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Marc & Connie JacobsonRaoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Lecture

About the Lecture

The memory of one of the legendary figures of World War II, Raoul Wallenberg, will live on at Old Dominion University through the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Lecture, part of the President's Lecture Series. The annual Wallenberg Lecture is sponsored by the Marc and Connie Jacobson Philanthropic Foundation. Speakers for the Wallenberg Lecture are chosen by the University. They must be humanitarians - those who are "making the world a better place" - balanced in their philosophical beliefs, and not at either extreme of the social spectrum.

A Swedish businessman and diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg was one of the few who dared to defy the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Persuading the Swedish Foreign Ministry to send him to Hungary on a diplomatic passport in 1944, he led a daring mission to save many of the remaining Jews in Budapest who had not been deported to Nazi death camps. Wallenberg helped shelter several thousand Jews in "protected houses" that flew the flags of Sweden and other neutral countries. He also distributed food and clothing to Jewish prisoners at deportation trains and on "death marches" and even attempted to rescue some of them.

In January 1945, Wallenberg was arrested for espionage by Soviet troops that had arrived in Budapest. The Soviets would later admit privately that he had been arrested by mistake, according to Swedish authorities. Wallenberg reportedly died of a heart attack in a Moscow prison in 1947, but unconfirmed reports from freed Soviet prisoners indicated he had been seen alive in prison as late as 1975.

The U.S. Congress, in 1981, granted honorary citizenship to the missing Wallenberg, an honor that had been bestowed only once before, to Winston S. Churchill. Since that time, only William and Hannah Penn and Mother Teresa have been so honored. A native of Stockholm, Wallenberg had earned a degree in architecture from the University of Michigan in 1935.

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