Raoul Wallenberg’s Abduction by the Russians on January 17, 1945: Seventy Years Ago

15-01-2015, by Louise von Dardel, ed. Jerusalem Post

My uncle Raoul Wallenberg, who rescued tens of thousands of Jews in Hungary, was abducted by the Russians on January 17, 1945 and immediately incarcerated in a KGB jail in Moscow. Probably there was not one day that our family did not think of him since then and our family did all we could to bring him home. The seventieth anniversary of his separation from us leads me to reflect and some of this I would like to share.

Because of his exceptional deeds in Hungary Raoul is a historical figure and history is collective memory. Yad Vashem has a slogan: “Remembering the Past – Shaping the Future”. Also for me history is understanding the essence of past events in order to be able to learn for the future. Specifically, in the case of Raoul, I ask how do we remember a great hero? Is it only to “honor” or also the motivation for positive action?

During the past decades my uncle was often honored at high level state ceremonies and became honorary citizen of various countries. Streets, monuments and schools have been named after him, stamps have been issued by various countries and he is the best known rescuer of Jews. Many who remember him are descendents of those he rescued and thus received a gift of life. Some also remember him as a symbol of Communist terror, which swallowed tens of millions of lives.

For me there are two main questions: “What happened to Raoul Wallenberg after he fell into the hands of the Russians?” and “What can we learn from him and how can we be inspired to carry on his work and keep his spirit alive?” More information is required about his fate and why he was not rescued from the Russians. We need to better understand all the complex forces of history in the post-war period.

Raoul Wallenberg and his mother widow, Maj von Dardel, 1912

Raoul Wallenberg and his mother widow, Maj von Dardel, 1912. Courtesy RW’s nearest family

Raoul was born into a privileged family: the wealthy and very powerful Swedish banking and industrial Wallenbergs. His father, Raoul Oscar Wallenberg, died before he was born and his maternal grandfather passed away few months after his birth. In his formative years he was brought up by two grieving widows, his mother and grandmother, both dressed in black. Some feel like victims under such circumstances, but Raoul learned compassion to the suffering of others.

Raoul Wallenberg and his half brother, Guy von Dardel1920

Raoul Wallenberg and his half brother, Guy von Dardel,1920. Courtesy von Dardel

Later his mother Maj, my grandmother, married Fredrik von Dardel, an aristocrat and a noble man. Subsequently Raoul’s siblings were born: my father Guy and aunt Nina.

Instead of becoming a banker in the Wallenberg enterprise Raoul selected architecture for his university studies, because of his imagination, pragmatism and passion for creating harmony. Despite the Great Depression he chose to study at the University of Michigan in America. He  witnessed many personal tragedies and also perceived the coming of economic recovery. During a vacation he worked at a world’s fair and experienced America by hitchhiking all the way to Mexico. He appreciated the country’s vastness and beauty. He saw that America can envision and accomplish great things, almost without limits and often in totally unconventional ways. This made a great impression on Raoul and fundamentally influenced his thinking.

He enjoyed his studies, nature, travel, meeting girls, interesting discussions, reading, going to movies, dinners and many of the nice things life has to offer. Despite his family background he was modest and loved to be helpful to people.

Following the wish of his banking family on his way back to Sweden he worked for a short time in various countries in order to get banking experience. One of his places of work was a bank in Haifa where he met many Jews who recently escaped from Nazi Germany. That may well be one of the reasons why he felt so much compassion for the abandoned Jews of Europe.

The global economic crisis had already reached Sweden when he returned to Stockholm. The wealthy Wallenberg family did not seem to help him find work. Raoul found a job with a Hungarian Jew, Kalman Lauer, in Stockholm. It was an import-export company dealing with Hungarian food items.

He was a creative person in the best sense of that word, both in architecture and in other areas of life. That took courage, because a truly creative person is often scorned for being different. Raoul was not an eccentric or a one dimensional person, yet he was by no means a conformist. He was in many ways a rugged individual. He skillfully combined vision and creativity with pragmatism. He was very solution oriented. For example he designed a floating swimming pool by the royal castle for a Stockholm architectural competition.

During much of World War II Raoul lived in neutral Sweden is peaceful Stockholm. Most of his friends were leading normal lives while he was concerned about the war. He kept up with events and even had a map on which he noted the main battles and the fate of war. He was quite bright, but even more important he had a sensitive and caring heart. When he heard about the concentration camps he believed it was happening and tried to convince his friends that this horror was a reality in modern Europe.

