A fathers dream, a son’s mission and the memory of a righteous martyr

(This is a guest post from Peter Lancz, son and agent of the late Paul Lancz, renowned artist, activist and one of the thousands of Jews saved from war-torn  Budapest by Swedish Diplomat Raul Wallenberg. Peter is organizing an effort to keep the memory of this great hero alive, as he is also fulfilling the dream of his father in the hopes of fighting hatred of bigotry and creating awareness of what it takes for good to shine in a sea of evil. – The Alchemist)

My name is Peter Lancz. I am the long-standing agent of my late father Paul Lancz. Paul was a Hungarian born Master Sculptor of international renown. He is credited with the ‘definitive’ bronze busts of several world figures, including J.F. Kennedy, David Ben Gurion and his incomparable tour de force of Raoul Wallenberg at the R.W. Place in Montreal.

The Sculpture has been characterized as:

“A larger than life-sized bronze bust which is so powerfully evocative in its portrayal of courage, determination and nobility of spirit, as to all but obviate the need to tell his story. It is the most symbolic and efficacious monument of its kind and represents the quintessential educational tool to combat Anti-Semitism-Racism the world over. It masterfully evokes Hero & Role Model par excellence.”

My father always liked to compare his Wallenberg to a modern day, Michaelangelo’s ‘David’ sculpture in terms of the expressiveness and forcefulness of character evinced in its physiognomy.  My father was adept at studying, meditating upon, and understanding a man’s true character and his forte was in capturing and bringing to the fore the very ‘essence’ of his subjects.

To try to begin to fathom the magnitude of Wallenbergs’s miraculous exploits, whereby he single-handedly saved the lives of 100,000 Hungarian Jews from certain death, one must attempt to paint a picture of the living hell that was Budapest circa 1944. The War was coming to an end, Hitler’s Nazis were coming to the realization that their days were numbered and the last remaining sizable Jewish community in Europe not wiped out thus far was Hungary’s Jews. Hitler, perfectly cognizant that his end was imminent, was determined to take down these Hungarian Jews with him. In this he found his most willing and zealous accomplices, namely the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party, whose Jew-hatred and blood lust-if possible – even exceeded that of the Nazis.

The savagery and brutality with which these fascist thugs hunted down such helpless, innocent souls is beyond the realm of human comprehension.

One would have to experience Dante’s Inferno first hand, to begin to conceive of how limitless the depth of human evil and depravity can be.

President Franklin Roosevelt, whose administration largely abandoned European Jewry to their fate, finally found it in himself to try and salvage the last remaining Hungary’s Jews.

He thereby established a War Refugee Board whose task was to do just that. The W.R.B. endeavored to find the most suitable individual for this super-human task, and it thus they came upon Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.

Wallenberg emanated from a very wealthy, industrial and influential Swedish family dynasty. In his neutral Sweden, he was ensconced in all the comforts and ease of life that most young men of his era could only dream of. Yet this otherwise meek, nondescript, “every-man”, could not stand idly by and do nothing, whilst his forlorn human brethren were being exterminated like so much vermin.  He was the greatest of Righteous Gentiles and the irony ought not be lost on anyone, then and now, in the juxtaposition of his selfless comportment with that of many an influential Jew in our era.

While the world stood silently by this “St. Just of the Nations” by virtue of his tireless efforts, single-handedly changed the course of history.

Thus let us reflect upon  how many of us today, would voluntarily  pack our bags  and throw ourselves into such an inferno, sacrificing our very lives in order to save what amounted to strangers he had never met or had anything to do  with.  Edmund Burke once said, “All it takes for evil to prevail, is for good men to do nothing.” Wallenberg took this truism to a whole new level.  He is the very epitome of selflessness, altruism, courage and individual responsibility.

As a 25 yr. old Jew in 1944 Budapest, one would be hard pressed to even imagine what it must have been like for my father. Life was one never-ending continuum in human survival.  On a few occasions he managed to capture a glimpse of Wallenberg in action, and with his artist’s keen perception painted an indelible picture in his mind’s eye. In fact my father was indirectly saved by Wallenberg, having availed himself of one of the protective passes that Wallenberg had been issuing.  It is this indelible image of his savior that my father carried in his heart and soul over the years that enabled him to create from photos alone, such a remarkable bronze bust image of his hero.

