Washington, DC–Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY) announced that they introduced companion bills today to bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on Raoul Wallenberg, a hero who saved thousands of lives during Nazi occupation of Hungary during World War II.
“The heroic rescue of Hungarian Jews by Raoul Wallenberg during one of the darkest hours of human history exemplifies his outstanding spirit and dedication to humanity,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It is my honor to introduce a bill in the Senate to award Raoul Wallenberg with the Congressional Gold Medal for the innocent Jewish lives that he selflessly saved during the Holocaust.”
“As the savior of 20,000 Jews during the Holocaust, Raoul Wallenberg is certainly one of the greatest figures of the 20th Century,” said Congressman Meeks. “Many prominent Americans owe their lives to Wallenberg’s heroic actions, including my friend, the late Congressman Tom Lantos and his wife Annette. It is my hope, that through introduction and passage of this bill, Congress can help expose the truth about what happened to Wallenberg.”
“Raoul Wallenberg’s actions during World War II demonstrate the highest levels of heroism and courage. I am proud that Illinois was one of the first states to declare October 5 ‘Raoul Wallenberg Day’ in 2011,” Senator Kirk said. “In the Senate, I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure Raoul Wallenberg’s unique legacy and unmatched heroism is recognized with a Congressional Gold Medal.”
“It would be hard to bestow any honor on Wallenberg’s memory that is equal to his service and sacrifice,” said Senator Levin. “But it is more than appropriate to recognize him on the centennial of his birth with a Congressional Gold Medal, and I am proud to support that effort.”
Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat posted to Hungary during the Second World War, is credited with saving the lives of tens of thousands of Jews and other innocent people from the Nazis. After making contact with the Russians in order to provide support for Jews under his protection, he disappeared and his precise fate remains unknown. For his extraordinary actions, Wallenberg was made an honorary citizen of the United States in 1981.
The companion bills will be introduced in the House and Senate today. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award Congress can confer upon an individual.