Details concerning the fate of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust, are contained in different state archives, his niece Louise von Dardel, told The Jerusalem Post yesterday.
For more than half a century, the Wallenberg family has been knocking at the doors of the officialdom in a fruitless attempt to learn why Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviet Army in Budapest in 1945, exactly where he was taken, whether he is alive or dead, and if he is dead, where he is buried.
At the conclusion of a week-long lecture tour of Israel, von Dardel said her father, who was Wallenberg's brother, had found whatever known information there was in Russian archives in the Vladimir prison, but she was convinced there was still much more that had been kept from the family for reasons best known to the foreign ministries of various governments.
Von Dardel, who was on her third visit to Israel, said she had not known much about her courageous uncle during her childhood in Switzerland. It wasn't until she went to Stockholm to study and spend time with her grandmother that von Dardel learned about the person her uncle was and what he had done.
Her grandmother was angry with the Swedish government for more or less abandoning Wallenberg, who had acted in accordance with his conscience.
On the 60th anniversary of Wallenberg's disappearance last year, said von Dardel, the Swedes and the Americans did nothing to commemorate what he had done.
However he was honored in Israel, and she had come here for the occasion.
Wallenberg's niece speaks without rancor, but makes the point that if Israel could invest the amount of energy it did to find Adolf Eichmann, who murdered Jews, the same degree of energy should be invested in finding Wallenberg, who saved Jews.
She was disappointed that a Knesset decision to include the study of Wallenberg as a compulsory component of the school curriculum had not yet been implemented, but hoped that this may change by her next visit.
The twentieth anniversary award of the Raoul Wallenberg Prize will be held at Tel Aviv University on February 7, under the auspices of the Society of Danes in Israel, the Society of Norwegian Immigrants and the Sweden-Israel Friendship League. The event is being held in conjunction with International Holocaust Day.
Speakers will include MK Rabbi Michael Melchior.
On January 17, 1945, accompanied by a Soviet escort, Wallenberg went to say goodbye to some of his friends in one of the Swedish houses in Budapest in which he hid Jews, and quipped that he was not certain whether he was the Soviets' guest or their prisoner.
After that, all trace of him disappeared, though in later years people came forward and said they had met a Swedish diplomat in a Soviet prison or that they had recognized him, or they had come across someone with a similar name. But according to von Dardel, there was no follow-up to these testimonies.
Living in France as a married woman, von Dardel one day came across an advertisement in Paris for a "Visas for Life" exhibit at the Jewish Museum.
Visas for Life, a tribute to diplomats who rescued Jews at great personal risk, is a project created by Eric Saul. The project greeted von Dardel with open arms.
Later, she traveled with Saul, lecturing about her uncle. Saul also helped her lobby for action and information in the US. She got as far as then secretary of state Colin Powell, but couldn't find anything in the State Department archives.
The scion of one of Sweden's most eminent banking families, Wallenberg had studied architecture in the US, then later worked in banking, spending some time in Haifa in the mid 1930s as the employee of a Dutch bank. Following his return to Sweden, Wallenberg went into partnership with Koloman Lauer, a Hungarian Jew who operated a Swedish-based import and export company specializing in food and delicacies.
The business gave Wallenberg, a linguist, cause to travel widely in Nazi-occupied Europe, where he realized what the Nazis' final plan was for the Jews.
Meanwhile in Budapest, the Swedish legation had persuaded the Germans to treat bearers of Swedish protective passes as if they were Swedish citizens. The Swedish legation was working at a record pace to issue these passes, and notified the Swedish Foreign Office that it was desperately in need of additional manpower. At around the same time, the War Refugee Board was established in the US with the aim of saving Jews from the Nazis.
Similar efforts were being made in Stockholm where a leader was being sought for a daring rescue mission. Lauer proposed Wallenberg, who in June 1944 was appointed first secretary at the Swedish legation in Budapest.
By that time, 400,000 Hungarian Jews had been deported to Nazi death camps.
Wallenberg redesigned the protective passes to make them look more official, so that they could be more effective and he also acquired some 30 houses in front of which he placed Swedish flags and declared the properties Swedish territory.
It was in these houses that he hid literally thousands of Jews.
Although classified information was usually declassified after thirty years in Sweden, in the case of her uncle, she said, it took 55 years for the authorities to open the archives.