ACT News


Memorial for Jews' saviour

A CANBERRA memorial will soon honour a man who saved tens of thousands of lives and whose death remains a mystery.

The Australian National University will host a garden in memory of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved countless Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Second World War.

London, Budapest, Stockholm, Michigan, Montreal and Tel Aviv are some of the places around the world already with memorials.

Later this month, the ACT will join the list when its memorial consisting of ten trees, probably maples and pines, is opened in his memory, one tree for each decade since he was born.

Mr Wallenberg was detained by the Russians in 1945 under allegations of espionage and he disappeared. Many thought he was executed in a prison, although it has never been confirmed.

Before his capture, he had issued protective passports to Jews trying to escape the Holocaust which had spread to Hungary by 1944.


He rented buildings to house thousands of people and used diplomatic immunity powers to keep them safe.

Israel's ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem, said Mr Wallenberg's story was one that needed to be repeated.

''He is relevant today when you have so many stories of adversity,'' Mr Rotem said.

''With so many men and women killing each other, his story gives a glimmer of hope that we humans can behave differently by taking risks and not staying silent or overlooking events.''

While Mr Wallenberg had no personal link to Australia, Hungarian ambassador Anna Siko said many of the people saved emigrated here.

''After World War II, the second largest number of Holocaust survivors who left Europe and its horrors of the past behind settled in Australia,'' Ms Siko said.

Swedish ambassador Sven-Olof Petersson said many of those rescued had showed him their ''Schutzpasses'' signed by Mr Wallenberg.

''This is the single Swedish citizen of whom we are most proud,'' he said.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr will attend the unveiling of the memorial later this month.