January 17, 1985
Forty years ago today, a brave young man named Raoul Wallenberg disappeared from the streets of war-torn Budapest. This young Swedish diplomat had been assigned to his country's legation in Hungary in March 1944, where he undertook a humanitarian mission to save the lives of as many Hungarian Jews as possible.
Heedless of personal danger, Wallenberg pulled people out of death marches, boarded deportation trains, handed out Swedish papers to thousands of innocent people on the way to death camps and insisted to the Nazi occupation authorities that anyone holding Swedish papers be released in his custody. Altogether, Wallenberg is responsible for saving the lives of nearly 100,000 Jewish men, women, and children from certain death in Nazi extermination camps. Some of the people whom he saved are now prominent citizens of our own country.
On January 17, 1945, Raoul Wallenberg was taken by Soviet soldiers to the Provisional Hungarian Government in southern Hungary, ostensibly to discuss relief efforts. He never returned. It has been 40 years.
It is written in Holy Scriptures: ``Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.'' Raoul Wallenberg's friends were any and all who suffered injustice. Each day he willingly jeopardized his own life so that others might live. In the face of horror and evil, this noble young man stood tall and unflinching.
In 1981, as a reflection of the debt of gratitude which all Americans owe to Raoul Wallenberg, I signed into law legislation making him an honorary United States citizen. He is the only non-American, other than Winston Churchill, ever to be honored in this way. To be true to our own values, this was the least that we -- as Americans -- could do to underscore our unbounded admiration for Wallenberg's courage and dedication to humanity and the abhorrence with which we view his unjust and illegal imprisonment by the Soviet Government.
The U.S. Government has repeatedly raised Raoul Wallenberg's case with the Soviet Government, and has requested a full and satisfactory clarification of his fate. But the only Soviet explanation of Wallenberg's fate was a statement in 1957 that he died 10 years earlier in a Soviet prison. No explanation has been given of the circumstances of his arrest and subsequent disappearance. Furthermore, over the years, there have been numerous reports from survivors of the Gulag that Wallenberg may be alive.
In the depths of the horrors of World War II, Raoul Wallenberg was one shining light of inspiration, upholding the honor of the human race. The world owes a tremendous and eternal debt to this great man. And the Soviet Union owes the world a full and complete accounting of his fate.