Raoul Wallenberg’s fate and a Swedish billion-kronor loan to the Soviet Union

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Can a Swedish billion-kronor loan to the Soviet Union explain Staffan Söderblom’s disastrous meeting with Stalin?

By Peter Axelsson

On the evening of June 15, 1946, the gates of the Kremlin open. Swedish Ambassador Staffan Söderblom is granted a rare audience with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. The meeting was initiated by Söderblom. The brief conversation focuses on only one topic – missing Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who disappeared in Hungary a year and a half ago. Söderblom reports to Stalin that Wallenberg is probably dead, and asks for official confirmation that he is not in the Soviet Union.

Nothing could be more wrong. Raoul Wallenberg is alive and imprisoned near the Kremlin. Just less than six weeks before the interview, a senior Soviet diplomat had given Söderblom to understand that Wallenberg might be alive and in a camp. Why then did Söderblom speculate before Stalin that Raoul Wallenberg was most likely dead?

A few days after Söderblom’s conversation with the Soviet dictator, the Swedish government announces plans for a trade loan of one billion Swedish kronor (SEK) to the Soviet Union (which was equivalent to about $25 million at the time; $500 million in today’s value). Swedish diplomats know that the ernormously large loan will be highly unpopular with the Swedish public. In his article, researcher and risk analyst PETER AXELSSON examines whether and how Staffan Söderblom’s meeting with Stalin and his disastrous statements to Raoul Wallenberg in June 1946 were connected to plans for a Swedish-Soviet trade agreement.

Peter Axelsson – works as a risk analyst focusing on Eastern Europe. His publications include a political analysis of military shipments on the passenger ferry M / S Estonia (Kvartal, Sept. 26, 2019). Axelsson holds a Master of Science in Economics and a Swedish Master of Laws.

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The article is the second of a three-part series of articles on the fate of the Swedish diplomat initiated by the Raoul Wallenberg Research Initiative 70 (RWI-70).

The first article by Bengt Jangfeldt appeared on April 4, 2021.

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