Russian authorities apparently know much more about the full circumstances of Raoul Wallenberg’s fate than they have admitted, yet Swedish officials do not push for answers
Susanne Berger Vadim Birstein
This year marks the 75th anniversary of Raoul Wallenberg’s humanitarian mission to Budapest, to save the close to 200,000 Hungarian Jews that remained in the Hungarian capital from certain death at the hands of the Nazis. Wallenberg’s important legacy of empathy and courage has gained increasing recognition, also in his home country. However, this does not mean that all is well with the Wallenberg case in Sweden – in particular, with the official Swedish handling of the continuing efforts by Raoul Wallenberg’s family to clarify the full circumstances of his fate.
On March 26, 2018 Marie von Dardel-Dupuy, Raoul Wallenberg’s niece, filed an extensive new research application with several Swedish archives, including those of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD) and the Wallenberg business family archive. After almost a year and a half – a full 500 days – the Foreign Ministry has finally indicated that they are ready to present a formal response. The Wallenberg family archive, on the other hand, continues to remain silent.
Ms. von Dardel-Dupuy is the daughter of Professor Guy von Dardel, Raoul Wallenberg’s brother and founder of the first International Commission on the Whereabouts and Fate of Raoul Wallenberg during the years 1990-1991. On the initiative of Soviet government, the group was succeeded by the bilateral Swedish-Russian Working Group (1991-2000), which Guy von Dardel joined as an official member.
The new research project, initiated in March 2018, aims to obtain a more complete picture of the background of Wallenberg’s disappearance in both Russia and Sweden. At the same time, researchers are trying to determine in greater detail what considerations and motives guided the respective officials handling the investigation through the years.
The formal research request – filed jointly by us and Ms. von Dardel-Dupuy – was extensive and involved numerous archival collections. We were, therefore, prepared for a longer waiting period. However, after Swedish Foreign Ministry officials in May 2018 informed us that a shelf-meter of documentation remains “unassessed” (unreleased) in the Foreign Ministry archive, totaling approximately 40,000 documents, the inquiry stalled. It also became very clear that Swedish officials were not interested in a constructive dialogue. When we asked for a meeting to discuss the application, in order to ensure the most effective handling of the complex request, the Ministry’s Legal Department informed us that they would not meet with us while the review was ongoing.
When, after a few months, Ms. von Dardel-Dupuy applied to study some of the requested documentation that is no longer subject to any restrictions, the Ministry’s Legal Department told her that none of the proposed dates were suitable. Ministry officials assured her, however, that they took her inquiry “very seriously”, that the review was “in the finishing stages” and that the matter would be resolved “in the near future”. This was in early February 2019. On June 3, another letter arrived, again from the Ministry’s Legal Office, advising us that the review would be completed “sometime in the early fall” and that a meeting could perhaps be arranged at that point. Finally, On August 12, the Swedish Foreign Ministry phoned to invite Ms. von Dardel-Dupuy, who resides in Switzerland, to an “information meeting” about the upcoming release of the new documentation scheduled for August 27, 2019. Officials made no effort to ascertain if it would be possible for any of us – who all live abroad – to attend on such a short notice. They have since apologized.
The reply from the Wallenberg family archive (Stiftelse för Ekonomisk Historisk Forskning inom Bank och Företagande, SEHFBF) was even less constructive, not to say rude. So far, the Chief Archivist Pehr Hedenqvist has sent only two terse messages stating that a) the review is not finished; b) the archivists could not meet Marie von Dardel-Dupuy or researchers, as requested, while the review was ongoing; and c) there was no approximate date when the review might be concluded.
No other archive imposed similar restrictions. According to Swedish laws governing access to public records, research inquiries have to be answered in a timely manner. Instead, the current tactic of extensive delays adds a cynical new twist to Sweden’s vaunted “Principle of Openness”. It’s simply a refusal by another name, covered with a layer of eager assurances that all is well – a sort of “non-refusal” refusal whereby one avoids the unpleasantness of an outright rejection of the application.
The official rules (laws) of freedom of information do not apply to private archives like those of the Wallenberg family. However, the archivists’ behavior indicates a thinly veiled attempt to play for time, rather than to deal with the questions posed in a serious manner, until applicants finally run out of patience, energy or die. Meanwhile, Swedish officials never have to say “no”.
The families of the crew of the DC-3 aircraft that was shot down by a Soviet fighter plane in June 1952, over the Baltic Sea, will surely recognize the tactic. In late 2017, they filed a request to the Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) to renew the search for the four men who continue to remain unaccounted for. Eighteen months later, the surviving relatives, all of whom are in their 80s, are still waiting for a proper reply. A formal decision and a “partial report” (delrapport) promised for December 2018 never materialized.
The message this behavior sends is clear. Swedish representatives continue to say publicly that discovering the full truth about the fate of these men, all of whom disappeared in the line of duty, remains a priority. Their official actions instead suggest that the Swedish government simply wants all open questions as well as the families to go away.
Just like in the DC-3 case, the issues at the heart of the new Wallenberg inquiry are hardly frivolous. In fact, they are extremely serious. It is now clear that Russian authorities intentionally withheld crucial documentation in the Wallenberg case from the public for decades. Additionally, it appears that Russia engaged in an active campaign of disinformation during the 1990s and through the 2000s, in order to influence the Wallenberg investigation at crucial moments. The new information makes it quite obvious that Russian authorities know much more about Raoul Wallenberg and what happened to him than they have revealed so far.
The actions of Swedish officials in the investigation continue to raise important questions as well.The biggest problems researchers faced during the official Working Group investigation was the failure of Swedish officials to insist more forcefully on access to original, uncensored documentation in Russian archives, especially in the FSB (Federal Security Service) Central Archive. A huge problem was also the fact that the Swedish Working Group did not appoint any professional historian or researcher who was fluent in Russian. They consulted with such experts, but they did not formally include them in the Working Group.
All this allowed Russian officials to keep a tight control over the investigation, by providing only a highly selective set of materials. It also made the independent verification of information provided by the Russian side virtually impossible. The missing documentation is needed to solve the fundamental unanswered questions in the Wallenberg case: Why exactly was Raoul Wallenberg detained in Hungary in 1945? How did Stalin and the Soviet leadership assess his case? And what happened to Raoul Wallenberg after March 1947, when his trail breaks off in the Internal (Lubyanka) Prison in Moscow?
Recently, new information has come to lightthat lends even greater urgency to researchers’ requests for direct access and full disclosure of specific records, in Russia as well as in Sweden.
1. Swedish officials knew that Soviet State Security Official Lt. General Pavel Sudoplatov lied in his widely publicized 1994 memoir about the alleged poisoning death of Raoul Wallenberg but did not share the information with the public.
Documentation obtained from Swedish and Russian archives calls into serious question the claims made by the Soviet state security official Lt. General Pavel Sudoplatov in his 1994 memoir that Raoul Wallenberg was allegedly poisoned by Grigory Mairanovsky, head of the secret MGB Toxicological Laboratory. (Pavel Sudoplatov and Anatoli Sudoplatov, with Jerrold L. and Leona P. Schecter. Special Tasks, Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1994) In fact, when questioned by Swedish representatives, Sudoplatov frankly admitted that he had no personal knowledge about the Wallenberg case, and that he based his claims entirely on information he had obtained from Russian media reports in the early 1990s. For still unexplained reasons Swedish officials did not include Sudoplatov’s clarifications in the final Swedish Working Group Report released in 2000.
Additionally, Sudoplatov was not merely an outside observer of Mairanovsky’s activities. Instead, from 1946 to 1950, Mairanovsky poisoned numerous people on direct orders of Sudoplatov, who knew the background and the names of Mairanovsky’s victims. Therefore, if Stalin had ordered Sudoplatov to kill Raoul Wallenberg, and Mairanovsky had carried out the murder, Sudoplatov would have known about it. He would not merely hypothesize about the killing in his book. Already in 1966, while himself imprisoned, Sudoplatov outlined in great detail to the Party leadership other killings and his key role in them. He never mentioned Raoul Wallenberg’s name in any of his statements. In fact, it appears that the primary intention behind Sudoplatov’s 1994 claims was to indirectly confirm the official Soviet government version of Wallenberg’s fate in order to prejudice or limit the Wallenberg investigation at that time. The Soviet authorities announced in 1957 that Wallenberg had died suddenly at age 34 in his prison cell on July 17, 1947, supposedly of natural causes, as a result of a heart attack – a highly suspicious scenario.
However, Sudoplatov’s lies do not eliminate the possibility that Raoul Wallenberg died or was killed in 1947. Most likely, the goal of the Soviet 1957 version and Sudoplatov’s more recent claims was to cover up the true time and cause of Raoul Wallenberg’s death. The Swedish-Russian Working Group conducted interviews with Pavel Sudoplatov and his son Anatoli, who compiled much of the material for his father’s 1994 memoir. The transcripts of these interviews remain currently classified, as do those of other former members of the Soviet and later, the Russian state security services.
2. Swedish officials did not press Russian authorities to reveal important details about an unidentified Prisoner no. 7 who may have been Raoul Wallenberg
Soviet and later Russian officials withheld for decades information about a still unidentified Prisoner no. 7 who was interrogated in the Internal (Lubyanka) Prison in late July 1947 and who may have been Raoul Wallenberg. The decision not to release this information was most likely motivated by the wish not to draw public attention to data that could possibly challenge the official Soviet version of Wallenberg’s death on July 17, 1947.
The prisoner in question was first interrogated in the presence of Wallenberg’s long-term cellmate Willy Rödel on July 22, 1947. The next day, on July 23, 1947, Prisoner no. 7 was interrogated again, this time together with the Hungarian citizen Vilmos Langfelder, Wallenberg’s driver, for more than 16 and a half hours. According to FSB archivists, Prisoner no. 7 was “with great likelihood […] the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.” If true, it would mean Wallenberg was alive at least six days after his official date of death.
When Swedish officials learned of this sensational information in 2009, they did essentially nothing to press Russian officials to provide access to the documentation that could help to establish the identity of Prisoner no. 7. The fact that Swedish representatives devoted very little effort to follow up information that was potentially the most important lead to emerge in the Wallenberg case since 1957 is both surprising and troubling. Even if Prisoner no. 7 was not Raoul Wallenberg, obtaining full information about this person would be a matter of vital importance for the Wallenberg investigation.
It is unclear at this point if Swedish officials knew about Prisoner no. 7 as early as the 1990s. During the time of the Working Group, Russian officials provided only heavily censored copies of the interrogation registers for the Internal (Lubyanka) Prison. However, in 1992, according to his own statements, Ambassador Hans Magnusson, Chairman of the Swedish side of the Swedish-Russian Working Group, was allowed to inspect the Lubyanka Prison interrogation registers for the years 1945-1949. Ambassador Magnusson apparently did not notice or report any entries for a Prisoner no. 7 on 22-23 July 1947. Requests by researchers, as well as by Guy von Dardel – a full member of the Working Group – to review the interrogation registers themselves or to obtain an uncensored copy of the full line-up of prisoners called for interrogation on the days of July 22-23, 1947 were repeatedly ignored by both Swedish and Russian officials during the official Working Group investigation. FSB officials continue to refuse such access even today, resulting in Marie von Dardel-Dupuy’s decision to sue the agency in 2017.
3. Swedish officials did not insist on access to the original, uncensored investigation documents of German diplomat Willy Rödel, Wallenberg’s long-term cellmate in Moscow prisons and of other prisoners closely associated with the Wallenberg case
Russian officials almost certainly have had more information about Raoul Wallenberg and his case than they have released. In November 2009 Russian officials finally admitted that they had lied for years about the fact that a large part of the investigation records of the German diplomat Willy Rödel, Raoul Wallenberg’s long-term cellmate, has been preserved. During the time of the Working Group, Russian officials had provided only a few copied pages concerning Rödel’s imprisonment. However, Swedish officials never insisted on access to the original documentation or to the file in which the papers were discovered. This file should be reviewed because it contains information about the cases of several prominent foreign diplomats in Soviet imprisonment during the years 1945-1947. The material would offer important points of comparison for the Wallenberg case.
The preservation of Rödel’s investigation documents, including his prisoner card and his diplomatic passport, raises the question if a similar documentation continues to exist for Raoul Wallenberg. In October 1989, officials of the KGB (predecessor of the current FSB) returned Wallenberg’s diplomatic passport and prisoner card, together with some of his other personal belongings, to his family. At the time, the KGB made the dubious claim that the items had been discovered purely by chance in the KGB archives a few weeks earlier.
During the time of the Working Group, Russian officials released only a few heavily censored excerpts of the transcripts of interrogations of several other prisoners who were closely associated with the Wallenberg’s case. Swedish officials conducted a review of the investigation files for some of these prisoners but did not ensure that independent researchers, including Raoul Wallenberg’s brother, were given similar access.
Soviet state security officials often learned important information from prisoners who functioned as cell spies. The information these prisoners provided was stored in a separate file of such informants, the so-called “Working Agent File” (rabochee agenturnoe delo). These highly secret files are almost certainly preserved but have never been released or shown to anybody. From [Russian] documents it is know that at least two of Wallenberg and Langfelder’s cellmates were cell-informants. Most likely, Rödel also reported on Wallenberg because in 1944, before he was placed with Wallenberg, he wrote to SMERSH investigators that he was “ready not to conceal anything” and wanted “to help in interrogations” of other arrested German diplomats. Therefore, access to the Agent Files of these persons would be extremely important.
4. Swedish officials did not insist on direct access to prison registers regarding Raoul Wallenberg’s transfer to Lubyanka Prison in early March 1947 and related documents
The KGB, and later the FSB refused to release crucial details regarding Rödel’s and Wallenberg’s transfer from Lefortovo Prison to the Internal (Lubyanka) Prison in February-March 1947. Wallenberg was originally scheduled to be transferred with Rödel on February 26, 1947, but for still unknown reasons he was held back for a few days in Lefortovo Prison. It is currently not known when exactly Wallenberg was moved to Lubyanka Prison, on March 1 or on March 4, 1947 (FSB has never clarified the exact date or provided a full copy of the transfer record). Therefore, for at least four days, Wallenberg’s whereabouts are completely unknown. Possibly, there were additional interrogations of him we do not know about. Once he was moved to Lubyanka Prison, it is not clear if he shared again a cell with Willy Rödel, who was apparently placed in Cell no. 7, or if he was held separately.
The FSB has never allowed anyone to review independently one other important matter. The FSB Archive released a copy of a receipt Vilmos Langfelder was given in Lefortovo Prison for his personal possessions. This receipt was, apparently, taken from him before he was transferred to Lubyanka Prison during the night of July 22/23, 1947. The document carries a page number of the file in which it was archived. FSB archivists claim that no similar receipts have been discovered for Raoul Wallenberg or Willy Rödel. However, FSB officials have never permitted researchers to examine the file in question. They also have not allowed an independent review of the original entries made for Wallenberg, Langfelder and Rödel’s possessions in the register of prisoner possessions of Lubyanka Prison. Additionally, the FSB have never presented copies or showed the originals of the records of Wallenberg and Langfelder in the Alphabetic Names Registers of Lubyanka and Lefortovo prisons. All these entries could help clarify what happened to the prisoners during the crucial spring and summer of 1947.
5. Swedish authorities have not released details of Swedish intelligence operations in Hungary in 1943-1945
Several important questions arise from new documentation obtained from the archive of the Swedish Military Intelligence Service (MUST). The documents show that in 1943 Swedish intelligence officers entered into a secret intelligence sharing agreement with high-ranking members of the Hungarian military intelligence and counterintelligence organizations regarding Communist and Soviet espionage operations. Swedish involvement in such activities was highly sensitive because since June 28, 1941, Sweden officially represented Soviet interests in Hungary and other Axis countries.
Furthermore, members of the Swedish Legation in Budapest, including Raoul Wallenberg, extended their support to the Hungarian resistance whose main goals were the defeat of Nazism, and, at the same time, the prevention of a Soviet occupation of Hungary. The work of several Swedish signal intelligence officers deployed to Hungary during the years 1943-1945, as well as coordination of some of their activities with U.S. and British intelligence organizations, also requires clarification. Disclosure of this information would reveal a violation of neutrality by Swedish authorities.
Many questions exist also about other Swedish wartime actions in Hungary. Swedish companies and individuals, including Raoul Wallenberg, assisted in the protection of the assets of important Hungarian industrialists and businessmen from the Nazis. Raoul Wallenberg also pursued extensive plans for Hungary’s post-war reconstruction and restitution of Jewish property. Soviet security organizations apparently suspected that Wallenberg’s activities in Budapest were connected with some kind of espionage work, especially on behalf of the U.S.
It should be noted that almost all documents regarding Swedish intelligence operations in Hungary during World War II have disappeared from Swedish archives. The details must now be reconstructed from other sources to determine if Swedish authorities possibly feared the revelation of numerous neutrality violations once Raoul Wallenberg disappeared. Of special interest is the role of Captain Helmuth Ternberg, deputy head of the Swedish C-Bureau (military intelligence) during the war. Ternberg oversaw wartime Swedish intelligence activities in Hungary and he had close personal contacts to the Wallenberg family.
6. Swedish and Russian officials failed to trace key Soviet political reports on the detention of Raoul Wallenberg in Russian archives
The Swedish Working Group never properly analyzed the records released in 1991 by the FSB regarding Raoul Wallenberg’s detention in Hungary in January 1945. These include, in particular, the records of the Red Army’s Political Directorate. While Wallenberg was formally transferred to Moscow by operatives of the Soviet military counterintelligence (SMERSH), he was initially questioned by Red Army political officers. The Red Army Political Directorate was, in fact, not a part of the military command, but part of the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party. Its head, Aleksandr Shcherbakov, was not only a Politburo candidate member, but also a deputy Defense Commissar, i.e., Stalin’s deputy. It means that Stalin most likely was briefed about Raoul Wallenberg’s detention right from the start. It is known that in the case of Count István Bethlen, the former Prime Minister of Hungary (1921-1931) who was detained approximately at the same time as Wallenberg, interrogations by political officers were intense and there was a detailed correspondence of field units with Moscow headquarters. This information strongly suggests a possibility that documents regarding the Wallenberg Case exist in the archive of the Political Directorate that have never been released by Russian authorities.
7. Swedish and Russian officials failed to obtain the statements Raoul Wallenberg’s colleagues made to Soviet authorities in March-April 1945
It has never been clarified what exactly Raoul Wallenberg’s colleagues reported to Soviet officials when they themselves were detained by Soviet NKVD troops in Budapest in early 1945, and later, to their Swedish superiors. Formal reports of their statements to Soviet officials are possibly preserved in classified collections of the Russian State Military Archive (RGVA, Moscow). If any members of the Swedish Legation, including Raoul Wallenberg, had any direct or indirect connection to the Swedish-Anglo-American intelligence operations in Budapest in 1944, including providing support of the Hungarian resistance, it would be a possible explanation why Swedish officials decided to reveal as little as possible about these activities once Wallenberg disappeared. The same applies to any potential deals Wallenberg or the Legation members made with German and Hungarian Nazi representatives in order to save lives.
8. Swedish officials did not press Russian authorities for the release of Soviet intelligence reports about the Wallenberg business family, during and after World War II. There was also no review of the extensive contacts of the Soviet Commissariat/Ministry for Foreign Trade and Wallenberg controlled companies
Russian officials have repeatedly stated that special collections about the wartime business contacts of the Swedish bankers Marcus and Jacob Wallenberg – Raoul Wallenberg’s cousins-once-removed – with both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union exist in several Russian archives. However, only a few of these documents have been released so far and for unknown reasons, no representative of the Russian External Intelligence Service (SVR), whose archive keeps such materials, participated in the Swedish-Russian Working Group.
The Wallenbergs were certainly no strangers to Stalin and the Soviet leadership. The Wallenberg-controlled companies had a presence in Russia since 1916, especially the ball bearing trust SKF (Svenska Kullagerfabriken) that built a large ball bearing factory operating in Moscow under Swedish management until the 1930s. The SKF provided crucial deliveries to Moscow during WWII. Among other benefits the Soviet Union received from the association with the Wallenberg brothers personally was Marcus Wallenberg’s instrumental help in organizing the Finnish-Soviet peace negotiations in 1944, just a few months before Raoul Wallenberg’s detention.
Researchers have never had a chance to examine important documentation from the Soviet Commissariat/Ministry for Foreign Trade that would shed light on the extensive and complex economic contacts between Wallenberg family-controlled companies and the Soviet Union, before, during and after WWII. This includes, in particular, the records for the SKF trust.
There should exist, of course, vast documentation of this long history of business contracts and trade negotiations. The documents might provide some helpful clues about the attitudes of the Soviet leadership towards Sweden and the Wallenberg family, as well as the nature and extent of Swedish-Soviet business relations immediately before and after Raoul Wallenberg’s arrest. It may also give some additional insights regarding the possible reasons for Raoul Wallenberg’s detention and the Wallenberg brothers’ notably passive attitude toward his disappearance.
The Soviet and Swedish documentation concerning complex negotiations for compensation of lost Swedish businesses in the Soviet-occupied territories of Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, including the Wallenberg-controlled Swedish Match Companies, also remains inaccessible. These negotiations, which involved vast assets, were already in progress during the time when Raoul Wallenberg was detained and later disappeared in Moscow.
Soviet intelligence and diplomatic cables that mentioned the Wallenbergs remain overwhelmingly classified. The Russian side has also never produced any documentation of Raoul Wallenberg’s official contacts with the Soviet Trade Delegation in Stockholm for 1944.
Many other documents relevant to the case remain classified or inaccessible in various public and private Swedish archive collections. This includes information about the secret efforts Jacob Wallenberg made in 1954, a year after Stalin’s death, when he tried to obtain information about Raoul Wallenberg’s fate in the Soviet Union. Jacob Wallenberg allegedly attempted to establish contact with Soviet authorities via confidential business contacts in Prague, indicating that he was ready to make “great sacrifices” in order to learn what had happened to Raoul Wallenberg.
Access to additional documentation in both Swedish and Russian archives is also needed to determine the full extent of the contacts between Raoul Wallenberg and the Wallenberg brothers during WWII.The possible fear of revelations of certain sensitive information Raoul Wallenberg might have possessed may partially explain the profound passivity of Swedish officials as well as the Wallenberg family during the early years of Raoul Wallenberg’s disappearance. Such a scenario would constitute a particularly bitter irony, given the fact that Raoul Wallenberg’s mission in many ways had served to compensate for the many questionable activities of his country during the war, including those of his own relatives.
9. Swedish officials have not explained why Swedish authorities failed to act more decisively on Raoul Wallenberg’s behalf after May 1946, when Stalin signaled his readiness to improve political relations with Sweden and to conclude a Swedish-Soviet credit and trade agreement. More attention should also be paid to the chain of events that prompted the Swedish Envoy to Moscow, Staffan Söderblom, to request Soviet authorities in December 1945 and June 1946 to declare Raoul Wallenberg dead. In particular, his contacts with Alexandra Kollontay, the former Soviet Ambassador to Stockholm have not been fully examined.
A special Swedish commission, the so-called Elliasson Commission studied the official Swedish handling of the Raoul Wallenberg case at great length in 2003 and the extensive analysis provided many valuable insights. However, some issues should be examined in greater detail. This includes the question why Swedish officials in 1945, only months after Wallenberg’s arrest, so readily accepted the idea that Raoul Wallenberg was dead.
For the Swedish government and Wallenberg business family, the lengthy post-war investigation by the U.S. Treasury Department into Sweden’s wartime business affairs with Nazi Germany created both an enormous challenge and a major public embarrassment. In September 1945, a high-level Hungarian official informed Swedish representatives that the Soviet authorities had detained Raoul Wallenberg and allegedly planned to use him and his papers in the future trials of “leading persons in trade and finance … who over five years were German friendly.” Although the information remained unconfirmed, the remark can only have enhanced Swedish concerns.
In October 1945 Swedish diplomats shared the news with their U.S. counterparts, and they added that it was doubtful that the Soviets would “ever produce Wallenberg alive.” The reasons for this remark have never been established. At the time, Staffan Söderblom, the Swedish Ambassador to Moscow, was in Stockholm for consultations. Only two months later, in December 1945, Söderblom asked the Soviet Foreign Ministry official Aleksandr Abramov to issue an official declaration that Wallenberg was dead. He repeated his request in a meeting with Abramov on March 9, 1946, and, most importantly, again in June 15, 1946, during a unique appointment with the Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
Both the context and pattern of Söderblom’s behavior need to be studied more closely. For example, before Söderblom’s official requests in December 1945 and June 1946 to declare Raoul Wallenberg dead, he had just recently returned to the Soviet Union from visits to Stockholm. Söderblom, who did not enjoy the confidence of the Swedish Foreign Minister Östen Undén, supposedly received no specific instructions from his superiors regarding Wallenberg’s disappearance. However, as an experienced diplomat, Söderblom must have realized how his words would be interpreted by Soviet officials. Swedish authorities never reprimanded him for his statement to Stalin.
Also, Söderblom’s requests were preceded each time by personal discussions with the former Soviet Ambassador to Sweden Alexandra Kollontay, conducted at her private residence in Moscow. Kollontay’s role in these contacts remains unclear. She certainly could not have acted independently, without approval of the Soviet authorities. Although ill, officially she was still an adviser to the Soviet Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Furthermore, on April 5, 1946, Stalin and the Politburo (Soviet leaders closest to Stalin) decided “to improve relationships with Sweden” and instructed the Soviet Ambassador in Stockholm to inform the Swedish Foreign Minister Undén of Stalin’s offer of a quid-pro-quo: If a Swedish-Soviet “credit negotiations develop successfully”, “favorable political conditions” would be created between Sweden and the Soviet Union. On April 29, 1946, six weeks before Söderblom’s meeting with Stalin, the Soviet Ambassador briefed the Swedish Foreign Minister. The very next day, Söderblom reported from Moscow what he perceived to be a slight change in attitude of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Wallenberg case. The reasons why Swedish authorities did not push the question of Wallenberg’s disappearance more decisively at this time also deserves more attention.
The Swedish government, as well as the Wallenberg brothers, jumped at Stalin’s offer and in October 1946, the agreement was signed. There was no sign, however, of any effort to make the resolution of Raoul Wallenberg’s fate or his rescue part of the negotiations in any way. In November 1946, the Swedish Foreign Minister Undén had the opportunity to raise Wallenberg’s disappearance directly with the Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov at the United Nations but did not do so.
From Swedish documents it is known that about three weeks after the Soviet authorities informed the Swedish government about their willingness to conclude a trade agreement, on or around May 21, 1946, Marcus Wallenberg wrote a personal letter to Mme. Kollontay. It was, apparently, a follow-up to an earlier letter he had sent to her in April 1945 in which he asked her assistance to establish the whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg. The content of Marcus Wallenberg’s second letter has never been revealed. A copy of this letter should be preserved in both Swedish and Russian archives.
For unknown reasons, the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs released not all records of diplomatic meetings for the period of 1945-47. Even less materials were released for the years 1951-54.
10. Swedish authorities have never clarified if the Swedish diplomat Sverker Åström and other Swedish officials served Soviet interests
The ideological and political considerations that may have affected the official Swedish handling of the Raoul Wallenberg case since 1945 have never been fully identified and analyzed.
One person who had close insight into Wallenberg’s mission and the official Swedish handling of Wallenberg’s disappearance from the very beginning was the Swedish diplomat Sverker Åström (1915-2012). In 1944-46, Mr. Åström worked as the assistant to Eric von Post, head of the Political Department of the Swedish Foreign Ministry at the time. On many occasions it was Åström – a protégé of the strongly pro-Soviet Swedish Foreign Minister Östen Undén – who handled the official contacts with the Soviet Legation in Stockholm. It was Mr. Åström who accompanied Soviet Ambassador Kollontay home to Moscow in March 1945, when Moscow ordered her to urgently leave Stockholm. This meant he was one of the first Swedish diplomats from Stockholm to arrive there after Raoul Wallenberg’s disappearance.
Aström apparently also enjoyed the confidence of the Wallenberg brothers. In 1945, Marcus Wallenberg seriously considered appointing Åström to an informal advisory panel of several prominent Swedish Foreign Ministry officials, including deputy head of the Political Department Sven Grafström and State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Erik Boheman, to help the Wallenberg brothers handle the official U.S. Treasury Department investigation of the Wallenbergs’ wartime business affairs.
For decades Mr. Åström was the subject of serious suspicion that he may have acted in support of Soviet interests ever since 1943, when, as a young Swedish diplomat, he was stationed in the Soviet Union. His file remains classified in the archives of the Swedish Security Police (SÄPO). Potentially important documentation also remains classified and currently inaccessible in other Swedish intelligence archives as well as several private collections. Ms. von Dardel-Dupuy has asked the Swedish government for full information about Åström’s contacts throughout his career, as well as access to his records. So far, Swedish authorities have not complied with the request.
Sverker Åström’s affiliations must be fully clarified since he was directly involved with the Wallenberg case in one form or another for almost seventy years. During the important period of 1956-1963, he was directly in charge of the investigation, as head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s Political Department.
In January 1957, Åström stopped the secret, behind-the-scenes discussions about Raoul Wallenberg between Pavel Yerzin, a Soviet external intelligence officer under diplomatic cover, and the Finnish diplomat Åke Frey. Eighteen days later, on February 6, 1957, the Soviet leadership announced in the so-called Gromyko memorandum that Raoul Wallenberg had allegedly died of a heart attack in Moscow in 1947. The bulk of documentation concerning the Yerzine-Frey discussions remains classified in Russian archives. In particular, it must be established whether Mr. Åström and his associates ever tried to influence the official Swedish handling of the Wallenberg case, in 1945 and in later years, including the inquiry by the Swedish-Russian Working Group during the 1990s.
11. Swedish and Russian officials never provided a comprehensive list of other Swedish citizens in Soviet imprisonment
Swedish and Russian officials never provided researchers or Guy von Dardel with a comprehensive list of other Swedish citizens in Soviet imprisonment. The presence of these individuals in the Soviet prison system after 1945 undoubtedly caused great confusion among witnesses who claimed to have met or heard of Raoul Wallenberg after 1947. If such information had been presented, it would have made the Wallenberg investigation considerably more efficient and effective. Instead, the Swedish Foreign Ministry censored or withheld numerous witness statements from researchers during the time of the Working Group.
The data would have been especially important for the official investigation of Raoul Wallenberg’s alleged presence in Vladimir Prison after 1947. The Swedish Working Group allocated more than $300,000 for this study alone. However, it still remains unknown if any Swedish citizen or national was ever kept in that prison in the late 1940s-1960s.
The central question that arises for Wallenberg’s family and researchers is whether after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the main aim of Swedish as well as Russian authorities was to solve the mystery of Wallenberg’s disappearance or if their primary goal was the removal of the issue from the official Swedish-Soviet (Russian) political agenda. In other words, was the investigation more or less a foregone conclusion, and, in several respects, a waste of time, energy and good faith? And why was important information repeatedly withheld not only from independent researchers but from Raoul Wallenberg’s brother, a full member of the Working Group?
One more basic question is if both Swedish and Russian officials intentionally protected certain sensitive information. A few months ago, it became public that the Swedish government discussed and coordinated the release of documentation in the Wallenberg case with several countries, including Israel, during the 1980s. It must be established if similar discussions occurred more recently also with countries like the United States, Britain and especially Russia; as well as possibly with other concerned parties, including members of the Wallenberg business family.
75 years after Raoul Wallenberg risked his life as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest, it is time for Swedish and Russianofficials to lay all their cards on the table and to permit Marie von Dardel-Dupuy, as well as researchers, access to the full investigative record of the Wallenberg case.