Ulf Zander
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The immortalized Raoul Wallenberg

Monuments and memorial sites are at the heart of this chapter. After an introductory discussion about the functions fulfilled by statues, both in the past and in the present, a number of monuments erected to the memory of Raoul Wallenberg are analysed. These monuments are located in Hungary and Sweden. The Hungarian statue projects are discussed in close relation to developments in that country’s politics during the Second World War and the Cold War, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In February 2022, one of Sweden’s leading daily newspapers published an interview with Jeanette Gustafsdotter, the Social Democratic government’s Minister for Culture and Democracy. Conducted by the playwright, author, and cultural journalist Stina Oscarson, the interview attracted much attention in the following few days, mainly because of the newly appointed Minister’s many vague and contradictory answers. One of them came after Oscarson queried how Gustafsdotter felt about the iconoclastic demonstrations of recent years, with statues being toppled from their pedestals because the exalted historical figures did not fit in with today’s values. The Minister replied that on the one hand it was correct to remove a statue if the immortalized individual had violated human rights, but on the other hand she was adamant that ‘we should not erase history’.1

As Oscarson noted, one problem in this context was that politicians need to find solutions to this kind of dilemma by translating lofty slogans about human rights into concrete policies. Gustafsdotter probably had difficulty answering the question because she perceived no relevant difference between today’s values and the era of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when memorials were being erected every five minutes on the basis that those worthy of remembrance represented the nation or some value associated with it. While defending human rights and/or opposing slavery could certainly be examples of such values, they were by no means the most highly prioritized ones.

The Minister was subsequently credited with a phenomenon known as ‘Schrödinger’s statue’, to the effect that ‘it is just as right to remove objectionable art as to leave it standing’.2 What she captured with her ambiguous reply – albeit unintentionally – was the inherent dilemma linked to statues and monuments. They have rarely, if ever, been apolitical. Before their models are cast in bronze or carved in stone, the proposals and models are the subject of heated discussions, which result in compromises and sometimes even conflicting symbols in the same monument. During the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, there were attempts to make the final form of a monument rise above the debates that had preceded its ceremonial dedication. Once the drapery had been removed from the statues made of durable materials, the intention was to demonstrate that the individual(s) or thing they depicted represented eternal values. In the original and educative meaning of the word ‘didactics’, the proponents of monuments from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century stressed the social benefit of these exalted role models. The idea was that they would serve as enduring textbooks. The edifying and unambiguous messages conveyed via the statues would actively contribute to making the viewers better citizens.3

As history has repeatedly shown, however, values are rarely eternal. One result is that the ideals of what constitutes a good citizen have shifted over time and space. Today’s democratic societies do not prize either the one-dimensional soldier heroes of the past or totalitarian ideologies and their aesthetic ideals. Consequently, the monument genre has fallen out of favour compared with the obsession with statues that prevailed around the turn of the last century. The fact that monuments were an important tool in the service of nationalist rulers, whether in democracies or dictatorships, contributed to the decline in the genre’s reputation. In addition, the potential of statues to influence people has been downplayed, at least in Western democracies. One history-cultural explanation is that in today’s society, other channels such as film, television, and the internet have the greatest impact when it comes to communicating the past. The declining popularity of monuments is probably also a result of changing ideals of art and artists. It is true that hard-to-interpret symbols and messages have often been part of monuments, but – for the didactic reasons mentioned above – the main message has almost always been obvious. The monuments of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries aimed to freeze time, to transform the depicted person or thing into symbols that all citizens had the same image of and relationship to. In the twentieth century, the trend went in a different direction. Modern art theorists usually reject the idea that art can or should be described as a uniform and coherent phenomenon. A common objective in art today is to challenge the viewer’s expectations with works that are complex and ambiguous in both form and content.4

One history-cultural lesson is that monuments, like the people and events they commemorate, may retain their symbolic meanings; but they may lose them, too, or acquire new ones. The result may be that bronzed role models are permitted to remain standing unchallenged, even though they represent values that are no longer considered relevant.5 Other monuments become politically activated and reinterpreted. The result has been that some statues are highly visible while also becoming anonymous anomalies in modern democracies. Others are controversial from the outset or may be given new functions, though rarely as creatively as when the German artist and curator Christian Jankowski, as part of the art project Heavy Weight History (2013), enlisted Polish wrestlers to try lifting monuments in Warsaw. The fact that many of the statues that were erected when Poland was a Communist nation were easy to topple – unlike, for example, the statue of Ronald Reagan, who is regarded as the politician who guaranteed Poland’s most recent national independence – was appreciated by the wrestlers and audiences alike. The conclusion was not so obvious when monuments commemorating the Holocaust proved impossible to dislocate, because they illustrated a history that involved both Christian and Jewish Poles as well as Germans in a complex and still contentious context.6

The philosopher Susan Neiman reminds us that ‘[i]f monuments are values made visible, it’s likely you ignore the ones around you. Values are most visible when they’re under threat’.7 With this in mind, it is clear why some monuments have been forgotten at one point in time only to become highly controversial the next. Among many examples are Sweden’s kings from the country’s era as a Great Power, which in retrospect fit poorly with the self-image of a peace- and neutrality-loving nation, and the Confederate generals of the American Civil War, who, apart from their military successes, have increasingly come to be seen as representatives of a system of slavery and white supremacy that continues to make its presence felt in the United States. Another illustrative example is the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn. To many Estonians, this monument was a reminder of the lengthy Soviet occupation, and its city-centre location interrupted the line of monuments and memorials marking the struggle of Estonians for freedom and independence. By contrast, many Russians in Estonia associated the statue with the Red Army’s dearly bought victory over Nazi Germany in 1941–1945. Yet another challenge for the Russian minority in Estonia was the design of the basement of the nearby Museum of Occupations and Freedom in Tallinn. Statues of Soviet dignitaries, many of them mutilated, still stand there today next to the public toilets. Members of the Russian-speaking population of Estonia objected to both these developments, saying that, like the move of the Bronze Soldier to a military cemetery on the outskirts of Tallinn, the placement of the statues in the museum basement was an insult to the history associated primarily with the Soviet Union and its main successor state, Russia.8

Holocaust memorial places and non-places

A way of dealing with the memory of the Holocaust has been, and still is, to erect monuments. One purpose has been to pay tribute to and honour the people who saved Jews and others whom the Nazis considered ‘undesirable’. However, the events of the Second World War, and the Holocaust in particular, made it impossible for many artists to continue ‘to affirm an unproblematic continuity between the past and the present, between history and identity’, as the Swedish art historian Max Liljefors has observed.9 Some monuments erected to the memory of the victims of the Nazi genocide do draw on well-established forms of representation. Many depictions of the Holocaust are dominated by a small number of motifs and symbols, such as mothers and children, barbed wire, people filled with fear and anguish or indomitable resistance, references to the Old Testament or crucifixions, and variations on the theme of the struggle between good and evil.10

Other artists have approached the Holocaust with the aim of challenging the prevailing conventions. The resulting ‘counter-monuments’ are, on the one hand, based on the original functions of conventional monuments, which may be summed up as the objectives of classical antiquity according to which monuments should commemorate, remind, and teach. On the other hand, the designers of counter-monuments have sought to create contrasts to conventional monuments. Applying different design languages and technical solutions, they want to demonstrate the voids left by the victims of the Second World War in urban and cultural landscapes. The artists also accept that this will happen at the expense of their works’ visibility.11 Works such as these, produced mainly during the 1980s, were part of the Vergangenheitsbewältigung – the work of coping with the past – that has been a key feature in West Germany and the unified Germany at least since the 1970s.

At the same time as new perspectives have emerged in the arts, traditional needs and functions have remained strong. This is particularly true of the spotlighting of figures such as Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg. However, both the people who helped to save their fellow human beings from genocide and the places where the mass murders took place are associated with oblivion as well as remembrance. As James Young has pointed out, at the end of the war the concentration and extermination camps were places linked with violence and death, but they themselves could not speak. Although the camps remained as constant reminders in the landscape, the memory of them faded. Deliberate work was required to re-establish the links between then and now.12 Such attempts at collective remembrance have not guaranteed continued attention, though. The coverage of the Nuremberg Trials of 1945–1946 emphasized the importance of Auschwitz on a number of occasions. However, the camp lost influence as a symbol of Nazi genocide in the West until the 1960s. This was mainly due to its having been liberated by the Red Army, whereas British and American encounters with the packed concentration camps in Germany meant that continued attention was being paid after 1945 to the media-famous concentration camps of Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, and Dachau.13 Over time, though, Auschwitz has increasingly become the dominant symbol of Nazi genocide. Whereas the other extermination camps were pulled down by the Nazis to conceal what had happened there, Auschwitz was left in a relatively undamaged state after the war. Moreover, during the Cold War there were various political and ideological reasons in both Eastern and Western Europe for making Auschwitz a central memorial site, which required not only the re-creation of the camp but also reprioritization and new construction.14 The result is that Auschwitz is now a concrete place and a symbol which has been given the function of summing up the Holocaust: ‘“Auschwitz” is to the “Holocaust” what “Graceland” is to “Elvis”’, as Tim Cole described the history-cultural significance of the camp.15

It is partly because of Auschwitz’s near-iconic status that those aspects of the Holocaust which did not occur in camps have had difficulty asserting themselves in post-war history culture. In the former Soviet Union, at least 1.5 million Jews and other Soviet citizens were executed by the Einsatzgruppen that followed on the heels of the regular German troops during their invasion of the Soviet Union. Some of the sites of these mass murders have received greater attention in recent years, but many of them remain suppressed, reduced to ‘non-places’ or ‘trauma sites’ of memory, to use the terminology of historian Dominick LaCapra.16 The importance of continuing to search for and draw attention to such sites is obvious, given that the perpetrators both carried out physical murders and went to great lengths to erase many of the victims from written sources and thus from memory. The sites of actual extermination, regardless of whether they are now infamous and well-known extermination camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau or an overgrown ravine in Ukraine, should be highlighted in the future in order to counteract the extermination policy of the perpetrators. Research and education are important components of such work, as are the construction and maintenance of monuments and memorials.17

