The Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Lecture

Peace Studies

Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Lecture

In 1982, Gustavus Adolphus College awarded Raoul Wallenberg an honorary degree in absentia which was accepted on his behalf by his sister Nina. In 1983, Gustavus established an annual lecture to commemorate the heroic service of Raoul Wallenberg in his fearless support of persecuted Jews during the Second World War. Past speakers have included South African poet Dennis Brutus, Swedish diplomat Per Anger, Bishop Medardo Gomez, Lutheran Archbishop of San Salvador, and Sir Brian Urquhart, former Undersecretary General of the Nations for Special Affairs.

Year Speaker Affiliation/Notes
2012 Ingemar Eliasson Former Swedish politician, economist, and governor on “Wallenberg”
2011 Dr. Jennifer McBride “Bonhoeffer and Repentance: A Constructive Proposal for Christian Public Witness” Prof. of Religion, Wartburg
2010 Dr. Jo Ellen Fair “Not a Simple Story: Mass Media and Mass Violence, The African Case”, Prof. of Journalism, U. of Wisconsin, Madison
2009 Dr. Steven Miles Prof., U of Minnesota Medical School, “Oath Betrayed: America’s Torture Doctors”
2008 Mark Hanis Founder of the Genocide Intervention Network, “Never Again is Again in Darfur: Taking a Stand Against Genocide”
2007 Ben Olander Swedish Folksinger performing songs inspired by Raoul Wallenberg
2006 Dr. Hugh Parmer President, American Refugee Committee, “Humanitarian Crisis in Darfur: Perspectives from the Field”
2005 Dr. Peter Wallensteen Swedish Peace Researcher, “Dag Hammarskjöld: Diplomat, Peacemaker, and International Civil Servant”
2004 Diane Orentlicher Prof. of Law at American U. , “Saddam on Trial”
2003 Douglas Johnson Director, Center for Victims of Torture, “Human Rights Denied: Human Dignity Ignored”
2002 Lucille Eichengreen Holocaust survivor
2001 Dr. Robert Jan Van Pelt Prof. of Architecture, U of Waterloo; Expert on Death Camp architecture
2000 Dr. Paul Levine Wallenberg Biographer; Uppsala Program for Holocaust Studies
1999 Dr. Harvey Rosenfeld Wallenberg Biographer; Professor of History, Pace University, NY
1998 Fred Baron Small businessman, Minneapolis; Survivor of Bergen-Belsen Camp
1997 Ninotchka Rosca Novelist and human rights activist from the Philippines
1996 Dr. Robert Fisch Pediatrician/Graphic Artist, MN; Hungarian Concentration Camp Survivor
1995 Harold Stassen Former Governor of Minnesota; Signatory on USS Missouri, 1945
1994 Marjorie Agosin Chilean Poet and Human Rights Activist
1993 Dr. Steven Koblik Scandinavia Historian; President, Reed College
1992 Sir Brian Urquhart Former Undersecretary, UN
1991 Gen. Indar Rikhye Former Head Peacekeeping, UN
1990 Herb Frey Minister, Alliance of the Streets, MN
1989 Fr. Medardo Gomez Lutheran Bishop of San Salvador
1988 Agnes Adachi Volunteer Associate of Raoul Wallenberg
1987 Per Anger Swedish Diplomat; Wallenberg’s Supervisor in Budapest
1986 Dennis Brutus South African poet
1985 Jeri Laber Executive Director of the United States Helsinki Watch
1984 Theo Kotze South African church leader and critic of Apartheid
1983 Mulford Q. Sibley Professor of Political Science, U. of Minnesota
1982 Stephen Spender Essayist and Poet

Background on Raoul Wallenberg

Raoul Wallenberg is one of the least known and the greatest of heroes of our century. In the dark days of World War II, when so many people worldwide were silent, willfully opaque or simply afraid to act, Wallenberg energetically took up the cause of thousands of Hungarian Jews in imminent danger of mass extermination. He used a combination of moral outrage, bribery, and bluff to stand down Adolf Eichmann and his underling Nazi murderers. Their goal was the systematic extermination of Hungary’s Jews as part of the larger Nazi “final solution” of the so-called “Jewish Problem.”

Raoul Wallenberg saved thousands of Jewish lives by issuing hastily prepared “protecting passports,” which instantly made the bearers Swedish citizens. He provided them accommodation, board, and medical care in houses the Swedish Embassy bought up as safe houses. On the ensuing death marches, which he had fought fiercely to prevent, he dispensed food and blankets wherever he could and shamed the guards into more humane behavior. His most dramatic intervention came at the point when plans were imminent to exterminate the entire remaining Jewish population of Hungary in the Budapest ghetto. Acting only on his own moral authority, Wallenberg sent a note to the German commander, promising to make sure he would be hanged as a war criminal if he went ahead with the destruction of the ghetto. The commander blinked and the lives of around 70,000 Jews were saved right there, since they were soon thereafter liberated by the advancing allied forces.

Without Raoul Wallenberg’s conspicuous heroism, his civil courage in speaking out and acting on his convictions, it is certain that a great many lives would have been lost. In January 1945, Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviet authorities and vanished in the Gulag. He is now presumed dead.

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