In January 1944 President Roosevelt set up the American War Refugee Board. This happened mainly due to activism by the Hillel Kook (Peter Bergson) led rescue group in America and also help of Jewish Secretary of Treasury Henry Morgethau Jr. who pressured Roosevelt. With support of numerous Senators, Congressmen and even First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt the “Bergson Group” persistently lobbied the Roosevelt administration to help the Jews of Europe.

One day Raoul was asked  by a Stockholm representative of the American War Refugee Board if he would be willing to help rescue Jews in Budapest. He did not speak Hungarian, had never lived there and certainly had absolutely no experience with such important work. He was fully aware of the danger of his mission. He wanted a life filled with deep meaning – one that is worth living. Ultimately he found that in Budapest, where he was totally energized by the immense meaning of his rescue work. He was given a diplomatic passport and an office at the Swedish embassy in Budapest. Most important, the Swedish King agreed that Raoul would be independent and not subject to the diplomatic rules of the Swedish Foreign Ministry. This was critical to his mission’s success. Raoul left for Budapest in a hurry and with great passion and arrived on July 9, 1944. He was a pragmatist, yet like many idealists and youthful people didn’t know the concept of impossible. This helped him face almost insurmountable odds.

His mission to Budapest became possible for many reasons. After the total defeat of the German army at Stalingrad in early February 1943 it became clear that the tables have been turned on the Germans. In June 1944 George Mantello, a Hungarian Jew and El Salvador diplomat in Switzerland, received with considerable delay the famous Auschwitz Report from Moshe Krausz in Budapest. He immediately publicized the horrors of the Holocaust in great detail. This triggered the subsequent Swiss people’s unparalleled grassroots protests and press campaign with over 400 glaring headlines about Europe’s barbarism against its Jewish citizens. This led to Roosevelt, Churchill and others threatening Hungary’s Fascist leader Miklos Horthy with post-war retribution. Horthy understood that the war was lost and was forced to stop the transports to Auschwitz, which until then took about 12,000 Jews to their tragic fate each day.

 

Raoul Wallenberg and his Jewish management team in Budapest

In Budapest Raoul worked with great excitement. He was tireless and frequently thought of new approaches to save people. He had excellent organizational skills. He built a fairly large group of hundreds of people, mostly Jews, organized as a company with departments and management. There were departments handling financial matters, obtaining storing and distributing food, a clinic and orphanage as well as a human resource group. His personality attracted talented and dedicated people to work with him mainly because he offered meaning and hope. He helped Jews to help other Jews. Raoul gave back to Jews dignity, the willingness to live, confidence in themselves and humanity. He inspired people and as a result some were able to save themselves.

A woman whom I met told me that she was Raoul’s secretary in Budapest. She was was then an 18 year old blue eyed Jewish girl. He sent her together with a Jewish man to various places. They were fearless and didn’t wear a yellow star. They had with them a list of names of Jews who were supposedly under Swedish protection and were able to save many. Raoul also sent his staff to the railway station in order to help him rescue Jews. At least once he would appear with a bag full of Swedish protection papers, threw them to the people who could then save themselves. Many Jews were also saved by forged Swedish protection papers.

During the winter and earlier murderous arrow cross bands terrorized and murdered many people. Winter 1944 was especially cold and the Danube froze over. This and the bombing and shelling of Budapest by the allies made things even more difficult.

Raoul spoke German fluently and with a lot of authority when necessary, which the Germans respected. He didn’t fight the Germans, in fact he understood them. He knew that many were afraid of being left behind on the battlefield, some were concerned about post-war retribution and many were worried about their families. This made it easier for him  to negotiate about the rescue of Jews.

Raoul was able to carry on his rescue work because of his daring, passion and search for real meaning to life. It helped that people respected and liked him a lot. He said that his secret weapon was his imagination. Despite his enormous responsibility he made sure to set aside a little time to maintain some balance in his life and did many sketches for his peace of mind. One of his important contributions was that he brought kindness and humanity where there was so much inhumanity.

There was a spirit of friendship and collaboration between Raoul and some other diplomats in Budapest, including Carl Lutz, Giorgio Perlasca, Monsignor Angelo Rotta, Friedrich Born and Ángel Sanz-Briz. They inspired each other and thus a few exceptional people saved large numbers of Jews, which was unprecedented in Europe.

One of the first actions of the Russian forces in Budapest was to abduct my uncle and his Jewish driver Vilmos Langfelder on January 17, 1945 and took them to the Lubyanka KGB prison in Moscow. Sweden conveniently considered him dead and the Americans, who convinced him to go to Budapest, did not help him. My family was left alone to try to bring Raoul back home.

