July 6, 2012
'Re-open probe into Raoul Wallenbergs fate'
(The Local) Official claims from Russia
about when Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg died appear
ever more doubtful as new evidence emerges, argues historian
Susanne Berger, who has called for the investigation in
Wallenberg's fate to be re-opened.
After conducting a decade-long investigation, the official
joint Swedish-Russian Working Group studying Wallenberg's
fate in Russia concluded its report in 2001 with these succinct
words: "The burden of proof regarding the death of
Raoul Wallenberg rests with the Russian government".
Eleven years later, the world is still waiting for that
As Hans Magnusson, the former Chairman of the Swedish Working
Group remarked in a speech in Moscow a few weeks ago, the
idea that Wallenberg died on July 17th, 1947 seems
an increasingly shaky one.
In January, Magnusson was appointed by Swedish Foreign
Minister Carl Bildt to conduct a fact-finding mission to
study what new information exists in the Wallenberg case
and how it can be best followed up. Bildt took the step
in response to growing complaints by researchers about the
lack of direct access to Russian archives.
Swedish officials have known for decades that Russia has
important records that it refuses to show. However, the
Swedish government currently considers the Raoul Wallenberg
case purely a historical issue and wants any remaining questions
solved through cooperative archival research.
For researchers, this means that the Wallenberg inquiry
is essentially moving in circles. They know exactly what
documentation they need to see but cannot obtain the necessary
official support from either Russian or Swedish officials
to gain access to it.
Last September, the chief of the Russian State Security
Service's (FSB) Archival Directorate, Lt. Gen. Vasily Khristoforov,
emphasized in an interview with the Associated Press (AP)
that he was more than convinced that if Wallenberg
outlived the official date of his death, it could only have
been by a few days.
However, Khristoforov offered no insight from what particular
knowledge or documentation he derived this certainty.
A closer examination of all documentation currently available
in the case shows that there is a surprisingly even split
in evidence pointing towards the possible death of Raoul
Wallenberg in July 1947 and that of his possible strict
isolation at the time.
It was in fact Khristoforov and the FSB archives that have
thrown the most serious doubt on the old Soviet version
that Wallenberg died on July 17th, 1947.
In 2009, Khristoforov revealed that a Prisoner No. 7 who
is believed to have been Raoul Wallenberg was interrogated
on July 23rd, 1947, six days after what Russian officials
have maintained is the date of Wallenberg's death.
What we do know for sure is that Raoul Wallenberg was questioned
on March 11th, 1947 in Lubyanka prison.
From then on, he could have been either killed or continued
to be held in Lubyanka, Lefortovo or another prison
most likely in or around Moscow as a prisoner under
Another possibility is that Wallenberg was formally charged
and sentenced for a crime and sent to a known isolation
facility like those at the prisons of Vladimir, Verkhne
Uralsk or Alexandrovsk.
Alternatively, he could have been transferred to a Special
Camp or possibly a psychiatric hospital.
Regardless, some kind of decisive action was definitely
taken on or around July 22nd or 23rd, 1947.
The absence of any independently corroborated witness testimonies
about Raoul Wallenbergs presence in the Soviet prison
system after 1947 suggests that he may have died around
that time, but the issue is far from clear.
The inquiry into Wallenberg's death should be reopened,
argues Nikita Petrov, the deputy director of the human rights
group Memorial in Moscow.
As he told the Russian news agency Interfax on May 29th,
from my point of view, this could be a criminal inquiry.
Murder is a criminal offense, and here it is important to
identify all those responsible and reconstruct the picture
of the crime."
Unlike Petrov, other Wallenberg experts do not believe
it is certain that Wallenberg was killed in July 1947.
Important questions raised by Susan Mesinai, Dr. Marvin
Makinen and Ari Kaplan, the former independent consultants
to the Swedish-Russian Working Group, regarding the numbering
of highly secret foreign prisoners in Soviet captivity remain
In her report from 2001, Mesinai pointed out that the chronological
numbering of about thirty sentenced prisoners held in Vladimir
between the years 1947-1952 shows obvious gaps.
In fact, for the years 1947-48 the most critical
period of the Wallenberg case six numbers remain
It is possible that one of these numbers was assigned to
Raoul Wallenberg, Mesinai writes.
