NOT A ‘NOBODY’: CHOICE OF RAOUL WALLENBERG IN 1944 NOT ACCIDENTAL

19-03-2012 , by Susanne Berger, Dr. Vadim Birstein

A major challenge for researchers  in the Raoul Wallenberg case has always been how little original documentation about the young Swedish diplomat survives from his adult life before 1944. Few personal letters or other documents have been preserved.

In particular, such papers would fill in important information about Wallenberg’s personal and professional contacts before he was sent to Hungary in July 1944 on a humanitarian mission to aid its Jewish population. Hungary had been formally allied with Nazi Germany since 1940, but Germany had nevertheless moved to occupy the country on March 19, 1944. In a short few months, almost 500,000 Jews were deported to exterminations camps in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

For decades, the idea has prevailed that the choice of Raoul Wallenberg for his dangerous assignment was largely accidental, the result of a fortuitous set of circumstances that settled on a smart young businessman just weeks before he left for Budapest.  Only 32  years old at the time, Wallenberg has been routinely portrayed as  highly intelligent,  yet stuck in a rather average career path as director of a small import-export foodstuffs company (“Mellaneuropeiska”), largely cut off from his powerful relatives, the  bankers Marcus and Jacob Wallenberg, and  eager for a chance to make his mark.

While much of this description is accurate, new documentation recently discovered in Hungary suggests that  Wallenberg’s background story may be more complex than previously thought. For one, as early as 1943, his personal network of contacts ran deeper and broader than researchers  have realized. This raises new questions not only about Raoul Wallenberg’s relationship with the Wallenberg business group, but also what exactly prompted his selection for the Budapest assignment. In addition, the documents add important pieces to the puzzle why Soviet authorities may have been so interested in detaining him.

Last year, we were contacted by Lovice Maria Ullein-Reviczky, the daughter of the former Hungarian Minister in Stockholm, Dr. Antal Ullein-Reviczky. Before his stay in Sweden from 1943-45, Ullein-Reviczky had been a high ranking member of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry as head of its Press Department and Cultural Section. More importantly, he was a well-known opponent of Nazism and a key figure in the Hungarian resistance movement that included leading diplomatic and political figures around the Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Kállay. Ever since 1942, Ullein-Reviczky had been instrumental in numerous efforts to contact the Western Allies, especially Britain, to discuss a way for Hungary to leave its alliance with Nazi Germany.

Lovice Maria Ullein-Reviczky produced papers which showed for the first time that Raoul Wallenberg personally knew Antal Ullein-Reviczky as early as September 1943, when he was visiting Budapest on business for his company “Mellaneuropeiska”.

Both men attended a private lunch given by József Balogh, the famous editor of the influential publication Magyar Szemle (Hungarian Review) and a close friend of the Ullein-Reviczky couple.

On September 18, 1943, Mrs. Ullein-Reviczky (British born  Lovice Louisa Grace Ullein-Reviczky née Cumberbatch) noted in her diary: 

« Went to Balogh’s  for luncheon. Met Mr. Wallenberg – old Mrs. Wallenberg’s grandson who is on business here. Very charming. »

Excerpt of a social diary kept by Mrs. Ullein Reviczky (Lovice Louisa Grace Ullein-Reviczky née Cumberbatch), for September 18, 1943, courtesy of the Antal Ullein-Reviczky Foundation, Magyarnandor-Kelecseny, 2694 Hungary

Balogh moved in a highly exclusive group of people, a mix of aristocrats, industrialists, politicians, diplomats and writers. They included the former Hungarian Prime Minister István Bethlen; Baron Móric Kornfeld and the extended family of Hungary’s powerful industrialist Manfred Weiss; Lipót Aschner, the managing director of Hungary’s largest electrical concern Tungsram  (the United Incandescent Light and Electricity Company); former Hungarian Prime Minister in 1917, Count Móric Esterházy, Marquis György Pallavicini, Jr., a lawyer and businessman, and many others. These individuals formed the core group of anti-Nazi sentiment around the Hungarian Regent, Miklós Horthy. (note : Like Raoul Wallenberg, István Bethlen and György Pallavicini were arrested  by Soviet authorities in 1945 and died in Soviet captivity.)

The group had very strong ties to Britain, as well as close  personal and business contacts with Sweden. The enormous Manfred Weiss industrial empire, which produced everything from airplanes, trucks, and bicycles to tinned goods and needles,  had numerous subsidiaries and associations in Sweden, especially with the business group of Swedish shipping magnate Sven Salén (who owned Raoul Wallenberg’s firm « Mellaneuropeiska ») and Salén’s  close associates, the Wallenberg brothers.

The Wallenberg family, in turn,  had a powerful presence in Hungary, with both their Swedish Match company and the ball bearing trust SKF enjoying monopoly status. During the war, Hungary constituted an important market for Sweden for a variety of goods, especially for the import of foodstuffs, textiles and critical raw materials, including bauxite, flax and oil.