The world started to be interested in his exceptional deeds about 30 years after his abduction, but did not seem to care about his fate. It took over twenty additional years for Sweden to acknowledge his heroism and apologize for being apathetic about his fate.

Guy von Dardel in front of Lubianka prison, 1989

Guy von Dardel in front of Lubianka prison, 1989, Expressen

After my grandparents’ death my father took on the task of searching for his older brother. He was a nuclear scientist and traveled to Russia over fifty times to try to find Raoul. His intense research brought him in contact with talented and dedicated people who wanted to help. They included Andrei Sakharov, Russian nuclear physicist, human rights activist dissident as well as noted human rights lawyer and one time Canadian Attorney General and Minister of Justice: Professor Irwin Cotler. My father approached all relevant governments and institutions, but unfortunately lacked support by the concerned parties.

Raoul rescued tens of thousands of Jews in Hungary. Three generations were born since then and large numbers owe their life to him. Raoul’s energy, compassion, passion, caring for others made a difference. The War Refugee Board provided considerable sums, which was an important tool. Using it he was able to buy buildings for safe houses and office space, to purchase food and pay for other expenses of the rescue operation. His diplomatic status and independence of normal Swedish diplomatic rules and lack of bureaucratic interference were certainly very important.

We are very proud to be Raoul’s family and regret that the world did not try to find out what was his tragic and undeserved fate in Russia. In enlightened countries generals don’t leave soldiers on the battlefield, yet if humanity truly cared about heroes then Raoul would not have been abandoned. My sister Marie and I greatly respect that our father never abandoned his brother and dedicated his life to bring him home.

President Moshe Katzav, Minister Natan Sharansky meet with Raoul Wallenberg nieces Louise von Dardel and Marie Dupuy, January 2005, Jerusalem Post

President Moshe Katzav, Minister Natan Sharansky meet with Raoul Wallenberg nieces Louise von Dardel and Marie Dupuy, January 2005, Jerusalem Post

As you read this article perhaps you can pause for a while and ask what you understand about Raoul and how would you put in practice his passion of love and caring for people’s life. The 70th anniversary of my uncle’s abduction is an opportunity to reflect and be inspired. Perhaps that is the best way you the reader can honor my dear uncle. My sister Marie proposes to light a candle on January 17 to sustain Raoul’s light.

Louise von Dardel, Stockholm

Louise von Dardel, Stockholm. Courtesy Bo Person

Louise von Dardel and Marie Dupuy reside in Switzerland.
Marie’s Web site is:
www.raoul-wallenberg.eu

This article appears in the January 16, 2015 weekend Magazine of The Jerusalem Post

Raoul Wallenberg’s Secret German Contacts

14-01-2015, by S. Berger, C.G.McKay, V. Birstein,

Raoul Wallenberg’s previously unknown contact with the Hamburg merchant  Ludolph Christensen who enjoyed the protection of SS General Karl Wolff, Heinrich Himmler’s right hand man, sheds new light on the origins of Wallenberg’s humanitarian mission to Hungary in 1944. Their association  throughout the war  highlights the complex nature of wartime business affairs and may provide additional avenues for clarifying Wallenberg’s disappearance in the Soviet Union in 1945. Russian officials have apparently known about these contacts for many years but have never released any of the relevant documentation.  It is now clear that on at least one occasion Wallenberg’s firm  engaged in the transfer of  certain technical materials, including tools used in the manufacturing of planes for the German Air Force.

Fig.1  Photo showing Ludolph Christensen  in the 1940s.  Source: The Christensen Family Archive

Fig.1 Photo showing Ludolph Christensen in the 1940s. Source: The Christensen Family Archive

In one of his first official reports « concerning aid to Hungarian Jews » from July 29, 1944,  Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg alludes to an unspecified, highly placed person who has come to Budapest to aid him in his task:

 « An individual  who came highly recommended has joined me to help probe the highest German circles for future developments. » 

Just ten days  earlier, Wallenberg’s friend and business partner, Kálmán (Koloman) Lauer, had informed him:

 » Our friend Ludo travels to Budapest tomorrow and he will assist you in every way.  … Ludo has a [letter of] recommendation to a German military authority. He is certainly an absolutely honest hanseatic merchant who will not say anything that is not true. But you must not put him in any danger. You should instead wait until he himself makes a proposal. » 

The mysterious man was a successful trader in foodstuffs from Hamburg named Ludolph Christensen.   His father, Ludolph Sr., was a Danish businessman  who had settled in Hamburg, specializing in the importation of various raw materials used in the food industry, including spices and herbs.

Ludolph Julius Christensen (1903-1983) had married the daughter of another successful merchant, Johannes Nootbaar, and  eventually became director of his father-in-law’s firm, J. Nootbaar, Jr.   In the early 20s, Christensen traveled to China where he learned about the various processes for drying vegetables and conserving meat, as well as a new technology for powdering eggs.

Christensen later became something of a pioneer in introducing and developing these technologies in Europe. He was also a recognized expert in the so-called transit trade.  It was one of the preferred ways of bringing together the buyers and sellers of different countries during wartime, when the flow of goods was seriously impeded and currencies were not freely convertible.   By all accounts, Christensen enjoyed a reputation as a  gifted and thoroughly reliable businessman.

During the late 1920s, he made  the acquaintance of Kálmán Lauer, a Hungarian lawyer and businessman,  who   worked in Hamburg for a time. Both men shared an interest in developing trade  relations with  the Far East (where Lauer had lived and worked for three years) and the two had remained in close contact ever since.  When Lauer, who was Jewish, emigrated to Sweden in 1941 and  joined  the import-export company Mellaneuropeiska  AB  (The Central-European Trading Company), the Christensen firm quickly became a corner stone of its client network.  Lauer  administered the affairs of Mellaneuropeiska  together with Raoul Wallenberg who wished to learn the intricacies of international commerce and who  – as a citizen of neutral country – retained the ability to travel throughout Nazi- occupied Europe.

It is well known that Mellaneuropeiska  managed to import sizable quantities of foodstuffs to  Sweden during the war, including  large supplies of  poultry, fresh and dried eggs and  other hard to obtain specialty items,  like cigarettes and fruit, mostly from Hungary.  In his application for Swedish citizenship in 1944, Lauer put the value of these imports at about 10,000,000 SEK in just three years –  worth approximately $25,000,000 today.

Few people are aware however, that almost all of these transactions involved the Christensen firm , since the goods  required transfer through German territory and subsequent shipment via the Hamburg harbor.  In a letter addressed to Swedish authorities, Raoul Wallenberg estimated that  in 1943 alone his firm’s volume of trade  with Nootbaar amounted to about  2,000,000 SEK ($5,000,000  today). The main beneficiaries of these goods were the Swedish public as well as the Swedish Army.

Together Mellaneuropeiska and Nootbaar also  handled the transfer  of sizable charitable donations, such as U.S. and British aid packages – through the International Red Cross  – to various aid organizations in Belgium and later, to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany.  Ludolph Christensen personally oversaw the latter delivery and  apparently managed the distribution only after many contentious meetings with the camp commander.  Another example is  Mellaneuropeiska’s  successful arrangement of  a large shipment of  children’s clothing from Hungary to France in 1942.

Fig.2 ASEA's export declaration from late 1942 for high speed drilling equipment to Hungary. Source: File for Mellaneuropeiska at Valutakontoret. Riksarkivet, Stockholm)

Fig.2 ASEA’s export declaration from late 1942 for high speed drilling equipment to Hungary. Source: File for Mellaneuropeiska at Valutakontoret. Riksarkivet, Stockholm)

Interestingly, Mellaneuropeiska, in its role as an export agent, repeatedly dealt with the Hamburg authorities in the transfer or goods other than foodstuffs. In January 1943, Wallenberg and Lauer received permission for the delivery of high-speed drilling equipment (worth then about 22,000 SEK,  approximately $55,000 today) from the Swedish electrical concern ASEA  – which operated in the Wallenberg business sphere –  to  Hungary, specifically to the Manfred Weiss Flugzeug  und  Motorenfabrik A.G. (Duna Aircraft Manufacturing plant). The Duna plant at that time produced planes for the German Luftwaffe.

 

***

At the outbreak of the war, the German Reichsbank put hard currency reserves at the disposal of those companies that had traditionally engaged in transit transactions with Europe and America. This allowed Germany to continue to  procure  important goods, especially from the United States, while earning valuable foreign exchange (through so-called  « Dreiecksgeschäfte », a form of triangular barter or compensation trade).

Nootbaar was one of these firms that managed to stay in business, on a smaller scale. Even though Christensen himself  had no sympathies for the Nazis,   his firm was considered « essential » for the affairs of the  Third Reich.  It fulfilled a vital role in the supply of critical raw materials and foodstuffs – such as powdered eggs (used for baked goods as well as  the manufacturing of margarine) –  to feed  Germany’s population and to supply the German Wehrmacht.

Fig. 3  SS General Karl Wolff

Fig. 3 SS General Karl Wolff

Christensen was never a member of the Nazi Party, but his role was considered so important that he was freed from military service and he  secured the crucial privilege of foreign travel.  It appears that he  procured these favors  at least in part through the  protection of a powerful patron – his sister’s husband, the SS General Karl Wolff.

The German authorities, especially the  Foreign Exchange Control Office, imposed  strict rules on transit firms and monitored them closely, since their activities inevitably accrued assets (foreign debts) abroad.

Christensen had been traveling to Sweden regularly since 1929. After the outbreak of the Second World War, his visits continued unabated. Yet for some reason, no dossier about him  seems to have been preserved in the archive of the wartime Swedish Security Police. The opening of such a file, with very few exceptions, would have been a routine step,  since Christensen was a foreign national who entered Swedish territory three to four times a year.

The reasons for the frequent visits were both professional and  personal. By the late 1930s, Christensen had separated from his first wife and had begun a relationship with a Swedish woman whom he would eventually  marry.

***

Through new documentation obtained from the Swedish National Archive  and the Christensen family, a clearer picture emerges  of the precise circumstances and considerations that led to Raoul Wallenberg’s selection for the Budapest humanitarian mission in the spring of 1944 .

With the German occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944, all Jewish citizens in the country faced   deportation and death. The Nazi killing machine moved with frightening speed.  Kálmán Lauer immediately began to rally all forces to protect his  sister and her family (Irén and Ferenc  Mihály and their daughter) and to save the relatives of his wife Marikka. These included her elderly parents, Lajos and Irene Stein, as well as their only surviving son, Julius Stein.

In one of the  earliest accounts  of  Wallenberg’s mission, Austrian author Rudolph Philipp wrote that Lauer  had immediately telephoned his « close friend in Hamburg » for help — this was in fact Ludolph Christensen, although  his name is never mentioned.

According to Philipp,  the initial idea was to  create some kind of business deal  between Hungary and Sweden that would provide  an « advantage » and thereby an incentive for Germany to permit the departure of certain Jewish citizens from Hungary.  Philipp  specifically refers to  a possible « transit transaction » (like the ones that were routinely carried out by Mellaneuropeiska and Nootbaar).  Such a deal would result in much sought after goods and/or possible hard currency income for the Reich.

Philipp claims that these discussions occurred in June 1944, and that they at some point included the American official Iver Olsen who served  as both the representative of the recently formed  U.S. War Refugee Board  and a  member of the Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor of the CIA)in Stockholm.

In fact, no record exists of Ludolph Christensen entering Swedish territory in June. It is doubtful  that Christensen ever met with Olsen personally – such a meeting would have entailed enormous risks for a German national.

Fig. 4 Letter from Mellaneuropeiska requesting an extension of Ludolph Christensen’s visa in April 1944, so that he could meet with Raoul Wallenberg on May 1 -2, 1944. Source: Riksarkivet, Stockholm

Fig. 4 Letter from Mellaneuropeiska requesting an extension of Ludolph Christensen’s visa in April 1944, so that he could meet with Raoul Wallenberg on May 1 -2, 1944. Source: Riksarkivet, Stockholm

Instead it is likely that deliberations  had already begun a month or so earlier, when Ludolph Christensen traveled to Sweden for a short visit from April 24 – May 5, 1944. During this trip,  he and Lauer undoubtedly discussed  the  crisis in Hungary brought about by the German occupation  in March 1944  and its likely consequences for Lauer’s relatives.

Raoul Wallenberg was away on duty with the Swedish Home Guard at the time,   but he was most likely informed about the discussions and was expected to consult with Christensen around May 1 or 2. (see Fig.4)

Regardless whether or not the two men met at the time, some plan of action appears to have been settled upon.

One  indirect indication for this  is the fact that  Wallenberg applied already on May 15, 1944 for an extended leave from his military service,

“to buy foodstuffs, partially for export to Sweden, partially for the distribution among Hungary’s Jews through the Committee that shall be formed for this purpose …”

This very much echoes the ideas outlined in Philipp’s account.

***

At the same time, the Jewish community in Stockholm as well as  the U.S. government stepped up the pressure to find ways to assist Hungary’s Jews, with  the help of the Swedish authorities.

On June 7, the American Minister Hershel Johnson discussed the situation with the Swedish Cabinet Secretary Eric Boheman who agreed to strengthen his country’s official representation in Budapest. In a letterBoheman also outlined concrete  Swedish plans  for

« ..sending food to those in concentration camps[in Hungary] to be distributed  under supervision.”

This too echoes the initial plans allegedly discussed by Christensen, Lauer, Wallenberg and Olsen.

Precisely at this moment also came an urgent call from the Swedish Legation, Budapest for increased personnel to deal with the growing  humanitarian crisis.

