What happened in Cairo?

05-10-2011 , by C.G.McKay

C.G.McKay [1]

In 1982, Carl Ivan Danielsson, formerly Swedish Minister in Budapest during World War II , was named as one of the Righteous by Yad Vashem.[2] Recognition of his work in assisting the Jews of Hungary came two years  after that of his junior colleague Per Anger and considerably after that of Raoul Wallenberg (1963) and of Valdemar and Nina Langlet (1965).  Although the decision process of the Yad Vashem committee remains secret, it is perhaps not too hard to discern a reason for these dates. Wallenberg and the Langlets had after all been much more actively involved in the rescue attempts and there were many Jews still alive due to their exertions  who could testify to their work  at “the sharp end”. By contrast, Danielsson had remained very much Head of Mission. Nonetheless Danielsson loyally supported the activities of his juniors Anger and Wallenberg and was noteworthy in personally signing many of the protective documents issued.[3] Nor would it be true to say that his contribution lay simply in his signature.  Danielsson was personally involved for example in the case of the Eismann sisters.[4] Finally, instead of moving from Budapest at the suggestion of the Hungarian authorities, Danielsson chose to stay in the capital bis zum bittern Ende thus providing  important moral support for Wallenberg and his activities.

Despite these merits, there are still some puzzling features about the curious silence which surrounds Danielsson. As Göran Rydeberg has pointed out, the apparent lack of interest taken in Danielsson by UD contrasts with that shown in some of his junior colleagues. Whereas Lars Berg  and Anger would give their accounts of what had happened in Budapest, there is a striking lacuna regarding the retrospective view of the Minister himself. [5]

At one level, the treatment of Danielsson might, at a pinch, be seen as an expression of human sympathy for the state he was in when he returned from Budapest. The minister was not a young man and the  strain of the last period in Budapest had broken him physically and morally. That is one theory.[6] Then again ,Danielsson had his critics, none more so than Valdemar Langlet who drew the attention of his friend Östen Undén, the Swedish postwar Minister for Foreign Affairs,  to the numerous blunders  which caused “the legation to be shown up in a bad light in the eyes of the prospective and later actual victor”.[7] About all these blunders, Langlet had been silent in  his memoir Verk och Dagar I Budapest.  “A whole book”  Langlet confided in Undén, “could in actual fact have been written about this”.

The fact that he had Undén’s ear may have meant that a highly negative picture of Danielsson was etched in Undén’s mind, thus ensuring perhaps that a blind eye was turned to the former Minister in Budapest for fear of dredging up other unpalatable facts, best forgotten. But the plain fact was that Danielsson had caused UD some embarrassment and discomfort,  before his stint in Budapest.

An unpleasant  little cloud

Document 1: The Arbetaren article on Danielsson in Spain.

On March 6, 1953, an article appeared in the newspaper “Arbetaren”  with the title “UD dementerar tysk uppgift” and  occasioned by the publication of certain documents of the German Foreign Office, more precisely Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik, Band III.   What had attracted the attention-and wrath- of the newspaper  was a letter of  August 2, 1936, from the then German ambassador in Paris, Count Welczeck, to his colleague Dieckhoff in Berlin, concerning a visit from Carl Ivan Danielsson,  until then Swedish minister in Madrid. Danielsson (whom Welczeck describes as old friend  and “a very calm and prudent man”  had evidently confided in the Count that he had been declared persona non grata by  Azafia, the President of the Spanish Republic, apparently because of  certain unguarded utterances on the part of Danielsson  and his wife  criticizing the Spanish leftwing government.

As a result , Danielsson had little alternative but  to relinquish his post in Lisbon where he had been simultaneously accredited. In tendering his resignation, Danielsson had been informed confidentially by Salazar that the latter “intended to support the people on the Right in Spain with every means at his disposal”.

Danielson pronounced persona non grata in Egypt.

In the eyes of “Arbetaren” , if these statements were true, Danielsson had singularly failed “to act in accordance with what was necessarily required  of  an envoy  for a democratic land  and  not even in accordance with present diplomatic instructions.” It had therefore asked the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs for an explanation.

