`Ghetto' statue returns hero to the Jews

AFTER 50 years, Matyas Vince can finally honour the memory of the man who saved his parents' life.

A statue commemorating Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews in wartime Budapest, was unveiled in St Istvan Park on Sunday. The park is in the heart of the city's bourgeois Jewish quarter, site of the wartime "international ghetto".

The last time a statue for Wallenberg stood in the riverside park - a few minutes' walk from the bridge where Hungarian Nazis lined up Jews before shooting them into the Danube - was in April 1949. But the night before its planned inauguration, Hungary's Communist leadership - fearful of renewed attention to the fate of a man then in Soviet custody - had the statue removed.

Mr Vince, 53, a journalist, is a member of the Wallenberg Statue Committee, which has organised the inauguration. His father and mother were two of the many thousands of Hungarian Jews who were protected from the Nazis and their Hungarian allies with papers issued by Wallenberg.

"Wallenberg was a hero, and still is a hero. His memory should be commemorated where he helped thousands of Jews to survive. My parents had `safe passes' issued by the Swedish embassy and lived in the international ghetto in a house under Swedish diplomatic protection."

Diplomats of neutral countries, such as Sweden, Switzerland and Spain, stationed in wartime Budapest, are credited with saving the lives of tens of thousands of Jews. Wallenberg and his colleagues issued diplomatic safe passes, and placed dozens of apartment buildings under their embassies' protection. These provided some protection against raids by the Hungarian Nazis, the "Arrow Cross".

Even now, many Budapest Jews remember Wallenberg as a hero who defied both the SS and the Arrow Cross. "Wallenberg helped initiate the process of saving the Jews in Budapest.

He came too late for those in the countryside, because they had already been deported to Auschwitz," said Erno Lazarovitz, a spokesman for the Jewish Community, and a former inmate of Mauthausen concentration camp. "Wallenberg was in every place were the Jews were in danger. He would go to the Josephtown station, from where they deported the Jews, and take people out of the lines in front of the Arrow Cross using his safe passes. He is a symbol of the fight against Nazism and fascism."

Mystery surrounds the fate of the previous statue. It disappeared until 1953, the year of Stalin's death. The disappearance is emblematic of the tangled web of relationships binding the Jews with the Holocaust and Communism. The Communist leader in 1949, Matyas Rakosi, was Jewish. But years of exile in Moscow appears to have eradicated any vestiges of Jewish identity.

When the original did surface, it was in front of a factory in the eastern city of Debrecen. This town, near the Ukrainian border, was Wallenberg's last stated destination before he disappeared, after being arrested by Soviet troops in the last weeks of the war.

Suggested Topics
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam