LETTERS AND DISPATCHES by Raoul Wallenberg

LETTERS AND DISPATCHES

1924-1944
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A revealing epistolary portrait of one of WW II's most daring heroes and mysterious victims. Several books record how this Swedish diplomat in Hungary intrepidly rescued more than 100,000 Jews bound for extermination camps. But no book until this one (to be published on the 50th anniversary of his disappearance into the Soviet gulags) has offered such an intimate look at who Wallenberg really was. His formative years, it could be argued, occurred on the University of Michigan campus, where the young architect student was much affected by the ``can do'' American spirit that contrasted with his continental education. To give nature (vs. nurture) some due, we can credit much of his individualism and adventurousness to Gustaf Wallenberg, the ``Dearest Grandfather'' to whom most of Raoul's letters are addressed. Later correspondence bears postmarks from locations as far-flung as Mexico City and Johannesburg, but Wallenberg's epistles from Palestine are especially instructive for those trying to gauge whether or not his heroic period in Budapest was motivated by any specifically pro-Jewish attitude. On his way to a banking position in Haifa in 1936 he writes, ``Knowing the average South African Jew, I'm a bit pessimistic, but the trip may turn out to be pleasant nonetheless.'' Once there, however, he states that the Jews of Palestine ``are optimistic to a man, and were energy a guarantee for success the results would be excellent.'' While not all the scores of letters, memos, and dispatches here are of interest, overall, Wallenberg's personality comes through forcefully. The man who repeatedly risked his life to save Jews from Nazis and Hungarian fascists appears in these documents to be someone who enjoyed thwarting Eichmann and lesser bureaucrats, and who admired the Zionist enterprise and those who could help it. A valuable addition to Wallenberg and Holocaust literature, shedding new light on a shining exception that proves the darkest of rules. (16 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 1995
ISBN: 1-55970-275-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1994




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