The reply received from UD’s Press Office was succinct and comforting: the assertions in Count Welczeck’s letter “were completely erroneous”.  The matter thereafter seems to have fizzled out.  As an exercise in damage limitation,  UD’s response had been entirely successful. There was no mention in Arbetaren’s article to Danielsson’s wartime service in Budapest and the newspaper  contented itself with saying  that after Madrid, Danielsson had been moved to Cairo  and was now living in retirement in Italy.  All’s well that ends well.

Damage limitation? Yes, in the following sense. Whatever the exact reasons surrounding Danielsson’s departure from Spain, UD was well aware that there was another, much more sensitive matter which Arbetaren apparently knew nothing about.  An unpleasant little cloud from the past still hovered  over the old gentleman now soaking up the sun in Bordighera with his new wife. The fact was that Danielsson had been unceremoniously booted out of Egypt in circumstances that were still far from clear. First Spain, then Egypt. One is reminded of Lady Bracknell’s remark  in The Importance of Being Earnest: “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.”

So what happened in Cairo and did it have- strange though it may seem- an indirect relevance for the later fate of Raoul Wallenberg?  It is perhaps time to take out  a skeleton from the cupboard and examine it for clues.

Two Swedish Documents

Document 3: The British explanation for declaring Danielsson png.

The two key Swedish documents relating to Danielsson´s expulsion from Egypt are reproduced in Appendices 1 and 2 and consist of (a) Boheman´s telegram to Björn Prytz in London, asking him to discover  the reason behind the decision of the Egyptian government  to png Danielsson and (b) the reply received from Sir Orme Sargent at the Foreign Office in London.  If we begin with the latter, we may first of all naturally discard the British attempt to disassociate themselves from what had happened as a conventional exercise in diplomatic obfuscation. It is without doubt that any decision to expel Danielsson from Cairo could ONLY have been taken at the behest of the British authorities. So why was the Swedish minister expelled? According to Sargent, the reason was Danielsson’s incautious pronouncements  and and in particular his allegedly  pro-German sympathies.  If nothing else, as regards the matter of incautious pronouncements, Sargent’s account curiously echoes that given previously by Count Welczeck of Danielsson’s conduct in Republican Spain. However, the real question is whether Sargent fully reveals the whole truth behind British displeasure with Danielsson. Indeed there is some independent evidence to suggest that there were at least two other matters which  may have impinged on the case, both involving German espionage in Egypt.  The plot thickens!

OPERATION CONDOR.

In 1942, Rommel was preparing to drive the British once and for all out of North Africa and the Middle East.[8] As a side-show to the grand strategy, the Abwehr was given the task of inserting two German agents, Eppler and Sandstede, in Cairo  who would then be able to feed back information by radio from behind  enemy lines. This led to a two part operation- the actual act of inserting the agents (Operation Salaam)  to be followed by the actual work of reporting from Cairo (Operation Condor).[9] In charge of Salaam was the Hungarian explorer Count Almásy  whose formidable  job was to drive the agents across the Libyan desert and drop them off at Assiut on the Nile.  From there, it was relatively easy for the men to proceed to Cairo by rail and enter the city  without drawing attention to themselves. To cut a long story short,  Operation Salaam was a brilliant success since Almásy knew the desert like the back of his hand. By contrast Operation Condor was nipped in the bud by the British security authorities.  The agents had been supplied with money to the tune of £3000 (British) and £600 (Egyptian). The Abwehr had failed to do their homework and did not realise that British notes could not be used in Cairo but had to be changed.  With the agents compelled to change  their £3000 , the British became aware that new money was in circulation  and could set about tracking down the source.  Part of the blame can also be laid at the door of Rommel himself. The agents were intended to work to  a home station manned by two German wireless operators , Aberle and Weber,  who formed part of the team accompanying them to North Africa.[10] However, since trained German wireless operators were in demand, Rommel had  taken the step of assigning Aberle and Weber temporarily to other military tasks. Unfortunately they were captured by Commonwealth troops  and certain compromising documents were found on them, including Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca, which was to be used  for coding/decoding the messages passing from Eppler and Sandstede.

