New details emerge about disappearance of Swedish ships in the Cold War

11-12-2010, by Susanne Berger and Kerstin von Seth, ed. Contra

In 1948 Swedish military officials considered the possibility that the loss of the ships « Iwan » and « Kinnekulle » had not been accidental, but that they had been delivered « intentionally » into Russian hands, in retaliation for Swedish smuggling operations.

Months earlier, in November 1947, Foreign Minister Oesten Undén personally met with a Swedish captain questioned by Polish authorities about smuggling activities by Swedish ships.
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Myter kring myten Raoul Wallenberg

01-12-2010, by Georg Sessler and Paul A. Levine, ed. Judisk Krönika

I en nyligen publicerad bok av Paul A. Levine anklagas Raoul Wallenberg för att under svensk diplomatisk täckmantel i själva verket ha arbetat med såväl pågående som framtida affärer efter kriget. « Varken Lauer eller Raoul Wallenberg kände några samvetskval inför att diskutera business samtidigt som mördandet pågick i Ungern » skriver Levine i sin bok Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest, Myth, History and Holocaust (se recension i Judisk Krönika). -> Mer sid 38

24000 days

03-10-2010, by Melanie Wendelin, Finland,

Today it’s been 24, 000 days since Raoul Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviet Union on 17 January 1945. It took 943 days before Andrei Vyshinsky, the Soviet deputy foreign minister, claimed that Wallenberg was not in the Soviet Union or known to them. This was stated on 18 August 1947. After that, it took another 3, 460 days, until February 1957, before the Soviet Union acknowledged the arrest, and stated that he had died of natural reasons 17 July 1947, after 2½ years in Soviet custody. 16, 000 days later, in November 2000, Alexander Yakovlev, a senior Russian official, claimed that Wallenberg was executed on 17 July 1947. 3, 278 days after the statement, on 18 November 2009, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) revealed that a prisoner nr 7 was interrogated on 23 July 1947. According to the FSB archivists this was <<with great likelihood>> Wallenberg. After that it’s been 319 days of Swedish passivity.

That makes a total of 24, 000 days of Swedish passivity. During this time there have been countless reports from former prisoners who claim to have met Raoul Wallenberg, many decades after 1947. Now Sweden is given a golden opportunity to ask Russia for the truth, along with the documents which are yet to be released.

Lately Russia has been making historical documents easy for the public to access, for instance the documents about the Katyn massacre which were published on the Internet earlier this year. It may very well be that they’re waiting for the questions about Raoul Wallenberg to come from the right direction. However, this opportunity must be taken if there is to be a result.

Wallenberg, a new musical drama

With book and lyrics by the 2006 Kleban Award-winning team of Laurence HolzmanFelicia Needleman, music by Benjamin Rosenbluth, and under the direction of Emmy Award winner Annette JollesWallenberg is a groundbreaking endeavor with which we share the same goal and vision – to bring the story of Raoul Wallenberg to every household in the U.S.!

Already receiving increasing critical and public acclaim since its first stage reading presentation in 2005, Wallenberg will have its world premiere production at the White Plains Performing Arts Center from Oct. 28 – Nov. 21, 2010.

It will be a joyful occasion for all of us at the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, as we recognized a value of this spearheading effort from its very beginning.

Creating a musical that describes the worst times in human history and an amazing life story of a man who single-handedly saved lives of a greater number of people than any other individual or organization in the world is an astonishing task. The team of Wallenberg manages to do it with the mastery of the finest composers and story tellers; always with deep insight, compassion, and respect,” stated Baruch Tenembaumfounder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. “We salute them for the world premiere at the White Plains Performing Arts Center and confirm our dedication to bring this splendid work of art where it belongs, to the biggest stage in the world – Broadway!

Useful links:

For more information on Wallenberg Musical click here.

For the directions to the White Plains Performing Arts Center click here.
To buy tickets click here.
To listen to the musical selection click here.

Support Wallenberg musical – help bring Wallenberg to Broadway!

