Remembering Raoul Wallenberg and the rescuers

David Herman next to Katrina Blom’s portrait of Raoul Wallenberg

After making Aliya from London in 1966 with a young wife and a BA degree in Modern Languages from Cambridge, my interest in Raoul Wallenberg was sparked by reading Harvey Rosenfeld’s wonderful account called Angel of Rescue, not long after I became the publisher of English teaching newspapers for the Israeli school system, a career which lasted about 20 years. This book, and growing worldwide interest in the remarkable achievements and tragic fate of Raoul, spurred me to found and head the Jerusalem Rescue Wallenberg committee in the late 1970’s which produced a number of fascinating testimonies about Wallenberg’s survival in the Gulag, the publication of Efim Moshinsky’s book “Raoul Wallenberg is Alive” by my company, and also a number of songs in tribute to Raoul Wallenberg and his family which I still perform to this day.

I hope and believe that this article, which dwells on many unique facets of the Raoul Wallenberg story will also inspire and encourage people of all faiths in Israel and abroad to find in the shining example of Raoul Wallenberg the light and beacon to a better world.
That is why my love affair with Raoul, despite the fact that he has just turned 106, continues to this day since burgeoning in the late 1970’s, and will continue henceforth unabated up to and well beyond 120!.

This announcement appeared in the Jerusalem Post in 1987

I have remained alive all these years despite your country’s repeated claims that I died of a heart attack in prison in 1947. Here I am, 76 years old , a sick, bent old Swede. January 17 will be the 44th anniversary of my arrest, abduction and life incarceration on January 17, 1945, in Budapest.

I was framed by the Soviet generals of the invading Red Army because I knew that they stole the safe in the Swedish legation containing a great sum of money and valuables belonging to the Jewish community of Hungary. I knew exactly how much was in the safe and who took it, and for this knowledge I have paid till this day in your prisons and psychiatric hospitals.

Maybe I got lost after all these years in your vast and pitiless prison system. If Raoul Wallenberg no longer exists in your records than look for a Swede listed as Erik Arvid Andersen, the name given to me by Abakumov in 1950.

Last year I received treatment in the Moscow University Polyclinic at 10 Pietraveridskiye Street and I was also a patient last year in the secret political hospital in the town of Kunsava near Moscow.

I heard that you are planning to release some political prisoners soon. Am I on your list? If not, put me there and in the spirit of glasnost at last reveal the truth about my case and allow me a few remaining years of freedom and justice. After all, I did save tens of thousands of Jews from the Nazis, many years ago.

You will be visiting the United States during the Hanukka festival, the festival of the miracle of the little jar of oil that lasted 8 days. Grant the miracle of freedom to a poor old Swede whose flame of life flickers on after 44 years in the Gulag.
Rescue Wallenberg Committee, Jerusalem POB 3576.


Picture: David with Abram Chanukayev, May 1988

It is March 1972. A prison hospital ward in Sverdlovsk in the Urals. One sick prisoner is feeding another who lies half-naked on a trestle bed. As he crouches by him, feeding the weak neighbor with kasha porridge, they are able to exchange whispered conversation. The prisoner feeding the other sick man is Abram Chanukayev, a Caucasian Jew. The man on the trestle-bed with an abdomen terribly bloated by fluids is Raoul Wallenberg.

Abram tells him that he is in prison on charges of Zionism. The other tells him that he is Raoul Wallenberg, from a noble Swedish family, who, when secretary at the Swedish embassy in Budapest in 1944/5 issued false papers and saved over 50,000 Jews form the Nazis , only to be arrested and kidnapped to Russia in January 1945 when the Russians invade Budapest.

For four days they lay side by side. The KGB jailers gave Wallenberg pills which didn’t help his incontinence. Abram later learned that the Russians claimed that Wallenberg died of a heart attack in prison in 1947 and he knew that this was untrue because he had spent 4 days with him 25 years after that date.

Wallenberg told him that they arrested him for helping the Jews. He had been working in underground quarries, and more recently was incarcerated at the notorious prison camp on Wrangel Island near Alaska. Wallenberg told Abram that he didn’t know if his mother was still alive and he gave him a tiny passport photograph of himself. But before Abram left the sick ward the KGB men searched him and he had to swallow the picture. Wallenberg told him that he felt sure that he would eventually get to Israel and tell people there that he was still alive. The KGB guards warned Abram not to speak to Wallenberg and watched them through spy-holes. He found Wallenberg very pleasant in manner with close-cropped hair. Wallenberg said they were probably going to send him to Leningrad.

From the prison hospital in Sverdlovsk Abram was sent to Siberia and spent altogether 12 years in prison. He was a hairdresser by profession from a town in Azerbaidjan. He subsequently tried to ascertain the fate of Wallenberg for whom he felt strongly, but he was unsuccessful. He was able to immigrate to Israel in 1975.

Abram today, at 69 and not in good health, recalls those four days with freshness and accuracy of detail. His great wish is to meet Raoul again in Israel and to open a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

Abram’s remarkable testimony reinforces our determination and conviction to help Raoul Wallenberg since every moment is now vital.

Louise von Dardel, Raoul Wallenberg’s niece, is a well-known and popular speaker in Europe and the United States and also in Israel. She inspires audiences of all ages with her vivid descriptions of her uncle’s great achievements and the great tragedy of his disappearance, all in remarkably good English. And she unerringly and most tellingly brings to life for her listeners the remarkable human being that was Raoul Wallenberg and his unforgettable contribution to the well-being of the Jewish People. Here is a talk she gave about her uncle and the other major rescuers during a visit to Israel.

“Shalom and good evening to all the members of Kehillat Mizmor LeDavid and guests!
Earlier this year, in January, I was in Israel for International Rescuer Day and gave many talks about my uncle and my family in a yeshiva, at the Hebrew University and also in a synagogue.

I am grateful that tonight as well as in other events during the year, such as Holocaust and Martyrs Remembrance Day, we remember not only the atrocities but also the remarkable rescue efforts of all types by Jews and non-Jews that took place all over Europe by courageous people doing what they felt they had to do for the Jewish people and for humanity.
My uncle Raoul was one of them.

Raoul was outstanding because of his huge concern about persecuted people in another country.

Raoul was outstanding because he stepped forward at a crucial moment when Budapest was soon to be liberated by either the Americans or the Russians, and also the Nazis knew that they had lost the war and the city would be a key point in the final battle. The Nazis, headed by Eichmann, and their Arrow Cross followers were intent on killing and deporting as many Jews as they could before the war ended.

Raoul was outstanding because he took the risk in spite of the imaginable and unimaginable dangers that were waiting for him.
He was outstanding too because of his organizational skills, courage, leadership, negotiating ability as well as his incredible capacity for creativity and adapting to quickly changing situations, which made it possible for him to save the lives of perhaps 100,000 Jews, many of whom live in Israel to this day.

Today, 60 years after the atrocities of the Holocaust the time has come to focus on the men and women of courage and humanity, of good and light, to make their shining examples better known. What gave men like my uncle, like Carl Lutz, like Rabbi Weissmandl and Gizi Fleischman, like George Mantello, Solomon Schonfeld and Hillel Kook, the spark to make them beacons in the dark? Today, more than ever, we need to inspire and educate people of all faiths and hues in the world to be like them, giving back hope in hopelessness, love in loveless situations, courage and inspiration where fear and darkness are all around.

With very good wishes from me and my family for the success of your concert
Chag Sameach, Shalom, Louise”


I am also quite a prolific singer-songwriter with over 250 songs on the Youtube which can be accessed under my musical pen-name of David Ben Reuven. In fact, Raoul and the other major Holocaust Rescuers inspired me to write quite a few songs in their honor because they did so much to save tens of thousands of my helpless people during the Holocaust. Many of these songs appeared on my CD called Beacons in the Dark which I later turned into a one-man show. Here are three of those songs written in tribute to Raoul Wallenberg. The first song “Wallenberg” is essentially an appeal to the Soviet leaders to come clean about the fate of Raoul Wallenberg. There is even a version of it in Russian performed by the gifted Russian born poetess Rina Levinson. The second song “Raoul We thank you” is written and sung on behalf of the many thousands of Jews saved by Wallenberg and on behalf of the Jewish people as a whole. Perhaps the best known of the three is the song ” For You Raoul” in which there is a direct appeal to the Soviet Presidents past and present to make known the truth about Wallenberg’s disappearance and fate. Another song involving Raoul Wallenberg is called “Louise and Marie”, the names of his gifted nieces Louie von Dardel and Marie Dupuy, who together with their father Guy von Dardel, Raoul’s half-brother, have never given up their decades long search to discover the truth about Raoul’s fate. Interestingly enough, although most of the song were written several decades ago, they still, for me at least and I think for many other listeners, retain their freshness, appeal and relevance.

A song tribute to Raoul Wallenberg
words and music: Ben Reuven

Wallenberg, Wallenberg
Wallenberg, Wallenberg..
Can you hear?
Are you there?
Answer, please!
Answer, please!

A thousand eyes pierce the darkness
Of the Soviet night of shame.
A thousand voices pierce the silence
And cry your name

We have not forgotten
We shall not forget,
Until an answer comes
And history pays its debt
To you, Raoul.

Wallenberg, Wallenberg,
Wallenberg, Wallenberg..
Can you hear?
Are you there?
Answer, please!
Answer, please! Raoul..

Let this song surge like an ocean
Breaching the Kremlin walls of silence
Until the Russian leaders
Make known the truth…
Copyright Ben Reuven and Jerusalem Songs, April 1982, 02-6536764

Words and music: Ben Reuven

Raoul we thank you
We never shall forget
How you came to help us
In our distress,
Like an angel of rescue
Like a shining star
May the Lord protect you
Wherever you are.

We were so helpless
Knowing not what to do
But unhesitatingly
You ran to save us Jews

Raoul we love you
Though you’re far away
Raoul we want you
Back with us one day

Raoul we bless you
For the thousands you saved
With your steadfast courage
And the example you gave.

We shall always remember you
We shall never forget
Your name will live on with us
Forever in your debt.
Lost in the Gulag
Disappeared without trace
But here in our hearts
You have pride of place.
Copyright Ben Reuven and Jerusalem Songs, May 2005, 02-6536764

A song-tribute to Raoul Wallenberg on his 75th birthday
Words and music: Ben Reuven

There is a man
They won’t let go
He is alive
Yes we know
His name is Raoul
And he’s a hero,
He is alive
So let him go!

President Putin
We want to know
If Wallenberg lives
Then let him go!
Tell us the truth
We must know
If Wallenberg lives
Then let him go!

Now is the time
To turn the key
To open the door
And set him free
Send him home
To his family
Answer the prayers
Of humanity…

40 years in prison
Is far too long
For you Raoul
We sing this song
You saved so many lives
You did no wrong
For you Raoul
We sing this song
Copyright, Ben Reuven, Jerusalem, 1987, 02-6536764




About the Author
London-born David Herman came on aliyah in 1966 after graduating from Cambridge University. In the 1960s, he founded the Good Times Publishing Company specializing in publishing newspapers in simplified English, French and Arabic for the Israeli school system. David currenty works as a translator, and is also very active in the field of songwriting and performing under the musical name, David Ben Reuven.