Now at first glance, Danielsson’s expulsion from Cairo can have had nothing to do whatsoever with Eppler, Sandstede and Operation Condor. Reason?  Well, simply because  Danielsson had been given his marching orders already on March 31st 1942. By contrast,  Condor was set in motion only on  May 11 of the same year i.e. a full month afterwards. Nonetheless, that there WAS indeed some kind of connection with the Swedish Legation in Cairo,  is evident from a statement which occurs in the account of Condor given by Major Sansom , a former senior British security officer in Egypt, in his book I Spied Spies.   Sansom makes the following remark:

« Among his [Eppler’s] other contacts were a number of Egyptian Police Officers and a high-ranking Swedish diplomat. [present author’s italics]  The Swedish Embassy had indeed been looking after German interests in Egypt »[11]

This, however, does not take us very far. A much more informative account of a concrete link between the Swedish legation in Cairo and the Condor mission is now to be found among the declassified files of MI5,  the British Security Service at Kew in London.[12]

The key individual in this link was a man called Victor Hauer. Born at Spielleithen, Austria on 7 October, 1907, Hauer had originally served in  the Austrian Foreign Service, first in Paris (1929-1934) and later in Cairo (1934- 1938). At the time of the Anschluss, he was transferred to the German Legation. But his position there was increasingly under pressure. Hauer had never been a member of the NSDAP and moreover   he was under racial investigation: he had been born  out of wedlock and it was claimed that his father was a Jew.  When war was finally declared, he transferred to the Swedish Legation with-nota bene– British approval , working in the legation’s B-Avdelning under Berns[13] . This involved him in passport business and more generally looking after the interests of German nationals in Egypt since Sweden acted as protecting power for Germany in that country .  So how had the connection between Hauer and the Condor agents come about? The agents had arrived in Egypt with two transmitters. One was buried at Assiut presumably as some kind of emergency reserve. The one which they took with them, however, failed to work properly. Initially, rather than return to Assiut, Eppler and his companion decided to solve things on the spot in Cairo. Eppler (who incidentally was half Egyptian and had grown up there) got in touch with his stepbrother Hassan Gafaar who in turn contacted Hauer and a meeting was set up. At the meeting, two interesting things happened: first of all, Eppler confided in his new acquaintance that he was a German agent on a secret mission. Unfortunately , the radio which he and Sandstede had taken with them to Cairo, was not functioning properly and he required another  transmitter to send back an update on what had happened. If a suitable working  transmitter could not be found,   even a non-functioning set might serve a purpose in providing spare parts which could be incorporated in their own set and thus allow it to transmit properly. Now the fact that Eppler felt enough confidence in Hauer to explain who he was, is interesting in itself. Equally interesting is the second thing which took place, namely this: Hauer disclosed that there was a wireless transmitter stored in the basement of the Swedish legation which he knew about and which had been placed in readiness by the Germans  before the outbreak of war[14]. If these facts were substantially correct, then it was little wonder that the British authorities were unhappy with the Swedish minister.

For Eppler and Sandstede, Hauer appeared as a useful friend worthy of trust. He supplied them with a radio transmitter and also gave Eppler a pistol.  What they did not know was that their new acquaintance had decided to take out re-insurance by tipping off a British intelligence contact about the arrival of Rommel’s agents. He was then told by the British  to play along with them to see what transpired. The dénouement had an  unexpected twist to it. Believing that Hauer was in possession of many details about the  mission of Eppler and Sandstede , it was imperative that he should be grilled. But the British wished to act without involving the Egyptian authorities.[15] They were also afraid that Hauer might be able to claim diplomatic immunity by virtue of his position at the Swedish Legation. So what happened was that the British simply abducted  him, grilled him  and took him to Palestine where he was hidden under a false name as a German POW.[16] Officially he had simply disappeared without trace.

Document 4. Desire of Auswärtiges Amt to interview Danielsson about German POWs in Egypt. The document carries in addition my references to two Swedish intercepts of German telegrams (“C-papper”) referring to Hauer.

