On 17 January 1945, Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg disappeared after being arrested by Soviet soldiers.
In July 1944, the Swedish Foreign Ministry sent Wallenberg to Budapest as Secretary of the Swedish Legation to save the 200,000 Jews remaining in the capital, after nearly 440,000 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The operation came shortly after Germany occupied Hungary in March 1944.
By October 1944, the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross movement had seized power and began to kill Jews in the streets. Responding to the terror, Wallenberg issued thousands of certificates of protection, established safe houses under the Swedish flag where Jews could take refuge, and even went as far as to pursue convoys of prisoners and confront Hungarian and German soldiers to secure the release of Jews who were under Swedish protection.
After senior Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann ordered tens of thousands of Jews go on a death march to the Austrian border, Wallenberg followed the marchers, and medication. Despite the threat from the Arrow Cross guards, he extricated some Jews from the death march. While exact estimates fluctuate, it is presumed that Wallenberg saved approximately 100,000 Jews during his six months in Budapest.
Towards the end of the war, Wallenberg was arrested and imprisoned by Soviets who claimed that he was engaging in espionage. According to some witnesses, after Hungary’s liberation
Following his disappearance, the Soviets first claimed that Wallenberg — a healthy thirty-two-year-old man at the time he was abducted—died in prison of a heart attack. However, a U.S. federal court in 1985 found it “incontrovertible” that Wallenberg was alive in 1947, “compelling” that he was alive in the 1960s and “credible” that he remained alive into the ‘80s.
A report issued in 2000 by a Russian and Swedish commission found that his arrest had been politically motivated but did not reach a conclusion as to the circumstances of his death. The commission concluded that Soviet documents about him had been purposefully destroyed or altered. Consequently, many questions about Wallenberg’s fate remain unanswered. In October 2016 the Swedish government officially declared Wallenberg deceased.
On 26 November 1963, Yad Vashem recognized Raoul Wallenberg as a Righteous Among the Nations. Congressman Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor whose life was saved by Wallenberg, sponsored a resolution awarding honorary American citizenship to Wallenberg, who was the second person ever to receive this honor, after Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill. Wallenberg is also an honorary citizen of Canada, Hungary, Australia, and Israel.
Monuments have been dedicated to him, and streets have been named after him throughout the world. In 2012, Raoul Wallenberg was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress "in recognition of his achievements and heroic actions during the Holocaust."