Near the end of the war, Wallenberg saved over 100,000 in a Budapest ghetto by reminding the Nazis that they would be tried as war criminals if they killed its occupants.
The diplomat disappeared on January 17, 1945, and his fate remains a mystery. It is generally accepted that he died in a gulag after being arrested for espionage by the Soviet Union. In 1985, the Government of Canada affirmed Wallenberg's great humanitarian efforts by making him the country's first honourary citizen.
The Montreal event on October 29 features a panel of experts: Cameron Hudson, director of the Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Irwin Cotler, MP for Mont Royal and a former justice minister; and Adama Dieng, the UN’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.
Cotler is one of Canada's foremost authorities on Wallenberg. He served on a Swedish commission that looked into Wallenberg’s disappearance and has written extensively about him. Dieng, a lawyer, has served as Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda since 2001.
Hudson, who previously held positions for the U.S. government in Sudan and Somalia, attributes aspects of contemporary peacekeeping to Wallenberg's legacy. “The spirit he embodied and the rescue work that he did is a testament to a lot of the work that we are trying to do and promote on genocide prevention.”
However, Hudson says the modern response to genocide has shifted: rescue plays a smaller role than it did in Wallenberg's time. “The idea of rescue is a very powerful one. A lot of the academic and policy discussions around responding to contemporary mass atrocities — whether in the Islamic Republic or Sudan — are more about the changing of government than about physically moving people and getting them out of harm's way.”