MARGATE — Residents gathered at Beth El Synagogue on Saturday to honor a man who not only saved thousands of Jews but also, as Rabbi Aaron Krauss explained, “the reputation of humanity.”
The congregation on Jerome Avenue honored Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who while stationed in Budapest, Hungary, during World War II issued thousands of passports so Jews could escape the concentration camps and enter Sweden, which was neutral during the war.
Wallenberg reportedly died in Lubyanka Prison in Moscow in 1947, though his family has been investigating the possibility that he may have lived for decades longer. Saturday would have been his 100th birthday, and local leaders gathered to honor him.
“This man stepped up along with others and saved numbers of Jewish people in times when things were very difficult,” Krauss said.
Ernest Paul, 84, was a teenager in Hungary who was one of thousands whom Wallenberg saved. He remembers arriving at the embassy where he met his savior.
“He greeted us with hugs and kisses,” Paul said. “He told us he would guard us with his own body if necessary.”
The Atlantic City resident said Wallenberg’s spirit of bravery would be passed on to other generations.
“May his memory be blessed and never forgotten,” he said.
Jan Campbell-Westlind, the consul-general of Sweden for Philadelphia, said Wallenberg felt he had to do whatever he could to help the Jews in danger. Though a man of means, he decided to put his life at risk to help others, he said.
Margate Mayor Michael Becker said the city was working on a permanent memorial to honor Wallenberg. He gave a proclamation in his honor at the event.
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