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January 17th, 2023
January 17 is Raoul Wallenberg Day in Canada. Working as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest during the Second World War, Raoul Wallenberg risked his own life to save the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jewish people from the Holocaust.
In 1985, the Government of Canada named Mr. Wallenberg its first honourary citizen, and in 2001, designated January 17 – the anniversary of his disappearance – as Raoul Wallenberg Day. In 2021, the government pledged to use the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg as an inspirational role model to educate and raise awareness about the Holocaust and antisemitism in Canada.
Shortly after arriving in Nazi-occupied Hungary in July 1944, Mr. Wallenberg began issuing special protective passports – called Schutz-Passes – to thousands of Jews. These passes gave them diplomatic immunity and saved them from deportation to death camps.
He established safe houses, declaring them as Swedish territory. He also organized a network of hospitals, soup kitchens, and orphanages to help protect the Jewish people and keep them safe.
In 1945, Mr. Wallenberg was arrested by Soviet forces and it is unknown what happened to him. However, his legacy lives on today. On Raoul Wallenberg Day, Canadians are encouraged to continue his legacy of protecting the most vulnerable and fighting against discrimination.
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