US Coins

Wallenberg gold medal now law

A congressional gold medal in recognition of Raoul Wallenberg’s achievements and heroic actions during the Holocaust in World War II will be recognized with a congressional gold medal.

The Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act, H.R. 3001, was introduced Jan. 3 by Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. It passed the House of Representatives April 16 and approved by the Senate July 11. President Obama signed the act into law by July 26.

Wallenberg was born Aug. 4, 1912. As a Swedish businessman operating in Hungary in the early 1940s, he gained insight into anti-Jewish policies in that Eastern European nation.

In January 1944, the War Refugee Board was established under the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “to aid civilians that fell victim to the Nazi and Axis powers in Europe,” according to the medal legislation.

Under the direction of the board, Wallenberg was recruited to help the 750,000 Hungarian Jews in German-held Budapest, by using “passports and other creative means to save as many lives as possible,” according to the act.

“Wallenberg created a new Swedish passport, the Schutzpass, which looked more imposing and official than the actual Swedish passport. He reportedly put up huge place cards of it throughout Budapest to make the Nazis familiar with it. He unilaterally announced that it granted the holder immunity from the death camps. The Schutzpasses alone are credited with saving 20,000 Jewish lives,” according to the legislation.

On Jan. 13, 1945, he contacted the Russians in an effort to secure food for the Jews under his protection. He was arrested by Soviet officials on suspicion of espionage and disappeared. Circumstances around his disappearance and have never been fully explained.

The law directs that the medal be presented to Wallenberg’s next of kin or a personal representative of his family. The law also provides for the striking and sale of duplicate medals in bronze. ¦

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