Alex Kershaw~~4 1/2 and 5 Star Reviews
The Epic Rescue of the Last Jews of Europe in the Desperate Closing months of World War II
When World War I was coming to a close, many Jewish exiles felt they were safe living in Budapest Hungary. Thousands of families came to live in ghettos and were segregated from the rest of the Hungarian community in what they thought would be a safe haven from the Nazi war machine. Alex Kershaw’s The Envoy describes the efforts of Raoul Wallenberg to save over 100,000 Jews from the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other death camps. Wallenberg was a 30-year-old Swede who came from a well-respected family that was very active in diplomatic circles. His education had been worldly in both the United States and travel to the Mideast, which had been encouraged by his grandfather.
Wallenberg was able to use his negotiating skills to obtain funds for the rescue of Jews in Budapest from the United States American ambassador in Stockholm. He received $200,000 from the War Refugee Board in Washington and other support for his rescue mission. When he started his quest, an estimated 12,000 Hungarian Jews died in Auschwitz every day. Upon getting his clearance and funds, he left immediately to begin saving lives.
Kershaw has brought to light the efforts of one man to save so many from the holocaust by his heroic intervention. Wallenberg has received little notoriety in comparison to others like Shindler who saved an estimated few hundred.
The research done by Kershaw is outstanding. He was able to reference conversations he had with survivors, family and others who had direct knowledge of the events, that Wallenberg had been a part. Throughout the book, the stories of several survivors are related. How they interacted with Wallenberg and the impact that he made upon their lives. What makes this an outstanding tribute is the way Kershaw makes the characters’ lives seem real as in an historical novel. Yet, they are the documented truth!
One of the ways that Wallenberg saved lives was his creation of a document he called the Shutzpass. He issued thousands of these passes to Jews who had any connection with Sweden. The connection could be they had written a letter to someone there or had purchased goods. These were safe passage passes which saved people from a trip to the gas chambers. Once they had these passes, they lived in secret safe houses established throughout Budapest by Wallenberg. When the Soviets drove the Nazis out of Budapest, Wallenberg voluntarily went to seek assistance for the Jews that remained. He disappeared in 1947 behind the Soviet curtain. Since that time, his family never gave up hope and tried in vain to find him.
There have been only two foreign people given Honorary United States Citizenship. One of them was Winston Churchill. The other is Raoul Wallenberg who was bestowed this honor by President Ronald Regan as he eulogized him on October 5, 1981.