Today, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission pays tribute to Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat whose incredible courage and selfless determination helped save tens of thousands of Jewish lives in Nazi-occupied Hungary.

Called “the greatest humanitarian of the 20th Century” by the United Nations, Wallenberg was a ray of light during the darkest hours of the Holocaust. He risked his life to issue Schutzpasses — special Swedish passports that granted Jewish people in Budapest diplomatic immunity and saved them from being deported to concentration camps.

He also created a network of safe havens (hospitals, nurseries, safe houses, and soup kitchens) that offered shelter and protection to those fleeing persecution.

Yet, while Wallenberg rescued so many, he himself was not saved. On this date in 1945 Wallenberg disappeared after being captured by Soviet forces.  And although his fate remains unknown, his legacy lives on.

In 1985, Wallenberg was posthumously given honorary Canadian citizenship — the first person to ever receive this honour. Then, in 2001, the Government of Canada declared January 17 “Raoul Wallenberg Day” to commemorate the date of his capture and the heroic actions of this remarkable man.