WALLENBERG: A LINGERING TRAGEDY OF WORLD WAR II

Created: 1/1/1981

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His role tn US rescue efforts may have doomed the missing diplomat

INGERING TRAGEDY OF WORLD WAR II

1 markedh anniversary of lhe disappearance of Raoul Custaf Wallenberg, lhe Swedish diplomatth saving thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II Arrested by lhe Sovietsallenberg's (ateantalizing mystery fed by continuing reports that he survives somewhere in the Soviet gulag Pressure from successive Swedish governments as well as recent uucrics from tlie United States and Isiael have failed toatisfactory explanation from Neither Stalin, Khrushchev, or the current Soviet leadership have provided

answers to why Wallenberg was arrested and detained, or what fate befell him. Although the definitive story may never beook into the declassified documents of the US War Refugee Board, which actually sponsored Wallenbergs project, provides some interesting insights into the clandestine character of thata factor that could have aroused Soviet suspicions and led to his disappearance.

he US State Department accepted partial responsibility for Wallenberg's fate by admittingo-called "non paper" presented to the Soviet charge in Washington that the US li.nl provided funds for lhe program to save Hungarian Jews. The Department failed to reveal, however, lhatontact man ul tlie US legation inet C. OUen,ember of the Office of Strategic Serviceshe parent organization of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Hungarian project was one ofalf-dozen similar operations sponsored bv the War Refugeethean effort to save European Jewry from lhe NaziAt great personal risk. Wallenberg extended neutralist Sweden's diplomatic protection to Hungarian Jews, often using false documents and bribery, ami sometimes resorting to bold deceptions. He is credited with having saved at0 lives. Mentioned for the Nobel peace prize for the first limeis name has lieen put forward almost every year since.

Wallenberg was born to tbe recently widowed Baroness Majrdel of Stockholm on August2 His father was Jewish and was related to the wealthy Swedish banking family headed by Jacob and Marcus Wallenberg Earlier Rencratioos of the Wallenberg family had enjoyed distinguished careers in the diplomatic service. One of Raoul's grand uncles had served as Swedish Minister to the Legation In the United States and another was Foreign Minister during World War I. Ills aunt was married to Colonel William Calvin oformer US military attache in Stockholm.

Wallenberg was an architect by profession and had studied at the University of Michigan45 US diplomatic correspondence following hisindicates that he was well connected in Washington and may have been

role maydoomed him

personally acquainted with President Roosevelt. He had been workingirm in Stockholm in4 when the Swedish Foreign Office approached him to take an assignment at the Swedish Legation in Budapest. Accepting the assignment,told (he American Minister in Stockholm, Herschel Johnson, that he wanted to save lives and was nol interested merely in filing reports to the Foreign Office. Both Johnson and Iver Olsen. who was also the War Refugee Board representative in Stockholm, were impressed with Wallenberg and described him as "our choice" for the job.

Johnson informed the Departmentable on4 that the Swedish Foreign Office felt that by assigning Wallenberg to Budapest it was cooperating fully with the furtherance of an "American program" According to Johnson. Wallenberg felt that be was carryingission for tbe US War Refugeelhat he viewed his posting as an attache tu the Swedish Legation as his cover.the newly appointed attache requested lhal Washington cable full instrcc-tions outlining his duties, limits of authority and extent of financial support Johnson recommended tbat Wallenberg not be restrictedconcreteut be given rather general instructions thai would allow him to deal with situations as thev developed. He further informed Washington thai arrangementsen made to communicate with Wallenberg in Budapest through ihe Foreign Office in Stockholm.

Wallenberg* Instructions were passedar Refugee Board cable relayed in July by the Slate Department to Stockholm. Tbey Included an account of how much funding wasescription of Ihe various refugee escape channels thut might be used lo smuggle oul Hungarian Jewsisl of possible friendly conlacis in the Budapest area. Olsen was told to pass on lo Wallenberg as much of this information as he deemed advisable. The Board's message also said that:

"while he (Wallenberg) cannot of course, act as the Board's representative, nor purport to act In Its name, he can, whenever advisable, indicate thatwede he is free to communicate with Stockholmepresentative of ibe Board is stationed. He may thus express his willingness lo lay before the Board's representative specific proposals if in any particular case he should deem so doing to be advisable, or If by reason of ihe nature of ihe proposals OUen's or the Board's approval is necessary."