Hungarian Minister Dr. Antal Ullein-Reviczky, shown here at a banquet in Stockholm's Grand Hotel, March 15, 1944, courtesy of the Antal Ullein-Reviczky Foundation, Magyarnandor-Kelecseny, 2694 Hungary

The introduction of the so-called « race laws » in Hungary increasingly restricted the roles Jewish citizens could play in public life.  By September 1940 Jacob Wallenberg had received a  message from Jewish business owners who were worried about further restrictions of their activities. Some of these Jewish businessmen were looking to Sweden for “the purpose of  the [temporary ] ‘aryanization’ of their businesses.”  Should Jacob be interested, the message stated,  he should send a representative to Budapest.

Attached to the request Jacob Wallenberg  had received was a card by Tungsram’s CEO, Lipót Aschner. Incidentally, most of Raoul Wallenberg’s closest aides in 1944 would come from the managerial ranks of just this firm.

[note: By that time, Lipót Aschner himself had already been deported to Mauthausen and saving him became  one of Wallenberg’s important concerns in Budapest]

It is quite possible that  Aschner’s approach to Jacob and the deteriorating conditions in Hungary were one of the many reasons behind the creation of Raoul Wallenberg’s company « Mellaneuropeiska » in 1941

Raoul Wallenberg had  ostensibly joined « Mellaneuropeiska » to learn the intricacies of international business, especially in a world at war. But aside from his regular business tasks related to the importation of foodstuffs like Hungarian wine and geese, Wallenberg would also have been well suited to take on the role of  a confidential  representative, as Lipót Aschner had requested.

There are some indications  that Raoul may have been working for Jacob Wallenberg in some confidential capacity  already before he joined « Mellaneuropeiska ». On September 26, 1939, when German and Soviet troops  marched through Poland, he wrote to Jacob: “At our last meeting you told me that the war would perhaps lead to a number of problems and that you possibly would want to use me for their solution.“ 

While « Mellaneuropeiska » nominally belonged to Sven Salén, it operated fully in the Wallenberg business sphere. Under the umbrella of one of his flagship companies, « Banankompaniet », Salén ran a  network of smaller firms. After the outbreak of the war, the Manfred Weiss family apparently transferred  some of their assets to these smaller entities such as “Svenska Konserv AB Globus” (a cannery) In other words, Salén’s businesses – and by extension the Wallenberg sphere – provided important « cover » for key Hungarian business interests in Sweden and in Hungary.  As the historian C.G. McKay has pointed out, Raoul Wallenberg’s colleague,  Kálmán Lauer, was an expert at such arrangements which proved  profitable for both sides. Because Lauer was Jewish, however, he was unable to travel to Hungary himself during the war.

[note : The claim that Svenska Globus held Weiss family assets is supported by a letter Baroness Weiss received from Sweden on February 22, 1945, as reported by  Britain’s Economic Warfare Department on March 28, 1945. The letter was written by Elisabeth Uggla, wife of Heinrich von Wahl, the former Managing Director of the Manfred Weiss A.G ; see C.G. McKay, Notes on the Case of Raoul Wallenberg, http://www.raoul-wallenberg.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/20111001McKays-Notes.pdf)

Wallenberg’s visa application for his September 1943 trip to Hungary specifically states that he intended to visit the « Manfred Weiss A.G. » and « Toledo Stahl, A.G. », a steel company. The trip’s sponsors were Jacob Wallenberg, Sven Salén and Erik Björkman, a Director of Skandinaviska Banken (and head of the Swedish-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce).

According to the official Hungarian/Swedish trade register for October 1943, the  main Swedish trading partner for « Toledo Stahl » was  « Hellefors Bruk AB », a large iron and steel manufacturing  concern, then owned by Skandinaviska Banken’s investment arm AB Custos.

As for the Manfred Weiss A.G., it encompassed the ”Globus” canning factory (trading partner to ”Svenska Konserv A.B.” and  to ”Mellaneuropeiska”), but at the time it also did important business with a variety of Swedish firms dealing in steel products, including the ball bearing concern SKF, which was controlled by the Wallenberg family.  It therefore appears that while visiting Hungary on behalf of ”Mellaneuropeiska ”, Raoul Wallenberg also may have acted  as an agent for business matters not strictly limited to the importation of foodstuffs, at least on this particular trip.

