Russia closes book on Wallenberg, saviour of Jews

04-12-1997 , ed. BBC News

Thursday, December 4, 1997 Published at 07:51 GMT

World

Raoul Wallenberg: saved thousands of Jews from Nazis

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov has said the Russians have done everything possible to discover the fate of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazi holocaust.

Wallenberg disappeared in 1945 after being arrested by occupying Soviet troops. He was aged 32.

Mr Primakov, for the first time, described Wallenberg’s arrest as « criminal ». But he said there was no reason to doubt that Wallenberg died in a Moscow prison in 1947 of a heart attack.

Many people, including his family, question the official version of his fate. There were a number of unsubstantiated reports of sightings of Wallenberg into the 1970s. This led to the belief that he may have survived.

If he were alive now, he would be 85. But another suspicion is that he may eventually have been executed by Soviet security forces.

Swedish passports used to save Jews

Wallenberg, whose fate is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the war, is widely regarded as one of its outstanding heroes.

As a young Swedish diplomat he single-handedly saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews by issuing them with Swedish passports and taking them under his consular protection.

Stories tell of his pulling Jewish families off trains even as they were leaving for the death camps, claiming them as citizens of Sweden, a neutral country.

Mr Primakov said Russia had no new information on Wallenberg’s fate and thought Russian archives had been « exhausted. »

« Of course his arrest cannot but be considered an extremely negative action, criminal if you like, » he told a press conference during a state visit to Sweden by President Boris Yeltsin.

« But we have every reason to think his life ended in 1947. The documents show he had a heart attack. We have exhausted everything we might do in looking through the range of documents that might directly relate to him.

« If we find something else we will immediately give it in the first instance to Sweden, » added Mr Primakov.

Wallenberg’s half-brother Guy von Dardel, who will meet Russian Justice Minister Sergei Stepashin to discuss the matter on Thursday, told Swedish television: « There are still secret files concerning the fate of my half-brother. »

« Stepashin could change the law to have these files opened, » he said.

The former head of the KGB’s special archives, Anatoly Propopienko, also told the daily Expressen on Tuesday that files on Wallenberg exist in Yeltsin’s presidential archives and the Communist Party’s Central Committee archives, among others.->More
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