Raoul Wallenberg was a hero in an age of villainy. Arriving in Budapest on July 9, 1944, and financed by the American War Refugee Board, which sought to rescue Jews through neutral states like Sweden, Wallenberg presented the Hungarians with a list of 800 Hungarian Jews possessing some sort of (usually tenuous, if not downright imaginary) relationship with Sweden, whom the Swedish government promised to accept within its borders.
Over the next several months, Wallenberg and his staff of 300 – mostly local Jews – issued over 20,000 Swedish passports to Hungarian Jews, thus saving them from certain death. At the same time, he used his considerable diplomatic skills to drive a wedge between Hungarian fascists and their more fanatical German allies. His influence over Hungarian dictator Miklós Horthy also helped stop the transport of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz.
Thanks to Wallenberg’s direct and indirect actions, some 70,000 Jews survived the Budapest ghetto. No one knows for sure, but is is possible that Wallenberg saved up to 100,000 Hungarian Jews from the gas chambers and the bullets of Himmler’s Einsatzgruppen.
In November of 1944, Wallenberg personally – and at appalling personal risk – rescued 200 Jews from a Nazi death march.