Today we remember the selfless bravery of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat and honorary Canadian citizen who saved thousands of Jewish people during World War II.

OTTAWA, January 17, 2022

Today we remember the selfless bravery of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who took the initiative to save thousands of persecuted Jews during the Second World War.

In 1944, Wallenberg opened a Swedish embassy in Budapest, where 400,000 Jewish men, women and children had already been deported by the Nazis. He began his efforts to protect the Jewish community in Hungary through unconventional methods.

Wallenberg provided special protective passes, called Schutz-Passes, to more than 4,000 Jewish people. He was able to establish hospitals, nurseries, a soup kitchen and more than 30 safe houses under Swedish embassy protection to conceal and protect Jewish people. When they were forced to take part in death marches in November 1944, Wallenberg personally intervened to rescue as many Jewish people as he could on several occasions.

In the six months he spent in Budapest, he helped save more than 100,000 Hungarian Jews from persecution, more than any individual, organization or government.

On January 17, 1945, Wallenberg was arrested by Soviet forces as they pushed the Nazis out of Hungary. Although his fate remains unknown, his legacy remains.

Today is a reminder for all Canadians to remember Wallenberg, who was named Canada’s first honorary citizen in 1985. Much like International Holocaust Remembrance Day later this month, this day is an opportunity to reflect on the atrocities of the Holocaust and honour the millions of victims, survivors and their families.

The Government of Canada will always stand with Jewish communities here and abroad while continuing to fight against antisemitism and racism in all its forms.

As Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, I encourage all Canadians to reflect on Raoul Wallenberg’s bravery, kindness and compassion and to reaffirm our commitment to building a stronger and more inclusive country. 

Arevig Afarian

Press Secretary

Office of the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion