Congress Passes House Unanimously
Meeks, Hayworth Bill to
Award Gold Medal to Raoul Wallenberg
WASHINGTON, D.C.--In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day that will be commemorated in the US Capitol on Thursday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act, by a vote of 377-0, with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats.
The bill was sponsored by Congressman Gregory W. Meeks and Congresswoman Nan Hayworth of New York. If the Senate consents, this bill will bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on a hero who is considered one of the truly inspiring figures of the 20th Century, who is credited with saving a hundred thousand Jewish lives during the Nazi occupation of Hungary in World War II. Raoul Wallenberg was the Swedish envoy to Budapest on a diplomatic mission established in collaboration with the American War Refugee Board and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to initiate a rescue operation for Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary. Over 400,000 Hungarian Jews had already been deported to Nazi death camps by the time Wallenberg arrived in Budapest.
Many prominent Hungarian Rabonim were among those saved by Wallenberg including: Rav Yisroel Weltz ZT’Lwho was the Rosh Bais Din in Budapest, Rav Yonosen Shteif ZT’L who led the Viener Kehila as well as the previous Liska Rav ZT’L.
Many prominent Americans also owe their lives to Wallenberg’s heroic actions, including the late Congressman Tom Lantos. Through issuance of fake Swedish “protective passes” and sheltering in official Swedish diplomatic houses, Wallenberg unrelentingly sought to save Jews from the Germans and their accomplices, risking his own life numerous times in the process.
In 1945, during the Soviet siege of Budapest, Wallenberg was detained by Soviet authorities on suspicion of espionage and was never heard from again; producing differing accounts of Wallenberg’s fate, none of which have enough merit to be fully accepted today. Congresswoman Hayworth and Congressman Meeks and other supporters of the bill believe that awarding the Congressional Gold Medal during the centennial celebration of his birth is a fitting memorial to a man to whom so many Americans owe their lives.
Congressman Meek stated:
“Through passage of this legislation, Congress can honor a true humanitarian for the sake of his family and the thousands of survivors who owe their lives to him. I am proud to be a part of the international commemoration of this great human being.
Wallenberg’s ultimate fate is unknown and awarding the Congressional Gold Medal during the Centennial celebration of his birth is the best opportunity to resolve the mystery surrounding Raoul Wallenberg’s ultimate fate. I call on the Russian authorities to help us figure out the true circumstances of his disappearance and his death.”
“I would like to thank the over 300 colleagues who have cosponsored this bill, and especially my colleague from New York, Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, who has been a delight to work with on this issue. I also want to thank the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Commission headed by Ezra Friedlander, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Lantos Foundation, the University of Michigan, and the Hungarian and Swedish Ambassadors for all of their hard work on this legislation.”
“Raoul Wallenberg lived in the 20th Century, but his acts of courage and moral integrity continue to inspire us in the 21st Century,” Congresswoman Hayworth noted. “He undertook enormous personal risk, which almost undoubtedly cost him his life, in order to save innocent people who were being persecuted solely because of their faith. Raoul Wallenberg’s legacy is the million descendants of those who were spared by his bold and timely action. Through him, all of humanity gained a great victory against evil. Raoul Wallenberg richly deserves the Congressional Gold Medal, one of our country’s highest civilian decorations, and today’s vote moves us one step closer to bestowing this honor upon him.”
Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group remarked that “the process leading up to this vote was an emotional opportunity for the Wallenberg Board that consist of individuals with a direct connection to Wallenberg like Peter Rebenwurzel, Leon Goldenberg, Sidney Greenberg, Erol User and Ken Abramowitz to thank members of Congress especially Nan Hayworth and Gregory Meeks and their respective staffs for honoring a hero whose selfless sacrifice and heroism directly saved their families and is still remembered close to 70 years after the fact ”. Flushing Bank and Health Plus are corporate sponsors of the Wallenberg Commission.
The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest civilian decorations in the United States, awarded to an individual who performs an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States.
The Friedlander GroupOne Seaport Plaza - 199 Water Street - 27th Floor
New York, NY 10038
t. (212) 233-5555
f. (212) 233-5556