H.R. 3001: Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act

H.R. 3001

Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act

Sponsor
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks

Date
April 16, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Monday, April 16, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 3001 the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  The bill was introduced by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) on September 21, 2011, and referred to the Committee on Financial Services. 

Bill Summary

H.R. 3001 would direct the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate to arrange for the presentation on behalf of Congress of a gold medal of appropriate design to the next of kin or personal representative of Raoul Wallenberg in recognition of his achievements and heroic actions during the Holocaust.

Background

According to the findings of the bill, Raoul Wallenberg was born in Europe on August 4, 1912, to Swedish Christian parents. In 1935, he graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

In 1936, Raoul's grandfather arranged a position for him at the Holland Bank in Haifa, Palestine.  There Raoul began to meet young Jews who had already been forced to flee from Nazi persecution in Germany.  Their stories affected him deeply.

Under the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the War Refugee Board was established in January 1944 to aid civilians that fell victim to the Nazi and Axis powers in Europe.  One of War Refugee Board's top priorities was protection of the 750,000 Hungarian Jews still alive.  It was decided that Raoul Wallenberg, aged 31 at the time, would be most effective in protecting Jews and victims of the Nazis in Hungary under the War Refugee Board.

He was recruited by Iver Olsen, an agent for the Office of Strategic Services and sent to Budapest, Hungary, under his official profession as a Swedish diplomat.  He was instructed to use passports and other creative means to save as many lives as possible.  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.

In one example of his heroism, Wallenberg was told of a Nazi plot to round up several thousand Jewish women and acted swiftly to save them. Former Wallenberg staffer, Agnes Adachi, recalls the time when she and other staff, spent the whole night making around 2,000 Schutzpasses before 6 a.m.  They were all completed and personally delivered to the women in time to save their lives.

Using the money the United States put into the War Refugee Board, Wallenberg was able to purchase about thirty buildings, which he used as hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, and safe houses for over 8,000 children whose parents have already been deported or killed.

Of the 120,000 Hungarian Jews that survived, Raoul Wallenberg, acting under the War Refugee Board, is credited with saving an estimated 100,000 of them in a six-month period.

Raoul Wallenberg's fate remains a mystery.  On January 13, 1945, he contacted the Russians in an effort to secure food for the Jews under his protection—as he was still working hard to protect them.  In 1981, President Ronald Reagan made Raoul Wallenberg an honorary citizen of the United States, an honor only previously extended to Winston Churchill.

Cost

There was no Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimate available for this bill.