”For me, there’s no other choice”
Yesterday was a day totally devoted to the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. There should be even more days of that kind.
The Hungarian Embassy took the initiative to this commemoration here in Warsaw in close collaboration with i.a. the Embassies of Israel and Sweden. I think the organizers put it very well in the invitation – that Raoul Wallenberg has become a “universal symbol of civic courage, humanism and sacrifice”.
It is easy to recall the activities. We started the day with a tree planting ceremony in remembrance of Raoul Wallenberg, Henryk Sławik from Poland and Jószef Antall from Hungary – all of them involved in the saving of Jewish lives in Budapest during the last year of the Second World War. The Israeli Ambassador Zvi Rav-Ner made an important point in his quite remarkable speech at the ceremony outside the Palace in Wilanów. First that the murders are eternal in the sense that they have eternal consequences. There should by now have been 40 million Jews in the world and there are 13 million. We have lost not only the victims but also the unborn children and grandchildren of the victims.
Secondly that also the rescuing is eternal. The lives saved are continued in new generations. Like the young singer, daughter of a survivor, that made a performance during the concert in the Jewish theatre yesterday evening.
Our Swedish guest Olle Wästberg, coordinator of the Swedish Wallenberg 2012 activities (http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/15162), pointed in his speech yesterday to the fact that Wallenberg was fighting the terrible crimes of one totalitarian system and eventually became a victim of the other – disappearing in Soviet captivity early 1945. Through his self sacrificing courage he showed a whole world that the acts of every single individual matter, that one person can make a difference.
He could of course have chosen a much simpler path. But not as he saw it. The quote in the headline is coming from his own words: For me, there’s no other choice.
There were so many reflections made by prominent speakers during yesterday’s conference that would deserve further comments, people like Władysław Bartoszewski (former Foreign Minister of Poland) and Professor Szewach Weiss (former Speaker of the Knesset).
But one is giving a continued echo in my mind – maybe because it was made in a response to a question that I was posing myself, and partly to myself. We are rightly and constantly saying never again, nigdy więcej, but still we have had Srebrenica and Rwanda and Cambodia obviously should be added to that dark list. I will never forget the visit to the Genocide Museum in Rwanda and especially the room called Tomorrow lost, devoted to the child victims presented as the individuals they were – with pictures, hobbies, ambitions and dreams.
What can we learn from the experiences of these decades following the Holocaust?
Konstanty Gebert gave one answer. Keeping the memory of people like Raoul Wallenberg alive is a way of preventing and resisting new cases of genocide and other crimes against humanity. People like him are the ones that stand between the killers and the victims.
That’s one of many good reasons to remember and honour people like Raoul Wallenberg. And to have more days like the one we experienced yesterday in Warsaw.