Holocaust monuments and Wallenberg statues

The story of Wallenberg and monuments encompasses – using the terminology of Henry Rousso – personal, cultural, and official memorials, and these have not necessarily had to have any geographical connection with the places where he has since been remembered and celebrated. More than 30 monuments have been erected in his honour in a dozen countries. Tanja Schult’s review in A Hero’s Many Faces: Raoul Wallenberg in Contemporary Monuments (2009) illustrates that monuments to Wallenberg are not constructed according to a uniform template. He has been portrayed as a rescuer, diplomat, prisoner, and victim, personifying desirable qualities such as courage, humanity, and hope.18

In a number of cases, the artists’ own experiences have made powerful contributions to the design of the artworks. Gustav Kraitz was a student at the Hungarian Royal Drawing School and Art Teachers’ College in Budapest at the same time as Wallenberg was operating in the city. At the end of the war, Kraitz was captured by Soviet troops and sent as a prisoner to the Soviet Union. After five years, he returned to Hungary but became disillusioned with the Communist dictatorship. Kraitz managed to escape to Sweden in 1956. He included points of contact between himself and Wallenberg in the monument Hope.19

Created by Kraitz, together with his wife Ulla, the artwork was inaugurated in New York in 1998. Hope is an example of how monuments must be placed in both their spatial and temporal contexts. When Dag Sebastian Ahlander, then Swedish cultural attaché in New York, had the idea of trying to put Sweden on the map in the city, Raoul Wallenberg was his first choice. That Ahlander received a large and fairly rapid response was due not least to the process analysed in the previous chapter. Wallenberg, by then well known, conveyed laudable human qualities while constituting a good Swedish example with which many Americans were familiar, and to which they responded favourably.20 It did not hurt that the successful businessman Marcus Storch – son of Gilel Storch, who did much to save Jews at the end of the Second World War and who had chaired the Swedish branch of the Jewish World Congress – made a substantial donation.21 The monument, with features such as pillar-like stone obelisks that resemble traditional elements of the genre, also brings to mind fire-damaged chimneys. Other key features were paving stones taken from the Jewish ghetto in Budapest plus a bronze briefcase bearing Wallenberg’s initials. A tangible reminder of his activities as a diplomat, the briefcase also reminded viewers that his efforts to rescue persecuted people had been a result of negotiations at his desk as well as of hands-on rescue operations in railway stations, in protected houses, and elsewhere.22

The placement of the work in the immediate vicinity of the UN building facilitated understanding of the monument’s dual message. Although Hope is based on the tragedy that occurred in Budapest in 1944–1945, it also expresses the hope that this history will not be repeated and that we will have a brighter future. It may be a coincidence, but the message that it is vital to be prepared to fight evil, as Wallenberg was, is reinforced by the fact that a work of art depicting St George’s battle against the dragon is located opposite Hope. As we shall see in greater detail later, the latter symbol has been used before to represent Wallenberg’s fight against the Nazis.

Another sculpture that has been in the immediate vicinity of the UN building since 1988 is Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd’s Non-Violence, also known as The Knotted Gun. The titles are apt given that the work’s revolver is unusable because its barrel has been tied in a knot. As the German cultural writer Thomas Steinfeld has stated, the sculpture can be read as a symbol of non-violence with particular relevance to Sweden, given the country’s 200-year history of peace together with a foreign policy that has for long periods been conducted under the slogans of non-alignment and neutrality. The placement of the work outside the UN building is also a reminder of the post-war Swedish combination of neutrality and internationalism, which has been manifested not least in a strong involvement in supranational organizations, including the United Nations and its sub-organizations.23

This interpretation may be complemented on the basis of the spatial proximity between Hope and Non-Violence. With Wallenberg as a telling example, it has been possible for Sweden to combine aspects contained in both works of art: the ideals of neutrality and peace, and at the same time active participation in the Second World War. It is also easy to recall the oft-repeated depiction in words and images of Raoul Wallenberg as a man who did have a revolver at hand in wartime Budapest, but who chose to fight his enemies using different and inherently non-warlike weapons, and who did so with great success.

The present chapter is not a survey that claims to cover most of the large number of Wallenberg monuments that exist in many parts of the world. For such a review, the interested reader is referred to the above-mentioned doctoral thesis by Tanja Schult. Her comprehensive analysis of monuments dedicated to Raoul Wallenberg has both breadth and depth, with a particular focus on their art-historical and cultural-historical aspects. In what follows I will draw on many of her findings, but also complement them with political-ideological and history-cultural perspectives, using two Hungarian and two Swedish Wallenberg monuments as points of departure. Unlike previous researchers in the field, I have been able to benefit from the Swedish archival material on the Wallenberg case, which was classified for a long time, and which frequently includes issues and problems related to Wallenberg monuments.

Wallenberg as a snake killer

A common conclusion drawn by adherents of the Polish-British historian Isaac Deutscher is that the majority of Jews who were active Communists in post-war Eastern Europe abandoned their Jewish identity, either voluntarily or under duress, to become ‘non-Jewish Jews’.24 A relevant factor here is that during the period between the world wars, which was characterized by growing anti-Jewish sentiment, some Jews in Hungary had concluded that rallying behind Communist slogans was a new and implicitly better opportunity to become integrated into Hungarian society. The question is, however, whether this was merely a matter of a shift in identity. Jews in the Communist Party could to some extent combine political involvement with Jewish issues, the latter regularly being couched in Communist linguistic terms. According to this idiom, ‘the Jewish question’ was intimately connected with capitalism. The conclusion was therefore that the demise of capitalism as a social system would entail the evaporation of Jewish vulnerability. Such a forward-looking approach attracted many Jews who, unsurprisingly, looked back on the past with horror. Their support of a Hungary which was at least on the surface freed of antisemitism and the persecution of Jews, nationalism, and class antagonism, constituted a total identification with the Party and the ‘movement’.25

For István Szirmai, who made his political career in the Hungarian Communist Party, this meant willingly endorsing the official position, which included a radical criticism of Zionism. His reluctance to openly discuss the Holocaust and Jewish issues unrelated to Zionism was probably not only, or even primarily, an expression of his having become a ‘non-Jewish Jew’. Rather, recurring post-war elements of antisemitism, also noticeable within the Communist Party, were a recurring reminder of his Jewish origins, whether he wished it or not.26

Many aspects of the Jewish presence in Hungary are certainly gone forever. As in many other parts of Europe, Jewish architects exerted a great influence on the urban landscape in Budapest and many other Hungarian cities. One reason why the Jewish elements are hard to spot is that they were concrete expressions of a Jewish bourgeoisie who worked hard to be recognized for their contributions as Hungarian citizens. In view of this ambition, it is instead buildings and places associated with Jewish identity and religious practice that are conspicuous in today’s cityscape. The former ghetto in Budapest is now a memorial site, equipped with monuments and information signs.27

The traces of Raoul Wallenberg have become very evident, too. In guidebooks to the Hungarian capital, locations of his activities and also monuments and memorials to him are listed as must-see sights.28 This was not always the case. Wallenberg is a concrete example of how Jewish history and the memory of the Holocaust were controversial elements in Hungarian historiography before and after the Communists came to power in 1948. A few years later, a show trial was prepared to ‘prove’ that Wallenberg had not been taken to the Soviet Union. It claimed that he had instead been murdered in Budapest by ‘cosmopolitan Zionists’. The trial was in line with Stalin’s then ongoing anti-Zionist offensive. The leading Jewish figures of László Benedek, Miksa Domonkos, and Lajos Stöckler, as well as Pál Szalai and Károly Szabó, who had been among the last to meet Wallenberg before his disappearance, were arrested and tortured to ensure that they provided information in line with the anti-Jewish interpretation. Owing to Stalin’s death in March 1953, the execution of NKVD chief Lavrenity Beria in December that same year, and the de-Stalinization that followed their deaths, the trial was cancelled. Domonkos died shortly afterwards. Stöckler suffered life-long injuries from the torture he had endured.29

The show trial was followed by a general oblivion imposed by the Communist rulers, both with regard to Wallenberg himself and in respect of many of the buildings and places in Budapest where the Holocaust had taken place. In the Soviet version of the Great Patriotic War, it was mainly Soviet citizens who had fallen victim to Nazism. This idea had consequences for views of the Holocaust. As in other parts of Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, Jews – including those who had lived in the Soviet Union and been murdered by the Germans and their allies – were excluded from the narrative of the Nazi genocide, so as not to distract attention from Soviet suffering. Nor was the fact that Wallenberg had been seen in the company of Soviet soldiers before his disappearance mentioned in the text of an official monument.30

These decrees contrasted with proposals and contributions made in the early post-war years. Many of the Jews who had survived the persecutions in Hungary were keen to keep the memory of Wallenberg alive. One concrete and early expression of this desire was the painting of his portrait, which now hangs in the Swedish National Portrait Gallery at Gripsholm Castle near Stockholm. In Budapest a plaque was set up with a text commemorating his achievements, and a street was named after him. Survivors also arranged a memorial concert in 1946. At this time, too, another Swede who took part in the rescue operations, Valdemar Langlet, called for a monument in honour of Wallenberg in the Hungarian capital.31 In September 1945, the Swedish press reported that such a monument was being planned.32 The background was that some of the city’s Jews, who had started a collection for a Wallenberg monument, had commissioned the sculptor and art professor Pál Pátzay to design one. He had hidden Jews during the war, and while in Budapest he had met Wallenberg, who saved him and his friends from deportation to an extermination camp.33 Eager to pay tribute to Wallenberg, he accepted the assignment. The work, called The Snake Killer, was inspired by French and Italian neoclassicism, contained references to St George and the dragon, and portrayed an energetic, muscular, and naked man in bronze. He is fighting a symbolic battle against evil, represented in the monument by a snake, which he tramples down with his left foot and holds in a firm grip with his left hand while he is in the process of striking a blow at the head of the beast with the weapon he holds in his right hand. An inscription on the pedestal states that the man fighting the snake is Wallenberg.34

