Reign of Ter­ror: The Budapest Mem­oirs of Valde­mar Lan­glet 1944 – 1945

Valde­mar Langlet
  • Review
By – September 3, 2013

Valde­mar Lan­glet is a rel­a­tive­ly unknown name, yet Lan­glet, at age sev­en­ty-two, was respon­si­ble for sav­ing thou­sands of Jew­ish lives in Budapest, Hun­gary, dur­ing the Holo­caust. Lan­glet taught Swedish at Budapest Uni­ver­si­ty and became an unpaid cul­tur­al attaché at the Swedish Lega­tion, while also work­ing with the Swedish Red Cross in Budapest. Dur­ing the years 1944 – 1945, when the Ger­mans and the Hun­gar­i­an Arrow Cross Par­ty waged a ter­ror assault against Hun­gar­i­an Jews, Lan­glet fab­ri­cat­ed Red Cross Let­ters of Pro­tec­tion” that pro­vid­ed Jews with a mod­icum of safe­ty. Lan­glet’s pass­port-like doc­u­ments, which he issued with­out the per­mis­sion of the Red Cross, allowed Jews to avoid depor­ta­tion to the death camps. 

His mem­oir pro­vides us with an under­stand­ing of the dan­ger faced by any­one who stood up to the Nazis and the bar­bar­ic Arrow Cross sol­diers. These let­ters of pro­tec­tion” were issued long before Raoul Wal­len­berg arrived in Budapest and pro­ceed­ed to issue pro­tec­tive passports.” 

As the war turned against both Ger­many and Hun­gary in late 1944, and the Red Army approached Budapest, Lan­glet informs us that the Arrow Cross sol­diers inten­si­fied their attacks against the Jews. It became obvi­ous to him that the city would become a bat­tle­ground once the Sovi­et army entered the city. Under these con­di­tions, Lan­glet risked his life to shel­ter Jews and oth­er refugees in safe hous­es through­out Budapest.

After the war, Lan­glet returned to Swe­den and was award­ed the Swedish Red Cross Medal in 1946; in 1965, five years after his death, Yad Vashem rec­og­nized Lan­glet and his wife, Nina, as Right­eous Gen­tiles“ for their work in res­cu­ing Jews in Budapest.

Jack Fis­chel is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of his­to­ry at Millersville Uni­ver­si­ty, Millersville, PA and author of The Holo­caust (Green­wood Press) and His­tor­i­cal Dic­tio­nary of the Holo­caust (Row­man and Littlefield).

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