CONGRESSIONAL RECORD - HOUSE LEGISLATIVE ACTION
Monday, April 16, 2012
HOUSE LEGISLATIVE ACTION
[The bill passed with 377 yea votes, and no nay votes ~DS]
HOUSE LEGISLATIVE ACTION
April 16, 2012
RAOUL WALLENBERG CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION ACT
Mr. LUETKEMEYER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 3001) to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Raoul Wallenberg, in recognition of his achievements and heroic actions during the Holocaust.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 3001, the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act, introduced by my colleague, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Meeks). This legislation, cosponsored by 301 of our colleagues, including myself, seeks to authorize the striking and awarding of a Congressional Gold Medal honoring Raoul Wallenberg in recognition of his heroism in saving tens of thousands of lives in Nazi-occupied Budapest during World War II. Mr. Wallenberg truly personified the definition of a humanitarian, a hero, and a defender of individuals facing persecution and near-certain death at the hands of a truly inhumane Nazi regime.
Born into an affluent Swedish family of diplomats and bankers, Raoul Wallenberg developed a keen interest in foreign cultures and languages at an early age. He became fluent in English, French, German, and Russian, and after graduating from high school attended the University of Michigan to study architecture. In 1936, a year after graduation, he accepted a job at the Central European Trading Company, an export-import company with operations in Stockholm and Eastern Europe. He quickly became joint owner and international director of the firm, and traveled throughout Europe to assist his boss, a Hungarian Jew. During this period, Mr. Wallenberg immersed himself in the Hungarian language and culture and witnessed the Nazis’ increasing stranglehold on Europe.
While Hungary was nominally an Axis power, it sought a secret peace pact with the Allies. When that was discovered, Adolf Hitler invaded Hungary in March of 1944. Under the Nazi occupation, Hungarian Jews faced immediate deportation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in southern Poland. Jews living in Budapest desperately sought help from the embassies of neutral countries, which could provide short-term identity passes to escape the Nazis. The Swedish delegation was successful in ensuring that the provisional passes would allow the bearers to be treated as Swedish citizens, providing a great deal of protection.
In 1944, the United States created the War Refugee Board for the purposes of rescuing European Jews from Nazi persecution. The Board worked closely with the Swedish delegation to locate a Swedish national to spearhead a rescue operation for Jews facing deportation. Raoul Wallenberg, then a 32-year-old prominent businessman who had a keen familiarity with Hungary, was given the daunting task. In July 1944, when he arrived in Budapest as the First Secretary of the Swedish delegation, more than 400,000 Jewish citizens already had been deported by SS Officer Adolf Eichmann. Only 230,000 Jews were left.
Wallenberg succeeded in designing a facsimile Swedish passport to be issued to Jews trapped in Budapest. They were authentic enough to pass the inspection of local officials, and Wallenberg employed several hundred workers, all of Jewish descent, to produce and issue more than 10,000. He also constructed more than 30 buildings that allowed more than 15,000 Jews to find shelter under the banner of the Swedish delegation. A Swedish flag hung in front of every door, and residents in every building were granted diplomatic immunity.
In November 1944, Eichmann began a campaign of death marches, forcing large numbers of the remaining Hungarian Jews to march out of Germany on foot. Wallenberg marched along with them. He handed out provisional passes, provided food, water, and medicine, and bribed Nazi guards to free those with passes, wielding the full authority of the Swedish government. For the persecuted who were deported by train, Wallenberg issued provisional passes on the train tracks, on the roofs, and even inside the train cars themselves. In one of his most important accomplishments, he prevented Eichmann’s attempted massacre in Budapest’s largest ghetto in January 1945. At the risk of his own life, Wallenberg used his diplomatic influence to secure a note from a prominent official calling off the massacre. Then, at the end of the war, he was taken by the Soviet army, allegedly for spying, and was never heard from again. He is said to have died in the KGB’s Lubyanka prison in 1947.
Mr. Speaker, we remember Raoul Wallenberg for his unwavering courage in saving the lives of as many as 100,000 innocent men, women, and children. Awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to Mr. Wallenberg is the very least that we can do to honor a man who imperiled himself for a cause so worthy. We can now examine, with gratitude, a uniquely bright flame of valor in a terribly dark period of world history. Individuals such as Raoul Wallenberg were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of life and livelihood to serve the greater good of humankind. It is my hope that his efforts and sacrifices will serve as an example for all of us and for future generations.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS,
Washington, DC, April 16, 2012.
Hon. Spencer Bachus,
Chairman, Committee on Financial Services, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC.