hi order lo appreciate Wallenberg's accomplishments it Is necessary tothe plight of European Jewry in the springhe German army haddevastating losses in the Fast and the long anticipated Allied invasion of Europe seemed imminent Despite accounts of the horrors of Nazi extermination camps, most Jews, particularly those in Hungary who had survived in one of Europe's rnosl anti-Semitic countries, were reluctant to believe the thoroughness of Hitler's "finalany Jews fled from Germany, Slovakia, and Poland to Hungary despite its history of anti-scmitism and its reputationoyal ally of Nazi Germany. Anti-semilism long had been an element of life in Hungary.ong In-fore Hitler came to power, Hungary promulgated the first discriminatory laws against Jews.

Nevertheless, as the war drewlose, the Jewish population in Hungary increasedesult of the influx of refugees. For their part, many Hungarian Jews thought Germany soon would pull back its forces andurrender. The Horthy government certainly would have followed Berlin's lead. Instead. Hnrlhy was deposed and on4 elements of Ihe German army entered Budapest and Ihe one-time ally for all practical purposes, became an occupied country under

Szalasiew days later. Adolf Eiclimann. architect of the final solution, arrived in Budapest along with some of the most infamous officers of thespecial section of the Gestapo charged with the extinction of Jews. Germany was going to lose the war but efforts to complete the extermination of the Jews was accorded top priority.

In spite of these developments, most Jews refused to take any defensive action. Efforts toesistance, spearheaded by young Hungarian Zionists, were only partially successful because the majority of Jews would not take up arms. The docility of the Hungarian Jews, choosing to believe that the Germans eventually would abandon their extermination plans, was turned to Nazi advantage by Eichmann. When Jews by the thousands were turned out of their homes and herded into ghettos and staging areas for transport to the death camps. Jewish leaders often went among their CO-religionists urging them not to panic and to cooperate with Nazi and Hungarian authorities.esult, during the spring and summer,ews were transported from Hungary and executed.

Earlier lhal year, stories of the holocaust had begun to reach Washington, Stockholm and other world capitals. While few grasped the extent of the horror, President Roosevelt put into action plans to assist the remaining Jews to escape ami to discourage further atrocities, particularly in countries allied to Germany Roosevelttatement warning the Hungarians and other German allies that the US was determined lo see lhat those who shared the guilt of Nazi policies be punished. Similar resolutions were passed by both the House and Senate Copies of both were given lo Wallenberg wilh the instruction that whenever possible he should call them to the attention of the Hungarian authorities

The War Refugee Board was established in4 as part of the Executive Office of the President. The Board was composed of the Secretaries of State, Treasury and War. The Board's mission was to combat the Nazi efforts to exterminate captive people because of their race, religion, or political beliefs. The first Executive Director of the Board was John Pehle, assistant lo the Secretary of the Treasury. He wasear later by Brigadier General William O'Dwyer who directed the Board until its dissolution in

The records of the Board suggest that ihe experience gained by thein selling up the Office of Strategicew years earlier was used tothe new organization. Special representatives served tlie Board in strategic areas in or near tlie European mainlaSwitzerland. Sweden. Portugal the UK. Italy, and North Africa. Their communications were classified and the Board's representatives and contacts in enemyreferred to asoften had cover. Although those of the Board's records dealing with Wallenberg fail to reveal any connection with any intelligencetill classilied list of OSS employees identifieslsen, the Boards representative in Stockholm and the link between Wallenberg and Washington,ember of the Special Intelligence Branch. OSS. Olseniplomat and Board representative; apirarenlly, he was pari ofman OSS station in Stockholm in the falls well If Olson's identity was known lo Sovietthrough liaisonis possible that Wallenberg's contacts with American intelligence may have aroused Soviet suspicion.

