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CULTURE & HERITAGE - Culture & History

raoulReport by Judi Schiff, Founding Member, Raoul Wallenberg Unit of B’nai B’rith
Melbourne, Australia                                                                                                        

A number of Raoul Wallenberg Unit members, including the Raoul Wallenberg Unit Co-Presidents, Margaret Heselev and Wendy Waller, travelled from Melbourne to Canberra to attend the Conferring of Honorary Citizenship of Australia upon Raoul Wallenberg. President of the District Jim Altman from Sydney represented B’nai B’rith Australia/New Zealand. The function took place on Monday 6 May 2013 at Government House, Canberra. 

Australia’s head of state, Governor-General Quentin Bryce said, in an eloquent address, that the certificate naming Raoul Wallenberg as an honorary citizen will be displayed in rotation between the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre in Melbourne and the Sydney Jewish Museum.

In the presence of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, diplomats of the Israeli, Swedish, Hungarian and US embassies, Jewish community leaders and Holocaust survivors, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said it was “entirely fitting” that “this man of moral courage and heroic example” be named as Australia’s first honorary citizen.   The Prime Minister told the Wallenberg story with great perception, empathy and sympathy.  Her speech is available on the following link: http://www.ecaj.org.au/2013/raoul-wallenberg-awarded-honorary-australian-cit

 It is well worth reading.  

Among the guests was Prof Frank Vajda, who, as a nine-year-old boy, faced a firing squad and near-certain death in 1944 when Wallenberg arrived to secure his release.

Ervin Forrester with the Raoul Wallenberg Schutz-pass which saved his life during the Holocaust                                                      

Raoul Wallenberg is an honorary citizen of the United States, Canada, Israel, Budapest and now, Australia.  
Speaking on behalf of the Jewish community, Peter Wertheim, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said: “By honouring the late Raoul Wallenberg with Australian citizenship, Australia is not only paying tribute to him, to what he achieved and what he stood for, but is also making a statement about who we are as a nation.”

raoul4 Prof Frank Vajda with the certificate of Raoul
Wallenberg's Honorary Australian Citizenship

Mr Wertheim thanked a number of people and organisations for their work over many years to perpetuate and honour the memory of the late Raoul Wallenberg; Raoul Wallenberg Unit of B’nai B’rith was one of those mentioned.

For those of us who have hoped for and worked towards the achievement of a category of Honorary Citizenship being established in Australia specifically for Raoul Wallenberg, Monday morning, the sixth of May, was the realisation of a dream.