Holocaust Essays Story Raoul Wallenberg

he horrors of the Holocaust are sonumerous, and so overwhelming, that the occasional heroic act often goesunnoticed or is forgotten. Researchers did not even begin to seriously study the many instances of rescue during the Holocaust until decades after the end of WWII. Still, it is imperative that the worldrecognize and remember the stories of those who helped save Nazi victims from persecution. The purpose of teaching students about those rescuers who saved thousands from Nazi genocide is to help students understand how the human values of kindness, dignity, and compassion stayed alive during the most trying of circumstances. The challenge facing a teacher is how to present these virtuous heroes as plausible and relevant models of moral activism. Students should observe these heroic people not as idealized superhuman figures, but as average decent human beings who expressed a normal response to tyranny. Teachers should help their students to see that each individual possesses the heart, power and strength to make a difference in the fight against hatred and oppression. This sentiment is reflected in the inscription on the medals awarded to Righteous Gentiles: "Whoever saves a single soul, it is as if he had saved the whole world."

 by Philip Friedman

On November 6, 1957, the historian Philip Friedman dedicated this book, a product of ten years of difficult and meticulous research, to Christians who aided Jews during the Holocaust. The classic volume is the first documented evidence of Christian assistance to Jews during the Third Reich. Friedman relied upon firsthand information: eyewitness accounts, official documents, personal correspondence, and diaries. As he interviewed people across Europe in his efforts to discover instances of mercy and sacrifice, Friedman also attempted to understand the rescuers' motivations in risking their lives to save strangers. Recommended for high school students.

 by John Bierman

The story of Raoul Wallenberg, a relatively unknown Swede who is credited with saving close to 100,000 Hungarian Jews, is one of danger and excitement. The diplomat had the choice of remaining in safe, neutral Sweden but instead risked his life to help Jews escape one of the most perilous places in Europe, Nazi-occupied Hungary. Wallenberg was eventually arrested by Soviet police and put in prison. His fate there has remained a mystery, yet across the world he is honored as the first among the Righteous Gentiles. A former Speaker of Israel's Parliament said of Wallenberg, "he saved not only the Jews but the honor of man." Recommended for high school students.

 by Rabbi David Kahane

This memoir contains numerous descriptions of the Nazi controlled city of Lvov and the Janowski camp not to be found elsewhere. Rabbi David Kahane's characterizations of the Nazi executioners are especially valuable for they provide material to assist scholars in understanding the social psychology of the murderous Third Reich. The chief virtue of this memoir is its contribution to the historiography of one of the most bitterly disputed areas of the Holocaust, the Ukrainian attitude towards Jews. Kahane's account of Ukrainian-Jewish relations during that period reveals some unlikely Righteous Gentiles, ecclesiastical figures who saved the lives of Jews by hiding the Jews in monasteries. Recommended for high school students.

 edited by Carol Rittner, R.S.M. and Sondra Meyers

These editors have gathered a collection of photos, short personal narratives, and essays that provides an overall view of efforts to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. Some accounts in this book tell the stories of individual rescuers while others describe the actions taken by entire villages. Five short essays, which include related questions, by important writers, such as Elie Wiesel, give readers an opportunity to think critically about the stories of rescue. Foreword by Elie Wiesel. A film of the same title is also available. Recommended for junior high school and high school students.

 by Milton Meltzer

Milton Meltzer presents some remarkable stories of how Righteous Gentiles risked imprisonment and even death to save Jews from Nazi persecution. The book also provides some basic background information about the Holocaust. While Meltzer recounts the stories of some famous rescuers, such as Raoul Wallenberg, King Christian X of Denmark and Oskar Schindler, he also tells of ordinary people who made a difference and became heroes because they acted courageously and did not tolerate Nazi hatred. Recommended for junior high school students.

 by Varian Fry

This autobiography tells the captivating story of Varian Fry, an unlikely American secret agent who traveled to France in June of 1940 under the guise of assisting the International YMCA. His real intention was to help smuggle Jews through the tightly controlled French borders. The Jews trapped in southern France, at the time run by the new puppet government of Vichy, would face certain deportation to concentration camps if they did not escape the Gestapo. Fry describes the thirteen months he spent helping the enemies of the Third Reich to obtain money, false passports, transportation and other items necessary for safe travel across France. He is credited with saving the lives of two to three thousand people. Recommended for junior high school and high school students.

 by Thomas Keneally

Thomas Keneally's famous novel is a carefully balanced mixture of fact and fiction. Based on a true story, Keneally utilizes the testimonies of survivors to relate the remarkable account of Oskar Schindler, a supposed Nazi sympathizer who decided that Hitler's violent campaign of murder was profoundly, morally wrong. Schindler began to intercede from within the German system itself. He outsmarted the SS and the Gestapo by secretly harboring thousands of Jews in his factory. Schindler's factory employed Jewish workers and thus saved many who were targeted for deportation to the concentration camps. Oskar Schindler�s personal initiative and courage cost him dearly financially, but his life-saving mission rescued men, women and children from certain death in the gas chambers. His name will never be forgotten as a heroic Righteous Gentile. Steven Spielberg's critically acclaimed movie, Schindler�s List, is faithful to the novel and makes a useful teaching tool in accompaniment. Both are recommended for high school students.