Dear Chairman Bachus: I am writing concerning H.R. 3001, the “Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act,” which is scheduled for floor action the week of April 16, 2012.
As you know, the Committee on Ways and Means maintains jurisdiction over matters that concern raising revenue. H.R. 3001 contains a provision that provides for the sale of duplicate medals, and thus falls within the jurisdiction of the Committee on Ways and Means.
However, as part of our ongoing understanding regarding commemorative coin and medal bills and in order to expedite this bill for floor consideration, the Committee will forgo action. This is being done with the understanding that it does not in any way prejudice the Committee with respect to the appointment of conferees or its jurisdictional prerogatives on this or similar legislation in the future.
I would appreciate your response to this letter, confirming this understanding with respect to H.R. 3001, and would ask that a copy of our exchange of letters on this matter be included in the Congressional Record during floor consideration.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON FINANCIAL SERVICES,
Washington, DC, April 13, 2012.
Hon. Dave Camp,
Chairman, Committee on Ways and Means, Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC.
Dear Chairman Camp: I am writing in response to your letter regarding H.R. 3001, the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act, which is scheduled for Floor consideration under suspension of the rules on Monday, April 16, 2012.
I wish to confirm our mutual understanding on this bill. The bill contains a provision for a charge for the sale of duplicate medals. I understand your concern with provisions that raise revenue and accordingly would fall under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Ways and Means. However, the bill is not expected to raise revenue.
Further, I appreciate your willingness to forego action by the Committee on Ways and Means on H.R. 3001 in order to allow the bill to come to the Floor expeditiously. I agree that your decision to forego further action on this bill will not prejudice the Committee on Ways and Means with respect to its jurisdictional prerogatives on this or similar legislation. Therefore, I would support your request for conferees on those provisions within your jurisdiction should this bill be the subject of a House-Senate conference.
I will include this exchange of letters in the Congressional Record when this bill is considered by the House. Thank you again for your assistance and if you should need anything further, please do not hesitate to contact Natalie McGarry of my staff.
Mr. MEEKS. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise today in favor of H.R. 3001, the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act. This bill will bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on a hero who is credited with saving thousands of lives during the Nazi occupation of Hungary in World War II. Raoul Wallenberg is one of the truly inspiring figures of the 20th century. Many prominent Americans owe their lives to Mr. Wallenberg and his heroic actions, including my friend and late colleague, Tom Lantos, and his lovely wife, Annette. Through the passage of this legislation, Congress can honor a true humanitarian for the sake of his family and the thousands of survivors who owe their lives to him.
Raoul Wallenberg, as my colleague has just said, was a Swedish special envoy to Budapest on a diplomatic mission established in collaboration with the American War Refugee Board and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to initiate a rescue operation for Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary. Over 150,000 Hungarian Jews had already been deported to Nazi death camps by the time Wallenberg arrived in Budapest. But through his ingenuity and even at times his bribing of others through the issuance of fake Swedish protective passes and sheltering in official Swedish diplomatic houses, Wallenberg unrelentingly sought to save Jews from Germans and their accomplices, risking his own life numerous times in the process, while there were others who were involved who gave their lives in the process.
During the Soviet siege of Budapest, Wallenberg was detained by Soviet authorities on suspicion of espionage and was never heard from again. Wallenberg’s ultimate fate is unknown, and awarding the Congressional Gold Medal during this centennial celebration of his birth is the best opportunity I believe we have to resolving the mystery about Raoul Wallenberg’s ultimate fate.
When we have a true hero—one who inspires us to be the very best that we can, one who says that we’re going to rise above those individuals who mean no good, one who says they will put their own lives at stake so that others may live—those are the individuals that we need to honor; those are the individuals we need to bring to light so that every child, every human being, knows of those great heroic feats.
Because indeed, Mr. Speaker, it is individuals like Raoul Wallenberg who will take us to centuries yet to come and bring us together as a human family. So, I’m honored here today to put forth this bill, and I’d like to thank the over-300 colleagues here on the House floor who have cosponsored this bill and especially my colleague from New York, Nan Hayworth, who has been absolutely a delight to work with. As we pursued this bill and working together on the floor in getting signatures and talking to our colleagues, I really enjoyed immensely working with Congresswoman Hayworth in bringing this bill to the floor.