On June 12, Hershel Johnson reported home to Washington –  to  the U.S. Secretary of State, Cordell Hull  – that he has

« found Swede who is going to Hungary very near future  on business trip and who appears willing to lend every possible assistance on Hungarian  problem. »

Johnson’s  statement underscores that up to this point  Raoul Wallenberg had clearly intended to travel to Hungary in the capacity of a businessman, most likely in support of Christensen’s and Lauer’s plans. But he faced a serious problem:  By the beginning of June,  it was nearly  impossible to obtain a transit visa through Germany, because the border with Hungary was essentially closed.

On June 12 and again on June 15, Wallenberg met with Iver Olsen to discuss the possible rescue action and it must have been decided at this point that Wallenberg should receive a formal diplomatic appointment. Such a step meant that he would have to abstain from any commercial activities, but this hardly mattered, since Lauer would continue to manage Mellaneuropeiska’s affairs.

***

In a two page summary  he wrote after the war about his activities in Hungary in 1944, Ludolph  Christensen relates how just a few days earlier, on June 5, 1944,  he had set out on a trip to Karlsbad (then part of the annexed Sudetenland) to meet with an « high officer of the Waffen SS ».  This was almost certainly  General  Wolff who frequently traveled there to recover  from a serious kidney ailment that had required an operation the year before.   In 1943, Wolff had finally obtained  permission to divorce his first wife and to  marry Christensen’s sister, Ingrid, with whom he had  a liaison since 1936.

Christensen apparently received a [letter of]  recommendation from Wolff to his  friend, Edmund Veesenmayer, Reich Plenipotentiary in Hungary.  However, Christensen was prevented from immediately proceeding to Hungary by the Allied bombing of his company buildings in Hamburg,  which required his urgent return.  He was only able to obtain a visa for travel to Budapest by mid-July 1944.

On July 22, Raoul Wallenberg sent a telegram, confirming  Christensen’s arrival (« Ludo angekommen ».)

In his summary account Christensen explains  how  upon his arrival in Budapest,  he  went straight away to see Raoul Wallenberg who introduced him to the First Secretary  at the Swedish Legation, Per Anger.  Wallenberg explained that Christensen had come to assist them « with their project ».  Anger provided Christensen with  a copy of a Swedish ‘note verbale’ which he and Wallenberg planned to present to the Hungarian authorities, asking for the protection of twenty-five Jewish individuals with ties to Sweden. The list included Kálmán  Lauer’s sister, her husband and their daughter, as well as Marikka Lauer’s relatives.

Christensen then immediately went to see Veesenmayer who referred him to Theodor Grell, the official in charge of Jewish affairs at the German Legation.  According to Christensen, Grell expressed great surprise, wondering

« why would   I – a German citizen –  concern myself with rescuing Jews? »

Christensen writes:

« I explained that Koloman and Marikka Lauer were my good friends in Sweden and that it should not be a problem to release the people named in the official Swedish ‘note verbale’ of which I handed him a copy. » 

Grell replied that the Jews who had lived in the provinces he could

 » ‘no longer obtain’precisely as if he was talking about an item that had sold out« ,

Christensen finally received  Grell’s assurances that those Jews mentioned in the ‘note verbale’ who remained in Budapest would be protected and permitted to leave.

The next few days, Christensen and Wallenberg spent filling out forms on behalf of those who could possibly be rescued.

Christensen then went to see Grell again, to plead for Lauer’s sister and her family, but did not succeed in winning permission for them to depart for Sweden.  It appears that through his efforts, however, a small group of other individuals were later allowed to leave Hungary.

The German authorities soon objected to Christensen’s presence  and it was made clear to him that  he should depart as soon as possible.

Christensen writes that during his last night in Budapest he and  Raoul Wallenberg had dinner on the veranda of the famous Gellert hotel. Wallenberg pointed out another guest, the head of the Fascist Arrow Cross Party, Ferenc  Szálasi, who was seated at a neighboring table. A few months later,  Szálasi would gain power, plunging the country into complete chaos, with his Arrow Cross followers murdering Jews  nearly at will.

When Christensen left Hungary  on August 1, 1944, Wallenberg asked him to deliver greetings to his mother and to tell her that he planned to travel home to Sweden via « Siberia, China and the United States ».  Christensen says that Wallenberg was curious about the Far East and that he felt his diplomatic passport would offer all the necessary protection he needed for such a trip.

With Christensen’s stay in Budapest  cut short, one wonders what happened to  his and Wallenberg’s  plans

« to probe the highest German circles for future developments ».

