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Thursday, July 31, 2014

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Shoah survivor on Wallenberg stamp

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Judith Weiszmann

When Canada Post issued a stamp commemorating Raoul Wallenberg earlier this month, the Crown corporation had no idea one of the images on it was of Winnipegger Judith Weiszmann.

The stamp features Wallenberg’s picture against a backdrop of the life-saving Schutz-Pass document he created to save Jews from Nazi persecution and deportation from Hungary.

It so happens that the pass Canada Post inadvertently used belongs to Weiszmann (neé Kopstein), who was saved by Wallenberg when she was 14. Her husband, Erwin Weiszmann, was also saved when Wallenberg issued a Schutz-Pass to him at Budapest’s Josefvarosi train station in 1944.

Erwin passed away in 2011.

Wallenberg is credited with saving some 100,000 Hungarian Jews from the Nazis before disappearing under mysterious circumstances into Soviet custody. His fate afterward is still a mystery.

The Weiszmann’s daughter, Ann, contacted The CJN last week to alert readers that the woman on the Schutz-Pass was her mom. She said Canada Post had purchased the image of the pass from a company that sells such things.

Judith and Erwin, who were married for 58 years, survived the war through Wallenberg’s heroism. Afterward, the couple remained in Communist Hungary, where they were secretly married by a rabbi. Both also obtained civil engineering degrees.

They fled their home country in 1956 after the failed Hungarian Revolution, escaping to Austria.

But Judith and Erwin still felt uncomfortable living so close to the Soviet Union and decided to start a new life in North America, immigrating to Canada in 1957 and eventually setting up a successful engineering consulting firm in Winnipeg.

Speaking to The CJN, Judith said seeing her Schutz-Pass on a stamp was unexpected.

“I had no idea [Canada Post] was doing this. It came as a complete surprise,” she said. “No one contacted me. And I don’t think they could have made the connection that it was me, since it was my maiden name on the pass. But it is a great honour for me to be on this stamp.”

As a 14-year-old in Budapest at the time, she said she knew full well the significance of having a Schutz-Pass, and she credited Wallenberg – she met him once, briefly – with “fierce bravery” in the face of the Nazi occupiers.

“To go around with a poker face and tell high-ranking German officers that they cannot take [people with Schutz-Passes] away… with his fearlessness he performed miracles,” she said.

Wallenberg had employed her father as a co-ordinator in his embassy office after rescuing him from a forced labour camp, Weiszmann said, and the family received their Schutz-Passes from Wallenberg through her father.


Related Story: Hamilton park may be named for Wallenberg

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