His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg

Written by Louise Borden
Review by Michaela MacColl

His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg is a non-fiction account about how Wallenberg, a Swedish businessman and humanitarian, rescued thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. Borden begins Wallenberg’s cosmopolitan childhood in Sweden, where he had a flair for languages and travel. Noticing in the 1920s how the Germans were impressed with ornate traveling documents, he capitalized on this observation during World War II when the Swedish government asked him to go to Budapest to help Hungarian Jews. He issued thousands of passports there, officially under Sweden’s diplomatic protection. He disappeared in 1945 while in Russian custody.

Borden does a terrific job of weaving photographs and documentary evidence to show us a life of an ordinary man who accomplishes extraordinary things. The early part of Wallenberg’s life isn’t particularly interesting, but once Borden starts describing Wallenberg’s creatively tireless activity in Budapest, the book becomes riveting. Wallenberg bought and adapted apartment buildings to house thousands of Jews while he devised schutzpasse for them: a letter of protection which enabled Jews to leave Budapest. His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg is an accessible and interesting way to learn about a brave, forgotten hero.