(Raoul Wallenberg’s 1943 visa application he filed with the Hungarian Legation, Stockholm is displayed on the website of the Hungarian National Archives. It includes a previously unknown photograph of him http://www.mol.gov.hu/a_het_dokumentuma/raoul_wallenberg_vizumkerelme.html)

Heinrich (Heinz) von Wahl, courtesy of Peter Zwack, Hungary

In his visa application  Wallenberg listed « Ritter [Baronet] von Wahl » as one of his main contacts in Hungary. This was certainly  Henrik de Wahl, the managing director of the Manfred Weiss A.G.  who  – like Salén and Björkman – in 1944 would play a key role in ensuring Raoul Wallenberg’s selection for the humanitarian mission to Budapest. Heinz von Wahl, as he was known in Budapest, was a nephew of Manfred Weiss’ wife Alice von Wahl. He was closely involved in the founding of Svenska Konserv Globus AB

(see C.G. McKay, Notes on the Case of Raoul Wallenberg, http://www.raoul-wallenberg.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/20111001McKays-Notes.pdf)

This raises the important question  how much Raoul Wallenberg knew about the Salén/Wallenberg sphere’s sheltering of Weiss family business assets and if he had any role in these transactions.

(note : Heinz von Wahl’s sister, Vera von Wahl, was married to the beverage magnate János Zwack. Both he and his wife are listed as “Friends” in a private code list Raoul Wallenberg created for  his humanitarian work in Budapest in 1944. Before his departure, Wallenberg and Lauer worked out  a list of codenames to hide people’s  identities in their correspondence)

Raoul Wallenberg's private code list; courtesy of Dr. Guy von Dardel, Private Archiv.

The  Wallenberg family also found other ways to quietly help the beleaguered members of the Hungarian elite to protect their holdings. A good example is Count Móric Esterházy. Some of his funds were held by Stockholm Enskilda Banken in a so-called  Special Account ”U” during the war years. (The account  was maintained in the U.S. by Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.)

While his last name alone would have opened doors, these facts  make Raoul Wallenberg’s  attendance at a private lunch at  József Balogh’s house in September 1943 all the more understandable.

The timing of the gathering too is noteworthy.  The meeting took place on September 18, two days before Antal Ullein-Reviczky was to depart for Stockholm to take up his new post as Hungarian Minister to Sweden.

At that very moment  the Hungarian diplomat was involved in highly secret and sensitive separate peace discussions via  Turkey (Ullein-Reviczky’s in-laws were British diplomats living in Istanbul). These discussions involved representatives of  the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Britain’s foreign sabotage organization, which at the time was headed by the British banker Charles Hambro. He happened to be married to Marcus Wallenberg’s first wife.  Both Wallenberg and Hambro were in regular contact concerning efforts to broker an end to the war.

Not surprisingly, while in Budapest, the Ullein-Reviczkys  maintained regular contact with the Swedish-Legation, inviting both the Swedish Minister Ivan Danielsson and First Secretary Per Anger to frequent lunches, dinners or bridge parties. Due to Sweden’s neutrality, Swedish channels became one of the few reliable routes to deliver news about Hungary to the outside world.

Their social contacts with Swedish diplomats  intensified in Stockholm.

Antal Ullein-Reviczky and spouse, Lovice Louisa Grace née Cumberbatch Hungarian Legation, Stockholm, September 30 1943 (Before Royal audience; courtesy of the Antal Ullein-Reviczky Foundation, Magyarnandor-Kelecseny, 2694 Hungary

Regular guests at private dinner parties hosted by the Minister and Mrs. Antal Ullein-Reviczky at the Hungarian Legation building at Strandvägen 63 included high ranking officials like the Swedish Foreign Minister Christian Günther; Head of the Foreign Ministry’s Political Department, Sven Grafström; Undersecretary of State, Erik Boheman; head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s Bureau of Foreign Trade, Gunnar Hägglöf; Östen Undén who headed the Swedish Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committe during the war; Chief of the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s Legal Department, Gösta Engzell and others. And on several occasions, Raoul Wallenberg is listed as someone who attended these gatherings.

The entry in Mrs. Ullein-Reviczky’s diary for November 6, 1943 reads: 

« Had Bohemans, Gripenberg, Exstrand (sic), Angelica Bunde (sic), young Raoul Wallenberg to lunch]

[note: Eric Boheman had just been named Ambassador to France and had been involved in trade negotiations with Britain as well as the Soviet Union, Gripenberg was most likely Finnish Minister Georg Gripenberg; Angelica Bonde was daughter of Baron Knut Bonde and apparently Raoul Wallenberg’s girlfriend at the time; “Exstrand” may have been Envoyé Einar Ekstrand, who was involved in refugee assistance issues]   

Wallenberg reciprocated by inviting the Hungarian Minister and his wife to a cocktail party at his home on December 2, 1943.

Then, on December 18 , Raoul Wallenberg attended an exclusive dinner party at the Hungarian Legation.