In his 1948 biography of Wallenberg, Jenő Lévai predicted that the inauguration was imminent. The statue would ‘bear witness to future generations about this great son of the Swedish nation and about his legendary work – the rescue of hundreds of thousands of human lives. The monument will stand there on the banks of the Danube, proclaiming that without his work the waves of the Danube would have carried with them tens of thousands more mutilated corpses.’35 However, it turned out that Lévai’s assurance was premature. Owing to Wallenberg’s disappearance, the Swedish diplomat was a much more sensitive subject in Moscow than in Budapest. The three-metre-high monument was placed in Szent István Park, where Jews had been taken for sorting during the 1944 deportations.36 But it was never unveiled. The Communists in Hungary had been working for years to weaken other parties. Applying methodical ‘salami tactics’, they undermined their political opponents bit by bit.37 In 1949, the Communists finally gained the upper hand. The result was a far greater readiness to accommodate Soviet wishes. One of these was that reminders of Wallenberg were not desirable, and even less so when the artist involved was regarded by the Communists as a liberal-minded Social Democrat. The night before the inauguration ceremony the statue disappeared. Witnesses reported that it was dismantled with the help of horses and ropes, probably on the orders of the Hungarian secret police who wanted to demonstrate their loyalty to the Soviet Union.38

In 1953 the monument reappeared in front of a medical facility in Debrecen, but the inscription had been removed. However, the memory of the original monument remained alive. For example, a picture of it together with a portrait of Wallenberg adorned the stationery of the Israeli Raoul Wallenberg Committee.39 The Swedish press referred repeatedly to Pátzay’s artwork, often in combination with photographs of his model, complete with the inscription citing Wallenberg’s achievements.40 In conjunction with the Soviet crushing of the 1956 uprising in Hungary, a Swedish editorial writer suggested that even though there was no statue of Wallenberg, it was not hard to imagine a different kind of monument inspired by his achievements: ‘That monument we see before us, that monument we can erect through actions undertaken in the spirit of Raoul Wallenberg. The opportunity is offered in the form of aid to Hungary, the scene of Wallenberg’s humanitarian efforts.’41

‘A monument never without flowers’

In Hungary, with its vivid memories of the devastation the country had suffered in the final years of the Second World War and during the 1956 uprising, there was a great need to commemorate role models from the past from the late 1980s onwards. This need was particularly evident with regard to those individuals who had not been elevated to a pedestal, or who had been forced down from one during the Communist era. One illustrative example is the case of Imre Nagy, head of government during the Hungarian Revolution. After the 1956 uprising, he became persona non grata in Hungary. He was rehabilitated in 1989 and his remains reburied on 16 June 1989 with full honours in the presence of 100,000 Hungarians on the thirty-first anniversary of his execution. The next step was the erection of a monument to his memory. The commission went to Támas Varga, son of Imre Varga. That Nagy had been invisible in Hungarian history for more than 30 years probably contributed to making abstract or allegorical representations of him seem unsuitable. Instead he was depicted life size, standing on a bridge. At the time of its inauguration the monument was placed in Martyrs Square, near the Parliament and also near the obelisk dedicated to the Red Army soldiers who had liberated Budapest. Tellingly, Nagy’s back was turned to the latter memorial.42

However, the story did not end there and then. As early as 2012 representatives of the Fidesz-led government proposed moving the monument, but they had to withdraw their proposal following protests. Seven years later they made a new attempt. Under the pretext of restoring Martyrs Square to the condition it had been in from 1934 until the 1944–1945 battles, including a replica of the monument which had then stood in commemoration of those who had died during Béla Kun’s short-lived 1919 republic, the Nagy monument was moved in December 2018. Some six months later it was quietly re-erected a kilometre or so from Martyrs Square.43

Domestic role models were not the only ones to re-enter Hungarian history culture during the new openness of the 1980s and especially the decade’s second half. It was not long before Raoul Wallenberg also came up for discussion, even though Kati Marton, a US journalist with Hungarian roots, has firmly argued that Wallenberg was a non-person in Hungary at the beginning of the decade. To support her assertion, she has cited the fact that no official Hungarian enquiry had ever been made to clarify what had happened to Vilmos Langfelder, who, in addition to being Wallenberg’s chauffeur, was a Hungarian citizen.44

However, the officially sanctioned oblivion was not all-encompassing. Although the monument in tribute to Wallenberg did not materialize after the end of the war, he was not forgotten in Hungary during the Communist era. In 1978 Péter Bacsó made a film about Wallenberg, but the Hungarian authorities banned screenings of it.45 While visiting Hungary the following year, a Swedish journalist asked a worker in the Debrecen factory if he knew who the statue outside the factory represented. The answer was: ‘If there had been a name on the statue, no one would have thought about who he is. But now that there is no name, everyone knows who the statue represents. That man is a hero.’46 Five years later, when staff at the Swedish Embassy in Budapest visited addresses in the city associated with Wallenberg, there was a strong response. People in the buildings usually knew about the Swedish diplomat’s activities and were happy to talk about events they remembered or had heard about from others.47 At the beginning of the 1980s, the Hungarian historian János Pótó began researching what had happened to The Snake Killer. Around the same time, information began to circulate that Hungarian diplomats had admitted that the statue in Debrecen depicted Wallenberg.48 John Bierman’s biography of Wallenberg, which includes a passage about Pátzay’s monument and its removal, was published in 1985 in an underground samizdat version, most copies of which were confiscated by the Hungarian security police.49

At the same time, signs of a new openness were emerging. In 1984, for instance, a street in Budapest was named after Wallenberg. Prior to the meeting of the Lutheran World Federation in Budapest that same summer, it was announced that the Swedish diplomat’s disappearance would be on the agenda. This did indeed happen, and church leaders raised the issue with representatives of the Hungarian government.50 In conjunction with this meeting in Budapest David W. Preus, who was an American bishop and vice-president of the Federation, planned to lay a wreath in Wallenberg’s memory in a private capacity. When this became known, other participants wished to take part in the ceremony, to which Preus agreed. However, the bishop soon realized that such a demonstration would be too sensitive to the Hungarian authorities, and he therefore cancelled the official memorial service. Instead, he laid a wreath at the plaque honouring Wallenberg’s memory in the street named after him.51

1984 was also the year when a movement emerged with the aim of influencing the authorities to return The Snake Killer to its original location to mark the fortieth anniversary of Wallenberg’s disappearance. The magazine Historia published a lengthy article recounting the history of the monument in late 1940s Budapest. The article was followed by a proposal in the influential daily Magyar Nemzet to return the statue to Budapest as a ‘worthy gesture’. Nor was it long before Wallenberg was honoured by representatives of the Hungarian regime in front of both domestic and foreign guests at a rally commemorating the mass deportations of Jews carried out by the Germans and their Hungarian allies in 1944.52 The Swedish press cited a ‘well-informed source’ in the Hungarian capital. The anonymous speaker suggested that the renewed interest in Wallenberg, and in particular the articles about the missing statue of him, was ‘a kind of trial balloon’ aimed at testing how far the Soviet authorities were willing to permit a history to be made visible that they had traditionally been unwilling to acknowledge. It soon became clear that the time was not yet ripe. This first Hungarian attempt won no support from the Soviet politicians in the Kremlin.53

Meanwhile the thaw in Hungary paved the way for another monument. Nicolas M. Salgo, who served as US ambassador to Hungary from 1983 to 1986, wanted to promote the erection of a monument to Wallenberg’s work in Budapest. Salgo was a Hungarian Jew who had left Hungary in 1933. He had moved first to Switzerland, then to Sweden, and then to the United States. A collector of Hungarian art, he had been married to a Swede and was well acquainted with Wallenberg’s story. In 1985 he asked his friend, the Pátzay student Imre Varga, if he would dare to create a monument to Wallenberg. The artist’s previous works included a large monument to Béla Kun’s short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919. According to Salgo, Varga was a community-minded but apolitical artist who enjoyed considerable artistic and political prestige in Hungary. When, in the early 2000s, Varga looked back to the creation of the Wallenberg monument, he claimed that he had agreed to do the commission almost immediately after being asked.54 The contemporaneous diplomatic material presents a partly different picture, though. According to those papers, Varga was initially hesitant but soon showed interest in the project, whereupon he prepared a proposal for a monument. When the sketch was finished Salgo contacted Thomas Palme, who worked at the Swedish embassy in Budapest from 1981 to 1986, in order to gain his support. The American ambassador, who was on good terms with Ronald Reagan, was sure that the US President would favour the idea, but Salgo was reluctant to seek his overt support, as it would risk scuppering the whole project.55

Looking back 27 years later, Thomas Palme portrayed the process of putting Varga’s monument in place as being fast and smooth. It had not taken long to go from Salgo’s discussions with the Wallenberg family and the mayor of Budapest, through the enlistment of Varga, to the Swedish government’s approval of the monument’s inauguration.56 But diplomatic correspondence from the mid-1980s paints a different picture. The many foreign-policy complications predicted by diplomat Jan Eliasson, later a Social Democratic Minister for Foreign Affairs, resulted in a decision not to support Salgo.57 The Swedes were aware of how sensitive the Wallenberg issue was for Hungarian-Soviet relations. ‘Adding stones to the Hungarian burden would … serve no one’, a Swedish diplomat noted, but the Swedes continued to monitor the progress of the statue project closely.58

During a visit to Moscow, Varga approached Mikhail Gorbachev’s staff and requested permission to erect a Wallenberg monument. The response was favourable, but on one condition: the monument must not contain any references to Wallenberg in the Soviet Union. The artist received financial support from Peter Wallenberg, a relative of Raoul’s, and travelled to Sweden to select suitable blocks of stone.59 This was not the first time that a Swedish quarry had been utilized by an Eastern European artist. Almost 40 years earlier, the sculptor Nathan Rapoport had received help from the Jewish Agency in Stockholm to select stone blocks for the 1943 Warsaw Uprising monument he was working on at the time. The stone blocks, which ironically had originally been commissioned by his German fellow artist Arno Becker for a monument to Adolf Hitler’s victories, were, like the bronze centrepiece Rapoport had completed in Paris, sent by sea for onward transport to Warsaw. The reason was that he feared that if the 90 components were transported by land, there was an evident risk that they would be seized by Soviet soldiers. The smuggled sections were then assembled before the monument was inaugurated on 19 April 1948.60

