“Never has a man succeeded in modern times to save that many people in such a short time as Raoul Wallenberg did.”
Per Anger worked side-by-side with Raoul Wallenberg to save Jews in Budapest from the Holocaust. In 1944 and early 1945, he assisted Wallenberg, witnessing his extraordinary actions first-hand. After the Soviet Army seized Wallenberg in January 1945, Anger dedicated much of his life to discovering what happened to his colleague and friend.
By the time Raoul Wallenberg arrived on his mission in July 1944, Per Anger and his small staff at the Swedish embassy in Budapest had already saved 700 Jewish lives. Anger had been asked for help by a Hungarian Jewish businessman, Hugo Wohl, when he and his family were facing deportation to death camps. Diplomats from Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal were distributing passports, emigration documents and other papers to protect Jews under the threat of death. Anger recalled desperately thinking that something more needed to be done. He fabricated invalid but official-looking Swedish passports to grant Wohl and other Jews immunity from deportation. When Wallenberg arrived at the embassy, remembers Anger, “he looked at my visas and said, ‘Good, but I can do it better.’” Together Wallenberg and Anger designed the Schutz-Pass, a more elaborate and official-looking version of Anger’s documents.
Anger helped Wallenberg use American funds to buy buildings to shelter Jews who held the forged documents that Wallenberg and his network were distributing across the city, and to place these crowded structures, as property owned by the Swedish embassy, under diplomatic privilege and protection of the Swedish government. Anger recalled Wallenberg’s frequent trips to the railway station to save people being loaded onto trains for deportation to death camps. He accompanied Wallenberg on rescue missions to intercept death marches across the Hungarian-Austrian border. “He always found a solution, invented a new way of saving people.” He would say to startled Jews on their way to Auschwitz, “Oh, you remember—the Hungarians confiscated your passports,” related Anger. “They ‘remembered’, and we took fifty people away.”
In Sweden after the war, Anger became head of a special commission to look into the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg. He resigned in 1951, frustrated by the lack of cooperation from the Swedish government to aggressively pursue the question of Wallenberg’s fate in Soviet hands. For the rest of his career Anger pursued any leads that came up. In 1979, when he retired after forty years of distinguished diplomatic service to Sweden, he devoted all his efforts to discovering the truth behind Wallenberg’s disappearance. He wrote a memoir, With Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest: Memories of the War Years in Hungary (Holocaust Library: 1996)
In 1982, Per Anger was honored as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, for risks he took saving the lives of the Jews of Budapest. He was awarded honorary Israeli citizenship in 2000, and in 2004 Sweden established the Per Anger Prize to promote initiatives supporting human rights and democracy. Per Anger died in August 2002 at the age of 88.