the title of honorary citizen of the United States, at that time, an honor reserved only for Winston Churchill. In addition, he has been honored all over the world for his life-saving activities. In 2013, the United States Congress authorized the issuing of a Congressional Gold Medal for Raoul Wallenberg. After nearly 70 years of investigation, his whereabouts or fate in the hands of the Soviet Union has never been proven.
August 5, 1912
Raoul Wallenberg is born in Stockholm, Sweden to a wealthy and aristocratic banking family. For generations, they had been in banking and commerce. Raoul Wallenberg’s father, Raoul Gustav Wallenberg, died three months before his son was born. His mother, Maj Wising, is the daughter of Sweden’s first professor of neurology.
Maj Wallenberg marries Fredrik von Dardel. They have two children, Guy and Nina. Young Raoul is raised and guided by his fraternal grandfather, Ambassador Gustav Wallenberg. Gustav Wallenberg insists on supervising the upbringing and education of his grandson. Young Wallenberg is encouraged to have an enlightened and cosmopolitan outlook on the world.
After graduating from high school with top honors and serving in the Swedish home guard, Gustav sends Raoul to France for a year to learn French. Raoul is already proficient in English, German and Russian.
Grandfather Wallenberg sends Raoul to study architecture at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. As a young man, Raoul Wallenberg had been fascinated by architecture, and often studied buildings in Stockholm. Raoul is an outstanding student and graduates more than a year early.
Wallenberg graduates with honors and receives his degree in architecture. Gustav sends Raoul to Cape Town, South Africa, where he works for a Swedish firm selling building materials.
On the recommendation of his grandfather, Raoul takes a job with the Holland Bank in Haifa, Palestine. Though he enjoys Israel and makes many friends, he writes his grandfather, “Possibly, I am not cut out for banking...I think I have the character for positive action, rather than to sit at a desk and say No to people.”
Grandfather Gustav Wallenberg writes of his grandson, “First and foremost I wanted to make a man of him, to give him a chance to see the world and, through mixing with foreigners, give him what most Swedes lack--an international outlook.” He happily concludes, “Raoul is a man. He has seen much of the world and has come into contact with people of all kinds.”
Gustav Wallenberg dies.
Wallenberg’s American diploma in architecture does not permit him to practice in Sweden, and at 25, he feels too old to go back to college. For a while, Wallenberg tries a number of businesses. Nothing seems to work out for young Raoul.
Through a family connection, Raoul is put in touch with a Jewish refugee, Koloman Lauer. Lauer is the director of a successful specialty food import-export company. This company is the Central European Trading Company. Within eight short months, Raoul succeeds in becoming a junior partner in this company. After the outbreak of war in September, 1939, Raoul travels throughout Nazi occupied France and Germany. He soon acquires a knack for working with the Nazi bureaucracy.
He even travels throughout Hungary, which is still relatively safe for Jews. Lauer’s in-law’s are living in Budapest, and when he goes there, Wallenberg will go there to see that all was well with them.
January 2, 1942
Consul Lutz assigned to Chief of the Department of Foreign Interests of the Swiss Legation in Budapest.
January 20, 1942
Wannsee Conference in Berlin: Heydrich outlines plan to murder Europe’s Jews.
Consul Lutz issues more than 10,000 “Palestine certificates,” and invents a document called the Schutzbrief (protective letter) to protect Jewish refugees who then escape to Palestine.
George Mandel-Mantello begins issuing El Salvador citizenship papers to Jews in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and is soon arrested by Nazis.
April 19-May 16, 1943
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; Jews in the Warsaw ghetto resist German deportations to murder camps.
President Roosevelt establishes the War Refugee Board (WRB). It is created in response to revelations that the United States government has covered up its knowledge of the murder of Jews in Europe and has actively prevented efforts that might have rescued them. From its inception, the new board will seek international help in an attempt to protect Hungarian Jews. The Hungarian Jewish community is one of the last intact Jewish communities in Europe. Overtures are made to neutral countries and the Vatican.
March 19, 1944
Germany occupies Hungary and immediately implements anti-Jewish decrees; places the Hungarian government at the disposal of Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Final Solution; Consul Lutz challenges Eichmann, begins to issue thousands of additional Schutzpässe; Lutz appeals to the neutral legations of Sweden, Spain, Portugal and the Vatican for a united front against the deportations of the Hungarian Jews.
April 5, 1944
Jews of Hungary forced to wear the star; Jewish businesses and bank accounts confiscated; Jews placed in ghettoes.
May 15-July 9, 1944
More than 438,000 Hungarian Jews from the countryside are deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where most of them are gassed. It takes 148 trains to carry them there.
Friedrich Born, representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross, arrives in Budapest and begins to issue thousands of Swiss Red Cross documents to protect Jewish refugees.
