Köszönöm (Thank You) Raoul Wallenberg

Jon Rush
1995; Steel, Granite; Memorial, Sculpture
North Campus; Front lawn (north side) of Art & Architecture Building

On October 26, 1995, sixty years after Raoul Wallenberg’s graduation from the University of Michigan College of Architecture, a sculpture entitled Köszönöm Raoul Wallenberg was dedicated to him by Swedish Ambassador Per Anger, who had worked with him in Budapest.

The sculpture, a memorial to Raoul Wallenberg, is located at the west front entrance of the Art and Architecture Building in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The sculpture poetically addresses the man and his deeds.

Raoul Wallenberg (Class of 1935, Architecture) is a distinguished alumnus and humanitarian, credited with saving the lives of 100,000 Hungarian Jews during World War II. After the war, while attempting to obtain food for those in Swedish “safe-houses,” he was arrested by the Soviets and never released.

In this sculpture, monumental fragments of stone sitting on a triangular brick base, evoke the chaos of war. Some stones are erect, others are fallen. On one stone the words “One Person Can Make A Difference” are inscribed. On another is inscribed “Köszönöm Raoul Wallenberg” (Köszönöm is Hungarian for thank you). Arising from the sculpture’s base is an architectonic stainless steel structure that defines a space suggesting the sanctuary Wallenberg created for those he saved. Visitors to the sculpture can walk through it and experience how little it takes to define sanctuary and in an instant, the mind can transform the space defined by the steel into the boundaries of Wallenberg’s prison walls.

A bronze plaque at the site chronicles Raoul Wallenberg’s deeds and describes his capture and imprisonment by the Soviets after the war. Wallenberg was recognized as a “Righteous Gentile” by the government of Israel in 1981 and has been granted honorary U.S. citizenship (only the second person ever to be so honored; the other being Winston Churchill).

On May 1, 1999, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his wife Nane visited the University of Michigan Wallenberg Memorial (see third thumbnail). Mrs. Annan is the niece of Raoul Wallenberg.

The sculpture was a gift of the family of Sol King, and the sculptor, Jon Rush. Sol King (class of 1934) was a classmate of Raoul Wallenberg’s at the College of Architecture. King led the effort to establish a Wallenberg Lecture at the College.

A professor of art the U-M School of Art & Design from 1962-2006, Rush is also the sculptor of Sunstructure, located at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Onus on North Campus, and Convergence on Central Campus.