I also want to thank the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Commission, headed by Ezra Friedlander, and the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Lantos Foundation, the University of Michigan, and the Hungarian and Swedish ambassadors for all of their hard work on this legislation to honor Wallenberg’s memory and to celebrate the innumerable individuals who live today because their relatives were saved through his efforts. I ask my colleagues to vote in favor of H.R. 3001 and award Raoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. LUETKEMEYER. Mr. Speaker, at this time, I would like to yield as much time as she would consume to the gentlewoman from New York (Ms. Hayworth). As the gentleman from New York indicated, she has worked tirelessly on this issue and is one of the most respected newest Members of our body.
Ms. HAYWORTH. I thank our distinguished colleague from Missouri. Of course, I reciprocate the sentiments that Congressman Meeks has expressed. We share a State, and we share a common vision that elevates all of us as individuals and as a Nation and, indeed, as citizens of a world that so much needs the acts of courage and moral integrity that Raoul Wallenberg brought to bear, that he represents for all of us today.
It is such a privilege to work together with all of those who owe their lives to Raoul Wallenberg’s action, including a Member of our own body, Congressman Tom Lantos, who now, of course, is no longer with us in this body; but he and his wife, Annette, were spared as a result of Raoul Wallenberg’s actions. Indeed, although Mr. Wallenberg lived in the 20th century, his life illuminates us in the 21st century today, and his legacy is represented in the lives of a million descendants around the world, including, of course, here in the United States of those whom Raoul Wallenberg saved.
It is an absolute privilege to have brought this bill to the attention of our colleagues and to have the enthusiastic support of so many who were very happy to cosponsor this bill with Congressman Meeks and with me. So I am delighted to think that it will, indeed, bring us one step closer to bestowing one of our highest civilian honors on a man who has done so much for humanity and so much for America in so many ways, Raoul Wallenberg.
Mr. MEEKS. I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings).
Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I thank our good friend and colleague for yielding, and I thank him and Ms. Hayworth for their extraordinary work in causing us to recognize Raoul Wallenberg.
I came in contact with the name Raoul Wallenberg and with the official portrait that the Lantos Foundation and others have put together, and I just stand to say to you all that I vigorously support and was a cosponsor of this measure. But more importantly, I know that Tom would be looking down today and thanking all of us, and later, I’m sure with Mrs. Lantos, those that gather would assuredly recognize the extraordinary work that you did in bringing this to the body. And as GREGORY said, Raoul Wallenberg’s fate may be unknown, but his fate today is known, and that is that he saved a lot of people, and he is rightly recognized by us for that.
Mr. LUETKEMEYER. Mr. Speaker, at this time, I’d like to yield to the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Burton) as much time as he would consume.
Mr. BURTON of Indiana. I want to thank NAN and my good friend, GREG MEEKS, for introducing this bill. GREG and I recently were in Budapest, and we were there for a celebration at the statue of Raoul Wallenberg; and it is something that I’ll never forget. It was a good time and a very important time.
What do you say about somebody like Raoul Wallenberg or Schindler? These people risked their lives to save people who were going to be killed, going to be put in gas chambers, never to be heard from again. And 6 million people died because there weren’t more people like Raoul Wallenberg and Schindler.
So, I just want to say I’ve heard from my colleagues today the things that I would like to have said, and they said it very well; but I just say, in closing, thank God that there are people who are willing to risk their lives to help their fellow man. There just aren’t enough of them. When I look around the world and see the horrible tragedies that are taking place in Africa and elsewhere, it makes you wonder if we’re ever going to see people like that again, but thank God we have somebody like Raoul Wallenberg.
Mr. MEEKS. I just want to thank the chairman of the European subcommittee for recalling that great day we did have in Budapest at the statue of Raoul Wallenberg. It was a great moment and a solemn moment. When you think about Raoul Wallenberg and when you think about the over 300 Members of this body that are cosponsoring it, today what Raoul Wallenberg is doing is bringing us together. Yet today, Raoul Wallenberg as well, even here in the House as we look and work unanimously on this bill, is bringing people together from all parts of the world, from all kinds of backgrounds, saying that we are standing together for what is right and for a better tomorrow.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. LUETKEMEYER. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time at this point, and yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of my colleague Mr. Meeks’ bill to award Raoul Wallenberg a Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his heroic action in saving the lives of Jews in Hungary during the Holocaust.
Few people could be more deserving of a Congressional Gold Medal than Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat stationed in Budapest with the American War Refugee Board, who, at great risk to himself, is credited with saving the lives of approximately 100,000 Jews. In the closing months of World War II, Wallenberg issued Swedish passports to Jews, and was instrumental in preventing the extermination of the Nazi-created Jewish ghetto in Budapest. Many moving stories are told of the depth of his personal concern for the Jews of Hungary, living under threat of death—and of his fortitude and tireless energy in resisting the monstrous plans of the Nazis.
