On May 30 2020, the statue of Raoul Wallenberg was defaced in Los Angeles.
We are living in tumultuous times. First, the pandemic strikes America, and our daily lives have been dramatically changed.
Then, we have experienced a series of massive protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a rogue officer in Minneapolis. While largely peaceful, unfortunately, in several cities, the early stages of the protests were accompanied by rioting, looting and civil unrest, all unrelated to the reasons underlying the cause.
On May 30, 2020, the Jewish Community in Los Angeles was a target for those assorted lowlifes who saw an opportunity for vandalism. Synagogues were defaced and several stores burned and looted. Anti-Semitic graffiti was plastered throughout the neighborhood.
One of the targets for defacing was a statue of Raoul Wallenberg. Neither a Confederate General during the Civil War nor a slave-owner or racist figure from America’s past, why target Wallenberg? Because he saved tens of thousands of Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Sad to say, this was not the first time that the Wallenberg memorial in LA that opened in 1988 was defaced by anti-Semitic graffiti. Indeed, Wallenberg statues in other part of the world, like the one in Budapest, Hungary, have also been periodically damaged by anti-Semitic vandals.
I decided to search the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History to see how the JN covered the story of Wallenberg. I found that he has had an ongoing presence, cited on 419 pages, beginning with the Oct. 19, 1945, issue of the JN, and as recently as April 4, 2018. The 2019 issues of the JN will soon be loaded into the Archive, but I’ll bet Wallenberg is mentioned at least once.
Wallenberg also has a local connection. He studied architecture at the University of Michigan and graduated in 1935.
However, it was his work during WWII that made Wallenberg extraordinary. Using his Swedish diplomatic credentials and every personal skill he possessed, Wallenberg saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from Nazi death camps. He continued to help Jews until January 1945, when he was taken into custody by agents of the Soviet Union. Wallenberg was never heard from again. As reported in the Dec. 3, 2016, issue of the JN, he was officially declared dead that year by the Swedish government.
Certainly, Wallenberg deserves every honor bestowed upon him, from his designation as “Righteous Among the Nations” at Yad Vashem in Israel to his honorary American Citizenship, which only he and Winston Churchill enjoy; from the University of Michigan’s Raoul Wallenberg Award to Raoul Wallenberg Place SW in Washington, D.C., the address for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; and, from the bust of Wallenberg at Congregation Beth Shalom to memorials in his name at synagogues and temples around the nation.
And, for all this, Wallenberg’s statue in LA was defaced. It is another sad sign that the fight against ignorance and anti-Semitism must still be waged.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.