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More than a Footnote in History? Asta Nielsson and the Swedish Rescue of Budapests (Jewish) Children

Forschungsschwerpunkt: Age, Care and Aid in Times of Crisis


Usually, when exploring Swedish relief in Hungary in the 20th century, Raoul Wallenberg figures as the most widely known Swedish relief worker, having rescued almost 10,000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. The Swedish relief worker Asta Nielsson, on the other hand, is hardly known. I want to know why? Asta Nielsson not only provided relief in the post-WWI period, but she returned with Wallenberg in 1944 to Budapest where she set up a Swedish child rescue action for Jewish children. The action came to be known as the „Asta Nielsson Children’s Action” and contemporaneous sources speak of 3000 children that were rescued. Nevertheless, she was neither recognized as Righteous among the Nations in Yad Vashem nor does she figure in historical research today. Against this backdrop, it seems worth to investigate her work in Budapest, as her engagement for Budapest’s children stretches from the aftermath of the First World War through the period of the Hungarian holocaust to the post-WWII period. By centering on one single relief worker, this project aims to write a history of transnational humanitarian relief from WWI to WWII.