Document 4. Desire of Auswärtiges Amt to interview Danielsson about German POWs in Egypt. The document carries in addition my references to two Swedish intercepts of German telegrams (“C-papper”) referring to Hauer.

Now all these events from the arrival of the Condor agents to their arrest took place in the period between May and the end of July 1942.  For this reason,  a third document in Danielsson’s personal UD file is of some interest.

It is a letter from Richert in Berlin intimating that two senior officials at Auswärtiges Amt were anxious to interview Danielsson about German POWs in Egypt, sufficiently anxious indeed to undertake if necessary a trip to Stockholm to speak to Danielsson. Now of course , there is nothing whatsoever in the letter to suggest that it has anything to do with the the activities of Hauer, Eppler and Sandstede. Nonetheless the urgency of the German request and its timing  plus the circumstances surrounding Danielsson’s departure from Egypt make one wonder. Perhaps  UD had also reason to wonder too since it thought it worthwhile to preserve Richert’s letter in Danielsson’s file for posterity.

This almost completes the story of the “Condor Connection” except for two additional observations. Over a period of many years, the present writer has made it his business to examine the Swedish intercepts of German teleprinter traffic passing through Stockholm, a task requiring considerable Sitzfleisch given the vast bulk of the material involved.  In the course of one of these fishing expeditions , I came across at least two telegrams -see the references appended to the Richert letter- showing that Auswärtiges Amt had made specific enquiries about a man called Hauer in Egypt , first at the end of July and later in mid October  1942.  Although no forename is given, the odds are high, in my opinion,  that it is Victor Hauer, late of the basement of the Swedish Legation in Cairo who is the subject of these enquiries.

Finally , the Hauer connection was not the only way in which the Swedish Legation came to figure in the Condor connection. Apart from acting as protecting power for Germany in Egypt, the Swedes also performed a similar service for the Hungarians when the Britain and Hungary became formally at war  at the beginning of December 1941.Among those whose help was enlisted by the Swedes in discharging this service was a certain Hungarian priest called Brother Dimetrius.[17] Dimetrius was personally selected by Danielsson to assist with certain translation work and to take charge of a small library of books suitable for Hungarian detainees in Egypt. However, Brother Dimetrius  had also a hidden connection. He was a personal acquaintance of Almásy and was  given a certain password which would allow him to identify German or Hungarian agents sent to Cairo by the explorer.

The adventures of Josie Owen  OR Mata Hari Rediviva

It will be recalled that I mentioned that were TWO cases of German espionage- not just one- which impinged on the mystery of Danielsson’s departure from Egypt.  While many people have heard about the Condor mission  and vast numbers have heard about Almásy, if nothing else from the film The English Patient, the people who know  about Hauer in the basement of the Swedish Legation in Cairo and the elusive Brother Dimitriou probably amount to at most two figures. Yet probably only one person has had reason to look back and meditate on the life of Josie Owen and her relationship to Carl Ivan Danielsson: me!  Let me try to explain why.

Document 5. UD forwards greetings from Josie Owen in London.

Josie Owen began life as Contessa Maria Giuseppina Lodron-Laterano and ended as the last Mrs. Danielsson. But along the line, she had met and married an Irishman,  Charles Owen , in 1936. Owen had studied Natural Sciences at St. John’s College, Cambridge  and became a schoolmaster, teaching Science at Malvern College between September 1931 and July 1937.[18] He had then left Malvern to take up a position a s the Headmaster of  the English School in Cairo.  He did not remain in this position, however, very long and in 1940, he chose not to renew his contract. He appears to have subsequently returned to a teaching career in England.[19] However, what is clear is that somewhere in the period of Mrs. Owen’s residence in Egypt, she met Danielsson and had an affair with him. Then came a period of separation during the war with Danielsson in Budapest and Josie in England. The Owens were officially divorced in September 1944. After returning from Budapest, Danielsson married his Contessa[20] and the couple settled down to comfortable retirement on the Riviera dei Fiori .

