The Truth about Wallenberg

Raoul Wallenberg: Report of the Swedish–Russian Working Group

Stockholm: Swedish Ministryfor Foreign Affairs, 206 pp.

Report on the Activities of the Russian–Swedish Working Group for Determining the Fate of Raoul Wallenberg (1991–2000)

Moscow: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 37 pp.

Liquidatsia: The Question of Raoul Wallenberg's Death or Disappearance in 1947

by Susan Ellen Mesinai
48 pp.

Cell Occupancy Analysis of Korpus 2 of the Vladimir Prison: An Examination of the Consistency of Eyewitness Sightings of Raoul Wallenberg with Prisoner Registration Cards from the Prison Kartoteka

by Marvin W. Makinen and Ari D. Kaplan
63 pp.

Swedish Aspects of the Raoul Wallenberg Case

by Susanne Berger
63 pp.


On January 13, 1945, the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, accompanied only by his chauffeur, left his legation in Budapest for a meeting with officers of the advancing Soviet army, which was then in the process of “liberating” the city from the pro-Nazi government. Wallenberg’s apparent purpose in seeking out the Soviets was to ensure the protection of Jews and their property in Budapest, and to make security arrangements for members of his legation. Wallenberg was not a career diplomat. He was a businessman with experience in Hungary who had, on the initiative of American officials, been appointed to work in Budapest as an employee of the War Refugee Board (WRB), an agency established by President Franklin Roosevelt for the purpose of rescuing Jews from the Nazis. To assist Wallenberg, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided him with a diplomatic passport and the rank of legation secretary at the Swedish legation. From July 9, 1944, the date of his arrival in Budapest, to the following December, Wallenberg saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from deportation to death camps, both by issuing them “protective passports” (documents which gave the holder the protection of the Swedish legation) and in some cases by negotiating directly with the Nazis for their freedom in exchange for money.

But for all his sophistication in dealing with the Nazis, the thirty-two-year-old Wallenberg was, according to one of his colleagues at the legation, “naive when it came to the Russians.” Whether he met with Soviet officers remains unknown. It is now clear, however, from recently released reports, that Wallenberg, despite being a diplomat from a neutral country, was promptly taken into custody by the Soviet army and that three days later, on January 16, the Soviet deputy minister of defense, Nikolai Bulganin, sent a coded telegram to the commander of the Second Ukrainian Front, Marshall Malinovsky, ordering Wallenberg’s arrest by the notorious military counterintelligence branch known as SMERSH, a Russian acronym for “Smert’ shpionam,” meaning “Death to Spies.”

Why the Soviets arrested Wallenberg and took him off to Moscow, together with his chauffeur, Vilmos Langfelder, has remained unclear for the past fifty-six years. An even deeper mystery is what happened to Wallenberg after he arrived in the Soviet Union. Despite the persistent efforts of Wallenberg’s family, historians, journalists, politicians, and a host of prominent international figures, Wallenberg’s fate has never been clarified. Indeed, perhaps the greatest puzzle of all is why, after all these years, the Wallenberg case is still unresolved.

The most far-reaching and thorough investigation into the Wallenberg affair was conducted, and recently concluded, by the Joint Swedish–Russian Working Group on Raoul Wallenberg, whose members included officials from the Swedish and Russian foreign ministries, representatives from the Swedish and Russian security agencies, and also Wallenberg’s half-brother, Guy von Dardel. Their investigation began in September 1991, just a month after the coup attempt in Moscow, and the Swedish members were hopeful that, under the new Russian policy of openness, long-suppressed information about Wallenberg would finally be…

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