'Put Annual Raoul Wallenberg Day on Calendar'

Swedish minster calls for an annual day on calendar to remember the Righteous Gentile who saved hundreds of thousands of Jews from Nazis.

Rachel Hirshfeld ,

People attend the centennial commemoration of
People attend the centennial commemoration of

The 100-year anniversary of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg’s birthday was celebrated Saturday with a call for a day on the Swedish calendar to honor the man who saved thousands of Jews during World War II, NBC news reported.

“Wallenberg is an excellent symbol for a Sweden and Europe with solidarity, openness and tolerance,” Swedish Minister Birgitta Ohlsson wrote in an opinion piece in the Swedish Dagens Nyheter.

Ohlsson argued that Wallenberg, who was born on Aug. 4, 1912, “deserves an annual Swedish remembrance.”

Memorial celebrations were planned in Stockholm on Saturday, with guests including Crown Princess Victoria attending a memorial for Wallenberg. In May, Sweden issued a postage stamp honoring Wallenberg.

Other memorial services took place in Israel, the United States and other countries worldwide.

However, Ohlsson wrote that she is worried the memory of Wallenberg could fade, stressing the danger posed by the far-right and anti-immigrant parties that have been gaining popularity in Europe.

"If Sweden doesn't commemorate Wallenberg for future generations - who will then preserve his memory?," Ohlsson asked.

President Barack Obama on July 27 signed the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act, passed by Congress to honor the diplomat with the Congressional Gold Medal. The U.S. mint is now authorized to design and print the medal, which will be presented in the Congress, according to a White House statement.

As Sweden's envoy to Hungary during the war, Wallenberg prevented the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews to Nazi concentration camps by issuing them protective Swedish government passports.

Reports of Wallenberg’s death remain inconsistent. He was last seen on Jan. 17, 1945, in Budapest, when he drove off to meet Soviet authorities to discuss protection for Jews once the Red Army drove out the Nazis. Soviet intelligence agents abducted the Swedish diplomat.

The Soviet Union claimed that Wallenberg, incarcerated at Moscow's Lefortovo prison, died on July 17, 1947, of a heart attack, the New York Times wrote in 2000. However, he reportedly was interrogated six days after the date Russia claims Wallenberg died, according to others studying his case. A special commission investigating victims of Russian leader Joseph Stalin's political terror said he was executed at Lubyanka prison at KGB headquarters.

"The family wants now to get the truth," says Cecilia Ahlberg, Wallenberg's great-niece, said in an interview with BBC. 

"We want all the facts about his whereabouts in the Soviet Union, what happened and when it happened," Ahlberg said.