The Last Word on Wallenberg? New Investigations, New Questions
by William Korey
On January 17, 1945, Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat stationed in Budapest but working for the U.S. War Refugee Board who had issued protective passports to tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews, was arrested by Soviet secret police and disappeared into the Gulag. More than half a century later, the questions about his fate have yet to be satisfactorily answered: Why was he arrested and detained? Of what value was he to the Soviets? Where was he taken? What ultimately became of him?
It would seem that this courageous civil servant who "threw protocol to the wind to save human lives" was abandoned diplomatically by both his American and his Swedish sponsors and allowed to languish in the Russian prison system. But the memory of his heroism was kept alive by those he had snatched from the Nazi death apparatus. In July 1979, the American Jewish Committee, at a press conference, announced the formation of a Free Wallenberg Committee. In 1981 Congressman Tom Lantos, whose wife, Annette, had been rescued by Wallenberg, sponsored legislation, with the active support of the AJC, to confer honorary U.S. citizenship upon Wallenberg-only the second time in history that such an honor had been bestowed upon a non-American.
The conferral of citizenship gave the United States a "legal basis to pursue the case of the ultimate American hostage." The mounting outside pressure, as well as internal political changes within the former Soviet Union, led to a partial opening of the Russian archives and the creation of a Swedish-Russian Commission to investigate Wallenberg's fate.
On January 12, 2001, after ten years of archival research, a press conference was scheduled in Stockholm to unveil the long-awaited findings. But what emerged was not one document but two: The Russian working group and the Swedish working group issued quite different and contradictory reports. They offered alternative explanations as to why Wallenberg had been arrested and what had become of him. In addition, three independent researchers, using newly released materials and testimonies of eyewitnesses, came to their own conclusions.
Dr. William Korey, who has extensively researched the Wallenberg case and written on the subject previously for the American Jewish Committee (The Wallenberg Mystery: Fifty-five Years Later, 2000), analyzes these five reports in the present volume. He traces the snags that befell the official inquiry and the cover-ups that resulted in missing documents and officially sanctioned hoaxes. The investigation that began in a spirit of collaborative collegial inquiry descended into a fractious exploration, resulting in the emergence of two irreconcilable reports. Piecing together the evidence and the conclusions of each of the investigations, Korey weaves a fascinating mystery story, which still has no resolution.
Accounting for the fate of Raoul Wallenberg has been on the agenda of the American Jewish Committee for more than two decades, and Dr. Korey's analysis advances our understanding. We will not abandon the inquiry until all questions about this hero's fate are answered, and his memory honored through a full disclosure of the truth.
David A. Harris
The American Jewish Committee