On that day,  Mrs. Ullein-Reviczky writes about the gathering arranged by her and her husband:

« Foreign Minister and Mrs. Günther, Ramels, Thybergs [Swedish Minister to Greece], Grippenberg (sic) [Gripenberg, Finnish Minister], Nicolaeffs [Bulgarian Minister and his wife], de Riba-Tamega [Portugese Minister], Dinicherts [Swiss Minister and his wife], Haggelhoffs (sic) [most likely Hägglöf, the above-mentioned head of the Swedish Bureau of Foreign Trade] , [Harry] Sombor, Facht, Ihres, Kesceru (sic), Nordwalls, etc. 44 guests. Great sucess! »

Two days later, the Hungarian Minister’s wife received a letter from Raoul Wallenberg,

« congratulating me on everything, for arranging the Legation so beautifully. »

 Wallenberg’s inclusion  in this circle is somewhat surprising to anyone familiar with the strict social rules of both Swedish and general diplomatic circles at the time.   It is perhaps a sign of the relative importance Ullein-Reviczky attached to him as a representative of  a business sphere that represented vital Hungarian economic interests.

Most interestingly,  both Ullein-Reviczky and his wife attended Raoul Wallenberg’s farewell dinner at his parents’ house on July 6, 1944. Mrs. Ullein-Reviczky noted:

« We dined at the Dardels with Raoul Wallenberg  who is leaving for Budapest tomorrow and couple Lauer »

(note: Ullein-Reviczky’s name does not appear in Raoul Wallenberg’s calendar on that day. He was not a careful note taker and often omitted sensitive data)

The Minister’s presence underscores both the official importance of the mission and  the personal rapport that apparently had developed between the two men.

Numerous contacts listed in Ullein-Reviczky’s personal address book match Wallenberg’s own contact list in Budapest, most notably among them:

Dr. Géza Soós, a close colleague  of Ullein-Reviczky’s in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry’s Press Department.   He was one of the first people Raoul Wallenberg met when he arrived in Hungary in July 1944. Soós was a leader of an important Hungarian resistance group, the MFM (Magyar Függetlenségi Mozgalom – Hungarian Independence Movement). There were also the  politician and newspaper owner Count Gyula Dessewffy (whom Raoul Wallenberg hid in his private residence in Budapest); « Micky » Horthy, son of the Hungarian Regent Miklós Horthy (with whom Wallenberg met on several occasions);   the wealthy and influential Countess Hetta von Wenckheim (one of Raoul Wallenberg’s earliest contacts); Count Ferdinand Orssich whose son Pizek was Ullein-Reviczky’s close associate (Orssich’s name appears on Raoul Wallenberg’s coded list of names  as a « friend »); as well as  Heinz von Wahl (affectionally referred to as « Heinzi” von Wahl in Mrs. Ullein-Reviczky’s notes). Just as importantly,  Ullein-Reviczky was a very close friend of Tibor Eckardt, the leader of the Hungarian Smallholders Party and a close advisor to U.S. President Roosevelt during the war (he moved to the U.S. in October 1941).

Courtesy of Dr. Guy von Dardel, Private Archive

All through his  stay in Sweden, Antal Ullein-Reviczky’s focus remained  the fate of his home country and the plight of the Jewish population. After the German occupation, the Hungarian Minister’s official appointment was revoked, but Swedish authorities allowed him to remain in Stockholm, with full diplomatic authorization.

Already on   April 8, 1944, Ullein-Reviczky sent an urgent appeal to Swedish Foreign Minister Christian Günther outlining the suffering of the Hungarian Jews and urging  active Swedish assistance.

« What appears to me to be of general interest … is the undeniable fact that in the centre  of Europe, 800,000 human beings are doomed to martyrdom. May I, Mr. Minister, express the hope that the fate of these unfortunate people will not be indifferent to the Government of Sweden..? …May I solicit your government to take all measures it considers appropriate in order to improve the situation of my Jewish compatriots? »

This appeal was  no doubt prompted by the increasingly horrific reports of mass deportation of Hungarian Jews, as well as  the creation of the U.S. War Refugee Board by President Roosevelt in January 1944. The Board was given the task of rendering active assistance to Jewish refugees. The Hungarian Minister’s formal request was clearly intended to increase the pressure for official Swedish action.   That same day he forwarded a copy of his appeal to the American and British governments, via their official representatives in Stockholm, the American Minister Herschel V. Johnson and Britain’s Minister Victor Mallet. Both responded with strong expressions of sympathy and support.

Letter dated April 8, 1944, from Dr. Antal Ullein-Reviczky to Swedish Foreign Minister Christian Günther, published in 'Le Journal d'Orient', March 5, 1946. The letter is also cited in Dr. Ullein-Reviczky's memoir, "Guerre allemande - paix russe" (1947), soon to be released in English, as "German War-Russian Peace"; courtesy of the Antal Ullein-Reviczky Foundation, Magyarnandor-Kelecseny, 2694 Hungary

There have been questions about  exactly when the idea to send a special Swedish representative to Hungary was conceived and when the idea emerged that this person should be Raoul Wallenberg. The actual choice was believed to have been made in June, 1944, when  Wallenberg formally met with the U.S. War Refugee Board representative in Stockholm, Iver Olsen and U.S. Minister Herschel Johnson. Ullein-Reviczky’s letter probably further fueled the already lively deliberations under way in the Swedish Jewish community to find a way to aid Hungary’s Jews and almost surely from the start  these deliberations involved Raoul Wallenberg.

