Wallenberg, Raoul (1912 – 1945)

Rare 1944 Swedish Embassy document signed twice by Raoul Wallenberg, certifying a heroic Hungarian Jew as a legation official

A partly-printed document in Hungarian and German, signed twice by Raoul Wallenberg with his scarce full signature, 4″ x 5.5″, November 25th 1944. The passport-style document by the Royal Swedish Embassy at Budapest, Hungary, confirms Gergely Odon/Edmund Gergely as a legation official. The left side features an affixed photograph of Gergely with his signature below; the right side features the bilingual certification of his diplomatic position, signed in both sections by Raoul Wallenberg as the embassy’s secretary. Together with Gergely Odon’s own official Hungarian passport with expiration date of January 23, 1939, containing a listing of personal data that identifies his Jewish religion (‘Israelite’). The well-travelled passport features visa stamps from a variety of locales, dated throughout 1938. In overall fine condition.

Wallenberg arrived in Hungary in July 1944 as the country’s Jewish population was under siege. Nearly every other major Jewish community in Europe had already been decimated, and the Nazis were dispatching more than 10,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz daily. He hastily devised and distributed thousands of ‘Schutz-Passes’ — official-looking, but essentially invalid, Swedish passports granting the Hungarian bearer immunity from deportation. Wallenberg signed these quickly and by the dozen — generally no more than a quick scribble — and Nazi officials readily accepted the paperwork.

Gergely was a Jewish Hungarian who volunteered to help Wallenberg in his project to provide false documentation to Jews in order to save their lives, and so was a hero in his own right. In late 1944, as Eichmann began to deport more and more Hungarian Jews from Budapest, Wallenberg must have made the rushed decision to produce this particular document for his co-worker — the photograph inside was clearly removed from a different official document, perhaps the only photograph handy. It features incomplete official stamps in the corners and was applied in a hasty manner using three staples.

Gergely survived the war, thanks to Wallenberg’s protection, and was reportedly one of the last people to see Wallenberg alive prior to his disappearance on January 17th 1945.