BUDAPEST (AFP)---Hungary paid tribute Friday to Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Jews during World War II, in a modest ceremony in Budapest's Holocaust museum marking 100 years since his birth.
"Evil must be rejected," Zoltan Balog, minister for human resources and social affairs, said at the event in the city where Wallenberg rescued Jews from the Nazi occupiers by issuing them protective passports in the final months of the war.
"Those who knew how to confront hate and who saved lives were perhaps unable to prevent the evil and the destruction, but their memories should be cherished as strongly as possible," Balog said.
Budapest, where Wallenberg was posted in July 1944, was also the city where he was last seen alive on January 17, 1945 as Soviet forces ousted German and pro-Nazi Hungarian troops.
Mystery surrounds his fate but according to the official Soviet account, he died in prison in Moscow in 1947.
The Hungarian government has declared 2012 "Wallenberg Year", but apart from a Swedish travelling exhibit called "To me there's no other choice", which made a brief stop in Budapest earlier this year, there have been few other activities.
Hungary has meanwhile seen a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in recent months, including pig's feet left on a statue of Wallenberg in May, and a Jewish graveyard was vandalised only last month.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban has meanwhile overseen a rehabilitation of sorts for wartime leader Miklos Horthy, a one-time ally of Hitler, with monuments erected in his honour and parks named after him.
The climate in Hungary prompted Nobel peace laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel in June to return the country's top honour, slamming what he called the whitewashing" of the past.