A European Historian from Canada living it up in good ol' London Town.
Published November 24th 2012
Stumble upon history while wandering the streets of London
One of the most exciting pastimes London has to offer is London itself. Wandering its winding historic streets on a lazy Sunday afternoon can produce rare findings that would be difficult enough to see if you tried. The word gem is cliché but whatever you may call these findings, London produces many of them. I recently attempted to avoid the craziness that is Oxford Street on the weekend, by ducking down an unassuming and relatively quiet street. This Fitzrovia-turned-Marble Arch location I had shimmied myself into soon proved twisted and utterly confusing. That is when I found myself at Great Cumberland Place.
Regardless of the spotlights illuminating his face, I saw the statue of him immediately. Statues grace many streets, squares and parks of this great city. But do many people actually discover what the monuments mean and why they were erected? Thus, the perfect weekend ritual is found within London's back corners! This particular statue depicts Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish humanitarian who rescued around 4500 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust by issuing to them Swedish passports - Schutzpasses.
In 1945 he mysteriously vanished after being detained by Soviet authorities accusing him of espionage. His fate was never discovered. The statue is a stoic, or perhaps humble, Wallenberg with his coat draped over his shoulders. Poignantly, the back of the monument is made of leafy papers, assumingly the identity passports he had issued.
So, the next time you are out on a Sunday stroll and you come across one of London's many monuments, take a moment to reflect. You never know when you may learn something meaningful and interesting just by gracing the streets of London.