Similar concerns emerged in the 1980s. As a result of the country’s longstanding financial crisis, the Communist Party under János Kádár, Prime Minister of Hungary during 1956–1958 and 1961–1965 and General Secretary of the Communist Party during 1956–1988, began negotiations with the United States on increased economic cooperation. One obvious challenge in this context was not to annoy party colleagues in Moscow. While Western popular culture was gaining a foothold in Hungary in the 1970s and 1980s, the United States was still the nation’s main enemy in official propaganda. In a situation where the two countries had been continuously and cautiously approaching each other – with the result that Hungary was one of the most favoured of the Soviet Union’s satellite states in Washington D.C., while the confrontational rhetoric of the Cold War continued to make itself felt at regular intervals – Salgo chose to play it safe.61 The US Embassy was the recipient of the Wallenberg statue in Hungary, as it was unclear whether the local authorities would grant their permission. As a last resort, the monument was to be erected on the Embassy grounds and be visible through the fence. The site was already home to a Hungarian statue of a US general who had played a prominent role in the First World War. Salgo had acquired the statue from the Hungarian state on the promise that it would be transported to the United States, but had no intention of taking the work out of the country. Like the possible future Wallenberg statue, it stood on the Embassy grounds ‘waiting for better times’.62

The turning point came when János Kádár was invited to Sweden on an official state visit. He was concerned about the questions that Swedish politicians and journalists might ask about Wallenberg’s fate. At this time, Salgo renewed his offer to donate a Wallenberg monument. The local Hungarian politicians were still unsure of Moscow’s attitude, but that mattered less when Kádár began to show interest in the project. However, this did not rule out further obstacles, such as a ban on mentioning the Varga monument in the Magyar Nemzet newspaper.63

The original plan to place the monument in Szent István Park on the Pest side, the intended site of The Snake Killer, was shelved. A proposal for a location on Margaret Island, opposite Szent István Park, also failed to gain approval. Varga realized that some local dignitaries still wanted to delay or derail the project, and that continued demands for a central site would play into their hands. He therefore accepted a less central location on the Buda side.64 The site proved to be an inspired choice, as the remote location was reminiscent of a lost hero.65 It was claimed that Wallenberg’s abandoned and destroyed car had been found close by three weeks after his disappearance.66 In an interview, Varga indirectly made it clear that the peripheral location was not important because the monument was ‘never without flowers’.67

Varga’s monument is located in a green area beside a busy street. It consists of two separate upright granite blocks with Wallenberg standing between them. Seen from the side, the blocks conceal an older man, wearing a simple coat with a raised collar, trousers, and shoes. The clothing invites the interpretation that it is a prisoner from the Gulag camps who is represented. Varga thus broke his promise to exclude allusions to Wallenberg’s Soviet fate. Behind the prisoner, on the other side of the bisected granite blocks, Pátzay’s The Snake Killer is engraved in gold. It serves as a reference both to that monument, which at that time was still ‘disappeared’, and to Wallenberg’s achievements in Budapest during the war. Even the title The New Raoul Wallenberg Monument served as a reminder of the non-existence of The Snake Killer in Budapest in 1987. In this way, Varga used his monument to honour both Wallenberg and Pátzay. The reference to The Snake Killer also created a contrast. It reminds viewers that in his youth Wallenberg was capable of opposing both the Germans and the antisemitic Arrow Cross. By contrast, the older man in prison clothes is powerless and abandoned. Although it is unlikely that Wallenberg survived for any length of time in the Soviet prison and camp system, he is nevertheless depicted as an old man, suggesting a lengthy imprisonment.68

Tanja Schult points out that to Varga, Wallenberg is a new Moses. Like the biblical figure the Swede is a link between God and the people, albeit in a secularized form. The gesture being made by the figure of Wallenberg and the bisected block of granite suggest Moses parting the Red Sea and helping the Jews to escape captivity in Egypt. Moses saved his people from slavery; Wallenberg, although not Jewish himself, helped Jews to escape the Holocaust. The comparison can be taken one step further. Moses never reached the Holy Land, and his burial site is unknown. Wallenberg never returned either, and his final resting place is unknown too. The analogy between Moses and Wallenberg has also been used by others who have written about the missing Swede, including Annette Lantos, who referred to Wallenberg as ‘our Moses from the North’.69

In connection with the filming of Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg, Per Anger said that ‘Hungary has become for us a gateway to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union’.70 For him, it must have felt special that Hungary was the very nation that opened up in the late 1980s, as its capital was so closely linked to his and Wallenberg’s efforts in 1944–1945. However, the Hungarians did not want any Nordic link to be present at the inauguration, whose low-key nature instead signalled discomfort with a historical memory, as did the anonymous rededication of the Imre Nagy monument in the summer of 2019. A request from the Swedish ambassador Ragnar Dromberg to give a brief speech met with solid resistance from the Hungarian government. There was a great risk, came the reply, that both official relations between Sweden and Hungary and Dromberg’s activities in Budapest would be damaged. The main stumbling block was that through its ‘alliance loyalty’ to the Soviet Union, Hungary fully accepted the Soviet version of Wallenberg’s death. A Swedish speech was likely to challenge this version, with consequences for Hungarian-Soviet relations.71 The topic’s political sensitivity was also evident from the fact that the opening ceremony was toned down and lacked a speech from anyone representing Sweden, which Nina Lagergren reacted to. She asked whether ‘the government intended to accept this treatment’. The response from the Swedish Foreign Office (Utrikesdepartementet, UD) was that Ambassador Dromberg ‘couldn’t very well impose a Swedish speech against the wishes of the Hungarians’.72 The monument was unveiled on 2 May 1987, a week before Kádár travelled to Sweden. It was a ‘small and discreet affair’ attended by senior party officials plus a few invited foreign guests, including Salgó and Dromberg. The situation was similar just over two years later on the occasion of George Bush’s state visit to Budapest. The US President stated some years later that he had paid tribute to the Swede’s achievements at the monument, but it had been a modest event. The issue of Wallenberg’s disappearance was still so sensitive in US-Soviet relations that Bush refrained from giving a speech at the new monument.73 Nonetheless, Varga’s Wallenberg monument has been described as a symbol of the approaching end of the Cold War and a renewed interest in the Holocaust in Hungary.74

The Snake Killer’s return

Imre Varga’s Wallenberg monument was so much more than a memorial because its installation signalled that it was now possible to discuss previously taboo topics.75 A Hungarian Wallenberg Committee was founded in the late 1980s with the stated aim of seeking clarity about Wallenberg’s fate.76 Around 1990, Hungarian politicians began to make statements that were clear departures from the previous line. For most of the post-war period the Holocaust had been a non-topic in Hungary, but now for the first time came official denunciations of wartime antisemitism and regrets about the fate of the Jews in 1944–1945. In the same breath, the Holocaust was described as the most shameful event in human history.77 For example, a commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust was held in the Hungarian Parliament in 1989, with Giorgio Perlasca among those present.78 In 1989, too, Imre Varga’s Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs was inaugurated in the courtyard of the great synagogue in Pest.79 The interest in the Holocaust was matched by an equally strong continuing interest in Wallenberg. A new edition of Jenő Lévai’s book on Wallenberg was published in 1988. Another commemorative plaque to Wallenberg was inaugurated in 1989. His activities in Budapest were also the subject of newspaper and magazine articles plus radio and television programmes. In April 1989, a symposium on human rights was held in Budapest in the presence of Per Anger. The Hungarian Central Bank also minted 270 gold and silver coins in Wallenberg’s honour, with the proceeds designated for charitable purposes.80

As late as 1986, senior representatives of the Hungarian government had made it clear that the monument in Debrecen would not be returned to Budapest.81 A few years later, the Hungarian Raoul Wallenberg Association resumed efforts to move the statue to Szent István Park in the Hungarian capital. One initial problem was that the director of the pharmaceutical company Biogal, outside whose entrance the statue had stood since 1953, was not prepared to surrender his company’s monument. He felt it was an excellent allegory of humanity’s struggle against disease. That made it a suitable brand for the company, even though the snake, which represents evil in the monument, traditionally has a favourable symbolic significance in medicine and healing. He added that the monument in Debrecen was in any case a memorial to Wallenberg, as he had been on his way to that city when he was arrested in 1945. It was also pointed out that with the inauguration of Varga’s statue in 1987, Budapest now already had a monument.82

A smaller replica of The Snake Killer was erected in Budapest in 1989.83 It was not until July 1998 that a breakthrough occurred in the negotiations for the original. By that time, a statue committee had been formed with the aim of re-inaugurating Pátzay’s monument at its original location in the near future. Following negotiations with Debrecen’s municipal politicians and Biogal’s management, a decision was made to produce a replica. Thanks to donations from the City of Budapest, Hungarian and Swedish companies, and private individuals, the plan was put into action. On 18 April 1999, more than half a century after the original inauguration was to have taken place, the statue was unveiled. Those who dropped the curtain were the Mayor of Budapest Gabor Demszky, who was also a Wallenberg champion, and the poet and writer György Somlyo, who had included Wallenberg in his novel Rampa (1984, German translation Die Rampe 1988) set in the Second World War concentration camps.84

Reconciliation, but with reservations

The complexity of post-Communist Hungarian history culture is demonstrated by the fact that it has not been self-evident to combine the renewed interest in the Holocaust in the 1990s with a self-critical approach to the persecution of the country’s Jews in 1944–1945. Alexandra Kowalski described the view of the Holocaust in Hungary after 1990 as contradictory – an apt description. Whereas memories of the Holocaust were rarely mentioned before 1990, ambivalence has been noticeable after that date: on the one hand there has been a desire to commemorate the genocide in the public sphere, but on the other there has been a reluctance to render the memory of it visible.85

The reconciliations with past historical narratives which characterize the moral use of history have thus been selective in Hungary; in addition, they have been actively opposed by influential forces. Since the early 1990s, the extreme right and neo-Nazism have been a force to be reckoned with in Hungary and the rest of Eastern Europe. Antisemitism and anti-Romani sentiment have been commonplace in these movements, both in word and deed. Right-wing extremists have expressed a desire to return to what is believed to have been good national unity and an exemplary combination of nationalism and religion during the period 1919–1944. Central to this nostalgia is an admiration for Admiral Horthy. In accordance with his last wishes, his remains were brought from Portugal – where he had lived in exile from 1949 until his death in 1957 – back to Hungary, and were buried there in 1993, after the last Russian soldier had left the country. The right-wing nationalist striving to rehabilitate Horthy has continued with undiminished vigour ever since.86