Wallenberg arrived in Budapest in July and immediatelyroom office which he placed under the exlraterrllorality of the Swedish Legation. This office had a

it's

Hismay ftovs doomed him

Another version

ofisappearsnee is ullributedjitvian named Krisko who workedussian interpreter at the Swedish legation in Budapest at the time. Tlie legation had employed Krisko to handle Russian traffic after Sweden accepted responsibility for Soviet interests when Hungary declared war on Ihe USSR. Krisko and Wallenberg were arrested about the wnw lime and fieldoviet military facility outside Budapest. On Januaryhey were flown to Moscow Tim was the lirst time they had seen each other since before their arrest and, according to Krisko, Wallenberg, who was sitting under guard several feet away, nodded in recognition Wallenberg, "looked houyant, probably thinking his arrest wasew days later (he Swedish Legation In Moscow wasy the Soviets thai Wallenberg was under their "protection "

As the plight of Jewish refugees improved following the Nazi collapse in Hungary, communications between Stockholm and the War Refugee Hoardit was April before Minister Johnson reported to Washington that Sweden had asked for US assistance in determining Wallenbergs fate. He said there liad been unconfirmed radio reports that Wallenberg had hern murdered, presumably by the Arrow Cross, and asked that our Embassy in Moscow* be instructed to request assistance from the Soviet government- In reaction to Johnson's cable. Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau reminded Secretary' of Slate Edward Stettinious of his own personal interest in Wallenbergandwritten note on Aprilorrespondence concerning Wallenberg tapered off over the summer and the War Refugee Board was dissolved in September.

Swedes loyal lo WallenU'ig. however,i In let the issuemmittec was formed to pressure the Stockholm government to continue to query the Soviets In the early post-war years, less lhan enthusiastic socialist governments in Stockholm tried lo avoid provoking the Soviets. Nevertheless, after several attempts toesponse fromunctionary at the Soviet Legation in Stockholm said6 that Wallenberg was "being taken care of for some foolish things he hadnother story claimed that Wallenberg had been convictedoviet court as an American spy and sentenced loears.

Thereumber of things that may have caused the Soviets lo doubt Wallenberg's credentials. His modus operandi certainly exceeded standard diplomatic practice The falsification of documents for Jewish refugees, the use of bribes, and his successful use of bluff and bravado on numerous occasions were probably known to them. His familiarity with the Soviet interests section of the Swedish Legation, implied by the Interpreter Krisko who also was accused by the Soviets of being an American spy. may have increased those suspicions. The generally muddled condition of Wallenberg's bona fides is reflectedortionigest cable from Allied headquarters in Caserta, Italy in5 Accordingource in Budapest (possibly Brigadier Ceneral Bonner Key. OSS*

"Ceneral Key has asked ihe Soviet military authorities for information regarding the whereabouts of Wallenberg, Meier, and Feller. The Inst ruction in the Department'sor Budapest will be complied with as far as possible, but the fact that the Soviet authorities may well have conclusive proof of pro-Nazi coHalxiration on (he pari of Feller and possibly of Meier and Wallenberg should be of interest to the Department "

The reference to collaboration with the Nazi's probably referred to Wallenbergs use of brilies to gain the release of Jews and oilier rrfugees.

Hii rol* may hove doomed him

Some of the communications passed by the War Refugee Board representative in Stockholm through the Swedish Foreign Office to Wallenberg also may liave aroused suspicion For example, shortly after Wallenberg arrived in Hungary, the Department of Stale asked Olscn in Stockholm to request him to forward loungarianessage from his parlner In Let Angeles The communication was cryptic with numerous references to tlie reputed partner's personalcuff links, his wife's goldrooch with green stone, etc. The businessman was to be told that he could expecto to Switzerland soon and should "applyisa" Tbe Department's explanation for the message was that the two men were business associates and that the partner in Budapest soon was to go to Switzerland on banking business. The cable cautioned Ohen, however, that if he thought it was inappropriate for any reason to pass the message he was to advise the Hoard, which would reconsider the action. Although there Is no indication that the message was passed lo Wallenberg or by him to anyone else, such Instructions, If compromised, could luive raised questions ahoul his assignment.

