New information and insights gained from Russian archives have re-opened the debate over whether Russian officials intentionally withheld key information in the case of Raoul Wallenberg – an infamous diplomat who saved the lives of Jews scheduled for transportation to concentration camps during World War II. The young Swede was sent on a mission to issue emergency passports to Hungarian Jews. Upon the Soviet invasion of Hungary, Wallenberg was summoned to a meeting from which he and his chauffeur never returned.
According to a researcher working on the case, the release of the new information “further proves that such documentation has not been destroyed, but currently is and has always been available”.
In November 2009, the Russian authorities told researchers Dr. Vadim Birstein and Susanne Berger that previously censored interrogation registers from Lubyanka prison for July 23, 1947 showed that a “Prisoner Nr. 7” had been interviewed that day. According to the pair, the Russian officials indicated that with “great likelihood” that prisoner was Raoul Wallenberg.
If the information were correct, it would mean that Raoul Wallenberg was still alive six days after 17th July 1947 – the date which Soviet authorities had claimed for years as his official date of death. According to Berger “the register information had been available to Russian authorities for decades, yet was not shared even with the official Swedish-Russian Working Group that had been formally charged with investigating the case between 1991 and 2001”.
The new documentation relates to Raoul Wallenberg’s longtime cellmate in Lefortovo prison, Willy Rödel. Berger alleges that a cover-up was effected by removing some of Rödel’s records:
“It is now clear that Russian officials have withheld 57 pages from his file, which undoubtedly would provide information about Raoul Wallenberg’s person and his time in captivity. We therefore must conclude that Russian officials have also not told the truth about other documentation we have requested.”
The new documentation came to light in a new Russian book “Secrets of the Third Reich Diplomacy: German Diplomats, Leaders of Foreign Military Missions, Military Policemen and Police Attaches in Soviet Captivity. Documents from Investigation Files. 1944-1955”, published as part of a series from the Aleksander Yakovlev Foundation in Moscow. It raises the prospect that more information relating to Raoul Wallenberg survives in addition to the “operative correspondence file” which researchers and the Working Group have been refused access to.
4th August 2011 marks what would have been Raoul Wallenberg’s 99th birthday and the date signals the formal opening of commemorations in Sweden of his 100th birthyear. Berger hopes that the event will provide new impetus for the search for answers as to what became of the noted Swedish diplomat:
“Aside from educating a new generation about what Wallenberg stood for, the question of how and when he died should also be addressed. It is becoming more and more evident that the case can in fact be solved and that the Russian side has known far more than it has ever been willing to share.”
Dr. Vadim Birstein and Susanne Berger have both served as independent consultants to the Swedish-Russian Working Group that investigated Raoul Wallenberg’s fate.