It is this poignant, tragic and ultimately uplifting story which was inculcated into me, that stirred a compelling need to at once perpetuate the unparalleled legacy of Wallenberg and the brilliant artistic repertoire of my father’s – predicated on truth, justice, anti-racism, human rights and the dignity of man.  When my father first conceived of the notion to create the ‘definitive’ Wallenberg monument, it was with a  clear intent to:

“To establish a world organization on University Campuses and Educational institutions to combat anti-Semitism-Racism- the cancer of the human soul.”

Having traversed the twin tyrannies of Communism and Fascism, he knew of what he spoke. It was thus that subsequent to his passing in 2005, I resolved myself to launch this Raoul Wallenberg World Campaign against Racism.

Little did he know how prescient his words would become, given as we are currently witnessing yet another revival of global anti-Semitism. With the world convulsed in an existential battle between radical Islam and the free world, it behooves us to learn from history and not repeat its mistakes. With radical Islamic-inspired anti-Semitism raging across the globe, aided and abetted by the inveterate propensity of many on the far left to appease  totalitarianism, we must marshal all our strengths and tools to fight back and ultimately win this civilizational war of Ideas. This Wallenberg Campaign represents a uniquely effective and powerful tool in our arsenal to fight back. If not now when? And, if not Wallenberg, whom?

Several prominent U.S. Universities have embarked and are currently exploring the possibilities. One in particular Boston University, where a Rabbi Joseph Pollack originally from Montreal, recently visited the R.W. Place in Montreal, was so moved and enraptured by the magnificence of the bust and its wonderful  surroundings that he immediately resolved himself to bring it to B.U. The first major success of my Campaign is the recently expanded Holocaust Museum in L.A., where the bust should be inaugurated in the not too distant future.

Interestingly enough, the primary benefactor for this project, is a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, prominent businessman, noted philanthropist in Beverly Hills by the name of Andrew Stevens, a.k.a. Endre Steinberger. Andrew was in the Underground Zionist Youth Movement in Budapest in 1944, and personally delivered “Schutzpasses” or protective passes to Wallenberg when he ran short of them. He himself saved many of his brethren via his own heroics. He eventually came to be known as a ‘Rebel with a Cause’ in acknowledgment of his charitable causes which are legion.

I have secured a number of other prospective venues as well, like UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, the Raoul Wallenberg High School in Budapest, the R.W. High School in San Francisco and multiple other venues and Universities. A momentous recent initiative is my proposed R.W. Freedom Plaza (near the Freedom Tower being constructed in NYC at Ground Zero), featuring this imposing monument as its centerpiece, along with arranged periodic speeches, seminars, conferences by prominent human rights groups and activists from the world over. A semi-circular granite wall, with the names of the 9/11 victims would envelop the monument. Various ethnic and cultural groups could unite under the banner of individual human rights and freedoms and advocate for and partake of the F.P, lending their names to it in perpetuity.

This Freedom Plaza would make a great aesthetic and cultural contribution to the Freedom Tower and its surroundings. But above all it would represent an invaluable educational tool to edify and ennoble present and future generations away from hate and bigotry and towards genuine love and tolerance.

Naturally what is needed to consummate these projects is for others to emulate the likes of an Andrew Stevens, to’ step up to the plate”, so to speak.

For all those wishing to live the Wallenberg legacy and thereby make tikum olam or ‘repair the world’, I invite you to put your names to this incomparable piece in perpetuity. Perhaps at no time in recent history has there been a more dire need to educate our youth about the ‘genuine’ acts of genocide perpetrated throughout history, (and in this I would be remiss to not include the Armenian one.) And who better to transmit these eternal truths and lessons to posterity than Wallenberg and his transcendental legacy of redemptive character.

(See the Lancz website, here.)

Paul Lancz

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