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Marc & Connie JacobsonRaoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Lecture

Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Lecture

About the Lecture

The memory of one of the legendary figures of World War II, Raoul Wallenberg, will live on at Old Dominion University through the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Lecture, part of the President's Lecture Series. The annual Wallenberg Lecture is sponsored by the Marc and Connie Jacobson Philanthropic Foundation. Speakers for the Wallenberg Lecture are chosen by the University. They must be humanitarians - those who are "making the world a better place" - balanced in their philosophical beliefs, and not at either extreme of the social spectrum.

A Swedish businessman and diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg was one of the few who dared to defy the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Persuading the Swedish Foreign Ministry to send him to Hungary on a diplomatic passport in 1944, he led a daring mission to save many of the remaining Jews in Budapest who had not been deported to Nazi death camps. Wallenberg helped shelter several thousand Jews in "protected houses" that flew the flags of Sweden and other neutral countries. He also distributed food and clothing to Jewish prisoners at deportation trains and on "death marches" and even attempted to rescue some of them.

In January 1945, Wallenberg was arrested for espionage by Soviet troops that had arrived in Budapest. The Soviets would later admit privately that he had been arrested by mistake, according to Swedish authorities. Wallenberg reportedly died of a heart attack in a Moscow prison in 1947, but unconfirmed reports from freed Soviet prisoners indicated he had been seen alive in prison as late as 1975.

The U.S. Congress, in 1981, granted honorary citizenship to the missing Wallenberg, an honor that had been bestowed only once before, to Winston S. Churchill. Since that time, only William and Hannah Penn and Mother Teresa have been so honored. A native of Stockholm, Wallenberg had earned a degree in architecture from the University of Michigan in 1935.

Upcoming Speaker

Robert Edsel Photo.png

Robert Edsel

Writer, Founder and President of the Monuments Men for the Preservation of Art

February 20, 2014
Webb University Center

Robert Edsel, a former nationally ranked tennis player, began his business career in oil and gas exploration in 1981. His company, Gemini Exploration, pioneered the use of horizontal drilling technology throughout the early 1990s. It was while living in Florence, Italy, however, that Edsel developed a great passion for art and architecture and became curious as to how so many of the monuments and great works of art survived the thefts and devastation of World War II. His question evolved into an impassioned journey to unravel the secrets of the Monuments Men, the unsung heroes who saved the world's greatest art and cultural treasures for the benefit of civilization. Edsel's painstaking research culminated in the self-published book "Rescuing Da Vinci," a detailed historical account, which includes 460 photographs.

His second book, "The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History," was released by Center Street in 2009. In January 2012, George Clooney announced he would write, direct and star in the film version of "The Monuments Men." Scheduled for release on Dec. 18, 2013, it features a star-studded cast that also includes Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and Bill Murray.

"Saving Italy" (2013), Edsel's third book, follows two Monuments Men as they struggle to protect and save some of the world's greatest treasures, including works by Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Edsel is the founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art.