In Stockholm today, President Obama honored Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved tens of thousands of lives during the Holocaust, while ignoring a reporter’s question on whether he’d query President Vladimir Putin about the hero’s fate.
Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviets in 1945 and never seen again. Among the Jews he saved in 1944 with Swedish passports and protective sheltering was late Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.).
Part of 15th Street SW in Washington was named for Wallenberg in 1985, and he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal last year.
“Our societies are founded on the same core values — democracy, respect for human rights, and rule of law,” Obama said today at a press conference with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. “All these values are at the heart of the deeds of Raoul Wallenberg, and I’m looking forward to the possibility to pay tribute to Raoul Wallenberg this afternoon, a man who chose not to be indifferent and who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust.”
At the ceremony, held at Stockholm’s Great Synagogue, Obama heard an emotional plea from Wallenberg’s family to help finally find out what happened to him.
“Researchers need committed support in their efforts to obtain direct and uncensored access to Russian archival collections, especially those of the Soviet era intelligence and security services,” reads a letter from the family to Obama obtained by the Associated.
“It is time that the world finally learns what happened to him … It would be a fitting tribute to all those who risk their lives every day in the defense of civil liberties and to the millions of victims who, in spite of all efforts, could not be saved.”
Obama, wearing a white yarmulke, examined personnel effects of Wallenberg including his diary and phone book, as well as a ‘Schutz-pass’ issued by Wallenberg to protect a Hungarian couple from Hitler’s “final solution.”
Obama made small talk with Wallenberg family members at the ceremony but ignored a reporter who asked, “Mr. President, will you ask Putin about Wallenberg?”
The president departs for the G-20 summit in Russia after a morning meeting with the king and queen of Sweden.
Russia’s official story is that Wallenberg died in prison of a heart attack two and a half years after his arrest. Researchers have blown holes in Moscow’s story and determined he was likely tortured during interrogation and executed.