This conclusion is  supported by the fact that Wallenberg asked the commander of his Swedish Home Guard unit where he spent his military service for leave already on May 15, 1944 to go to Hungary for six months,  on a humanitarian relief mission  » for a committee which is to be formed for that purpose”.  A few weeks later, Swedish Undersecretary of State Erik Boheman informed Herschel Johnson that he favored American requests « of  increasing Swedish representation in Budapest » and pointed out « that Sweden  already is considering the possibility of sending food to [Hungarian Jews] in concentration camps to be distributed under supervision… »

It appears likely that Raoul Wallenberg was referring to this very project in his request for leave from military service and that Boheman in return knew of Wallenberg’s intentions.  Boheman’s sister was married to Gunnar Josephson, a leading figure in Stockholm’s  Jewish community [Mosaiska Församling]. For his part, Herschel Johnson was well acquainted with Sven Salén who was a Vice President of the Swedish-American Society and whose  business offices were located in the same building as the American Legation, Stockholm.

In early June 1944,  Ullein-Reviczky sent a second round of official appeals to both Swedish and Allied  representatives which were met with the same  assurances of support.

Throughout his stay in Sweden Ullein-Reviczky also continued his clandestine discussions with American and British intelligence representatives about possible Allied military intervention in Hungary and the possibilities of limiting  future Soviet influence in the region. These talks included the very same individuals who were involved in the preparation of Wallenberg’s mission, such as Andor Gellert, a Hungarian journalist and diplomat who worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, the predecessor of the CIA), Vilmos Böhm, a former Hungarian Minister of War in 1919, who was employed by the British Legation, R. Taylor Cole, head of the OSS’ Secret Intelligence Branch in Stockholm and of course Iver Olsen who was also a member of OSS. No doubt the involvement of all these people  in activities like separate peace negotiatons made Raoul Wallenberg’s role very suspicious in the eyes of Soviet counterintelligence.

Given the fact that Wallenberg was close to Ullein-Reviczky (who had the ear of both the official Swedish and the Allied representation in Stockholm) and that he also enjoyed the support of leading Swedish and Hungarian business circles and the Jewish community, his selection to go to Hungary appears much less surprising than commonly believed.   That Raoul Wallenberg was able to win the confidence of U.S. representatives  is even less surprising given the considerable  time he spent in America while attending the University of Michigan.  However, American officials  also  must  have noted that he had  important professional and social connections that uniquely qualified him for the planned mission.

In short, a number of mixed motives prompted Raoul Wallenberg’s selection, including very important personal ones: Kálmán Lauer’s relatives were still living in Hungary and many staff members of businesses associated with Sweden also faced immediate risk of deportation or death. As a businessman, Raoul Wallenberg was the obvious choice, because he already had established ties to key players – in the business community, as well as in the Swedish and Hungarian diplomatic establishment.

Reply sent by the U.S. Minister to Stockholm, Herschel V. Johnson, to an appeal authored on behalf of Hungary's Jewish population by Dr. Antal Ullein-Reviczky on April 8, 1944;courtesy of the Antal Ullein-Reviczky Foundation, Magyarnandor-Kelecseny, 2694 Hungary

None of Raoul Wallenberg’s colleagues, including Per Anger, Ivan Danielsson, Lars Berg and Kálmán Lauer who knew of Wallenberg’s personal contact with Ullein-Reviczky and his  circle mentioned this connection in later accounts of the case.  Anger merely refers to his own discussions with the Hungarian Minister.

[note: Per Anger met with Dr. Ullein-Reviczky during his brief visit home in Stockholm in August 1944. Both Anger and Ivan Danielsson called on the Minister immediately after their safe return from Hungary in April 1945]

Undoubtedly, the main reason for their silence was  because they understood that Wallenberg’s various social and intelligence contacts heightened the already strong Soviet suspicions about him. In short, these contacts  made him a target. It is very likely that Soviet intelligence representatives in both Stockholm and Hungary  reported to Moscow in some detail about  Raoul Wallenberg’s activities in the years 1943-1945. However, so far none of these reports have been released from Russian archives, a critical gap in the official case record.

Soviet intelligence also probably noted that one focus of Wallenberg’s mission was the protection of  vital Hungarian business  assets and  of the highly skilled professionals  employed by these businesses – « Zukunftsmenschen », as Kálmán Lauer called them, « People of the Future. »

Similar questions arose about deals Raoul Wallenberg made with Hungarian and German Nazi representatives in order to save the lives of thousands of Jews under official Swedish protection. Lars Berg confirmed this in an internal Swedish Foreign Ministry  memo  after the war: “Wallenberg  received considerable support from the wealthy industrial family Weiss … Even Himmler’s Special Representative and controller of the Weiss Family Kurt Becher …helped Raoul Wallenberg in critical situations. »

Facts like this would have fueled Stalin’s paranoia about a developing Anglo-American/German/Jewish conspiracy – that Britain and the U.S. would ultimately make common cause with  a pacified Germany and wealthy Jewish business owners, to then turn as a united front against the Soviet Union. In short, Wallenberg’s  mission was seen as an integral part of a broader policy to limit future Soviet influence in Eastern Europe and the world in general.