Ffforti to gel the Soviets to provide an explanation of what happened to Wallenberg span theears since his disappearance. Stalin reportedlyersonal interest in ins-estlgating Wallenberg's case but failed to reveal his fate. When Khrushchev visited Stockholm6 he wasetition by Wallenberg's mother and tbe Soviet leader promised to "clear up theubsequently. Moscow officially announcedman named Raoul Wallenberg diedeart attack in" in Lubyanka prison The Swedes requested the remains of theto be told it had been cremated despite the usual Soviet practice of burying deceased prisoners wiih their number plate affixedeg In the Brezhnev era, Soviet officials seem torn betweenhyanka story and another that asserts lhal Wallenberg was killed by Nazis or Hungarian fascists before the fall of Budapest in revenge for saving Jews.

A numlier of reports from prisoners released by the Soviets over tlie years simerace Wallenberg's odessey through Ihe Soviet prison system Former inmates of Lubyanka. Vladimir. Aleksandrov Central Verkhneural'sk. and other prisons have reported meeting Wallenberg or of knowing some other prisoner who knew htm. One of the most recent and credible accounts is that of Janormer inmate of Butryka prison, who wrote his daughter in Israel thai while in the prison infirmary7 he had metSwede who hadeveral different prisons over the pastears According to Kaplan, the Swede "was in pretty goodhis report was subsequently relayed to Stockholm and the Swedish government senl yet another note to the Soviets inhe response Further Information "

Nevertheless, the Israeli government felt that Kaplan's tale merited further investigation and Prime Minister Begin urged President Carter loask Brezhnev about Wallenberg when the two leaders met at the Summit in Vienna9 Members of the US delegation queried their Soviet counterparts to no avail. An earlier attempt to bring highlevel US pressure lo bear on lhe Soviets may have occurred3 According lo Nina Lagergren, Wallenberg's half-sister who visited Washington in the summerormer Secretary of State Henry Kissinger vetoed instructions from his staff lo the US Ambassador In Moscow to demand information regarding Wallenberg If so, Kissenger probably sensed thatemand would have been detrimental to the spirit of detente. Lagergren's visit, however, coincided with the "non-paper" mentioned earlier which admitted partial US funding for Walk-illh'rg's

Mil rort may have doomed him

In January35th anniversary of Wallenberg'sgroup representing Wallenberg demonstrated outside the Soviet Embassy in Stockholm. The Swedish Foreign Ministrytatement reviewing Wallenberg's roleumanitarian and informed tbe Soviets that Sweden's demandomplete disclosure concerning his fate remained unsatisfied. The government also released previously classified Information detailing immediate postwar attempts to gain Wallenberg's freedom. The documents confirmed the unwillingness of Sweden's post war governments to antagonize Moscow over Wallenberg. According to press reports, one document indicated that Stockholm had turned down an offer by former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson to intercede with the Soviets to gain Wallenberg's release.

Onh anniversary of Wallenberg's disappearance inersonshearing" in Stockholm sponsored by the Swedish Wallenberg Association. Marcus Wallenberg, the patriarch of the Swedish banking dynasty, the British and Israeli ambassadors, and the wife of US Senator Daniel Moynihan, attended. Several former Soviet prisoners testified to direct or indirect contactwedish prisoner longhen the Soviets claim Wallenberg died. Gideon Hausner, chairman of the Israeli Wallenberg Committee and the prosecutor of Adolph Elchmann, told the audience that he had seen no convincing evidence thathad died. On the contrary, Hausner felt that there was "considerable material" to contradict the Soviet version of Wallenberg's fate. Hausner also remindedthat Wallenberg had been appointed to his task by President Roosevelt and declared "we don't want to relieve America of the responsibility to pursue theausner's comments were echoed by Simon Wiesenthal, founder of the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna.

In all probability, such activities merely will annoy the Soviets, producing few results, lt would seem unlikely that the present regime in Moscow would call attention to the fact tbat Wallenberg's life, orears of it, had been forfeited to their whim. What could they say? That his arrest wasisunderstanding carried out by overzealous security personnel operatinglanket order to arrest all suspicious foreigners in Budapest? Then what about his early years of detention? Thousands of German prisoners of war were detained in the Soviet Union for years after tbe war. Had Wallenberg been returnedor example, his detention might have been attributed to administrative error.

A possible opportunity toefinitive answer to the Wallenberg affair may occurhange in leadership takes place in the Sovietime when criticism of the previous regime is sometimes permitted. Until then, the true fate of Raoul Wallenberg may never be clear, but his humanitarian accomplishments are irrefutable

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