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Series / Wallenberg: A Hero's Story

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Wallenberg: A Hero's Story is a 1985 miniseries directed by Lamont Johnson, produced by Richard Irving, Lamont Johnson (co-producer), Phillip Levitan (co-producer) and written by Thurston B. Clarke (book), Frederick E. Werbell (book) and Gerald Green. It features music composed by Ernest Gold. It won four Emmy Awards and was nominated for five more.

It tells the story of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg (played by Richard Chamberlain) who saved 100,000 Hungarian Jews during the final months of World War II by giving them "protective passports" and declaring 32 buildings extra-territorial.


Wallenberg: A Hero's Story contains the following tropes:

  • Ambadassador: The neutral diplomats.
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People: To put it mildly.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Fodor does this a few times when pretending to be with the Arrow Cross.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The neutral diplomats showing up at the train station at Heygeshalom, 250 km note  from Budapest.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The film ends with the liberation of the ghetto and Wallenberg's arrest by the Soviets.
  • Blackmail: The Nazis blackmail Horthy into abdicating by threatening to shoot his son if he doesn't.
  • Blatant Lies: Hannah and Nikki are not Rabbi Mandel's children.
  • Bookends: The film begins and ends with a narration by Per Anger.
  • Bystander Syndrome: The rest of the Wallenbergs continue to do business with the Germans.
  • Central Theme: The gift of life.
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  • Death March: The Nazis resort to forcing the Jews that still remain in Budapest to march 250 km note  to the train station in Hegyeshalom at the Austrian border where the trains to Auschwitz wait. In the event that the trains aren't running, they're forced to walk the rest of the way as well, all as part of a deliberate effort to kill as many of them as possible.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The end of the movie gradually loses color until it's in black and white.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Used for good.
  • From Bad to Worse: When the Arrow Cross take over.
  • Half-Truth: Wallenberg claims to be half-Jewish as opposed to one-sixteenth Jewish.
    Wallenberg: All right, I'm one-sixteenth. Call me a liar for a fraction.
  • Heroic BSoD: Sonya has one after Josef is killed.
  • Hope Bringer: Wallenberg. As Baroness Kemeny put it:
    Baroness Kemeny: Monsignor Rotha told me something this afternoon that moved me very deeply. He said the Nazis' greatest victory was convincing the Jews that they were doomed, but that you changed that for thousands of them.
  • Humble Hero: Wallenberg calls the 20,000 people alive because of the papers he gave them "few".
  • Karma Houdini: Eichmann escapes to Argentina where he lives until the 1960s.
    • Karma Houdini Warranty: That being said, he was ultimately captured by the Mossad and brought to Israel, where he was tried and hanged for his crimes.
  • Leave No Survivors: Eichmann's goal is to transport every Jew remaining in Budapest to Auschwitz. When the trains stop running he starts death marches instead.
  • Loophole Abuse: Wallenberg bought buildings and declared them extra-territorial, giving them diplomatic immunity.
  • Mood Whiplash: The entire end of the movie. The Nazis are about to machine gun everyone remaining in the Jewish ghetto. Wallenberg stops them. Then the Soviets take the city and liberate the ghetto. After that they arrest Wallenberg and he's never seen again. In reality the ghetto was liberated the day after his arrest.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Save 100,000 lives, disappear into the Gulag. Way to go, karma.
  • Omnicidal Neutral: Eichmann points out that even their enemies, through their silence, agreed with the Holocaust.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Wallenberg rented 32 buildings in Budapest, declared them to be auxiliary embassy facilities — technically Swedish territory, and therefore off limits to the Hungarians and their German allies — and used them as safe houses. He also printed up thousands of "protective passports" identifying the bearers as Swedish citizens, and handed them out to every Hungarian Jew he met — even, on one occasion, those locked in the boxcars on a train departing for Auschwitz! At one point, he ran on top of a train carrying Jews to be killed and stuffing papers into the cars that the Jews could use to semi-legally escape. While Nazis shot at him.
  • Restricted Rescue Operation: The miniseries is filled with this. The Arrow Cross (Hungarian Nazis) puts a limit on how many protective passports they will allow. This results in the Operational and Secrecy versions of this trope. Notably, there's a scene where the neutral diplomats are pulling Jews of the trains headed to Auschwitz.
    Wallenberg: I'm sorry. I can take only so many, so I must take the young. Forgive me.
  • Right Under Their Noses: The whole rescue operation happens right under the noses of the Nazis and Arrow Cross.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: As Horthy points out, the protective passports hold no validity in international law. They're issued anyway.
  • Sigil Spam: Justified to make the protective passports look official.
  • Team Switzerland: Defied by the Trope Namer. While they are technically neutral, the Swiss diplomats are helping with the rescue efforts.