Raoul Wallenberg’s fate
Open Letter to Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde
75 years ago, Raoul Wallenberg disappeared in the Soviet Union. Soviet and later Russian officials repeatedly lied about important aspects of his case. Russian authorities today continue to refuse access to key documentation found in Russian archives. As emerged recently, Swedish authorities, too, have withheld important information from Raoul Wallenberg’s family and the public.
Wallenberg’s family turns today with an Open Letter to Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ann Linde, urging her to take more determined action to establish the full circumstances of Raoul Wallenberg’s fate.
Open Letter to Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde’
The Honorable Ann Linde
Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
SE-103 33 Stockholm
Sweden January 27, 2020
75 years have now passed since Raoul Wallenberg’s heroic mission to protect Hungary’s Jewish population from Nazi terror and January 17, 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of Mr. Wallenberg’s disappearance in the Soviet Union.
It is time that the world finally learned what exactly happened to a man who is rightfully recognized as a true hero of the resistance against the Holocaust, one of the greatest crimes in the history of humanity.
When in July 1944 the Swedish government assigned Raoul Wallenberg, at age 31, as a diplomat to Hungary, already more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews had been deported and killed by the Nazi death machinery. Over the next six months, Mr. Wallenberg’s efforts – carried out with crucial support from the Hungarian resistance and the diplomatic representatives from other neutral countries – managed to protect, house and feed many of the close to 150,000 Jews left in Budapest. The extensive humanitarian rescue action required an almost super human effort, one that tested every ounce of Mr. Wallenberg’s resourcefulness and strength.
Raoul Wallenberg’s subsequent detention and imprisonment by Soviet military counterintelligence in January 1945 was entirely illegal, a violation of his diplomatic status and Swedish neutrality. It also constituted a serious violation of Wallenberg’s human rights. Russian authorities formally acknowledged this fact when in 2000, the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office issued an official decree of rehabilitation for Raoul Wallenberg. The decree emphasized that Wallenberg was detained for purely political reasons, “without charges of a specific crime”. This form of coercion, the statement concluded, made Mr. Wallenberg a victim of “political repression”.
According to international law – including The European Convention on Human Rights and The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (2006) – victims of repression like Mr. Wallenberg and their families have a legal right to the truth. This right to the truth requires the Russian government to provide a full explanation of the fate of Raoul Wallenberg, including the disclosure of all relevant documentation that currently exists in Russian archives. However, the Russian State Security Service (FSB), as well as the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office, among others, refuse to provide Mr. Wallenberg’s family access to the files about his case, even though their archives contain records that are unknown to the public.
Successive Soviet and Russian governments have lied about important aspects of Mr. Wallenberg’s disappearance. Highly relevant documentation was intentionally withheld from Raoul Wallenberg’s family and researchers for decades. The failure of Russian officials to share key information during the decade-long investigation by the official Swedish-Russian Working Group (1991-2000) casts a shadow over the whole inquiry.
The withheld information raises serious questions about the official version of Raoul Wallenberg’s death in Soviet imprisonment, which supposedly occurred as a result of a heart attack, on July 17, 1947. In fact, newly released documentation from the archive of the Swedish Foreign Ministry shows that Russian state security officials themselves have strong doubts about the validity of this claim, known as the Smoltsov Report, which was presented by Soviet authorities in 1957.
In 2011, and again in 2012, FSB archivists confirmed to Swedish diplomats that Wallenberg was almost certainly held as Prisoner no. 7 in the Internal (Lubyanka) Prison in Moscow, where he was interrogated on July 23, 1947, six days after his official date of death on July 17,1947. Unfortunately, Swedish officials never shared this important information with Raoul Wallenberg’s family or researchers.
It further appears that in 1991 at least four pages were omitted from the release of the so-called Vyshinsky Note regarding Raoul Wallenberg in which the Soviet leadership in August 1947 officially claimed that Wallenberg was not in the Soviet Union. The missing pages should still remain today in the Russian Federation Presidential Archive (AP RF). They could provide important background details about the reasons for Wallenberg’s detention and possibly his fate. Similarly, important questions concerning the statements from several witnesses who reported hearing or meeting Raoul Wallenberg in Soviet prisons after 1947 must be fully clarified.
