On Wednesday, July 9, 2014, during a stunningly beautiful and powerful ceremony, Raoul Wallenberg was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in an absolutely packed grand U.S. Capitol Rotunda with virtually all the leaders in the Congress and Senate speaking. This award, together with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is the highest civilian award in the United States. It is awarded to persons "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement.”

Honorary Citizen
While American citizenship is not a requirement, it is worth remembering that Wallenberg received an honorary U.S. citizenship in 1981. He was then only the second person recognized this way, the first being Winston Churchill. His 93-year-old sister, Nina Lagergren, traveled from Sweden to Washington to receive the medal on behalf of her brother. Sweden was also represented by Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Ambassador to the U. S. Björn Lyrvall.
Mrs. Lagergren made some very moving remarks of thanks, and appealed to the members of Congress to help her find out what really happened to her brother. Raoul Wallenberg is remembered for having saved up to 100,000 Jews in Budapest during the last months before the end of WWII. He started his mission exactly 70 years ago on July 9, 1944. He did this through an amazing display of personal courage, chutzpah, inventiveness and intelligence coupled with endless energy and determination.
Following this heroic endeavor, the Swedish diplomat was sadly and unfairly detained by the Soviet Union occupying force as it marched into Budapest on January 17, 1945. After this, Wallenberg mysteriously disappeared and his ultimate fate remains unknown today. A document from the Swedish Embassy in Moscow, written 31 December 1944, found in the archives of the Soviet Foreign ministry, ensured that the USSR knew about Wallenberg’s activity. This very document includes a list of all the members of the Swedish Legation in Budapest (Wallenberg included) and a request from the Swedish Foreign Ministry asking the Soviet military to give these people protection as they entered Budapest. There were many reports of Wallenberg being sighted in the Gulag, and on the other hand it is believed he may have been executed or somehow died in Soviet prison in 1947. More on Wallenberg: 'One man can make a difference' From the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Swedish diplomat: In Honor of Raoul Wallenberg

ADVERTISEMENT
Volvo Overseas - the ultimate experience

Speaker of the House John Boehner opened the ceremony after which Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, Fifth District of New York and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York, spoke as the two who originally nominated Wallenberg for this well-deserved honor. Congressmen Stan Hoyer and Eric Cantor and Senators Mitch O’Connell and Harry Read each spoke movingly about Raoul Wallenberg, his deeds and his importance as a role model for the youth in today’s world. Senator O’Connell captured the story with an unusual angle and very much in line with a modern description.
After President Roosevelt and the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, created the War Refugee Board, they started a search for someone to go to Budapest to save as many as possible of the last remaining Jews in Hungary. They found Raoul Wallenberg, who was given a Diplomatic Swedish Passport and a post as the Third Secretary at the Swedish Embassy in Budapest. According to Senator O’Connell, this must go down in history as the most successful “head hunting” assignment ever.

David E. R. Dangoor
Honorary Consul General of Sweden, New York