Another leading figure of the right-wing movement is Pál Teleki, but his legacy has been debated. In the early 2000s, there was a fierce battle over whether he should be honoured with a statue in Budapest. His supporters usually cited the situation that had preceded his suicide in April 1941. During his second term as Prime Minister during 1939–1941, Teleki strove to balance the prevailing pro-German foreign policy against a pro-British orientation. The issue came to a head when Germany attacked Yugoslavia. The choice was between joining Germany and remaining aloof, thereby risking a German invasion. The first option won. Teleki regretted the decision in a letter to Admiral Horthy, whereupon he shot himself. His action has been seen as a sacrifice and an honourable attempt to save the Hungarian nation from participating in a disastrous war. The other side of the coin is that Teleki represented an antisemitic policy. A traditional conservative, he had little time for Hitler, but the two men shared a disparaging view of Jews, which under Teleki’s rule manifested itself in anti-Jewish legislation that paved the way for subsequent ghettoization and deportations.87 As a result of the protests Tibor Rieger’s statue of Teleki was not installed in Budapest but in Balatonboglár, which had been a Hungarian refuge for thousands of Polish refugees during the Second World War. Two monuments to him were also erected in 2020 in Poland, one in Kraków and the other in Skierniewice, where he is portrayed alongside Charles de Gaulle, Polish leader Józef Piłsudski, and the President of the post-First World War independent but short-lived Ukraine, Simon Petlura, on the grounds that in 1920, during his first term as Hungarian Prime Minister, Teleki had provided the Poles with ammunition and supplies, thereby contributing to their victory over Soviet-Russian forces.88

In the final stages of the war, Admiral Horthy went from being a prisoner of the Germans to being incarcerated by the Allies. That the latter considered him a war criminal puzzled him. In his view, he was the mastermind of a Hungarian resistance to Nazi Germany. In the end, the Allies did not put him on trial, but his plea of Hungarian innocence has recurred at irregular intervals.89 One occasionally successful strategy has been to place the entire burden of blame for the genocide committed against Jews in Hungary on Adolf Eichmann. It is claimed that he was the one who imposed the transition on Hungarians from disliking Jews to killing them en masse. That transition was concretely orchestrated by a seizure of power without which the Holocaust in Hungary would – it is implied – never have taken place, or at least not on such a devastating scale.90

Contributing to the survival of this notion is the direct or indirect support it has received from internationally recognized Holocaust specialists. The frequently expressed conclusion that the problems of Hungarian Jews began with the German invasion goes hand in hand with an underestimation of the importance of the strong antisemitic currents in Hungary during the interwar period and the Second World War.91 It was this antisemitism that reached its tragic climax when the Germans began persecuting the Jews in 1944. Eichmann and his colleagues could then count on considerable assistance from the Hungarian police and ‘ordinary Hungarians’, with the result that virtually the entire Jewish population of rural Hungary and a considerable proportion of the capital’s Jewish residents were deported to extermination camps, where the majority perished.

Furthermore, it is a history-cultural fact that there is a greater willingness in Hungary – as in the other countries of former Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe – to attach less importance to the German occupation during the Second World War than to the subsequent Soviet one. For example, conservative commentators have argued that the Second World War is not about Jews and genocide, an argument that has been made in the same breath as calls for greater attention to be paid to atrocities committed by Communist regimes. The historical narrative that has its main representatives among the far right has woven together anti-Communism, antisemitism, and ‘a self-victimisation narrative viewing the West as a permanent threat to the authentic Hungarian values’.92

In Budapest, one of the most apparent signs of this prioritization is Terror Háza, the House of Terror, a privately funded museum of the 1939–1989 period, which enjoys public financial support and is sanctioned at the highest political level. Ten of the twelve rooms of this museum are devoted to the Soviet period, whereas the reign of terror by the Arrow Cross receives limited attention. The anti-Communist focus of the museum is not only manifested in the exhibition. The museum was inaugurated on 25 February 2002, the day established in June 2000 by the Fidesz party in memory of the victims of the Communist dictatorships, in order to ‘offset’ the Holocaust Memorial Day established by the previous socialist government. Violence, martyrs, and terror are recurring elements in the exhibition, but it is not always easy to distinguish between perpetrators and victims, a conclusion pronounced by the first director of the museum, who drew a parallel between those who committed crimes during the Holocaust and those who helped the Communists stay in power until 1990. Controversial comparisons between Fascism and Communism in the same spirit recur in the exhibition. A guiding principle has been the concept of ‘double occupation’, combined with a lack of perspectives explaining the historical roots of political terror, violence, and antisemitism in Hungary. Notably, the museum has usually had more visitors than the state-funded museum in Budapest, which opened in 2004.93

Even though the confrontation with Hungary’s complicity in the Holocaust has been hesitant and somewhat slow in coming, there was, and still is, a continued appreciation of Wallenberg’s achievements among many Jewish and Christian Hungarians. Tom Lantos’s proposal in 1999 to make Wallenberg an honorary Hungarian citizen did not immediately gain traction, but in 2003 the Swedish diplomat was accorded that honour in Budapest. Two years later, on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of his disappearance, Wallenberg was commemorated in a ceremony at the Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center. Around the turn of the millennium, there was thus a powerful political desire to take a stand against domestic antisemitism, not least because it could be regarded as a latter-day echo of the Arrow Cross movement.94 Against this background, it is reasonable to consider the re-inauguration of The Snake Killer in Budapest as a stand by the young democracy’s political establishment against the dark legacy of the Second World War. Tim Cole writes that the ceremony was ‘nothing less than a self-conscious act of symbolic restitution, paid for by both private donors and the city authorities. Whilst it had not been possible to restore Wallenberg himself, here was the opportunity to restore the disappearing memorial that had assumed such importance as representative of the disappearing man.’95 With the exception of a protest from the far-right party MIEP, there was total political unity, the other parties strongly opposing what they perceived as MIEP’s antisemitic and anti-Wallenberg stance.96 Moreover, the original Snake Killer was the product of a Hungary which, for a short time after the Second World War, had not been under the thumb of the Soviets. The reinstallation of Pátzay’s monument linked pre-Communist and post-Communist Hungary. Such an approach invited the interpretation that the intermediate period had been an unfortunate parenthesis.

A helping hand

May 1991 saw the first-ever official visit of a Swedish head of state to Hungary. According to media reports, the programme had a very tight schedule – with one exception. At Varga’s monument to Wallenberg, the Swedish royal couple placed a bouquet and stopped to honour the Swede’s achievements. Queen Silvia also visited the school named after Valdemar Langlet. ‘We receive constant reminders of how alive [Wallenberg’s and Langlet’s] efforts remain’, King Carl XVI Gustaf summarized.97 These reminders continued to be made. Although the Swedish royal couple were not present in Budapest the following year, Raoul Wallenberg’s eightieth birthday was honoured in a series of joint Swedish-Hungarian events.98 The Holocaust and Raoul Wallenberg were also commemorated on several occasions in 1994 on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the German occupation of Hungary and the subsequent persecution of the Jews.99 The following year Per Anger received a Hungarian award and King Carl XVI Gustaf, in his capacity as Sweden’s highest representative, was awarded the Hungarian Auschwitz Foundation Medal in recognition of the work done by Anger and Wallenberg, among others, during 1944–1945.100

Jan Lundvik, Sweden’s ambassador to Hungary from 1994 to 1998, has subsequently attested to the great Hungarian interest in Raoul Wallenberg, expressed both by those saved by him and by other more recent admirers. One difficulty was to explain why Sweden had not honoured him publicly, but the 1998 inauguration of Lenke Rothman’s monument to Wallenberg put that criticism to rest.101

A major reason why it took until the 1990s to inaugurate the first Swedish Wallenberg monument – Staffan Nihlén’s Pienza (1993) in Malmö – was that according to tradition, monuments should not be erected to people who are still alive. Installing statues of Wallenberg was tantamount to acknowledging that he was dead, argued those who hoped he was still alive. Wanting to honour Wallenberg at ‘his’ University of Michigan, paying tribute to him in the Israeli Parliament, the proposals to name a hospital after him, and the erection of a memorial to him in Moscow are just four of many examples of well-intentioned efforts from the 1970s to the late 1990s that were halted either by the Swedish government or by Wallenberg’s family. The reason was that words such as ‘memory’ and ‘memorial’, customarily used in these contexts, implied an admission that he was no longer alive.102 For the same reason, Maj von Dardel appealed in 1947 for Pátzay’s monument not to be erected in Budapest. Her arguments were, of course, quite different from those that justified the statue’s removal. Rudolph Philipp wrote that she ‘does not want some dead hero, she wants her son back’.103 On the same grounds, Philipp said he had asked ‘international organizations that wanted to erect a monument in Geneva to Raoul Wallenberg’s achievements to shelve this idea’.104 Similar answers were given by the UD to an American enquiry in the early 1980s, with the addition that official Sweden could not of course influence the decision.105

During a visit to Hungary in 1987, a member of the Supreme Court of Sweden, Ingrid Gärde-Widemar, who was then Chair of the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg Association, had asked Imre Varga if he would consider creating yet another memorial to Wallenberg, this time in Stockholm.106 Varga welcomed the suggestion and met with Nina Lagergren in January 1988. However, she and her brother Guy von Dardel chose to reject the proposal for a Wallenberg monument by Varga in Stockholm.107 Over time, this resistance to erecting monuments to Wallenberg in Sweden diminished. In August 1996, the Stockholm City Council decided to instruct the city’s Cultural Committee to explore the possibility of erecting a Wallenberg monument at Nybroviken, a picturesque seaside location in central Stockholm close by the Royal Dramatic Theatre. In September 1997, a decision was made to launch and fund the project.108

In 1998, Stockholm was the European Capital of Culture. One appropriate item on this event’s agenda might be the inauguration of a Wallenberg monument, argued the members of the ‘Working Group for a monument to Raoul Wallenberg’s achievements’, founded in January 1997 and led by Carmen Regnér. The idea was to donate the monument to the City of Stockholm. The issue was formally discussed but repeatedly postponed. By April 2008, it was clear that no consensus could be reached on the issue, not least because of resistance to the idea that a group of private individuals would have the right to determine the design of a memorial to Wallenberg. Another strong contributing factor was that the City of Stockholm had more or less simultaneously announced a competition for a Wallenberg monument among internationally recognized artists. In this situation, the Working Group approached authorities on the island of Lidingö, where Raoul Wallenberg had lived for a time as a young man, and offered them the statue. By contrast to the Stockholm reaction, the response from Lidingö was immediately favourable.109

