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The Wallenberg Memorial
By Terri Heveran

A new monument has appeared in Turtle Bay. Perched on the traffic island at First Avenue and 47th Street are five stone columns, the tallest 21-feet high and topped by a blue ceramic sphere. A bronze attache case on the ground next to a column looks as though it were forgotten by an absent-minded passerby.

Dedicated on November 9, 1998, the monument, entitled Hope, memorializes Raoul Wallenberg, a young Swedish diplomat credited with saving the lives of over 100,000 Jewish citizens of Budapest, Hungary, in 1944 when persecution by the Nazi army was intensifying. The American War Refugee Board had sought the aid of neutral Sweden to help save as many Jews as possible.

Wallenberg was chosen to lead the operation because of his many business contacts in Hungary and throughout the Continent. With no previous diplomatic experience, he was posted to the Swedish Legation in Budapest where he designed and issued official-looking passports for Jews, which declared the bearer to be under Swedish protection. He bought or rented "safe houses" throughout Budapest, where as many as 20,000 Jews were sheltered.

In January 1945 Wallenberg left the city under military escort for a meeting with a Soviet commander. He never returned. His ultimate fate has never been confirmed. His attache case, left behind, attested to the urgency of his mission.

The site of Hope was suggested by New York Parks Commissioner Henry Stern and seconded wholeheartedly by the Consul General of Sweden, Dag Sebastian Ahlander. The sculptor, Gustav Kraitz, is a native of Budapest now living in Sweden. His work on Wallenberg's monument had great personal meaning for him. Two days after Wallenberg was taken into Russian custody, Kraitz himself was deported to a Soviet labor camp where he was imprisoned for the next five years.

Hope is a gift to the City of New York from the Storch family in memory of Hilel Storch, a leader of the Swedish Jewish community who conceived the idea of sending a special envoy to Budapest in 1944. The man chosen was Raoul Wallenberg.

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The Turtle Bay Association is a nonprofit (501c3) community organization.

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