News Department

Morris County remembers Raoul Wallenberg

2023 Marks the 78th Anniversary of Swedish Diplomat’s Disappearance

PARSIPPANY-TROY HILLS, NJ (Morris County) – Dignitaries and visitors from around Morris County gathered earlier this month at Smith Field Park, Parsippany-Troy Hills to celebrate the life of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jewish Hungarians during World War II, before he mysteriously disappeared in 1945.

Courage and Compassion:  Remembering Raoul Wallenberg is a program co-sponsored annually in August by Parsippany-Troy Hills, Adath Shalom Synagogue and the Parsippany Interfaith Council to commemorate the humanitarian message of Wallenberg, who was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on August 4th, 1912. The Vasa Order of America District Lodge New Jersey No. 6, a Swedish American Fraternal Organization, greeted guests upon arrival to the ceremony held annually at a sculpture erected in Wallenberg’s honor.

Among those participating in this year’s event included Meyer Rosenthal, Chair of the Adath Shalom Holocaust Education Committee and Chair Emeritus of the Morris County Human Relations Commission (MCHRC); Rabbi Moshe Rudin, Adath Shalom Synagogue; Chuck Farber, a 99-year-old World War II veteran and former resident of Parsippany-Troy Hills; Kory Warner, Vasa District Master; Reverend Dr. Stacie Turk, Pastor of First Baptist Community Church; Rabbi Shalom D. Lubin, Congregation Shaya Ahavat Torah; Rev. Donald A. Bragg, Parsippany Presbyterian Church; Aviva Neuman, Head of Culture & Public Affairs, Swedish Consulate of New York; Clarence Curry, Jr., Chair of the MCHRC, Kellie Doucette, District Director for the Office of Congresswoman Mikie Sherril, Mayor James Barberio of Parsippany-Troy Hills and Morris County Commissioner Director John Krickus.

In 1944, Wallenberg was recruited by the U.S. War Refugee Board, the only known initiative created under the instruction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide direct assistance to Jews persecuted by Nazis and their collaborators. Three months after Germany occupied Hungary, the Swedish foreign ministry sent Wallenberg as a Swedish special envoy to Budapest, where he was tasked with helping Jewish Hungarians. Although Wallenberg had no experience serving in diplomacy or undercover missions, he successfully coordinated and implemented one of the most extensive and effective rescue missions during the Holocaust. Through the forging and widespread dissemination of “Certificates of Protection” from the Swedish government, tens of thousands of Jewish Hungarians evaded deportation to Auschwitz.

In addition to providing protection papers, Wallenberg used Swedish/U.S. funds to establish soup kitchens, nurseries, hospitals, and safe houses. Budapest was the site of an area known as the “International Ghetto” that provided a neutral area for people with ‘protection papers’ to find refuge. Wallenberg was a critical piece of a collaborative effort of diplomats from neutral countries and agencies committed to preventing deportation or assisting with the emigration of persecuted Jews.

By 1945, when the Russians liberated Hungary, Wallenberg and associates had ultimately saved 100,000 Jewish Hungarians from deportation, and assisted another 50,000 Jewish Hungarians emigrating to Palestine or other neutral countries.

What happened to Wallenberg has remained a mystery. He was last seen in the custody of Russian soldiers who believed him to be a U.S. spy and imprisoned him. His heroism saved many lives at the cost of his own life.

“Shortly after George Washington became president, there was a famous letter sent to him from the Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island, asking ‘How will Jewish people be treated in the new America?’ If we truly believe in what this country stands for, then we should listen to the words of George Washington,” stated Morris County Commissioner Director Krickus, who also paid respects two other historical Jewish figures, Harry Ettlinger and Edward Mosberg.

Ettlinger, a Morris County resident who passed away in 2018, immigrated to the United States in 1938 with his family to avoid rising Nazi persecution. He went on to become a volunteer with the Army’s “Monuments Men”, a group of about 345 service members from 13 different countries tasked with recovering looted art. Mosberg, another Morris County resident, was held captive by Nazis at the age of 14 and survived the concentration camps, where most of his family members were killed. He was a Holocaust educator until his death at the age of 96 in 2022. He is buried in Mt. Freedom Jewish Cemetery in Randolph.

Paraphrasing Washington’s speech, Krickus said, “The Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance… May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

“That should be our pledge and our purpose today, so that we can say to Mr. Ettlinger, to Mr. Mosberg, to Raoul Wallenberg, and to the six million (Jewish) victims of Holocaust: We have learned the lessons of history, and we will never forget,” stated Krickus in his closing remarks.

At the close of the ceremony, children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors placed eleven white roses at the base of the Wallenberg monument, each rose representing one million of the 11 million total victims murdered during the Holocaust.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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