The monument was soon finished. Back in 1993, Willy Gordon had created and presented a plaster model of an oversized man, implicitly Wallenberg, handing out protective passports. His proposal had found no favour with the politicians in Stockholm.110 In connection with the work on producing a Wallenberg monument, his plaster model was talked about again, and this time it won the Working Group’s approval. This is not surprising, as it was not the first time Gordon had made references to the Holocaust and to well-known Swedes in his works. He had come from Latvia to Sweden at the age of seven, subsequently studying art from 1940 to 1945. The war and the Nazi genocide had left their mark on him. Looking back, he stated that all the works he had created up to that point ‘seemed trivial and meaningless’. One result was that the nature of his creative work changed. While he had certainly taken an interest in Jewish matters before, the Holocaust helped to change both the form and the content of his creations.111 This was noted at the time. In 1945, the German-Swedish publicist and documentary filmmaker Erwin Leiser drew attention to Gordon’s ‘highly expressive art’, in particular to the sketch for a monument entitled ‘Freedom Composition’. It was, he wrote, ‘a Jewish j’accuse against our era, a shocking indictment of humanity which did not stop the systematic extermination of the Jews that was proclaimed and carried out by the Nazis’, but which nevertheless displayed faith in the future.112 Leiser again referred to Gordon five years later, in connection with the monument at the cemetery of the Malmö Jewish Community honouring the 150 refugees who had been laid to rest there. Leiser said that the work, which had been realized, unlike ‘Freedom Composition’, displayed a significant maturity in the artist.113

Gordon subsequently produced a large number of public sculptures, including some dedicated to famous Swedes such as the Social Democratic pioneer Axel Danielsson (1973), the actor Erland Josephson (1976, 2006), the ballet choreographer Birgit Cullberg (1981), and the popular composer Evert Taube (1990). He was thus used to portraying people and often depicted highly stylized bodies. The four-metre-high monument Raoul Wallenbergs gärning (Raoul Wallenberg’s Achievement), unveiled by the then Speaker of the Riksdag Birgitta Dahl on 28 May 1998, featured this same approach. Gordon was inspired by a photograph of Raoul Wallenberg taken at a railway station in Budapest. In it the Swede stands with his back to the camera, wearing a hat and overcoat and handing out protective passports. In Gordon’s interpretation, the significance of Wallenberg’s action is indirectly evident from the fact that the hands ready to receive the protective passports bearing Sweden’s national emblem of the three crowns are larger than those of the Wallenberg figure. The focus is thus on the rescue work. However, because the bronze figure is headless the result is a de-individualization and anonymization which invited criticism.114

Art, monument, or both?

The objections to Gordon’s monument were a drop in the ocean compared to the debate that followed the announced competition for a Wallenberg monument in Stockholm. All six proposals, three from Swedish and three from foreign artists, were non-figurative. Most of the artists used the Jewish star as a basis for their monuments, with the exception of the winning entry, Kirsten Ortwed’s Hommage à Raoul Wallenberg. The Danish sculptor had composed a group of twelve bronze sculptures combined with Wallenberg’s signature, drawn in the ground directly adjacent to the sculptures. The difficulty, she argued, was to describe the complex and extremely serious situation of Wallenberg and the Jews in Budapest without succumbing to sentimentality. Her artistic solution to the problem was to use sphinx-like shapes. Dignified and serious, they could visually guide the viewer to think about Raoul Wallenberg’s memory and the houses, streets, and railway freight carriages in Budapest where he had saved so many Jews.115

One of Ortwed’s compatriots said that her Wallenberg monument was a fantastic challenge, which provoked questions about what sculptures are and what they can contribute.116 The competition jury members and the City of Stockholm Art Council were also impressed by her non-figurative artwork and commissioned her to create a monument at Nybroviken in central Stockholm. Many residents of the capital dissented radically, though. Commentators, including Per Anger, argued that it would be better to honour Wallenberg with another monument.117 Sonja Sonnenfeld, Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Association, complained that Ortwed’s tribute had nothing whatsoever to do with Wallenberg’s achievements. The monument was ‘loveless and unworthy’. The best outcome would be if it were not installed.118

Bo Wingren, Chair of the Stockholm Art Council, was somewhat sympathetic to the criticism, because the proposal was ‘an artistic design that is very far from the traditional view of monuments’.119 The jury chair, author Per Wästberg, took a more assertive stance, saying that the era of traditional heroic displays was over and it was time to find new ways to celebrate heroes, including Wallenberg.120 Similar wording was repeated in the jury citation. Wallenberg’s achievements were too great and impossible to portray in a traditional form. What was needed was a monument that both ‘liberated the imagination’ and could be linked to concepts such as freedom and openness, as well as to character traits that were identifiable in Wallenberg: ‘imaginative, unorthodox, improvisational, and in unceasing motion’.121

The monument was solemnly inaugurated in 2001, with King Carl XVI Gustaf, the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and other potentates in attendance. The debate continued to rage even after the ceremony. As before, there were two diametrically opposed views. Critics argued that Wallenberg’s achievement was of such a nature that it had no Swedish equivalent. Therefore, it was important that his ability to take decisive action was ‘translated’ into a worthy monument, not into something resembling giant garden slugs or, as the economist Carl Hamilton put it in an often-quoted and controversial column, ‘twelve half-chewed bits of liquorice, or frozen dog shit’.122 The main problem, argued critics, was that there were no references to Wallenberg either as an individual or as a historical actor. Abstract art was not in itself a problem, but if future generations could not understand Wallenberg’s endeavour on the basis of the monument, it did not fulfil its function. Ortwed’s Hommage was undeniably art, but it did not work as a monument.123

There was an unspoken attitude as well: the idea that certain conditions must exist in order for there to be an encounter between a work of art and its viewer. As was the case a century ago, the monuments of today require the viewer to be familiar with the symbols and imagery used by the artist. For example, an American artistic effort during the Cold War failed in its purpose to strengthen Americans’ sympathy for the United States and opposition to Communism. The failure occurred because most members of the audience did not possess the tools needed to decode the artworks, which turned the expected propaganda triumph into a fiasco.124

The bronze briefcase that is part of the Kraitzes’ Hope monument, which stands by itself in a dozen locations around the world, and Ortwed’s work invite similar interpretations: the abandoned briefcase and the collection of sphinxes with no self-evident centre convey a sense of emptiness and loneliness. Beyond the obvious contrast that one work is figurative and the other is not, there is another difference. The bronze briefcase is linked to Wallenberg because it bears the initials R.W. Ortwed’s tribute offers no such assistance. It requires a willingness on the part of the viewer to accept the concept and try to interpret it on the basis of existing information, while knowing that there is no such thing as a key.125 The monument’s supporters argued that viewers who had a trained eye and an alert mind had ample opportunity to make associations with a variety of phenomena and approaches: Greek temple facades, Biblical references, simultaneous rest and movement, and the struggle between good and evil, life and death, in the form of rescue and flight versus ethnic mass murder. The fact that Ortwed’s sculptures were at once both simple and enigmatic, opening up ‘like Rorschach’s inkblots’ to a host of questions and interpretations, was a good thing. Ultimately, Ortwed undoubtedly did create a monument to one of the individuals who had done the most to save people from genocide. Her tribute was deliberately unorthodox, but it was nevertheless ‘a sculptural parallel to Wallenberg’s actions.’126

The debate over Ortwed’s Wallenberg monument illustrates the complex nature of commemoration: there is a confluence of past and present, and at the same time the connection between historical content and artistic form becomes conflicted. The monuments erected in honour of Raoul Wallenberg in Hungary, Sweden, and the United States hence imply that the history of the man is not merely the sum of his deeds in wartime Budapest and his fate in Soviet captivity. The way in which he is remembered in bronze and granite is also related to issues and values in contemporary societies, as well as to what we hope for – and fear – in the future.