Documents from the Russian Foreign Ministry archives released in the 1990s suggest that the main reason why Soviet officials had detained Raoul Wallenberg was because he – like  two Swiss diplomats who were arrested  with him –  was considered a valuable bargaining chip. Soviet officials were also clearly interested to learn  details about the various separate peace initiatives that had taken place in the years 1942-1945 in which the Wallenberg family had played an important role.

By de-emphasizing Raoul Wallenberg’s early connections and relative importance, the Swedish government in the immediate aftermath of the war  downplayed its own role in support of these broader Allied policy goals.  This may also help explain to some extent the subdued American response to Wallenberg’s disappearance.

The Wallenberg family’s lack of action on behalf of Raoul Wallenberg  after 1945 has  been much noted and discussed. The Wallenbergs’ immediate concern appears to have been focused on positioning their businesses in  the postwar economy. This included extensive efforts to release Wallenberg financial holdings that had been blocked by U.S. authorities  during the war (to stop trade with Nazi Germany), as well as  the fight to prevent  the potential loss of millions of dollars  in business assets  through the threat of Soviet nationalization of foreign enterprises in Eastern Europe, including in Hungary. Negotiations with the Soviet Union for compensation agreements  took decades to conclude.

In 1945, with the Soviet Union occupying the Baltic countries, Sweden had enormous fears of its gigantic neighbor. Still, it is becoming quite clear that Raoul Wallenberg was apparently not as inexperienced and unknown to Swedish decision makers as it has appeared until now.  He was not the ‘Nobody’ he has been made out to be. Given Raoul Wallenberg’s important political and business connections, new questions arise why Swedish officials did not make a stronger effort to secure his repatriation.

Dr. Antal Ullein-Reviczky’s role in originating the Swedish humanitarian mission in 1944 also deserves closer examination than it has received so far. In spite of his obvious affection for Raoul Wallenberg,  like other former Hungarian diplomats, he was rendered essentially powerless after the war and died in exile in London in June 1955.

 

NOTES

 

1. Information about the circle of József Balogh: Professor Tibor Frank, Patronage and Networking:The Society of The Hungarian Quarterly 1935–1944, The Hungarian Quarterly, Volume L * No.196 Winter 2009; and Professor Ágnes Széchenyi (ed),  Baron Móric Kornfeld – Reflections of Twentieth Century Hungary: A Hungarian Magnate’s View, Eastern European Monographs, 2008.

2. According to records from the  archives of Stockholms Enskilda Bank (SEB)  the request for  temporary aryanization of a number of Hungarian companies Jacob Wallenberg received  came from Philip Weiss(Dossier 65, April 1, 1940 – October 31, 1940, correspondence of  Jacob Wallenberg, referenced and cited in SOU 1999:20, « Sverige och Judarnas Tillgånger: Slutrapport från Kommissionen om Judiska Tillgångar i Sverige vid Tiden för Andra Världskriget »).  Weiss was a member of the Upper House of the Hungarian Parliament and  President of the Commercial Bank of Pest, one of Hungary’s largest financial institutions. Weiss had indicated that his request concerned « an excellent paper factory in Jewish hands » and that the shares should be acquired « with a return ticket. » The approach made by Weiss was relayed through Swedish National Bank President Ivar Rooth who in turn had received it from Swedish banker Per Jacobsson.  The SEB archive collection does not contain any documentation showing Jacob Wallenberg’s response to the petition.

By 1944, the Manfred Weiss Work had been “aryanized” (51% of the company shares were in the hands of the catholic members of the Weiss family). However, in April 1944 the family was forced to transfer the company to the SS in exchange of a transfer of the entire Weiss-Chorin family to neutral Portugal.

 3. Toledo Stahl  A.G. (Toledo Acél r.t.) was a producer of a wide variety of steel products. In 1943 it was located in central Budapest, on Visegradi utca 47/A. The majority shares  of the company were owned by the Szalkai and Kadelburger families who were Jewish. Some members of these families were protected by the Swedish Legation, Budapest and Raoul Wallenberg’s offices in 1944 (see http://www.raoul-wallenberg.eu/testimony/kate-and-gustav-kadelburger/)

In his visa application for 1943 Raoul Wallenberg listed an « Oberstleutnant Matuska » as his chief contact to Toledo Stahl.  This appears to have been Lieutenant Colonel  Peter Matuska (born 04.12.1895), a distant relative of   Péter Matuska-Komáromy, the Hungarian Minister in Sweden until 1943. A signature reading « Matuska », Toledo Stahl A.G., appears on a petition  addressed by Hungarian affiliates and representations of Swedish companies to the Swedish Export Commission  in  June 1944  (see  also Point 4.)

