WASHINGTON – United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) and other Members are calling on Russian officials to renew the search for Raoul Wallenberg, a missing Holocaust hero who was granted honorary American citizenship 19 years ago on October 5, 1981. Wallenberg risked his life to save thousands of Jews targeted for extermination.
“In 1944, Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg – with backing from the U.S. War Refugee Board – went to Budapest, armed with nothing more than the courage of his convictions,” Chairman Smith said. “There, he outwitted Nazi and Iron Guards officials, obtaining the release of tens of thousands of Jews bound for Hitler’s death camps.”
“It was an extraordinary feat of heroism and he is credited with saving as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews from deportation and death,” Smith continued. “Tragically and inexplicably, Mr. Wallenberg was arrested by Soviet forces on January 17, 1945. To this day, his fate remains shrouded in mystery.”
Rep. Hoyer added his sentiments on Mr. Wallenberg’s case. “There has simply never been anything that comes close to a full or credible account of what happened to Raoul Wallenberg after he was arrested by the Soviets in Budapest.”
“The recent release of a Hungarian Prisoner of War – held for more than 55 years in Soviet and Russian prisons – must surely intensify the longing of the Wallenberg family and the thousands whom Mr. Wallenberg saved to know what has happened to the hero of Budapest. For decades, they have been left not knowing whether Raoul Wallenberg is alive or dead,” Hoyer added.
“Today, we will send a letter to Russian Ambassador Yury Ushakov,” Chairman Smith added. “We are asking the Russian Government to provide a complete accounting of Mr. Wallenberg’s fate to his family, to the people whose lives he saved, and to the world which has benefitted so profoundly from his courage, integrity and initiative. Justice demands no less.”
Joining Chairman Smith and Commissioner Hoyer in the letter to Ambassador Ushakov are Commissioners Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI), Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Michael P. Forbes (D-NY), House International Relations Committee Ranking Member Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D-CT) and International Relations Subcommittee Chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).