Given Christensen’s personal connections, it would be interesting to know if these plans referred solely to the subject of Jewish deportations or if topics like how to find a quick end to the war, through possible  separate peace agreements (between Germany and the Allies),  were perhaps intended to become part of these considerations.  Numerous such initiatives were under way at the time, in both Budapest and Stockholm.

Interestingly, right after Christensen’s arrival in Budapest,  Wallenberg had sent  a coded telegram to Sweden on this very subject.

Fig. 5  Coded telegram sent by Raoul Wallenberg to Stockholm on July 22, 1944, referring to rumors about possible separate peace negotiations between Germany and the Allies. Source:  Riksarkivet, Stockholm

Fig. 5 Coded telegram sent by Raoul Wallenberg to Stockholm on July 22, 1944, referring to rumors about possible separate peace negotiations between Germany and the Allies. Source: Riksarkivet, Stockholm

In this telegram  he urged the Americans to ensure that if a  separate peace agreement would be concluded between Germany and the Allies (possibly the Soviet Union),  the protection of the Jews was secured well in advance. It is unclear if Wallenberg was reacting to certain rumors circulating in Budapest or if Christensen could have been the source of this information.

It is well known that Stalin  strongly disapproved of such discussions, and he especially objected to the deal made in early 1945 by U.S. intelligence chief Allen Dulles with  General  Wolff  –  the so-called « Operation Sunrise ». Wolff had arranged the full surrender of the German Army in Italy to U.S. authorities  without prior knowledge or involvement of the Soviet leadership.

In this connection it would  be of some interest to examine what exactly the Russians knew about Raoul Wallenberg’s long-time association with  Christensen and if so, how they assessed this contact.  From the Soviet perspective,  Mellaneuropeiska’s German business dealings may have simply confirmed that  – wartime or not  – Sweden and Raoul Wallenberg were ready to maintain profitable relations with the Third Reich. It also needs to be established if the Soviets linked Raoul Wallenberg in any way to Karl Wolff  (via Christensen, for example) or to  separate peace discussions in general.

***

There is some indication that Soviet officials have known about Raoul Wallenberg’s German business contacts for some time, even though this information has never been shared in detail .

In 2004, Vladimir Sokolov, the Russian diplomat, historian and former member of the official Russian-Swedish Working Group that investigated the Wallenberg case during the 1990s, published several summary notes about his participation in this work (Zametki uchastnika rossisko-shvedskoi rabochei gruppy  po « delu Wallenberga », Novaya i Noveishaya Istoria, 2004)He writes that during the war,

« Raoul Wallenberg, like his rich relatives from the ‘house of Wallenberg’ traded successfully with firms of fascist Germany, including trading in strategic materials. »

Sokolov does not clarify from which source he obtained this information, but it appears to be a clear reference to Mellaneuropeiska’s contacts with German firms like Nootbaar and the trade in goods other than foodstuffs.  His claims were never discussed in the Working Group.

It is worth noting that Christensen’s name was left out of all accounts of Wallenberg’s mission. And even though he went to great length to assist Lauer’s family and his actions carried considerable risk, he himself  never mentioned his role after the war, including in his  application for Swedish citizenship filed in 1952.

Christensen was   by nature a  modest man, yet his silence may be due to a number of considerations. Perhaps he  felt that he did not want to draw undue attention to himself, for both personal and professional reasons.  Undoubtedly, his sister’s marriage to Karl Wolff and the use of this connection for Christensen’s actions in Budapest could have  been misinterpreted and lead to unwanted publicity.

It is also an indisputable fact that Mellaneuropeiska  had maintained  and profited from extensive trade relations with a German firm during the war years. There may have been fears that this association could have  sparked public  controversy about perceived « war profiteering » and could  end up harming  Raoul Wallenberg’s reputation.

Mellaneuropeiska’s  association with Nootbaar was undoubtedly a double edged sword:  On the one hand, the contacts secured key goods (foodstuffs/raw materials) for Sweden during war time, ensuring adequate supplies and providing a true national service. In addition, large charitable donations were facilitated with Christensen’s help.  On the other hand, all this was achieved with the  assistance of a firm that had been designated « vital » to the Third Reich and that  produced key benefits (foreign exchange and goods) for the Nazi government.

That the matter was sensitive is  underscored by the fact that Kálmán Lauer’s lengthy account of his economic activities in Sweden  – which he  submitted as part of his own application for Swedish citizenship in 1944 –  does not  once mention Ludolph Christensen by name, even though most of the cited transactions involved  Christensen’s person and/or his firm.