According to records of the Historical  Archives of  the Hungarian State Security , Lieutenant Colonel Peter Matuska was married to a Jewish woman and as a result, was forced to abandon his military career in 1942 (information courtesy of historian Dr. Mária Palasik, Állambiztonsági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára (ÁBTL) 3.1.9. V-82865/1. p. 199) The same records reveal that  at that time Matuska opened a paper company in Budapest. 

Matuska and his wife survived the war, spending the last months of 1944 in hiding at Batthyány ut 27 in Budapest, protected  by the house commander Antal Aladár Simontsits (information courtesy of Dr. Mária Palasik, ÁBTL 3.1.9. V-32000/5. p. 399.)

4. Raoul Wallenberg appears to have been  also personally acquainted with  the Hungarian Minister Peter Matuska-Komáromy  since his papers contain the Minister’s personal visitor’s card. Matuska-Komáromy was married to the sister of  László Bárdossy, the pro-German Hungarian Prime Minister (1941-42). In 1943, Bardossy became chairman of the Fascist United Christian National League. He was executed after the war as a war criminal. According to Hungarian historian László Karsai, however, Bardossy’s brother-in-law Peter Matuska-Komáromy had the reputation of a diplomat very sympathetic to the plight of the Jews. He was apparently a good friend of  Ivan Danielsson who served as Swedish Minister to Hungary in 1943.  http://www2.arts.u-szeged.hu/legegyt/oktatok/Karsai_Laszlo/FatefulYear1942.pdf
5. After the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, Sweden temporarily suspended trade relations. This caused serious  material shortages for Swedish owned firms in Hungary. In June 1944 Toledo Stahl A.G. co-signed an urgent appeal addressed to the Swedish Export Association to request continued deliveries of essential materials from Sweden. This appeal referenced a report by Nils Ihre who was at the time a key official in the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s Foreign Trade Section. The report outlined that between 1932 and 1942 the level of trade between Sweden and Hungary had increased by 175%, underscoring the growing economic exchange between the two countries. It is likely that the  « Ihre » who like Raoul Wallenberg attended the Hungarian Minister Ullein-Reviczky’s Christmas Party on December 18, 1944 is identical with Nils Ihre.

6. Due to the payment difficulties businesses encountered in both export and import transactions during World War II, all foreign trade Sweden conducted with occupied territories was coordinated under the umbrella of a large business consortium called SUKAB AB (Sveriges Utrikeshandels Kompensationsaktiebolag). It was comprised of some of Sweden’s largest industrial companies from  Trävaruexportföreningen  and Pappersbruksföreningen (the forest and paper industry,  Exportföreningen (Export Association), Grossistförbundet (Wholesalers Association), Maskinindustriföreningen (Machine Industry Association) as well as Jernkontoret (Steel Bureau). Wallenberg business interests were heavily represented in SUKAB. Member companies included, among others, SKF, Bofors, L.M. Ericsson, AB Separator and Swedish Match.  SUKAB did not itself engage in business but facilitated a wide array of  trade transactions, mostly so-called « compensation trade » (a form of barter), through the direct exchange of goods and serivces. 

 

In 1943, SUKAB’s main office was  located right around the corner from Stockholms Enskilda Bank (SEB), the Wallenberg family bank,  at Blasieholmstorg 11 in central Stockholm. It was situated just a few hundred meters down the street  from Raoul Wallenberg’s office at Strandvägen 7A.  Raoul Wallenberg’s company « Mellaneuropeiska » functioned as a subsidiary of « Banankompaniet »  one of whose board members at the time was Helge Gösta Norlander.  He also held a seat on the boards of other important companies, including Sveaexport AB, the Swedish Iron and Steel Manufacturing Association and  SUKAB. His son in law, Harry Mauritz Lindqvist was a friend of Raoul Wallenberg and attended Wallenberg’s cocktail party on December 2, 1943. Lindquist at the time was the director of  Amerikanska Gummi AB. A former employee of SUKAB, Nils Jenselius, has stated that he knew Raoul Wallenberg from the time « Wallenberg had been employed there. »  (see document).  Both Marcus and Jacob Wallenberg maintained formal offices in the business complex at Blasieholmstorg. Raoul Wallenberg’s colleague, Kálmán Lauer, has claimed in his recollections  that Raoul Wallenberg had worked as Jacob’s « Private Secretary during the time  he spent with Meropa ». (Kálmán Lauer papers, Wallenbergaktionen, Riksarkivet, Stockholm) 

 

The company’s scope was so large that it is no exaggeration to say that it represented almost all serious Swedish foreign trade interests.  SUKAB worked in close coordination with official Swedish government agencies and departments, such as the Swedish Foreign Ministry, the Foreign Trade Section and the Finance Department. 

