The Envoy: The Epic Res­cue of the Last Jews of Europe in the Desparate Clos­ing Months of World War II

Alex Ker­shaw
  • Review
By – September 1, 2011
The Envoy is the absorb­ing biog­ra­phy of a unique indi­vid­ual, Raoul Wal­len­berg, res­cuer of 100,000 Hun­gar­i­an Jews from depor­ta­tion and exter­mi­na­tion dur­ing the Holo­caust. This is his sto­ry, inter­twined with the actions, motives, and careers of his Nazi adver­saries. The true life char­ac­ters are described in detail, allow­ing the read­er to bet­ter under­stand the actions and reac­tions of the peo­ple involved.

Wal­len­berg was cho­sen to head the effort to save Hun­gar­i­an Jew­ry from depor­ta­tion to Auschwitz. He met the qual­i­fi­ca­tions: good nerves, good lan­guage abil­i­ty, some­one will­ing to go to Budapest for two months. The per­son had to be an inde­pen­dent spir­it who does not need much direc­tion.” It was June 1944; Wal­len­berg was 32 at the time, a dynam­ic, quick think­ing busi­ness­man, and flu­ent in Ger­man and Russ­ian in addi­tion to his native Swedish. In 1936 he worked briefly in Haifa and became acquaint­ed with many Jews who had escaped from the Nazis. To his dis­may, he learned of their suf­fer­ing. His great great grand­fa­ther was a Jew who con­vert­ed to Lutheranism. Although many have read about Wal­len­berg and his activ­i­ties, this book is much like an adven­ture sto­ry, at time impos­si­ble to put down.

The Envoy expos­es the char­ac­ter and actions of Adolf Eich­man, the cre­ator of the Final Solu­tion, as well as the much despised, vicious Arrow Cross Orga­ni­za­tion.

Wallenberg’s dis­ap­pear­ance dur­ing the Sovi­et lib­er­a­tion of Budapest, as well as his time and death in a Sovi­et gulag, remain a mys­tery.

The Envoy is well-writ­ten, thor­ough­ly researched, and an engag­ing book to read. It lends itself to book dis­cus­sions and class­room study of the Holo­caust in Hun­gary in the wan­ing years of World War II.
Nao­mi Kramer is a retired read­ing con­sul­tant teacher who devel­oped cur­ricu­lum for using lit­er­a­ture to edu­cate chil­dren and adults in the his­to­ry of the Holo­caust. She is a docent and edu­ca­tor at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.

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