Nurse to the Warsaw Ghetto Swedish diplomat in Hungary
Irena Sendler was a Polish Irena Sendler was a Polish humanitarian, social worker, and nurse. She served in the Polish Underground Resistance during WW2 in German-occupied Warsaw.
In 1943, she was the head of the children’s section of Zegota, the Polish council to aid the Jewish people. In her position, Irena had access to the Warsaw Ghetto. With other workers and volunteers, Irena participated in smuggling Jewish children out of the Ghetto. She arranged false documents for the children and also shelter with willing Polish families, orphanages, and other care facilities. Irena and her team rescued over 2,500 children from the Holocaust. In October 1943, Irena was arrested, tortured, and imprisoned by the Gestapo. She had managed to hide the list of the rescued Jewish children and never revealed anything about her work or the children. In 1965, Irena was recognized by Yad VaShem as one of the Polish Righteous Among the Nations.
British hero of the Holocaust
Sir Nicholas Winton was a British humanitarian who helped to rescue mainly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of WW2. On his brief visit to Czechoslovakia, he helped to compile a list of children needing to be rescued. When Winton was back in Britain, he worked to fulfill the legal requirements for bringing the children to Britain and finding them homes and sponsors. The operation was later known as the Czech Kindertransport.
Assisted with many others, Winton ultimately found homes in Britain for 669 children, many of whose parents perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Winton wrote also to President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking the U.S. to take some of the children. Winton claimed that two thousand more could have been saved if the U.S. had helped. Sweden alone agreed to assist Britain. Nicholas Winton, the British hero of the Holocaust, had a Jewish heritage; therefore, he has not been recognized as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
Swedish diplomat in Hungary
Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish architect, businessman, diplomat, and humanitarian. He saved thousands of Jews in German-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust from German Nazis and Hungarian fascists. While serving as Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest in 1944, Wallenberg issued protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings he declared as Swedish territory.
On 17 January 1945, during the Siege of Budapest by the Red Army, Wallenberg was detained on suspicion of espionage and subsequently disappeared. In 1957, 12 years after his disappear-rance, he was reported by Soviet authorities to have died of a suspected myocardial infarction on 17 July 1947, while imprisoned in the Lubyanka, the prison at the headquarters of the secret police in Moscow.
Wallenberg’s arrest and imprisonment by the Soviet government along with questions surrounding the circumstances of his death and his ties to U.S. intelligence, remain shrouded in mystery and are the subject of continued speculation and research.
As a result of his successful efforts to rescue Hungarian Jews, Wallenberg has been the subject of numerous humanitarian honors in the decades following his presumed death. In 1981, the US Congressman Tom Lantos─one of those saved by Wallenberg─sponsored a bill making Wallenberg an honorary citizen of the United States, the second person ever to receive this honor. Wallenberg is also an honorary citizen of Canada,
Hungary, Australia, the United Kingdom and Israel, where Wallenberg was recognized as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
Numerous monuments have been dedicated to him, and streets have been named after him throughout the world. He was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress “in recognition of his achievements and heroic actions during the Holocaust.”