Mr. Speaker, I’d also like to draw attention to H. Res. 610, a resolution I introduced, with my colleague Mr. Turner of New York, on the fate of Raoul Wallenberg. As Mr. Meeks’ bill points out, “the fate of Raoul Wallenberg remains a mystery.” Yet in this mystery we have a few clues—he was arrested by Soviet forces in Hungary in 1945, and, without going into detail on the subsequent Soviet explanations of what happened to him in their custody, we can certainly say that they are incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. We have more than sufficient reason to suspect that the Soviet government has never dealt frankly In explaining what happened to Wallenberg. Most people knowledgeable about the case believe that the Soviet government executed Wallenberg. So my and Mr. Turner’s resolution asks the President and Secretary of State to press the Russian government for a full and complete accounting of Wallenberg’s fate. Certainly sixty-seven years after Wallenberg’s disappearance, and twenty-two after the demise of the Soviet Union, this is long overdue.
I thank my friend Mr. Meeks for his bill to award Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal, and urge my colleagues to support it.
Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a cosponsor of H.R. 3001 to reiterate my support for awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to Raoul Wallenberg for his heroic and brave actions during the holocaust that resulted in the saving of 100,000 Hungarian Jewish lives.
During World War II, Raoul Wallenberg at the age of 31 was sent to Budapest to serve as a Swedish diplomat. The Holocaust was underway throughout Europe and he was instructed by his government to use the tools of his office, including passports and other creative means, to save as many lives as possible. Wallenberg devised a new Swedish passport, the Schutzpass, especially for the purpose of protecting Hungarian Jews. He designed it to look more imposing and official than the actual Swedish passport. The Schutzpass granted the bearer immunity from being sent to the death camps and is credited with saving 20,000 Jewish lives.
Through this and other actions, Wallenberg helped save 100,000 of the 120,000 Hungarian Jews that survived the holocaust in Hungary and hundreds of thousands of American Jews can directly or indirectly attribute their own lives to his efforts. In recognition of these efforts, in 1981, President Ronald Reagan made Raoul Wallenberg an honorary citizen of the United States, an honor only previously extended to Winston Churchill.
I ask my colleagues to join me in support of this legislation in the memory of Raoul Wallenberg and in recognition of his bravery and for the many lives he helped save during World War II.
HOUSE PROCEDURAL MATTERS
April 16, 2012
RAOUL WALLENBERG CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION ACT
The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were—yeas 377, nays 0, not voting 54, as follows:
Mr. SCHILLING changed his vote from “nay” to “yea.”
So (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the rules were suspended and the bill was passed.
The result of the vote was announced as above recorded.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.
Mrs. NAPOLITANO. Mr. Speaker, on Monday, April 16, 2012, I was absent during rollcall vote No. 152 due to a family health emergency. Had I been present, I would have voted “yea” on suspending the rules and agreeing to H.R. 3001—Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act.
Mr. CASSIDY. Mr. Speaker, on rollcall No. 152, I was unavoidably detained. Had I been present, I would have voted “yea.”
Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, on rollcall No. 152, I was away from the Capitol due to prior commitments to my constituents. Had I been present, I would have voted “yea.”
[Roll No. 152]
|Bass (CA)||Guinta||Pingree (ME)|
|Bilbray||Hastings (FL)||Price (NC)|
|Braley (IA)||Honda||Roe (TN)|
|Broun (GA)||Huelskamp||Rogers (KY)|
|Brown (FL)||Huizenga (MI)||Rogers (MI)|
|Burton (IN)||Israel||Ross (AR)|
|Camp||Jackson (IL)||Rothman (NJ)|
|Canseco||Jackson Lee (TX)||Roybal-Allard|
|Capuano||Johnson, E. B.||Ryan (OH)|
|Carnahan||Keating||Sánchez, Linda T.|
|Castor (FL)||King (IA)||Schakowsky|
|Clarke (MI)||Kucinich||Scott (SC)|
|Clarke (NY)||Lamborn||Scott (VA)|
|Coffman (CO)||Larson (CT)||Sessions|
|Crowley||Lofgren, Zoe||Smith (WA)|
|DeLauro||Lungren, Daniel E.||Sutton|
|Dreier||McCarthy (NY)||Turner (NY)|
|Duncan (TN)||McCollum||Van Hollen|
|Flores||Miller (NC)||Wilson (FL)|
|Forbes||Miller, Gary||Wilson (SC)|