The University Record, February 20, 1995

Architects can improve life by echoing humane treatment demonstrated by Raoul Wallenberg

Architects can improve life by echoing humane treatment demonstrated by Raoul Wallenberg

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

International architect and designer of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Daniel Libeskind, delivered the College of Architect and Urban Planning's (CAUP) 1995 Raoul Wallenberg Lecture to a more-than-capacity crowd last week. The overflow crowd of students, faculty, and general puåblic watched Libes-kind's presentation via a classroom television network.

Defining architecture as a humane social art, Libeskind referred often to the humane acts of the man for whom the lecture series was named.

Libeskind, born in Poland in 1946 and now a U.S. citizen, illustrated his intent to incorporate the structural remnants of history into his designs for European cities through various architectural and planning projects he has undertaken. Some of those remnants were German S.S. barracks.

The hardest part of designing, Libes-kind reminded his audience, is not the dreaming or drawing but the political battle to get the building under way.

Cities experience catastrophes, Libes-kind said, citing political catastrophes such as war in Europe and economic catastrophes in the United States. "Architecture is not demolition," he said, "but construction," and by incorporating the two, an architect can improve life in a practical and ecological manner echoing humane treatment as demonstrated by Raoul Wallenberg.

Wallenberg, a 1935 U-M graduate who has been described in The Jerusalem Post as an "unsuccessful and seemingly cold Swedish businessman," is credited with saving more than 100,000 Jews from the Nazis during the 1940s by issuing what became known as "Wallenberg passports" and the establishment of an "international ghetto" while he served as a Swedish diplomat.

With the Soviet siege of Budapest in December 1944, Soviet authorities took Wallenberg into what The Post calls "protective custody" and sent him to Moscow's Lubyanka Prison in January 1945. Soviets denied knowledge of Wallenberg's existence until 1957 when Andrei Gromyko, then Soviet foreign minister, announced that Wallenberg had died of a heart attack in 1947. Former prisoners claim he was alive into the 1980s; others claim he still lives.

An Associated Press story from Moscow on Feb. 12, 1995, quotes the head of the Russian State Archives as saying that Wallenberg's case file, along with those of other high-ranking prisoners, was destroyed by the Soviet Ministry of State Security.

A just-released book, Letters and Dispatches, 1924-1944 by Raoul Wallenberg, published by Arcade Press on the 50th anniversary of his disappearance, contains correspondence between Wallenberg and his family and friends. A number of those letters, especially to his grandfather, are datelined Ann Arbor.