Wiesenthal Centre Mourns the Passing of Per Ahlmark
June 12, 2018
By Dr. Shimon Samuels, SWC Director for International Relations
From his campaign for Soviet Jewry to his creation of the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism, Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, Per Ahlmark, was a contemporary “Righteous Gentile,” a loyal friend of the State of Israel, who came in wartime to manifest his support and concern for its people.
I was invited to Per’s 70th birthday party in Stockholm in 2009. Already in fragile health, but like the late Simon Wiesenthal, he appreciated a good joke. Simon had called humour “an arm of defenceless peoples.” Per would rollick at political jokes, especially on the Soviet Union.
At his party’s table was told the story of Chairman Brezhnev's request for a State Visit to Finland to lay a wreath at the tomb of the “unknown soldier.” President Kekkonen was in panic as Finland had no such tomb. An aide suggested that the vault of Sibelius be wrapped in canvas for the occasion. The Russians would not know the difference! That afternoon, a storm hit Helsinki and the wind blew the canvas away. Brezhnev turned in anger to Kekkonen, who responded: “Sibelius was a great composer, but as a soldier he was totally unknown.”
Per was a stalwart 'soldier' in a Sweden that had, in political circles, rejected his message of justice and his cause for the targets of hate.
The Jewish people and their friends, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Founder and Dean Rabbi Marvin Hier, its Director for Global Social Action Rabbi Abraham Cooper, its staff and members mourn him.
Our Centre is working with the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association to display across Sweden our exhibition, “People, Book, Land: the 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land.”
Opened in UNESCO, the UN Headquarters, the US Congress, British Parliament, the Vatican, the Israeli Knesset, Copenhagen Town Hall, the Council of Europe... it will now be shown in Sweden, “dedicated to the memory of Per Ahlmark,” May he Rest in Peace and his family be consoled.
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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).