The reason for the failure to establish the full facts about Mr. Wallenberg’s fate is most likely not lack of information or a gap in international law. The reason is, rather, Russia’s failure to disclose all pertinent documents and to comply with current, applicable law.
We, the undersigned, would like to express to you personally, as well as the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, our appreciation for officially taking up the question of Raoul Wallenberg’s fate once again with the Russian authorities this past October. The Swedish government continues to have a special responsibility to determine what happened to its own citizen, its own diplomat who is an honorary citizen in five countries – the United States, Canada, Israel, Hungary and Australia. We, therefore, urge you to employ all means at your disposal to finally bring justice to Mr. Wallenberg and his family.
Such determined action will serve as a powerful affirmation to the world that Raoul Wallenberg’s enduring legacy of courage, compassion and an uncompromising defense of human rights remain as vitally important and admirable as they were 75 years ago.
Marie Dupuy, Daughter of Professor Guy von Dardel, Raoul Wallenberg’s half-brother
Louise von Dardel, Daughter of Professor Guy von Dardel
Matilda von Dardel, Sister-in-law of Raoul Wallenberg
Cecilia Åhlberg, Granddaughter of Nina Lagergren, Raoul Wallenberg’s half-sister
Mi Ankarcrona, Daughter of Nina Lagergren
Nane Annan, Daughter of Nina Lagergren
Astri Lidman, Daughter of Nina Lagergren
Bengt Lagergren, Son of Nina Lagergren
Narek Aghajanyan, Artist
Jesús Alcalá, Attorney
Susanne Berger, Coordinator, The Raoul Wallenberg Research Initiative (RWI-70)
Henrik Berggren, Author and historian
Rachel Bernheim, Chairman, The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States
Vadim Birstein, Biologist, historian and author
Diane Blake, President, The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States
Percy Bratt, Attorney
Thomas Buergenthal, ret. judge of the International Court of Justice; Lobingier Professor Emeritus of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence
John le Carré, Author
Hon. Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Haideh Daragahi, Publicist
Peter Dahlin, Director, Safeguard Defenders
Lars Dencik, Senior Professor, Social Psychologist
Caroline Edelstam, President, The Edelstam Foundation
Sir Harold Evans, former editor-in-chief of the Sunday Times and The Times (London)
Elizabeth Holtzman, former U.S. Member of Congress, House of Representatives
Amineh Kakabaveh, member of the Swedish Parliament
Ari Kaplan, President of the Independent Investigation Into Raoul Wallenberg’s Fate
Hon. David Kilgour, J.D., former Secretary of State, Canada, member of the Swedish Parliament
Marvin W. Makinen, Professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, The University of Chicago
David Matas, Barrister, Canada
Susan E. Mesinai, The Independent Investigation Into Raoul Wallenberg’s Fate
Gerald Nagler, Honorary Chair, Civil Rights Defenders
Suzanne Nessim, Artist
Monica Nagler Wittgenstein, Literary critic, former President of Swedish PEN
Mikael Oscarsson, Member of the Swedish Parliament
Agneta Pleijel, Author
Arne Ruth, former editor-in-chief, Dagens Nyheter
Richard A. Salomon, Chief Executive Officer, Vantage Point Consultants; Vice President-Board of Directors, Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
Nat Stern, John W. and Ashley E. Frost Professor Of Constitutional Law, Florida State University College of Law
Laurence H. Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School
Lovice Maria Ullein-Reviczky, Antal Ullein-Reviczky Foundation Hungary
Frank Vajda, Professor, AO, Officer of the Order of the Polar Star (Sweden), Chairman of the Australian Raoul Wallenberg Committee; saved by Raoul Wallenberg
Irmtrud Wojak, Historian, Executive Director, The Buxus Foundation
Maciej Zaremba, Author
*All affiliations for the purpose of identification only