Sweden must press Russia for the Full Truth about Raoul Wallenberg

04-08-2010, by Ove Bring,

On April 1, 2010, the Swedish magazine FOKUS presented new information obtained from the archives of the Russian Security Services (FSB), regarding the fate of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Wallenberg who helped save thousands of Hungarian Jews from Nazi persecution during World War II, was arrested by Soviet forces in January 1945 and disappeared. For decades Soviet and later Russian authorities have claimed that Wallenberg died in Lubyanka prison in Moscow on July 17, 1947. In a written reply to researchers Susanne Berger and Vadim Birstein this past November, FSB archivists stated that they now believe that a Prisoner No. 7 who was interrogated on July 23, 1947, « with great likehood » was Raoul Wallenberg. If true, it would mark the first time Russian officials have publicly admitted that all previous statements about Wallenberg’s fate were incorrect.

Any expectations that the Swedish government would react decisively to this new information and demand full answers from the Russian side were quickly dashed. Researchers were told instead that any follow-up would be up to them: « The position of the Swedish government is that new leads on Wallenberg should be followed up by independent researchers …The point we make in our political contacts with the Russians is that Russian archives should facilitate the work of researchers. « [Letter from the Swedish Foreign Office, April 15, 2010]

The muted response once again raises serious questions about how committed the Swedish government really is to solving the Wallenberg case. Rather than choosing to act with vigor and determination, it appears instead that Swedish diplomats’ reflexive response is  to minimize rather than to maximize efforts. To be fair, the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s lack of enthusiasm may be explained in part by severe budget cuts and staff shortages that have gutted its administrative structure. However, while Swedish officials steadfastly maintain that solving the question of

Wallenberg’s fate remains a cherished priority, both researchers and the public can be forgiven for failing to receive that message.

It is certainly important to act with circumspection and due caution. But it is far from normal to respond to the first official sign in five decades that a resolution of  the  Wallenberg case may be possible with nothing more than a single request for clarification from Sweden’s Ambassador in Moscow.  That very welcome request – made by Ambassador Tomas Bertelman on December 9, 2009 –  has now remained unanswered for seven months. The failure to demand full disclosure from the Kremlin appears all the more glaring when one recalls that two top level meetings between Russian President Vladimir Medvedev and Swedish government leaders have taken place since the new information came to light. The Swedish side apparently presented no specific demands in either one of these meetings which occurred on November 18, 2009 and March 9, 2010 respectively.

Since 2001, when the Swedish-Russian Working Group that had investigated the Wallenberg case for a decade presented its findings, Swedish officials have essentially stopped raising the Wallenberg question in formal discussions with the Russian side. They instead mention it only in general terms, such as asking the Russians to ensure proper access to archives.

Not surprisingly, FSB’s new information about Prisoner No.7 comes not from newly discovered material, but from older documentation that was available already 20 year ago, albeit only in heavily censored form. There are many other such partially censored documents that await closer scrutiny. Researchers have repeatedly asked the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt to ensure that they  get access to precisely such key  records which remain inaccessible due to Russian secrecy claims. Bildt routinely refuses to take up any specific requests with the argument that he « cannot become active on behalf of individual research projects ».

This leaves researchers with a serious dilemma:  They can produce the most tantalizing new facts, but in the end,  the decision about granting access to key documents is made by the highest representatives of the Russian governmen. It took nine years to obtain this latest information from FSB. We cannot afford to wait another nine for the next piece of the puzzle to fall into place. Some hints of a changed Russian attitude  to unresolved historical issues have come in recent months, beginning with a more open approach to the problem of Katyn – the murder of thousands of Polish officers on the direct orders of Stalin in 1940 –  that has weighed heavily on bilateral relations with Poland for 70 years. An official  request by Swedish political  leaders  to their Russian counterparts to present the full circumstances of Wallenberg’s disappearance, is not only the right thing to do, but is currently overdue. We know with certainty that Russia possesses important additional information and Sweden must demand that the Russian leadership finally puts all available facts on the table.

August 4, 2010

Ove Bring, Professor of International Law, Stockholm

The article in swedish at Expressen->

A friend indeed. The secret service of Lolle Smit

01-08-2010, by Craig Graham McKay,

The present essay is made available as a web contribution to public awareness and to encourage further historical research. In return, the author asks those making use of its findings, some of which are made publicly available for the first time, to acknowledge the fact by citing it as a source (title, author, web-page) in their own work.

A little video clip has been placed on YouTube to draw  in particular younger people’s attention to Smit and what he did.

