WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a moving ceremony last week, Raoul Wallenberg became the eighth non-American to be memorialized in the Capitol Rotunda.
More than 800 people attended the Nov. 2 ceremony honoring the Swedish diplomat who risked his life to save tens of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.
Dignitaries in attendance included the speakers of the Swedish and Hungarian parliaments and the Knesset, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and senior congressional leaders.
"Raoul Wallenberg showed that one person with the courage to care could step forth and could make a difference," said Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo), who escaped to a Wallenberg safe house as a 16-year-old in Hungary in 1944.
"Wallenberg had a conscience, and he took great personal risks to save the lives of others at a time when the tragedy of the Holocaust was largely ignored," Lantos said.
Traveling to Budapest in July 1944, Wallenberg made it a personal mission to help save the Jews of Hungary, establishing buildings of refuge under the protection of the Swedish flag.
At these refuges, he distributed food, medical supplies and Swedish passports. His efforts saved the lives of thousands facing deportation and extermination in Nazi death camps.
Wallenberg disappeared after his arrest and imprisonment by Soviet military authorities in January 1945.
His fate — despite claims by the Soviet government that he died in 1947 of a heart attack — remains unknown.
At the ceremony, a bronze bust of Wallenberg was unveiled. The statue was sculpted by Israeli artist Miri Margolin — known for her portrait work and her busts of former Israeli Prime Ministers David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir and Israeli hero Jonathan Netanyahu.