Mantello issues thousands of El Salvador visas to Jewish refugees in Budapest through Consul Lutz’s office and Raoul Wallenberg. Mantello soon arrested by Swiss police.
June 6, 1944
D-Day: Allied invasion at Normandy.
July 7, 1944
Hungarian Regent Miklós Horthy reassumes power, temporarily halts deportation of Jews; there are 200,000 Jews left in Budapest; they are concentrated into two ghettoes; Lutz, Wallenberg and others place Jews under their diplomatic protection in over 100 safe houses; Nazi and Arrow Cross gangs continue to raid and murder in these areas.
July 9, 1944
Raoul Wallenberg arrives in Budapest, Hungary.
October 15, 1944
Hungarian Arrow Cross and Nazis introduce new reign of terror and murder tens of thousands of Budapest Jews; death marches to Austria instituted; Lutz, Wallenberg, Perlasca, Born and Rotta succeed in stopping death marches and protecting their safe houses; by the end of the war, the courageous diplomats are able to save the lives of 124,000 Jews in Budapest.
Portuguese Chargé d’Affaires in Budapest, Carlos Branquinho, issues more than 800 protective passes and establishes safe houses to shelter Jews.
November 8, 1944
Beginning of death marches of approximately 40,000 Jews from Budapest to Austria.
Lutz and Wallenberg thwart Nazi plans to blow up the Pest ghetto with 70,000 Jewish inhabitants.
January 16, 1945
Soviets liberate Budapest.
January 17, 1945
Wallenberg was last seen in the company of Soviet soldiers; he said: “I do not know whether I am a guest of the Soviets or their prisoner;” he has not been seen as a free man since.
January 27, 1945
Soviet troops enter Auschwitz concentration camp.
Raoul Wallenberg has been incarcerated in Soviet prisons since January 17, 1945. Various accounts disagree as to the fate of Raoul Wallenberg. The Soviets claim that he was murdered while in their custody in 1947. There has been much controversy as to whether this account is true.
The state of Israel passes a law to honor those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust; a commission was established to recognize Righteous Among the Nations.
Wallenberg awarded Righteous Among the Nations medal.
US Congress gives Raoul Wallenberg honorary citizenship.
Raoul Wallenberg is made honorary citizen of Canada.
Raoul Wallenberg is made honorary citizen of Israel.
Soviet Union presented Wallenberg family his diplomatic passport.
Raoul Wallenberg is honored at the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust.
Raoul Wallenberg is honored at a Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats exhibition at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Nana Annan, niece of Raoul Wallenberg and wife of Kofi Annan, is a speaker.
January 12, 2001
The Eliasson Report is released. It is a 700-page report released under the auspices of the Swedish Foreign Ministry. It is the result of a ten-year investigation into the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg. It outlines the failure of the Swedish government to intervene on behalf of Raoul Wallenberg. It also exposes the complicity of the Swedish government in its failure to recover Raoul Wallenberg from Soviet imprisonment. The report acknowledges significant mistakes were made by Sweden.
Raoul Wallenberg is honored at a Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats exhibition at the Jewish Holocaust museum in Paris. Louise von Dardel, daughter of Guy von Dardel (Raoul’s stepbrother), represents Raoul Wallenberg’s family.
Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson apologizes to Raoul Wallenberg’s brother and sister by telephone.
Raoul Wallenberg is made an honorary citizen of Budapest.
Louise von Dardel presents a letter to US Secretary of State Colin Powell asking for the United States to provide information on Raoul Wallenberg’s disappearance and the failure of the US government to take action on his behalf. The US State Department acknowledges that, in essence, it cannot do anything.
September 20-24, 2004
Louise von Dardel, representing the Wallenberg family, appeals to members of the US Congress to intervene with various governments to provide access to primary government documents that would reveal the fate of Raoul Wallenberg in the Soviet gulags.
September 27, 2004
Raoul Wallenberg is honored in Budapest, Hungary, in the presence of the Swedish State Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Hans Dahlgren. An international conference of scholars is convened to discuss Raoul Wallenberg and his rescue mission.
January 17, 2005
Raoul Wallenberg is commemorated all over the world on the 60th anniversary of his disappearance.
The Visas for Life exhibit is shown at the Ellis Island Museum of Immigration. It features, among others, the role of Raoul Wallenberg and the many other diplomats who rescued Jews in Budapest, Hungary.
July 20, 2014
Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg is awarded a Congressional Gold Medal given to him by the United States Congress in recognition of his heroic activities in aiding thousands of Jews in Budapest, Hungary. Wallenberg’s sister is in attendance and receives the medal for the family.
The Wallenberg family declares that Raoul Wallenberg is dead. They still intend to determine his fate.
Updated October 29, 2017