The family of Raoul Wallenberg traveled to Moscow this week to meet with government representatives and archivists in their ongoing mission to uncover the truth about the Holocaust hero’s fate.
Wallenberg was a Swedish businessman and diplomat who helped rescue thousands of Hungarian Jews near the end of World War II by issuing provisional Swedish passports to them so they could flee to Sweden. On January 17, 1945, Soviet forces captured him and his driver in Budapest, and his fate has been shrouded in mystery ever since.
In 1957 Soviet authorities announced that he had died of a heart attack in Lubyanka Prison on July 17, 1947, but no definitive proof was put forward.
More recent reports have indicated that Wallenberg was executed.
“Our family has now been living with the tragedy and uncertainty of Raoul Wallenberg’s fate for more than 70 years,” the family said yesterday.
“During these decades, we have considered every imaginable scenario of what could have happened to Raoul.
“We do not want to have to guess anymore. We want to know the truth. To us, Raoul’s family, the question of what happened to him is simply a human story. Raoul was a wonderful person, a true humanitarian – he, and we, his family, just want to find out the facts and do him justice; a wish undoubtedly shared by the millions of Russian citizens who lost their loved ones during World War II and its terrible aftermath.”
Diaries of former KGB chairman Ivan Serov released in June state that Wallenberg was liquidated in prison under Stalin’s orders. But documentation referenced in the memoir – such as an alleged report of cremation for Wallenberg’s body, and an interrogation with former minister of state security Viktor Abakumov, in which he apparently confirmed Wallenberg’s murder in 1947 – have not been released. Nor were they shared with the bilateral Swedish-Russian Working Group that investigated the case.
How and when Wallenberg died, as well as details surrounding the motives behind his arrest and imprisonment, continue to be murky. Wallenberg’s brother, Guy von Dardel, spent decades investigating his mysterious disappearance. Von Dardel died in 2009 without getting to the bottom of the case, but his wife, Matilda von Dardel, and Wallenberg’s two nieces, Louise von Dardel and Marie Dupuy, have taken up the torch.
“Raoul’s brother, Guy von Dardel, spent the last 60 years of his life trying to rescue him.
We saw our grandparents, and then his [Wallenberg’s] sister and brother, being consumed by hope followed by despair,” the nieces said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, they have put their faith into fresh efforts to find the facts.
Last year a group of international scholars and Wallenberg experts teamed up to create the Raoul Wallenberg Research Initiative (RWI- 70). The project seeks to pool researchers’ expertise and gain access to relevant documentation about the case in Russian archival collections. The group emphasizes the urgent need for independent review and verification of information, with researchers being granted unhindered access to original historical records held in currently classified Russian archival collections.
To this end, Wallenberg’s family submitted a catalogue of questions and research requests to Russian government and archive representatives.
The family believe that if they are granted access to the requested material, they will finally able to uncover the truth about Wallenberg’s fate.
The 57-page document titled “The Fate of Raoul Wallenberg – Gaps in the Official Record” lays out their questions in detail.
“In order to be able to draw any valid conclusions about the fate of Raoul Wallenberg in MGB [Soviet Ministry of State Security] hands, researchers must be allowed to review original documents and in the context of the archival files,” the document stated. “The possible reasons for Wallenberg’s arrest and why he was not released are of central importance. It needs to be determined what exactly Soviet secret services knew about his business, political and, possibly, intelligence contacts in Sweden and Hungary during the years 1941-45.”
The text, authored by historian Vadim Birstein and RWI-70 founder Susanne Berger, calls on Swedish officials to persist in reminding Russian authorities of their stated commitment to provide independent professional historians with full access to the necessary archival materials.
“The right of victims of enforced disappearance and their families to the truth about their ordeal is internationally recognized. Insistence on this legal principle underscores the fact that aside from the many honors the world has bestowed on Raoul Wallenberg, he, like the millions of other victims of political repression, deserves something more. He deserves justice,” the document concluded.
Yesterday, the family and RWI-70 representatives discussed the matter with leading Russian historians and a variety of experts and organizations in a forum hosted by the Moscow Memorial Society.
Wallenberg was from one of Sweden’s most powerful business family dynasties. He has been made an honorary citizen of the United States, Canada, Hungary, Austria and Israel, and was awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal in 2012.