- 17 Jul 2012 9:04 AM
Consequently, the Congress awards Raoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States. The Act gives full details of Wallenberg’s heroic actions during the Second World War in Hungary, highlighting the fact that approximately 100 000 of the 120 000 Hungarian Jews surviving the Holocaust owe their life to the Swedish diplomat serving in Hungary aided by the American War Refugee Board. Listing some of the people who were rescued, it mentions the late Congressman Tom Lantos, former Deputy Prime Minister of Israel Tommy Lapid, and Rabbi Friedlander, who brought the Hasidic dynasty from Olaszliszka to the United States.
Sending his greetings to the commemoration organised by the Friedlander Group in the evening of the vote, Hungarian Ambassador to Washington György Szapáry expressed his delight at the fact that the US legislation commemorated the Swedish diplomat who is known in Hungary as the “knight of humanity” by giving him the highest award on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Quoting Foreign Minister János Martonyi, the Ambassador stated with regret: “During the Holocaust the Hungarian State was weighed in the scales and found wanting. It could not protect its citizens; it provided – even if under occupation – assistance in their extermination.” However, he called attention to the fact that in addition to Wallenberg, several Hungarians and foreigners, believers and non-believers, civilians and soldiers heroically assisted in rescuing those who were persecuted. The selfless Sister Sára Salkaházi, for instance, hid several Jews, for which she was later shot into the Danube. The Ambassador also praised the courage of Colonel Ferenc Koszorús, who – as Tom Lantos said – prevented the deportation of Jews by military resistance, which was unique in the Axis Power countries.
As a concluding remark, the Ambassador highlighted that concerning our national tragedy, it is our common responsibility to draw lessons from the past and continue the dialogue between Jews and non-Jews, between Hungarians, Americans, and our friends from all over the world in order to fight anti-Semitism, intolerance, and hatred.