Canadians will soon be able to mail letters bearing the image of one of the most renowned of the Righteous among the Nations: Raoul Wallenberg.
Last week, Canada Post announced it would issue a Wallenberg stamp on Jan. 17, 2013, exactly 28 years after the country posthumously bestowed honorary citizenship on him.
It will mark the first time an honorary Canadian receives the distinction.
The Swedish diplomat and humanitarian helped save tens of thousands of Jews by issuing passports and setting up diplomatic safe houses while stationed in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust.
On Jan. 17, 1945 the Soviet army liberated Budapest and subsequently captured Wallenberg, imprisoning him in the Soviet Union where he reportedly died less than two years later.
There has been much speculation about why he was arrested by the Soviets and where and when he died while imprisoned, but no motive for his capture has ever officially been released.
In a statement last week, Canada Post president and CEO Deepak Chopra said the plan to create the stamp is “a fitting way to mark [Wallenberg’s] courage and his contributions to our country, and we are proud to add him in our stamp program.”
Steven Fletcher, minister of state for transport, described Wallenberg as “a shining example of incredible courage” for his actions during World War II.
He would have turned 100 on Aug. 4.
Wallenberg is also an honorary citizen of Israel, the United States and Hungary.
Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Miriam Ziv, commended Canada Post for its decision to issue the stamp.
“A commemorative stamp for Raoul Wallenberg is not just a symbolic act. It will help raise the profile of a person whose courage served as a beacon of light during such a dark period,” Ziv said in a statement.
“The stamp’s release… will conclude a series of commemorative events and educational programs. The Embassy of Israel is proud to be part of a wider network of partners, including the government of Canada, the embassies of Hungary and Sweden, and Jewish organizations across the country. Activities taking place in Canada are part of a global initiative marking the 100th anniversary of Mr. Wallenberg’s birthday.”
Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) also lauded the news.
“Under any circumstances, this is a very fitting tribute, but at a time when we are in desperate need of individuals who can serve to inspire Canadians about speaking truth to power, taking the high road and moving beyond their comfort zones to make a difference, there’s an added dimension of significance,” Fogel said.
Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies Canada, said he was “delighted” to know the stamp would be coming.
“Commemorating Wallenberg’s legacy of courage and moral fortitude in the face of absolute evil is an inspired decision by Canada Post. His efforts to save close to 100,000 Jewish Hungarians from the horrors of the Holocaust continue to be celebrated around the world,” Benlolo said.
A spokesperson for Canada Post told The CJN that the design of the stamp has yet to be determined and that it is still too early to know how many stamps or how many versions would be issued.
He said more particulars about the stamp would likely be revealed closer to the New Year.