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Öppningsanförande vid Raoul Wallenberg-seminariet

Anförande i Stockholm, Sverige

Ladies and Gentlemen, Excellences, Dear Friends,

Welcome to the first event of the first Raoul Wallenberg day, the result of an initiative taken last year when we commemorated Raoul Wallenberg 100th birthday. A special welcome to Raoul Wallenberg's relatives and we are of course particularly pleased to see Nina Lagergren here today as she has been for so many years and so many times before, when people all over the world have gathered to pay tribute to her brother for his work and for what he stands for.

May I also welcome, Staffan de Mistura, who will address you soon in the first Raoul Wallenberg lecture.

The theme of today's lecture is personal courage, one of the many qualities that made Raoul Wallenberg so well suited to the mission initiated as a joint venture between Sweden and the United States. Other qualities were compassion, dedication and sense of duty as a fellow human being. All those qualities were also necessary ingredients in the indefatigable fight for his release that his family and closest associates put up, when other failed or let him down.

He will always be known as the Swede who saved so many but was not saved himself. He was strong in what he did for so many, but also the little defenseless man crushed in the apocalyptic struggle on the European continent; fighting one of the two most evil political systems in history of mankind with at least some success, being destroyed by the other on the eve of victory.

Among our guests here today are our youngest diplomats now starting their formal training for future tasks in our diplomatic service. I suppose every one of you have seen the bronze portfolio and the bronze bench to the left of the entrance to Gustav Adolfs Torg. It stands there as a daily reminder to all of us, ministers as well as to our most junior colleagues, of the necessity in our work to protect human values.

You have certainly heard the story about Raoul Wallenberg's mission and his fate. The shameful lack of involvement from the Swedish government after he was captured by the Soviets and sent to Moscow in 1945 and that we are still not absolutely certain of what happened in the months and years that followed Wallenberg's arrest. We still search for more information and will continue to do so.

This fall we actually commemorate the 70th anniversary of the rescue of about 6000 Danish Jews coming to us as boat refugees crossing Öresund.

The Wallenberg mission was in an element in a policy gradually developed since 1942 when it had become more or less clear that things were happening in Nazi occupied Europe, that went far beyond hitherto experienced in human history.

Until then the Jewish communities in the Nordic countries had been relatively safe, but when actions were taken in Norway in late 1942, the first instructions were sent out from Stockholm to help all those with a Swedish connection to get to Sweden. Later on the message was passed, however not made public, to the German authorities that Sweden was prepared to receive the whole Jewish community rather than seeing them sent to Germany or Poland.

This Swedish request was however neglected.

In the last days of August 1943, when the Danish government resigned and the Germans introduced martial laws in the whole country, it was clear that the Danish Jews were in immediate danger of being deported. . After a month of maneuvering, not at least on the German side ,which also involved the Jewish Community in Copenhagen, the Swedes made a public statement that Sweden was prepared to receive all Danish Jews, The rescue operation did then take place in the first two weeks of October. Not all of them but a vast majority made it here and those who didn't seem in most cases having been sent to Theresienstadt instead of the death camps.

The actions taken in Norway and Denmark prepared the ground for doing similar operations in Budapest based on this Swedish bureaucratic creativity and with American financial support. It gave Wallenberg the opportunity to scale up his work to a rescue enterprise of unprecedented scale.

The Raoul Wallenberg story tells us that you can make a difference if you stand up for the values you are set to protect. And just as the bureaucratic means by the Nazis and in the Soviet Union were used for evil things, the bureaucracy in our open societies can be turned into a tool for righteousness.

Some of you present here today have been awarded the Jonas Weiss memorial for showing courage and integrity in fulfilling your diplomatic tasks. We all know that diplomacy has its limits, but also that we can overcome those limits just as Raoul Wallenberg did in Budapest 1944.

The headline of the first Raoul Wallenberg lecture is in this context most appropriate - "Personal Courage and Bravery - Exploring the Limits of Diplomacy" - and it is difficult to find a lecturer more suitable to reflect on this subject than Staffan De Mistura. Staffan who, apart from being one of Italy's most prominent diplomats, has close connections to Sweden has during the last decades been the UN Secretary General's SR in some of the most challenging hotspots in the world- Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

What he doesn't know about the challenges our diplomats meet on the ground in conflict areas is probably not worth knowing.

Raoul Wallenberg's legacy reminds us that certain actions cannot be tolerated. And this legacy is sadly just as relevant today as is was 70 years ago. In Syria and in Egypt we are witnessing intolerable violence and abuses against civilians as well as persecutions against ethnic and religious minorities. Those actions must not only be condemned in the strongest possible language bust also lead to countermeasures taken by the international community to stop the bloodshed and the killings.

One of the fundamental goals of Sweden's foreign policy is to stand up for those values of human dignity and everyone's right to live his life in freedom and security that guided the work of Raoul Wallenberg,

Present here today are many representatives of likeminded nations, having paid tribute and remembering the work that was done by Raoul Wallenberg and his team, among them Per Anger, who was also one of the heroes of those horrendous months. We do appreciate what you are doing in your home countries to celebrate the memory of a man who never flinched and very seldom quailed in his tireless struggle to preserve a faint light of human dignity in the darkest of hours..

And we appreciate to work together with you meeting today's humanitarian challenges. We all know that they still are far too numerous and that far too many men, women and children are being oppressed by their own governments or innocent victims of ethnical or religious conflicts.

A day like this gives us at least a few hours, when we can come together, meet and reflect over what we can do to make a difference and contribute to a more peaceful world where human dignity is preserved by freedom, democracy and rule of law.

Thank you all for being present her today.

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