Thursday, September 18, 2008

Varga Sculpture Donated to Ball State Libraries

Students, faculty, alumni, and visitors to the Alexander M. Bracken Library are now able to see and study a work of art depicting an important part of the history of the Jewish people and the Holocaust.

Martin D. Schwartz, local businessman and philanthropist, donated a bronze sculpture by Hungarian artist Imre Varga, perhaps Hungary’s best-known contemporary sculptor, entitled Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest. The work is one of nine smaller versions created by Varga from the original work found in Budapest that was erected on a small patch of grass beside a roadway on the Buda side of the Danube River.

Raoul Wallenberg (August, 1912 – July 17, 1947) was a Swedish humanitarian sent to Budpest under diplomatic cover to rescue Jews from being sent to death camps in the later stages of World War II. He issued them protective passports from the Swedish embassy that identified the bearers as Swedish nationals awaiting repatriation.

Wallenberg was arrested on January 17, 1945, by order of Soviet Deputy Commissar for Defense Nikolai Bulganin. In 1957, the Soviets responded to diplomatic pressure and announced that Wallenberg had died of a heart attack in 1947 in Lubyanka prison in Moscow, but that has been disputed.

Sculptor Imre Varga was born in Hungary, November 1, 1923. He served as an air officer in World War II and returned to Hungary from captivity in 1945. He has won many awards for his work over the years and his work has appeared in numerous European museums.

Varga said of the Wallenberg sculpture that it served dual purposes. First it is a tribute to Raoul Wallenberg who Varga said “showed the way of honesty, the way of real heroes.” The other reason was more personal. Varga’s former professor, and later friend, Pál Pátzay, made the first Wallenberg monument and Varga made the second.

The sculpture was given by Mr. Schwartz in honor of his late wife Helen. They acquired the work of art when they were in Budapest around 1987 when the original monument was erected. It resided in their home until he recently gave it to the University Libraries.

The bronze sculpture is 25.5 inches in height by 16.5 inches in width and 12.75 inches in depth. It is currently on display outside of the Archives and Special Collections on the second floor of Bracken Library. When the Helen B. and Martin D. Schwartz Special Collections and Global Digital Complex is completed on Bracken Library’s first floor sometime during Spring Semester 2009, the sculpture will be located in that space.

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