Finally, Christensen may have  been  concerned about how his actions might be perceived by certain conservative circles  in post-war Germany and in Sweden.

During the war years, Mellaneuropeiska  functioned in a completely anglophile, anti-Nazi environment ; one  that also was very much pro-German, in the sense that many people in Sweden had deep sympathies for  the « ordinary » German who opposed Hitler’s dictatorship. Wallenberg’s and Lauer’s personal outlook  is quite clear on this point. So are the attitudes of Carl Matthiessen and Sven Salén,   the owners of  Banankompaniet (under whose umbrella Mellaneuropeiska operated).  Matthiessen was a staunch supporter of the Norwegian resistance and was close friends with several key British diplomats  and  intelligence representatives in Stockholm.  Salén’s mindset too was definitely pro-Allied. (He served as Vice-President of the Swedish-American Society for many years).

Yet, all these men certainly had  a very   pragmatic attitude when it came to business. It was clear that old friendships and associations weighed heavily in the balance.  The all important  goal  was to help and protect fellow business associates and, in the process,   secure  a favorable position for Swedish companies  in the post-war economy.

To this end,   businessmen like Matthiessen and Salén,  as well   their bankers  – the powerful Wallenberg brothers chief among them –  extended considerable assistance to numerous persons throughout the war, across a broad political and ideological spectrum.

Jacob and Marcus Wallenberg played a key role in helping  German companies and individuals cloak their assets abroad, for which they stood  accused  by U.S. authorities for aiding the enemy; and rightly so, in spite of recent attempts to portray these transactions solely as a means of supporting old associates and the German resistance.

Matthiessen’s company, meanwhile, had longstanding ties to Hungary and the family behind the country’s most important industrial concern , Manfred Weiss.  He was instrumental in offering the Weiss family important assistance in Sweden, including the safeguarding of some of their holdings.

Raoul Wallenberg’s plans for an organization dedicated to the restitution of Jewish property in Hungary after the war –  including lost patent and cartel rights – is another example of this approach.

***

None of the foregoing in any way diminishes Raoul Wallenberg’s work or accomplishments in Budapest in 1944. His German business contacts,  however, may  have  further enhanced  the already strong Soviet suspicions about his person. In January 1945 Wallenberg was arrested by Soviet forces and taken to Moscow where he disappeared.

It needs to be determined  if Wallenberg’s association with Ludolph  Christensen had any broader ramifications for his later fate.  Future research will have to show if  the Russians attached any significance to Wallenberg’s German connections or if they regarded them as mostly incidental. In order to do so, it will also be necessary to  gain a deeper understanding of  Mellaneuropeiska‘s  full range of activities during the war years.

***

Susanne Berger  is a historical researcher and journalist who has studied the background of the Raoul Wallenberg case for many years.  She served as an independent consultant to the Russian-Swedish Working Group from 1995-2001.

C.G.McKay has written several research reports on the case of Raoul Wallenberg and is the author of the books « From Information to Intrigue » (1993) and (with Bengt Beckman) « Swedish Signal Intelligence 1900-1945 » (2003).

Vadim Birstein, a biologist and historian, was a member of the first International Commission on Raoul Wallenberg headed by Prof. Guy von Dardel, Wallenberg’s half-brother, in 1990-91. He has published many articles on the Wallenberg case (some co-authored with Susanne Berger) and is the author of the books “The Perversion of Knowledge: The True History of Soviet Science” (2001) and “SMERSH, Stalin’s Secret Weapon: Soviet Military counterintelligence in WWII” (2012),  which received the inaugural St. Ermin’s Intelligence Book Award in 2012.

January 17th, light your candles in memory of Raoul Wallenberg!

09-01-2015, by Marie Dupuy,

When Raoul Wallenberg arrived in Hungary, he met darkness and persecuted Jews. He gave light and hope to the Jews of Budapest by finding ways to protect them.  

70 years ago have passed since Raoul Wallenberg disappeared. He faced darkness the day he was kidnapped by Stalin’s regime.

In Soviet prisons, he had to fight the devil, while the world had found peace. But his nearest family and his friends could not live in peace until Raoul had come back home.

May this day be a day of remembrance for Raoul Wallenberg and his driver,Vilmos Langfelder, who unwillingly left the light.

January 17th will be the day, while outside the cold dark winter looms, lighted candles at the window will remind us of Raoul’s love for humanity – he showed us that love is stronger then hatred.

May it be the day where crimes committed against the innocent  will be condemned, so that  broken families  never have to face that pain again.

Never.

Marie Dupuy,
daughter to Raoul Wallenberg’s brother Guy von Dardel