1 Stina Oscarson, ‘Stina Oscarson till kulturministern: Varför duckar du?’, Svenska Dagbladet, published on SvD’s website on 10 February and in the printed paper on 13 February 2022. See also Adam Cwejman, ‘Medieanpassade politiker lär sig inte tänka’, Göteborgs-Posten, 11 February 2022; Magdalena Andersson, ‘Kulturministern har kronisk nybörjarotur’, Expressen, 11 February 2022; Nina Solomin, ‘Kulturministern tycks bara brinna för en sak’, Svenska Dagbladet, 17 February 2022; Elina Haimi, ‘Kulturministern hade fått frågorna i mycket god tid’ (interview with Stina Oscarson), Svenska Dagbladet, 17 February 2022; Olle Svenning, ‘Oscarson avslöjar även sin egen inkompetens’, Aftonbladet, 17 February 2022; Ida Ölmedal, ‘Det duger inte, kulturministern!’, Sydsvenskan, 20 February 2022.
2 Erik Helmerson, ‘Ministern borde se “Vita huset”’, Dagens Nyheter, 19 February 2022.
3 Zander, ‘Läroböcker i sten’ and sources cited there, p. 109.
4 See e.g. Drucker and Cathcart, ‘The Hero as a Communication Phenomenon’, especially pp. 112–124, and von Osten, ‘Producing Publics – Making Worlds!’, p. 259.
5 Klas Rönnbäck, ‘En amputerad historia’, Ord & Bild, 2008:4, 59.
6 Zander, ‘The Footprints Frighten Me’, pp. 86–89.
7 Neiman, Learning from the Germans, p. 266.
8 Burch and Zander, ‘Preoccupied by the Past’, pp. 53–73; Zander, ‘Läroböcker i sten’, pp. 122–123.
9 Liljefors, ‘The Interplay of Memory and Amnesia’, p. 48.
10 Amishai-Maisels, Depiction and Interpretation, pp. 131–242.
11 Young, The Texture of Memory, pp. 27–48.
12 Young, The Texture of Memory, p. 119.
14 See e.g. Novick, The Holocaust in American Life, pp. 63–66, 93–94, 122; Shandler, While America Watches, pp. 11–13, 16–18; Cole, Holocaust City, pp. 221–223.
15 Cole, Selling the Holocaust, p. 98.
17 See Lower, The Ravine, p. 20.
18 Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, passim.
19 Eva Dandanelle, ‘Kraitz gestaltar hoppet’, Konstperspektiv, 2001:1, 34–36; Mattias Karlsson, ‘Gustav Kraitz: Skapar för FN och Malmö’, Sydsvenskan, 30 March 2006.
20 Ahlander, ‘The History of the Monument’, pp. 9–11, and the interview with Dag Sebastian Ahlander by Ulf Zander, 14 April 2004. See also Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, pp. 203–219.
21 Annie Maccoby Berglof, ‘Lasting monuments’, The Financial Times, 1 October 2011.
22 David Finn, Hope, pp. 9–11.
23 Thomas Steinfeld, ‘Det neutrala Sverige var en fredlig zon i en hejdlöst våldsam värld’, Dagens Nyheter, 24 April 2022.
24 Deutscher, ‘The Non-Jewish Jew’, pp. 25–41.
25 Kovács, ‘The Jewish Question in Contemporary Hungary’, pp. 210–212.
26 Bohus, ‘István Szirmai between Communism and Zionism’, pp. 409–426.
27 Cole, Holocaust City, pp. 226–244; Frojimovies, Komoróczy, Pusztai, and Strbik, Jewish Budapest, pp. 3–17, 42–49, 105–113, 468–476.
28 See e.g. Nylén, Budapest bortom turiststråken, pp. 83–94.
29 Szita, The Power of Humanity, pp. 138–140; Károl Szábo, ‘Show trial preparations 1953 in Budapest’, Searching for Raoul Wallenberg, www.raoul-wallenberg.eu/testimony/show-trial-preparations-1953-in-Hungary (accessed 27 January 2020).
30 Henry Kamm, ‘Wallenberg: Statue rises in Budapest’, The New York Times, 15 April 1987; Cole, Holocaust City, p. 233. For a comprehensive discussion of the unwillingness to discuss the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, see Karlsson, Med folkmord i fokus, pp. 38–41.
31 Langlet, Verk och dagar i Budapest, p. 149.
32 ‘Raoul Wallenberg får staty i Budapest’, Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning, 28 September 1945.
33 For his contributions to saving Jews during the Second World War, Pátzay was honoured as a ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ by Yad Vashem in 1998.
34 Where nothing else is stated, the interpretation of the monument is based on Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, pp. 81–95. It has been repeatedly asserted that the snake bore swastikas on its head – information which Schult denies.
35 Lévai, Raoul Wallenberg, hjälten i Budapest, pp. 259–260.
36 Langlet, Kaos i Budapest, pp. 51–55.
37 Hägglöf, Det andra Europa, pp. 156–158.
38 Jan Gerd, ‘Wallenbergs minne lever i Ungern’, Bohuslänningen, 29 March 1979; Fowkes, ‘Monumental Sculpture in Post-War Eastern Europe, 1945–1960’, pp. 24–25, 40–45, 201.
39 Such stationery can be found in RA, Raoul Wallenbergföreningens arkiv, E1:1. Korrespondens, Huvudserie 1979, A–H.
40 See e.g. Rudolph Philipp, ‘Lever Raoul Wallenberg – människokärlekens partisan?’, Året Runt, 1947:25, 9; Rudolph Philipp, ‘Raoul Wallenberg lever’, Vi, 1955:2, 9; Hugo Valentin, ‘En partisan i mänsklighetens tjänst: Anförande vid Konserthusmötet den 11 jan. 1948’, Judisk Tidskrift, 1948:1, 6; ‘Alla anständiga människor känner raseri och äckel’, Dagens Nyheter, 9 February 1957; Ivar Harrie, ‘Gåtan Wallenberg’, Expressen, 9 February 1966; Jan Gerd, ‘Wallenbergs minne lever i Ungern’, Bohuslänningen, 29 March 1979; Mats Svensén, ‘Wallenberg-statyn blev varumärke för läkemedel’, Vi, 1984:37, 12–13.
41 ‘Raoul Wallenberg’, Göteborgs-Posten, 8 February 1957.
42 James, Imagining Postcommunism, pp. 148–149.
43 Ábraham Váss, ‘The relocation of Imre Nagy’s statue draws controversy’, Hungary Today, 8 January 2019; Ábraham Váss, ‘Imre Nagy’s statue silently unveiled in its new location’, Hungary Today, 6 June 2019.
44 Marton, Wallenberg, pp. 210–211.
45 Szita, The Power of Humanity, p. 145.
46 Jan Gerd, ‘Wallenbergs minne lever i Ungern’, Bohuslänningen, 29 March 1979.
47 Thomas Palme, ‘Besök på Wallenberg-adresser i Budapest’, Memorandum, 21 November 1984, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 22.
48 The Guardian, 1 September 1986. See also ‘Raoul Wallenbergs staty i Debrecen’, 1 September 1980, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 25.
49 Thomas Palme, ‘Beslag av Wallenbergbok i Budapest’, 23 May 1985, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 23; Sven Julin, ‘Bok om Raoul Wallenberg’, 5 July 1985, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 24. See also Bierman, Righteous Gentile, pp. 283–284; Szita, The Power of Humanity, p. 146.
50 ‘Kyrkor väntas ta upp Raoul Wallenbergs fall’, Svenska Dagbladet, 24 July 1984; Richard Swartz, ‘Lutherska världsförbundet: Ungrare splittrar öst’, Svenska Dagbladet, 26 July 1984; ‘Lutheraner frågar om Wallenberg’, Svenska Dagbladet, 27 July 1984; Richard Swartz, ‘Sverige talade om Wallenberg’, Svenska Dagbladet, 2 August 1984; ‘Wallenberg – ein Beispiel’, Napról Napra, 2 August 1984.
51 ‘Wallenbergmöte avlyst’ and ‘Minnesplakett inte monument’, Svenska Dagbladet, 4 and 5 August 1984.
52 Richard Swartz, ‘Ungern hedrar Wallenbergs minne’, Svenska Dagbladet, 17 May 1984; Szita, The Power of Humanity, p. 145.
53 Richard Swartz, ‘Statyn till Budapest? Ungern vill hylla Wallenberg’, Svenska Dagbladet, 5 May 1984; Eric Bourne, ‘Soviets quash a Hungarian proposal to honor Wallenberg’, The Christian Science Monitor, 8 May 1984.
54 Eric Sjöquist, Dramat Raoul Wallenberg, p. 231, and Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, p. 157, base their information on interviews with the artist in the first decade of the twenty-first century.
55 Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Wallenberg restitutus?’, secret report to Jan Eliasson, 5 March 1986, Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Wallenberg restitutus – än en gång’ 21 May 1986, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 26; Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Ungerska Wallenbergmonumentets tillkomst m.m.’ 3 May 1989, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 33. See also Éva Hajdú, ‘The Wallenberg Memorial in Budapest’, The New Hungarian Quarterly, Autumn 1987, pp. 115–117; Andraás Kö, ‘Mindig diszíti virág: Szobor születése’, Mai Nap, 10 March 1989.
56 Thomas Palme, ‘Monument med historia’, Svenska Dagbladet, 29 April 2012.
57 Jan Eliasson, ‘Wallenberg’, 23 May 1986, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 26.
58 Julin, ‘Raoul Wallenberg’, 14 January 1985. See also Vidar Hellners, ‘Wallenberg’, document no. 204, 12 October 1984; Vidar Hellners, ‘Wallenberg’, 14 January 1985, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 22, and Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Nytt minnesmärke över Raoul Wallenberg i Budapest’, Memoranda 10, 13, and 14 April 1987; Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Nya Raoul Wallenbergmonumentet’, 5 and 7 May 1987 and ‘Invigning av monumentet över Raoul Wallenberg’, 12 May 1987, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 28.
59 Letter from Wilhelm Wachtmeister to Peter Wallenberg, 15 May 1986 and W[ilhelm] Wachtmeister, ‘Ang. Raoul Wallenberg monument i Budapest’, 19 June 1986, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 26.
60 Young, The Texture of Memory, pp. 168–170.
61 Borhi, Dealing with Dictators, pp. 327–357.
62 Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Wallenberg restitutus?’, secret report to Jan Eliasson, 5 March 1986, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, Vol. 26. See also Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, pp. 157–158.
63 Sjöquist, Dramat Raoul Wallenberg, p. 230; Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, p. 158.
64 Andraás Kö, ‘Mindig diszíti virág: Szobor születése’, Mai Nap, 10 March 1989, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 30. See also Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, pp. 158–159. Some years later, an American complained over the peripheral location, which he felt was a poor reflection of Wallenberg’s contribution; see ‘Budapest ghetto’, The New York Times, 5 July 1992.
65 Cole, Holocaust City, p. 235.
66 Bierman, Righteous Gentile, p. 201; Rosenfeld, Raoul Wallenberg, p. xxii; Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, p. 159.
67 Andraás Kö, ‘Mindig diszíti virág: Szobor születése’, Mai Nap, 10 March 1989, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 30.
68 Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, pp. 160–165.
69 Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, p. 165.
70 ‘Raoul Wallenbergs öde blir TV-film i Ungern’, Svenska Dagbladet, 27 April 1989.
71 Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Ang. invigningen av Raoul Wallenbergmonumentet’, 15 May 1987, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 28. See Sten Strömholm to Martin Hallqvist, ‘Wallenberg: Jenő Fock’, 16 February 1990, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 36.
72 Sven Julin, ‘Raoul Wallenberg’, Memorandum, 19 May 1987, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 28.