 

Raoul Wallenberg’s business trip  to France in 1942  to  facilitate, among other things, a trade of Ardenner horses for rubber rings (the importation of rubber was restricted at the time), involved a company in the German-loyalist territory of Vichy and was conducted under the broader auspices of SUKAB. This trip was undertaken on behalf of the Swedish State (State Horse Export Commission), with Raoul Wallenberg’s company « Mellaneuropeiska » serving as an authorized agent (possibly also involving the interests of Amerikanska Gummi AB).  It is therefore possible that during Raoul Wallenberg’s trip to Hungary in 1942 and 1943  he and his firm  carried out Swedish state business in similar capacity. This would mean that he was representing official Swedish economic interests on these travels which in turn would have heightened his profile in the eyes of Soviet counter intelligence.

7. It appears that Raoul Wallenberg was directly involved in business contacts with Jewish owned companies in Hungary that had close ties to Sweden or whose ownership had been transferred to Swedish ownership. Temporary « aryanization » of the Jewish businesses was clearly welcomed by Jewish business owners. However, the service was presumably not provided for free. In other words, « aryanization » was a for profit business transaction between companies, not a charity.

As early as 1939 Raoul Wallenberg assisted a prominent Jewish businessman and refugee from Germany, Dr. Erich Philippi, to establish a business in Sweden (Specialmetallföreningen) (Susanne Berger, “Prologue to Budapest: Raoul Wallenberg and Special-Metall Förening”,June 10, 2008, http://www.raoul-wallenberg.eu/articles/prologue-to-budapest-raoul-wallenberg-and-special-metall-forening/). The available documentation does not indicate that Raoul Wallenberg received any renumeration from Dr. Philippi for this assistance. It is currently unclear if Wallenberg’s later business activities were in any way linked to these early efforts involving the rescue and protection of Jewish assets from Nazi occupied territories.

If the Salén/Wallenberg/Lauer companies handled and administered « aryanization » services of Jewish property after 1939, it would offer a new perspective on the choice of Raoul Wallenberg for the humanitarian mission to Budapest in 1944. It appears that his affiliation may not have been limited to his company Mellaneuropeiska, but that this company in fact acted as an appointed agent for a variety of sensitive business matters on behalf of the Salén/Wallenberg business sphere as well as official Swedish economic interests. Most likely Raoul had a general role of protecting Jewish/aryanized Swedish assets abroad–which would make his appointment even less surprising. It would also raise additional questions about how well Soviet counterintelligence was informed about these issues and how these facts weighed in their assessment of Raoul Wallenberg, of his appointment in 1944 and of Swedish economic and political aspirations in Hungary as a whole.

 



 

One Response to “NOT A ‘NOBODY’: CHOICE OF RAOUL WALLENBERG IN 1944 NOT ACCIDENTAL”

  1. Bernt Schiller dit :

    Hej!

    Det var intressant att få närmare kunskap om Raoul Wallenbergs kontakter innan han gav sig ut på sitt uppdrag.Er artikel skapar ett ordentligt sammanhang med Wallenbergs verksamhet i Ungern. Särskilt tillfredställande var det att se att ni drar slutsatsen att Wallenbergs ungersk-amerikanska nätverk bör ha gjort honom misstänkt i sovjetiska ögon redan utan den kunskap ryssarna senare fick om hans kontakter med SS i Budapest och som jag skildrade i min bok 1991.

    En kommentar och en fråga: Ni skriver: »Documents from the Russian Foreign Ministry archives released in the 1990s suggest that the main reason why Soviet officials had detained Raoul Wallenberg was because he – like two Swiss diplomats who were arrested with him – was considered a valuable bargaining chip. Soviet officials were also clearly interested to learn details about the various separate peace initiatives that had taken place in the years 1942-1945 in which the Wallenberg family had played an important role ».Kommentaren är att jag menar att jämförelsen med de schweizska diplomaterna Feller och Meier med Wallennberg är missvisande. Min intervju med Feller och artikeln i den schwiziska pressen visar på en stor skillnad i behandlingen jämfört med Wallenberg.De arresterades för övrigt, enligt Feller, inte heller tillsammanss (« Varför ryssarna tog Raoul Wallenberg », s.140-143). Finns det något i det ryska dokument som ni hänvisar till, och som jag inte hade tillfälle att se, som tyder på att Wallenberg betraktats som ett bytesobjet på samma sätt som schweizarna? Däremot skulle jag gärna se en bekräftelse på att man såg Wallenberg som misstänkt i samabnd med de tyska försöken att få en separatfred.Jag vore därför tacksam för om ni har möjlighet att ge mig närmare information på den punkten.

    Vänliga hälsnngar
    Bernt Schiller

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