No historian needs to be told that truth can lie hidden in the archives for a very long time, not least in the case of that curious branch of human affairs, the activities of secret services. Indeed some facts, we may sorrowfully reflect, are destined never to emerge at all and disappear without a trace.1 But on occasion, through a combination of luck and patient investigation2, new light can be thrown on old events and a veil can finally be removed to expose what was once hidden.

So where did the story begin? I had come across Lolle Smit in the process of studying Raoul Wallenberg’s humanitarian mission to Hungary and the reasons for his apprehension and detention by the Russian authorities. As part of this project, I had reason to investigate in some detail the Swede’s contacts both in Stockholm, prior to his departure and later in Hungary itself.

In July 1944, Raoul Wallenberg had arrived in Budapest. Among his new personal acquaintances was a lively young Dutch girl called Berber (Barbara) Smit. Somewhat typically, she scarcely figures in the vast literature on Wallenberg, although her name occurs in several places in Wallenberg’s pocket diary, confiscated by the Soviet authorities and later returned to the family at a meeting in Moscow in the autumn of 1989.  More ->

EU governments must support Eritrea’s prisoners of conscience

24-05-2010, ed. The Guardian

Eritrea has held Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak without charge for eight years. The west must stand up to this brutal regime.

While we cannot be sure that there is a heaven, three weeks ago we received partial confirmation that hell is a reality with a known location. Its address is the infamous Eiraeiro prison in Eritrea, 10 miles north of the capital city Asmara, where 35 high-level political prisoners of the Eritrean regime have been held captive in recent years.

Fifteen of these prisoners are known to have died, nine are suffering from serious medical problems and the others are enduring brutal prison conditions. One of them is the journalist Dawit Isaak, a Swedish citizen, who was first detained in 2001. He was briefly released in 2005, only to be rearrested again within days. In all of his eight and a half years of detention, he has never been formally charged with a crime. Isaak and nine journalist colleagues were arrested seemingly for nothing more than criticising the lack of press freedom and democratic debate in Eritrea.

The most recent revelations of a former prison guard who managed to flee to neighbouring Ethiopia in January, and whose information was first reported in Sweden in April, make clear that Isaak and other inmates are kept in horrendous circumstances. They are not allowed any contact with the outside world or with each other. Their cells are brutally hot almost all year round. They are constantly shackled and the only time they leave their cells is to spend one hour per day in a walled courtyard measuring four square meters. The men receive virtually no medical care and many appear to be psychologically broken.

According to a former guard, who fled because he feared for his own life if the prisoners died, the deprivations suffered by the inmates are « worse than torture ». Under pressure from critics, the Swedish government has repeatedly refused comment, asserting that it is doing everything it can to rescue Dawit Isaak. The Swedish public, Isaak’s family and human rights activists are increasingly concerned, however, that Isaak, who suffers from diabetes, may be lost before help reaches him. Their concerns appear well justified.

Why, for example, have Swedish officials so far not bothered to interview the escaped prison guard?

We would like to stress that we do not completely discount the value of silent diplomacy. While we fully appreciate the enormous difficulties and complexities of the case, the question that presents itself most urgently is, what can we all do together to save Isaak before it is too late? Efforts at the EU level, such as seeking the suspension of aid to Eritrea, as well as applying diplomatic pressure on the regime, are vitally important. The EU process is slow and bureaucratic, and the representatives’ attention is currently diverted by the spreading global financial crisis.-> More

Medvedev denounces Stalin for « mass crimes against the Russian people »

08-05-2010, by Tony Halpin, ed. TimesOnLine

“The Great Patriotic War was won by our people, not by Stalin or even the generals,” Mr Medvedev said. “Their role was undoubtedly very serious but, at the same time, the people won the war at the cost of great efforts and a huge number of lives.