73 ‘Interview with Members of the White House Press Corps. July 13, 1989’, George Bush: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. 1989. Book II, p. 953; George Bush, ‘Remarks at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Dinner in Los Angeles, California. June 16, 1991’, George Bush: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. 1991. Book I, p. 678.
74 Cole, Holocaust City, p. 236. See also Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Nya Raoul Wallenberg-monumentet invigt’ and ‘Kring invigningen av nya Wallenberg-monumentet’, 20 May 1987, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 28; Henry Kamm, ‘Wallenberg: Statue rises in Budapest’, The New York Times, 15 April 1987 and Jackson Diehl, ‘Hungary to honor Swede who saved Jews: New statue of Wallenberg to be dedicated next month nearly 40 years after Holocaust’, The Washington Post, 28 April 1987.
75 Carl G. Ströhm, ‘Das Denkmal für Wallenberg ist mehr als nur Erinnerung’, Die Welt, 28 April 1987.
76 Szita, The Power of Humanity, p. 150.
77 Braham, The Politics of Genocide, Vol. 2, pp. 1346–1359, especially p. 1358.
78 ‘Minnesstund i parlamentet över judeförföljelserna’, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, 11 May 1989, Vol. 33.
79 Cole, ‘Turning the Places of Holocaust History into Places of Holocaust Memory’, pp. 282–283.
80 Gárdos Miklós, ‘Ércalak a fasorban: Raoul Wallenberg tragédiája “Amikor beborul feletted az ég”’, Magyarország, 1988:25; László Gyurkó, ‘In memoriam R.W.’, Tükür, 10 May 1988; articles in Magyar Nezmet and Nepszabadsag, 25 August 1988; Roger Gartoft, ‘Ny minnestavla i Budapest med Wallenberganknytning’, 19 February 1988, and Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Raoul Wallenbergs halvsyskon på besök i Budapest’, 4 May 1988 and Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Ny ungersk minnestavla, TV- och radioprogram’, 7 August 1989, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 30; Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Nyutgåva av ungersk ‘klassiker’ om Raoul Wallenberg’, 29 August 1988, and Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Nytryck av ungersk bok från 1948 om Raoul Wallenberg’, 14 September 1988, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 31; Ragnar Dromberg to Vollrath Tham, ‘Raoul Wallenberg-symposium i Budapest’, 18 April 1989; Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Ungerska Raoul Wallenberg-föreningen’, 19 April 1989, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 32; Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Ny ungersk minnestavla, TV- och radioprogram’, 7 August 1989, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 33 and ‘Ädel Wallenbergpeng’, Arbetet, 2 February 1990.
81 Krister Wahlbäck, ‘Wallenberg-statyn i Ungern’, 29 January 1986, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 25.
82 Article in HVG, 30 January 1999.
84 Staffan Carlsson, ‘Invigning av Raoul Wallenbergstaty’, 6 May 1999, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 68; Szita, The Power of Humanity, p. 157. On Somlyo see Gyorgy Gomori, ‘Gyorgy Somlyo: Hungarian poet with a European voice’, The Guardian, 8 June 2006.
85 Kowalski, ‘The Wandering Memorial’, p. 216.
86 Gerner, ‘Hungary, Romania, the Holocaust and Historical Culture’, pp. 242–243.
87 Hanebrink, ‘The Memory of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Hungary’, pp. 261–263, 270–274.
88 See e.g. ‘Protest gegen Entscheidung in Ungarn: Statue für Pál Teleki’, www.hagalil.com/archiv/ 2004/02/Teleki.htm (accessed 20 April 2022); Péter Cseresnyés, ‘Monument to former PM Teleki erected in Krakow’, Hungary Today, 5 November 2020.
89 Sakmyster, Hungary’s Admiral on Horseback, pp. 381–382.
90 For an example of this historical narrative, see Korda, Charmed Lives, pp. 38–39. See Andrew Handler, A Man for All Connections, p. 109; Herczl, Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry, p. 183; Richard Swartz, ‘Raoul Wallenberg litade på sin springpojke’ (article about Wallenberg’s young assistant Jonny Moser), Svenska Dagbladet, 25 February 2009.
91 Cole, Holocaust City, pp. 49–52; Lomax, ‘Combatting the Ultra-Right in Hungary’, pp. 328–331; Apor, ‘Eurocommunism: Commemorating Communism in Contemporary Europe’, pp. 233–246.
92 Trencsényi, ‘“Politics of History” and Authoritarian Regime-Building in Hungary’, p. 173. See also Hanebrink, ‘The Memory of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Hungary’, p. 275.
93 Cole, Holocaust City, pp. 244–247; Blutinger, ‘An Inconvenient Past’, pp. 83–92; Gerner, ‘Hungary, Romania, the Holocaust and Historical Culture’, pp. 242–252; Julia Creet, ‘The House of Terror and the Holocaust Memorial Centre’, pp. 29–59; Hanebrink, ‘The Memory of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Hungary’, pp. 279–283; Trencsényi, ‘“Politics of History” and Authoritarian Regime-Building in Hungary’, pp. 174–175.
94 Interview with Tom Lantos by Tibor Kis, published in Nepszabadsag, 2 June 1999. See also [Staffan] Carlsson, ‘Raoul Wallenberg’, 2 June 1999, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 68; ‘In memoriam Raoul Wallenberg: Einweihung mit fünfzig Jahren Verspätung’, Budapester Zeitung, 31 May 1999 and ‘Hungary remembers Wallenberg 60 years after his disappearance’, The Jerusalem Post, 18 January 2005.
95 Cole, Holocaust City, p. 238.
96 Articles from Nepszabadsag, 29 and 30 January 1999 and [Staffan] Carlsson, ‘Ungern – högerextremistiska partiet MIEP protesterar mot upprättandet av Wallenbergstaty’, 29 January 1999, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 67.
97 Ninni Jonzon, ‘Wallenbergs staty fick Silvia att stanna upp’, iDAG, 28 May 1991.
98 ‘Firandet av Raoul Wallenbergs aatioaarsdag i Budapest’, 31 July 1992, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 44.
99 Péter Bajtay, ‘Ämne: händelser som rör Sverige i Holocaust-minnesåret’, 16 February 1994, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 48.
100 Letter from President Árpád Göncz to Per Anger and reply letter from Anger to Göncz (both undated); Jan Lundvik, ‘Ungerska Auschwitzstiftelsens medalj’, 23 November 1995, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 55. See also Jan Lundvik, ‘Tidningsartikel om Wallenbergs fotograf’, 30 December 1994; [Jan] Lundvik, ‘Artikel om Raoul Wallenberg’, 3 January 1995, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 50.
101 Lundvik, ‘My Undertaking Began On a Grey Autumn Day 1960’, p. 14.
102 These cases are dealt with in a large number of documents in RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 1; RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2018/05505, Vol. 1; RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2018/05505, Vol. 2; RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2018/05505, Vol. 19.
103 Rudolph Philipp, ‘Lever Raoul Wallenberg – människokärlekens partisan?’, Året Runt, 1947:25, 9.
104 Rudolph Philipp, ‘Raoul Wallenberg lever’, Vi, 1955:2, 8.
105 ‘Föreslaget Wallenberg-monument’, 3 February 1982, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 15.
106 Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Wallenberg-minnesmärke från Ungern till Stockholm? (Förslag om inbjudan el.dyl. till skulptören Varga)’, 3 December 1987, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 29.
107 Ragnar Dromberg, ‘Inget Wallenbergmonument i Stockholm – tills vidare’, 9 February 1988, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 30.
108 Bo Wingren, ‘Förslag ang. minnesmärke över Raoul Wallenberg’, official statement, City of Stockholm Cultural and Sports Administration, 15 November 1998, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 67.
109 Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg, ‘Frågor kring Wallenbergstaty’, and Omer Magnergård, ‘Två monument reses över Raoul Wallenberg’, Svenska Dagbladet, 3 and 10 May 1998. See also Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, p. 99.
110 Larsson and Åsbrink, ‘Det är väl ingen konst’, p. 15.
111 Gordon, Willy Gordon, pp. 9–34, quotation p. 24.
112 Erwin Leiser, ‘Ung judisk skulptör’, Judisk Tidskrift, 1945:12, 387–389.
113 Erwin Leiser, ‘Willy Gordon’, Judisk Tidskrift, 1950:5, 159–161.
114 Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, pp. 104–107.
115 Kirsten Ortwed, ‘Motivering och tekniske uppgifter’, 4 September 1998, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 67. Her explanation is also found in Ahlstrand (ed.), Raoul Wallenberg, pp. 10–11. On the jury’s opinion of the other monument proposals, see Larsson and Åsbrink, ‘Det är väl ingen konst’, pp. 16–19.
116 Ole Nørling, ‘Monument for Wallenberg’, Berlingske Tidende, 24 October 2000.
117 Per Anger, Georg Klein, Jan Lundvik and Harry Schein, ‘Hedra Raoul Wallenberg med ett annat minnesmärke’, Dagens Nyheter, 2 January 1999.
118 Viktoria Myrén, ‘Storbråk om Wallenbergs minnesmärke’, Aftonbladet, 8 June 1999.
119 Viktoria Myrén, ‘Storbråk om Wallenbergs minnesmärke’, Aftonbladet, 8 June 1999.
120 Peter R. Meyer’s documentary film Raoul – och de 30 monumenten, broadcast by Sveriges Television, 24 September 2001.
121 ‘Tävlingsjuryn för ett monument över Raoul Wallenberg: Juryns motivering för sitt beslut enligt protokoll den 23 oktober 1998’, RKA, Raoul Wallenberg, UD2001/00009, Vol. 67.
122 Carl B. Hamilton, ‘Hur hyllar vi våra döda?’, Aftonbladet, 9 March 2002. See also Carl B. Hamilton, ‘När finkonstnärer ger den stora Förklaringen’, Aftonbladet, 8 March 2003, and Larsson and Åsbrink, ‘Det är väl ingen konst’, pp. 19–20. The comparison between Ortwed’s artwork and the giant slugs is from Peter Hansen, ‘Konst och monument går inte ihop’, Svensk Tidskrift, 2002:1, 12.
123 Morton H. Narrowe, ‘Wallenberg-monument utan Wallenberg’, Judisk Krönika, 2001:5, 9; Morton H. Narrowe, ‘Konstverk eller monument?’, Judisk Krönika, 2002:5, 41; Peter Hansen, ‘Konst och monument går inte ihop’, Svensk Tidskrift, 2002:1, 11–13. See also Ståhle, Mellan konsten och publiken, pp. 70.
124 Bustow, ‘The Limits of Modernist Art as a “Weapon of the Cold War”’, pp. 68–80. See also Barbro Hedvall, ‘Saknadens monument’, Dagens Nyheter, 1 October 2008.
125 Schult, A Hero’s Many Faces, p. 276; Tanja Schult, ‘Monument med mänskliga proportioner’, Svenska Dagbladet, 27 January 2010.
126 Madeleine von Heland, ‘Till minne av Raoul’, Moderna Tider, November 2001, 28–30, quotation p. 30; Jakob Wamberg, ‘Lang dags rejse mod rum’, pp. 33–34; Eva Pohl, ‘En anden frihed’, Berlingske Tidende, 10 May 2002; Torben Weirup, ‘Fra den nye verden’, Berlingske Tidende, 25 June 2008.
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Raoul Wallenberg

Life and legacy


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