TORONTO (JTA) — Swedish war hero Raoul Wallenberg was made an honorary citizen of Montreal.
Mayor Gerald Tremblay bestowed the rare honor at an Oct. 25 ceremony at City Hall that was witnessed by local residents who owe their lives to Wallenberg.
“We render homage to a man of exceptional values, a hero [who] represents for always, in all circumstances, a model and a source of inspiration for all Montrealers,” Tremblay said.
A non-Jew, Wallenberg was dispatched to Budapest in the dying days of World War II to save Jews. He established safe houses that flew the neutral Swedish flag, issued forged passports and persuaded the Nazis to call off the destruction of Budapest’s Jewish ghetto.
In all, he is credited with saving the lives of some 100,000 Jews.
Wallenberg disappeared into Soviet custody in early 1945. He was not heard from again, and several international commissions of inquiry have concluded he lived well beyond 1947, the year the Soviets said he died of a heart attack.
This year marks Wallenberg’s 100th birthday.
The Canadian Jewish News reported that Tremblay was “uncharacteristically emotional” after listening to the testimony of Agnes (Lorinczi) Kent, a Hungarian Jew rescued by Wallenberg. Now 84 and living in Montreal, Kent and her mother survived thanks to being sheltered in one of the safe houses Wallenberg set up in Budapest.
“My heart today is brimming with gratitude,” Kent said.
Wallenberg was made Canada’s first honorary citizen in 1985.