“Stalin committed mass crimes against the people. And despite the fact that he worked a lot, despite the fact that under his leadership the country achieved successes, what was done to his own people cannot be forgiven.” -> More

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Game Changer – FSB’s Surprising New Information About The Fate of Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg

05-05-2010, by Susanne Berger and Vadim Birstein, ed. ETC

Since 2001, Dr. Vadim Birstein  and Susanne Berger have maintained a regular exchange with the archives of the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB) about still pending questions in the case of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who disappeared in the Soviet Union in 1945. For decades Soviet and later Russian authorities have claimed that Wallenberg died in Lubyanka prison in Moscow on July 17, 1947.  The most recent discussions focused mainly on documentation that remains heavily censored. Among this material are the interrogation registers for Lubyanka prison for 1947. This past November, FSB archivists stated that they now believe that a Prisoner No. 7 who was interrogated on July 23, 1947, « with great likehood » was Raoul Wallenberg. If true, it would mark the first time Russian officials have publicly admitted that all previous statements about Wallenberg’s fate were incorrect.

The new information provided by the FSB Archives in November 2009  is two things for sure: Utterly surprising and at the same time maddeningly incomplete. People have repeatedly asked us: What difference do six days make? What does it matter that, according to FSB archivists, Raoul Wallenberg may have been alive six days after July 17, 1947, the day that Soviet and Russian authorities for five decades have claimed to be  his almost certain death date?

Well, if indeed confirmed, it matters quite a bit. Yes, the  revelations may ultimately turn out to postpone Wallenberg’s presumed death only by six days, but they also potentially cast the case in a whole new light.

For one, it opens up the conversation about Wallenberg’s fate that has been essentially dormant since 2001, when the Swedish-Russian Working Group, that had investigated the Wallenberg question from 1991-2001, presented its final report. While the Swedish side stressed that plenty of unresolved questions remained about what exactly happened to Raoul Wallenberg in Soviet captivity, especially when and how he had actually died, the Russian side took a much stronger position: Circumstantial evidence, it declared in its  conclusions,  left no other possibility than that of Wallenberg’s death  on July 17, 1947. The only concession made by Russian officials at the time was that Wallenberg death was in all likelihood not attributable to natural causes, but to secret execution.

The new information provided by FSB now offers important additional avenues of exploration, in part by elucidating older facts in the case.  As prisoners under official investigation, Prisoner No. 7 (Wallenberg?) and Vilmos Langfelder, Wallenberg’s driver were subjected to 16 long hours of interrogation on July 23, 1944. Langfelder claimed his personal possessions, including his money, the next day. So far we do not know if Prisoner No. 7 (Wallenberg?) did the same. This would be a most important indication that he too survived.

> More

Begär klarläggande

05-05-2010, by Susanne Berger,

Under decennier har sovjetiska och därefter ryska myndigheter hävdat att Raoul Wallenberg dog i Lubjankafängelset i Moskva den 17 juli 1947. Men i november 2009 uppgav arkivarier vid den ryska Federala säkerhetstjänstens FSB att de nu tror att en Fånge nummer 7 som förhördes den 23 juli 1947 ”med stor sannolikhet” var Raoul Wallenberg.

Sedan 2001 har vi, dr Vadim Birstein och Susanne Berger, regelbundet korresponderat med den ryska Federala säkerhetstjänstens (FSB) arkiv angående frågor som ännu är ouppklarade när det gäller den svenske diplomaten Raoul Wallenberg, som försvann i Sovjetunionen år 1945.
De nya uppgifter som FSB:s arkiv förmedlade i november 2009 kan åtminstone sägas vara två saker: ytterst förvånande men också högst ofullständiga.

Vad spelar det då egentligen för roll att Raoul Wallenberg, enligt arkivarierna vid FSB, kan ha varit i livet sex dagar efter den 17 juli 1947, det datum som sovjetiska och ryska myndigheter under femtio år har angett som hans förmodade dödsdag?

Om saken verkligen skulle kunna bekräftas betyder det faktiskt en hel del. Visserligen skulle kanske dessa avslöjanden i sista hand bara senarelägga Wallenbergs död med sex dagar, men de skulle också kunna kasta helt nytt ljus över fallet.

För det första öppnar det åter upp den diskussion om Wallenbergs öde som mer eller mindre legat i dvala sedan 2001, då den svensk-ryska arbetsgrupp som undersökt Wallenbergfrågan under perioden 1991–2001 presenterade sin slutrapport. De nya detaljer som förmedlats av FSB gör det möjligt att närma sig fallet utifrån andra viktiga utgångspunkter, bland annat därför att de klargör en del tidigare fakta.-> More

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