Union exhibit honors Holocaust hero, alum

By Erin Forsythe, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 30, 2013

Visitors entered the dimly lit Art Lounge in the Michigan Union Wednesday evening to view an exhibition on University alum Raoul Wallenberg, who rescued thousands during the Holocaust.

On the centennial of Wallenberg’s birth, the University collaborated with the Swedish Consulate General of Detroit to host a historical display on the incredible life of the Wallenberg, who is Swedish. Wallenberg attended the University from 1931 to 1935, graduating with a degree in architecture. He went on to save the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews from Nazi death camps.

The exhibition opened in Budapest last year and has since traveled to other cities around the world, including Berlin, Washington D.C. and Moscow.

The atmosphere in the Union exhibit was quiet, with visitors shifting between illuminated panels on the floor documenting the humanitarian’s life. The display features notable quotes by Wallenberg along the paneled walls and banners of individuals whose lives he saved during the Holocaust.

Before the opening of the exhibit, an event was held in the Rogel Ballroom of the Michigan Union to commemorate Wallenberg.

A crowd of about 300 gathered to listen to guest speakers, which included Ingrid Carlberg, journalist and author of a new biography on Wallenberg; Monica Ponce de Leon, dean of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; Swedish Ambassador Jonas Hafström; and University President Mary Sue Coleman.

Coleman spoke about Wallenberg’s extraordinary contributions to the world and briefly reflected on his time at the University.

“With this beautiful exhibit we continue to remember Raoul Wallenberg and remember the Holocaust and its devastating toll,” Coleman said. “And most significantly, we remember a Michigan graduate who stepped forward to help others.”

Ponce de Leon remarked on the college’s role in relation to the hero while speaking at the event.

“We have a special responsibility at Taubman College to preserve and honor the legacy of this great humanitarian and individual,” Ponce de Leon said.

Architecture and Urban Planning seniors are required to take part in a project inspired by Wallenberg’s work. Students submit proposals based on the humanitarian projects they created and compete for the Wallenberg Studio Award.

Architecture and Urban Planning senior Jordan Butler said the student projects take a universalist focus.

“All of our projects are centered around architecture in the past for humanitarian or service-based work — kind of as a tribute to the work that Wallenberg did,” Butler said.

Architecture and Urban Planning senior Solomon Tucker said the competition helped him learn more about Wallenberg.

“It’s a way for us all to be involved and understand who Wallenberg is and how he went to this (University) and what he meant to the Architecture school as well,” Tucker said. “It’s good for us to see what people were going through and how we can intervene and have an impact, like Raoul Wallenberg did, with our talents.”