Students of the Weiss-Livnat International MA in Holocaust Studies recently had the honor of attending a lecture by Dr. Nadav Kaplan. Born in Israel in 1945, Dr. Kaplan served as a combat pilot and was a commander and senior executive in the Israeli air force for 35 years. He holds a B.A in Economics and Business Administration from Bar-Ilan University and an MSC in Management from MIT University. In 2017 he earned his Ph.D. at Haifa University.
Dr. Kaplan’s lecture related to his Ph.D. dissertation topic – the belated commemoration of Raoul Wallenberg in Sweden and Hungary between 1945-2014.
People around the world are familiar with the hero Raoul Wallenberg, who was recruited by the United States War Refugee Board to serve as a diplomat to Sweden’s embassy in Budapest, Hungary in the final years of WWII. He is credited with saving thousands of Hungarian Jews from deportation to death camps by issuing them “protective passports” which identified the holders as Swedish citizens awaiting repatriation.
Following his presumed death, the circumstances of which are still officially unknown, Wallenberg was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli government. Memorials and monuments were erected in his honor, and streets and schools were named after him around the world.
However, there were two countries where commemoration of his heroic deeds was belated – his home country of Sweden, and the country where he saved tens of thousands of Jews; Hungary. It was only in the 1990s that the two countries began to acknowledge Wallenberg’s role in WWII.
In his doctoral research, Dr. Kaplan identified various factors which contributed to this belated commemoration/recognition of Wallenberg in both Sweden and Hungary. His extensive research encompassed qualitative analysis and is comprised of personal interviews, as well as textbook, and media analyses. He found, for example, that in Sweden, contributing factors included the paralyzing fear of Russia during the cold war years and the internal debate surrounding historical Holocaust historiography. In Hungary, the traditional communist approach held that the Holocaust was a taboo subject and in more recent decades, political narratives denying Hungarian involvement in the Holocaust prevented any true depiction of Wallenberg’s actions in Budapest.
Dr. Nadav Kaplan is currently in the process of turning his dissertation into a book. We look forward to hearing more news about his publication.