While the scarlet child stopped in her column and turned to watch, they shot the woman in the neck, and one of them, when the boy slid down the wallwhimpering, jammed a boot down on his head, as if to hold it still and put thebarrel against the back of the neck--the recommended SS stance--and fired....

At last Schindler slipped from his horse, tripped, and found himself on hisknees hugging the trunk of a pine tree. The urge to throw up his excellentbreakfast was, he sensed, to be suppressed for he suspected it meant that allhis cunning body was doing was making room to digest the horrors of Krakusa Street.

| Victims | Survivors | Resistance | Rescue | German Experience | Aftermath | Teacher Resources|

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.

Key Facts

—Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg led one of the most extensive and successful rescue efforts during the Nazi era. His work with the War Refugee Board saved thousands of Hungarian Jews.

—Shortly after arriving in Budapest, Hungary, in July 1944, Wallenberg began distributing certificates of protection to Jews. During the autumn of 1944, Wallenberg repeatedly intervened to secure the release of bearers of certificates of protection and those with forged papers.

—Wallenberg was posthumously granted American citizenship in 1981, and in 1985 the portion of the street on which the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC is located was renamed in his honor.


Raoul Wallenberg was born on August 4, 1912, in Stockholm, Sweden.

After studying in the United States in the 1930s and establishing himself in a business career in Sweden, Wallenberg was recruited by the US War Refugee Board (WRB) in June 1944 to travel to Hungary. Given status as a diplomat by the Swedish legation, Wallenberg's task was to do what he could to assist and save Hungarian Jews.

Wallenberg Arrives in Budapest

Assigned as first secretary to the Swedish legation in Hungary, Wallenberg arrived in Budapest on July 9, 1944. Despite a complete lack of experience in diplomacy and clandestine operations, he led one of the most extensive and successful rescue efforts during the Holocaust. His work with the WRB prevented the deportation of thousands of Hungarian Jews.

Hungary had been an ally of Germany, but German defeats and mounting Hungarian losses led Hungary to seek an armistice with the western Allies. To forestall these peace feelers, German forces occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944, and forced the Hungarian head of state, Miklos Horthy, to appoint a pro-German government under Dome Sztojay. The Sztojay government was prepared not only to continue the war but also to deport Hungarian Jews to German-occupied Poland. Shortly after the occupation, Hungarian officials began to round up Hungarian Jews and to transfer them into German custody.

By July 1944, the Hungarians and the Germans had deported nearly 440,000 Jews from Hungary, almost all of them to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the SS killed approximately 320,000 of them upon arrival and deployed the rest at forced labor in Auschwitz and other camps. Nearly 200,000 Jews remained in Budapest; the Hungarian authorities intended to deport them as well, in compliance with German requests.

Rescue Activities

With authorization from the Swedish government, Wallenberg began distributing certificates of protection issued by the Swedish legation to Jews in Budapest shortly after his arrival in the Hungarian capital. He used WRB and Swedish funds to establish hospitals, nurseries and a soup kitchen, and to designate more than 30 “safe” houses that together formed the core of the "international ghetto" in Budapest. The international ghetto was reserved for Jews and their families holding certificates of protection from a neutral country.

After the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross movement seized power with the help of the Germans on October 15, 1944, the Arrow Cross government resumed the deportation of Hungarian Jews, which Horthy had halted in July before the Budapest Jews could be deported. As Soviet troops had already cut off rail transport routes to Auschwitz, Hungarian authorities forced tens of thousands of Budapest Jews to march west to the Hungarian border with Austria. During the autumn of 1944, Wallenberg repeatedly—and often personally—intervened to secure the release of those with certificates of protection or forged papers, saving as many people as he could from the marching columns.

Wallenberg's colleagues in the Swedish legation and diplomats from other neutral countries also participated in rescue operations. Carl Lutz, the consul general in the Swiss legation, issued certificates of emigration, placing nearly 50,000 Jews in Budapest under Swiss protection as potential emigrants to Palestine. Italian businessman Giorgio Perlasca posed as a Spanish diplomat. Closely assisted by Laszlo and Eugenia Szamosi, Perlasca issued to many Jews in Budapest certificates of protection for nations whose interests neutral Spain represented and established safe houses, including one for Jewish children.

After the Liberation of Budapest

When Soviet forces liberated Budapest in February 1945, more than 100,000 Jews remained, mostly because of the efforts of Wallenberg and his colleagues.

Wallenberg was last seen in the company of Soviet officials on January 17, 1945, as the Red Army besieged Budapest. He was presumably detained on suspicion of espionage and subsequently disappeared. A Soviet government report in 1956 suggested that Wallenberg had died on July 17, 1947, while imprisoned by Soviet authorities at the infamous Lubyanka Prison in Moscow. Subsequent eyewitness sightings of Wallenberg in the Soviet penal system after 1947 have called this statement into question, and the exact date and circumstances of Wallenberg’s death may never be clarified. In October 2016, 71 years after his disappearance, Swedish officials formally declared Wallenberg legally dead.

Copyright © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC

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