Today is the beginning of a series of events in Hungary and Sweden accompanying the commemorative year, organized by the two countries to honour a person whose memory constitutes one of the most important symbolic links between our two nations. We remember the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of our Hungarian Jewish compatriots during the times of the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust. Therefore allow me ﬁrst to greet among us Mr Carl Bildt, the head of Swedish diplomacy.
I would also like to warmly welcome Minister Yossi Peled, representing the government of the State of Israel, where Wallenberg is honoured as one of the “Righteous among the Nations”. Acknowledging the Righteous among the Nations is one of the things worth learning from Israel: the appreciation of those who stand for us in times of trouble and injustice, thus testifying to their belief in universal human values.
It is important for us to also remember the Jewish and non-Jewish, Hungarian and Swedish helpers of Wallenberg. We should mention here Mrs Miklós Váli, member of the Wallenberg Commemorative Commission who, herself persecuted during the Holocaust and owing her survival to Wallenberg, volunteered to work for him as a typist to speed up the issuing of the Schutz-passes.
Let us not forget the other rescuers either: those everyday people who showed bravery by rescuing close or distant acquaintances, friends, colleagues, and even complete strangers. People who, like Wallenberg, rescued their fellow humans at the risk of their own lives. Unfortunately there were not enough of them. It is especially painful for me as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary to say this: during the Holocaust the Hungarian State was weighed on the scales and found wanting. It could not protect its citizens, what is more – even if under foreign occupation – it assisted in their extermination. This is how hundreds of thousands of Jewish Hungarians became “fateless”: aliens in their own country, deprived of their Hungarian status and of their human condition. The fact that we made the conscious decision to open the Wallenberg Commemorative Year here in the Hungarian National Museum is itself a testimony to the fact that our nation has forever broken with the dark spirit of the 20th century. However, breaking with the past does not mean that we are not conscious of the responsibility stemming from the fact that this inhuman chapter of history also took place in our country among others. We know that unveiling our past and learning its lessons is more important than anything.
Raoul Wallenberg belonged among those of his generation who with their stand bore evidence to the fact that – and let me allude here to the words of the poet Endre Ady, chosen as the motto of this commemorative year – it is possible to remain human amidst inhumanity.
Yes, when we recall the activities of Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest, then, on the one hand, we are remembering his personal drama. On the other, it is not only the personal, the human dimension of his story that is important for us, but also his vocation. During the critical days of the Holocaust Wallenberg served as a diplomat in Budapest and had a special tool in his hand: his own status. The particulars of a diplomat’s life – protection, “privileges and immunities” – served Wallenberg as important tools in his life-saving work. Those who take their own diplomatic vocation seriously will know very well what a responsibility this is: Wallenberg serves as an example for diplomats of later times as well.
A commemorative year is about the person we are remembering: who he was, what we consider him to be; it is also about those who are remembering: who are we and what do we consider ourselves to be? In remembering Raoul Wallenberg we testify that our ideals and values are identical to his. Just as the whole Holocaust is a tragedy for all of mankind, the Hungarian Holocaust is a tragedy for all Hungarians, for the entire Hungarian nation.
These ideals and values ﬁ nd conﬁrmation in our recently published foreign policy strategy document in which we state that the basis for our European policy and our whole foreign policy is the mutual responsibility we accept with our allies and other international partners for the security, welfare and freedom of each other, and of each other’s citizens.
The document places a special emphasis on Israel in this respect. The security of people anywhere in the world cannot be indifferent for Hungary; but it has to be especially important in the Middle East. The Jewish community in Hungary and Israelis speaking Hungarian or of Hungarian descent are bound by family ties and friendship. These ties are especially valuable in the relations between our two countries.
As I open this Wallenberg Commemorative Year, I am happy to emphasize that his person, although reminding us of a sad period of our history, will bind Sweden, Hungary and Israel together also in the future; his memory will be present forever in our relations with Sweden and Israel.
We know that because of the well-known historical circumstances, we cannot lay ﬂowers on the grave of Wallenberg. Shedding full light on the complete story of his life is still to happen, but is inevitable. His fate also reminds us that the nature of dictatorial ideologies is always the same: they do not, they cannot tolerate the truth.
Several events of the commemorative year are especially aimed at young people. It is our shared responsibility to pass on commitment from generation to generation: we cannot allow ourselves to drift with the trends of history, but instead should remain human even amidst inhumanity. I look forward to a deep and meaningful, common remembrance.