‘Heroic’ diplomat memorialised at ANU

ONE century after his birth, the life and legacy of Swedish-born diplomat Raoul Wallenberg was memorialised in Canberra this morning at the Australian National University. 

Foreign Minister Bob Carr (right) unveils the plaque.

Wallenberg was famous for his noble and heroic work issuing protective passports and providing shelter to Jews in Nazi occupied Hungary during the Second World War.

He is credited with saving the lives of tens of thousands from death and deportation.

A combination of 10 pine and maple trees were planted on the grounds of the Australian National University at the  Centre of European Studies to represent the ten decades since Wallenberg’s birth.

The tribute to Wallenberg was hosted by the embassies of Sweden, Israel and Hungary.

It included the unveiling of a plaque and a memorial plantation by Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who spoke on the life and character of Wallenberg as a man who truly embodied Edmund Bourke’s famous words, “all that is required for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.”

A spokesperson for the embassy says the university was an ideal location for the memorial, “given its capacity to link students with lessons from the past, allowing them to shape a future imbued with the experience of humanity throughout history.”

At the invitation of the three embassies, Ervin Forrester, a Hungarian Jew who was rescued through the efforts of Raoul Wallenberg, travelled from Sydney to attend the memorial.

Ervin’s grand-daughter Rebecca Carpenter gave a moving speech about her grandfather’s incredible story of personal bravery. As a young Hungarian boy, Ervin was forced by the Nazis into the Working Army in 1944. He escaped and fled to Budapest where he was sheltered by the Red Cross, but was later recaptured and sentenced to death for his desertion.

He told the Nazis he was a Swedish citizen and the authorities contacted the Swedish embassy where Wallenberg came to him in his prison cell and said “I’m going to save your life”. Ervin was issued with a Swedish passport and protected by the state of Sweden. Later in 1950 he moved to Australia.

According to the spokesperson, the trees at the university will “stand as an enduring symbol of life and growth; transporting the memory and spirit of Wallenberg to the truly diverse community of Canberra.”

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