Raoul Wallenberg, the American War Refugee Board and the last minute effort to save Hungary's Jews
This study examines the events of the Holocaust, American anti-semitism, the creation of the American War Refugee Board and the efforts of one individual, Raoul Wallenberg, on behalf of Hungary's Jews. Representing the interests of the American War Refugee Board in his role as a member of the Swedish legation in Budapest, Wallenberg valiantly stood up for an estimated 100,000 Hungarian Jews and saved them from the certain death promised them by the Germans in the final days of the war. Through new eyewitness testimony by survivors speaking for the first time since the end of the war, the horror of the events and the courage of Wallenberg stands out against the background of apparent indifference by Western leaders as millions of Europe's Jews were systematically murdered by the Third Reich.
This study looks at Raoul Wallenberg and how he came to Budapest in 1944 at the age of 31 as a member of the Swedish legation and rescuer of Jews. It also examines the various paths by which the news of the Jewish tragedy came to the attention of Allied leaders and how those leaders responded and why. For decades, the historiography after the end of World War II on the Holocaust left the reader with the impression that Allied leaders were not aware of the Nazi plan for the Final Solution and the murder of Europe's Jews. However, a review of official documentation from the time, of journals and newspapers published during World War II and after, and memoirs and eyewitness testimony from survivors speaking more than 50 years later, make it clear that Allied leaders and many others were aware of Hitler's plans. Yet the Allied leaders, men such as Roosevelt, chose not to act on the information until 1944 when it became politically necessary to do so. This action was the creation of the American War Refugee Board in January 1944.
By January 1944, one of the only remaining and largely intact Jewish community in occupied Europe was that of Hungary, and it was to that country that Wallenberg was sent, and where he stood his ground against the Germans. With sheer force of will, insight, courage and the occasional payment of the necessary bribe, he would demonstrate what one man could do to help the Jews.
While the War Refugee Board came into existence only at the end of the War, it was able to help in the rescue of between one hundred and fifty to two hundred Jews in occupied Europe. This success leaves one with the unanswered question of how many more could have been saved if the Board had been created in 1942 when the Allied leaders first became aware of Hitler's Final Solution.