As part of the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial event series, the Embassy hosted a panel discussion featuring Ms. Kati Marton, author of the book “Wallenberg”, Mr. Michael Abramowitz, Director of the Committee on Conscience at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Mr. Douglas Davidson Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues at the U.S. Department of State, and was moderated by Mr. Al Hunt Editor of Bloomberg News.

The Washington Examiner's "Holocaust and Wallenberg commemorated by Obama, Natalie Portman, embassies" reported on the event here.

Ambassador Szapáry in his welcoming remarks said “We cannot relativize anti-semitism. Wherever we live we have to fight against it. We Hungarians have a special duty and responsibility because hundreds of thousands of our Jewish compatriots were murdered.” He also emphasized that “There were many rescuers but not enough. Just imagine if there were a hundred, or why not, a thousand Wallenbergs. How many more Jews could have been saved!” He stressed that “The Hungarian government is committed to educate the people that such a tragedy will never happen again. During the first Orbán government, April 16th was made Hungarian Holocaust Day, the teaching of Holocaust was made part of the Hungarian school curriculum, the establishment of the Holocaust Museum was launched, which was since then, inaugurated. Recently, a strict ban was imposed on paramilitary groupings to prevent spreading fear. The key is education, to teach people tolerance to fight prejudice.”

Al Hunt, Doug Davidson, Michael Abramowitz, Kati Marton discuss Wallenberg's life and legacy

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State Secretary Gergely Prőhle in his opening remarks presented the Wallenberg traveling exhibition which will be displayed all around the United States during the Wallenberg Centennial. He highlighted that the Wallenberg year has a very important educational mission and through the various competitions in schools, and educational events, we need to teach our children and the younger generation the lessons of the Holocaust. As he remarked, an important mission of the centennial events is also “to show that with courage and dedication even in the worst times, humanity can win.”

Hungarian-born prolific author and journalist, Kati Marton, who found out about her own Jewish origins while researching for her book on Wallenberg, talked in details about President Roosevelt’s and Treasury Department chief Henry Morgenthau’s determined efforts to set up the War Refugee Board (WRB). The WRB sent the Swedish businessman-turned-diplomat to Budapest, Hungary, which was by then under Adolf Eichemann's rule, who served as Hitler's extended arm. “We need to ask ourselves why is it that a young, inexperienced volunteer from Sweden could save thousands of lives when entire nations, including our own, the United States claimed that they were powerless to do so?” Marton said. Wallenberg risked his life on numerous occasions and saw eye to eye with the Nazis during his heroic humanitarian operation. He directly or indirectly managed to save hundreds of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary "Killers bring more passion to their mission than rescuers do. But Eichmann met his match in Wallenberg," Marton said.

Pondering on the lessons learned, the panel agreed that education, vigilance and institutional preparedness to detect and respond quickly to prevent genocide is of utmost importance. The speakers agreed that when states fail in their primary responsibility to protect their own citizens, the international community must act. Recent examples in Rwanda, the Balkans, Sudan and Syria show that the threat of genocide is not a distant memory of the past. Abramowitz who heads up the Holocaust Museum’s genocide prevention efforts highlighted the progress on this front: "All countries in the world have signed onto the Responsibility to Protect against genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing," referring to the R2P initiative launched by the United Nations in 2005. Doug Davidson however noted that “If the world acts as a collective body and does what it should through the United Nations, it’s wonderful, but it does not always seem to work that way. The onus often comes back to the United States.”

The panel also agreed that a free and unfettered media and vigorous public debate is an important element to fight against intolerance. Although as Doug Davidson observed, “One of the differences between Americans and Europeans is that we have a First Amendment, for instance. And as a result, a lot of pro-Nazi and anti-semitic websites are actually hosted here about which we can’t do anything about really.” So freedom of speech and the spread of social media tools can actually work both ways.

Among the audience members, several Holocaust survivors were recognized, among them, Annette Lantos, widow of Tom Lantos. Mrs. Lantos made brief comments which concluded the thought-provoking panel and urged everyone who hears the Wallenberg story and learns about it to ask themselves "what more can we do." The distinguished audience which featured numerous leaders of the Jewish community and Deputy State Secretary Marie Yovanovitch had an opportunity to get the centennial edition of Kati Marton’s book, “Wallenberg: Missing Hero”.