And Russian authorities still have not identified an unknown
Swedish prisoner held in Vladimir Prison during the 1950s
and early 1960s. The answer to this simple question alone
could move the case dramatically forward.
While some experts stress that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin
would have had little use for Raoul Wallenberg after 1947,
others dispute that assertion.
As the Swedish Working Group Report suggests, the killing
of a foreign diplomat was a very serious matter.
"Although we know that Stalin had few, if any, moral
scruples," the report argues, "it would have been
exceptional to order the execution of a diplomat from a
neutral country. It might have appeared simpler to keep
him in isolation."
In other words, Stalin may have wanted to gauge if Wallenberg
could not be of some use to him in the months or years ahead.
But key Russian intelligence files that could provide insight
into the Soviet leaderships thinking on this issue
remain firmly classified in Russian archives.
How long could Raoul Wallenberg have survived?
That question is currently impossible to answer. The official
Soviet notification of Wallenberg's death to the Swedish
government from February 1957 raises doubts that he was
alive beyond that time.
However, investigators continue to wonder why Soviet officials
at that moment offered such an ambiguous account of his
alleged death and why Russian officials have not provided
a fuller explanation of Wallenberg's fate since then.
It appears very unlikely at this stage that the current
Russian leadership does not know what happened to Raoul
High level institutional memory was available until very
recently and to some degree remains available today.
Sergei Kartashov, head of the Fourth Department, Third
Main Directorate of MGB that investigated Raoul Wallenberg's
case in 1947, died in 1979.
Anastas Mikoyan, a longtime member of the Politburo, survived
until 1978; long-time Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav
Molotov was still alive in 1986 while Nikolai Selivanovsky,
Deputy to Minister of State Security Viktor Abakumov who
had direct authority over Wallenbergs case, died only
Two of Raoul Wallenberg's interrogators, Danil Kopelyanksy
and his colleague Boris Solovov, lived past the year 2000.
According to Nikita Petrov, there is little doubt that
Russian authorities are continuing to conceal important
documentation. As he told Interfax, there is a bulk
of evidence which is gradually coming to the surface...This
gives us reasons to suggest that not everything was investigated
in the Wallenberg case."
Arseny Roginsky, co-founder of Russia-based human rights
group Memorial, shares this assessment.
"Is it possible to clarify the Wallenberg case? Yes,
it is possible," Roginsky said in a recent interview,
adding that this requires "free independent researchers
working in Russian archives.
But direct access to key documentation continues to be
the core problem in a country where independent historical
review finds itself under increasing pressure. In 2009,
Mikhail Suprun, a respected Professor of History at Pomorsky
State University in Archangelsk, was arrested while researching
the fate of ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union during World
The charges concerned alleged violation of Russian privacy
laws. The official who provided him with the files, Alexander
Dudarev, Head of the Information Centre of the Arkhangelsk
Regional Ministry of Internal Affairs, was also arrested.
In December 2011 the case against Suprun was dropped. Dudarev,
however, received a one year suspended sentence. Suprun
meanwhile has been forced to leave his academic post and
his documents as well as his computer have been confiscated
by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).
The files Suprun studied personal and investigative
files of former prisoners in the Soviet penal system
are precisely the type of documentation researchers need
to review in the Wallenberg case.
The arrests of Suprun and Dudarev will undoubtedly have
a discouraging effect on both historians and Russian archivists
who now must weigh the wish of accommodating research requests
with the potentially serious risks involved in providing
access to sensitive historical records
The simplest explanation for why the Russian government
does not release the full facts about the Raoul Wallenberg
case is that the truth does not fit with the decades old
Soviet version of his fate.
The Kremlin may feel that revelation of the truth about
Raoul Wallenberg runs counter to its current policy of promoting
only "useful" history, the presentation of historical
events in ways that serve to reinforce President Vladimir
Putin's idea of a strong, powerful Russia.
It is time to be daring and to face the possible contradictions
- the world and Raoul Wallenberg's family have been waiting
far too long.
Susanne Berger is a US-based German historian heavily
involved in research into the life of Raoul Wallenberg,
the Swedish diplomat who helped prevent the arrests of thousands
of Hungarian Jews during the Second World War.