Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has selected the obverse and reverse designs for the Raoul Wallenberg Congressional Gold Medal. The designs were unveiled during a ceremony held in the Department of the Treasury’s Cash Room. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden were present for the event.
The medal was authorized under Public Law 112-148 and will be awarded in recognition of Wallenberg’s achievements and heroic actions during the Holocaust. It will be presented on behalf of the Congress to the next of kin of personal representative of Raoul Wallenberg in a future ceremony.
In his remarks, Secretary Lew said, “As many of you know, the Congressional Gold Medal is one of this nation’s highest civilian awards, bestowed on individuals who have made a lasting impact on American history and culture. Only 31 foreign citizens have been recognized in this way. Of course, we all know the unique story of Raoul Wallenberg. His remarkable heroism, in risking his own life to rescue thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust, is the reason that we are here to celebrate his legacy and unveil the medal’s design.”
While serving as Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest between July and December 1944, Wallenberg had issued protective passports (German: Schutz-Pass) and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory. His actions helped to save more than 100,000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust, many of whom later immigrated to the United States.
The obverse design of the medal features a portrait of Raoul Wallenberg designed by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart. The inscriptions read “Raoul Wallenberg”, “Act of Congress 2012”, and “Hero of Heroes”.
The reverse design of the medal by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill depicts Wallenberg’s view as he extends a Schutz-pass and a background view of those he could not reach being boarded on a train bound for a concentration camp. The inscriptions read “He lives on forever through those he saved” and “One person can make a difference”.
Earlier this year, the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) had reviewed thirteen different obverse and six different reverse design candidates for the medal. The CFA had recommended the selected obverse design, while the CCAC favored an alternate candidate. Both groups had recommended the selected reverse design.
The authorizing legislation provides that the Secretary may also strike duplicate medals in bronze to be offered for sale to the public. The US Mint has typically offered such medals for sale following the official presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal.