Holocaust Hero Declared Dead After 71 Years

Swedish diplomat saved thousands of Jews
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2016 5:15 AM CDT
Holocaust Hero Declared Dead After 71 Years
This undated photo shows Swedish diplomat and World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg.   (Uncredited)

(Newser) – Some 71 years after he disappeared in circumstances that remain murky to this day, the World War II hero known as the "Swedish Schindler" has finally been declared dead. Raoul Wallenberg, a diplomat who was sent to Budapest, Hungary, in July of 1944, saved at least 20,000 Jews from the Holocaust by giving them Swedish passports, the AP reports. He was arrested by the Red Army in early 1945 after the city was occupied by the Soviets. The Soviets announced in 1957 that Wallenberg, who was 32 when he vanished, had died of heart failure in a Moscow prison in 1947, though uncertainty over his fate lingered for decades, the BBC reports. His heartbroken mother and stepfather took their own lives in 1979.

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Swedish authorities say that after an application from a representative of the family, they declared his date of death to be July 31, 1952. "This date is purely formal. Legally, we must choose a date at least five years after his disappearance, and there were signs of life until the end of July 1947," an official from the country's tax authority tells AFP. But though Wallenberg is now officially dead, his memory is kept alive in his homeland and in countries including Israel, where he's honored as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations" for saving Jewish lives, and the US, where he was only the second person, after Winston Churchill, to be declared an honorary American citizen. (This Holocaust hero's will was recently found in a box in the Church of Scotland's archives.)

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