So much for the bare facts. The real interest is associated with MI5’s surveillance of Josie during the war. But to understand this, we must know something about the  famous ‘JOSEPHINE’ case.[21]

In 1943, the British learned that there were high level German sources JOSEPHINE and HECTOR apparently reporting from London. The subsequent British investigation showed that these agents were connected with the Abwehr officer Dr. K.H.Krämer in Stockholm.  For the rest of the war, Krämer was kept under meticulous surveillance by British intelligence in an effort to clarify if his sources were genuine or not. Despite the colossal amount of  paperwork generated during and after the war, the case remained basically unresolved with however, the majority opinion  being that Krämer had invented a great deal of his most spectacular material.

During the war itself, however, the case was wide open and MI5 received a stream of material linked to the JOSEPHINE mystery.   In March 1944, for example, a member of MI5 who was involved in recruiting and running agents in Britain, had a question to ask about a prospective agent:

« I should like to make certain that there is no connection between ‘JOSEPHINE’  and a woman I have just take over. This is a Mrs. Mary Josephine Owen, commonly called Josie Owen, an Italian-Austrian by birth and a British subject by virtue of her marriage to a Malvern schoolmaster. She recently returned to the UK from the Middle East after internment  where she had been spreading propaganda on behalf of the enemy as apparently one of an organised group during Rommel’s advance on Cairo. Allegations  on her pro-Nazi attitude continued during internment.

She also seeks out the company of military officers,  appears to have one ex-officer now working in the War Office Transport Department in her financial as well as her amorous debt, and certainly is a close friend and correspondent of the pro-Nazi Swedish minister in Hungary . She gets correspondence from him through Swedish friends in London who are in “under cover” touch with Sweden. Mrs. JOSIE OWEN has been permitted to settle down here, without much attention and is working in the International Red Cross in a not unconfidential position.

With a view to the more intensive investigation that I am making into her, I should like to know the dates when ‘Josephine’ in Sweden started opeating, to see whether this fits in with the date of Mrs. Owen’s arrival in the UK. » [22]

No prizes are awarded for guessing to whom the description ‘pro-Nazi Swedish  minister in Hungary’ is intended to apply.

In due course, Seeds received a reply from H.L.A.Hart, one of MI5’s talented wartime recruits and later Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford, who had been studying the files.

« Further to 84a, I see nothing in the file that makes it impossible for Josephine to be identical with my Mrs. May Josephine OWEN [Mrs. JOSIE OWEN] of L.260/2741. The most relevant point in this connection is that which shows Josephine as making her first report (according to our & SIS records) on 24/6/43. Mrs. Owen arrived in the UK from the Middle East on 6/6/ 43 so her and Josephine’s appearance coincide . Josephine’s report of this date deals with troop and transport movements at Liverpool and Bristol. Though Mrs. Owen did not land at Liverpool, but at Gourock, it is to be noted that between landing on the Clyde on 6/6/43 and registering at Farnham on 21/6/43 Mrs. Owen’s movements are unknown to the authorities except for a call at Shrewsbury . It seems to me quite possible that in Mrs. Owen’s travelling from Gourock to Farnham  via Shrewsbury, she could early have passed through and spent days in Liverpool and Bristol. I am endeavouring to check this. It is perhaps significant here that JOSEPHINE appears to have ignored Liverpool and Bristol in her intelligence except for the message of 24/6/43. Mrs. Owen’s other contacts, as can be seen from 84a, are not at all at variance with Josephine’s background here or on the continent. »[23]

Hart went on to confirm what Seeds had already said:

« Mrs. Owen has great facilities for corresponding with the continent by a variety of means. She is in diplomatic correspondence with the pro-Nazi Swedish minister in Hungary, she moves and stays with other Scandinavians in London  as a matter of course who may be presumed to have whatever access there is to ‘undercover’ use of lines to Sweden- and she works in the International Red Cross which has, I suppose, links with Sweden more swift than the normal sending of Red Cross Messages via Germany »[24].

Hart ended his summary by recommending that a check should be made to see if Mrs. Owen was operating a WT set from her home.

This is certainly sensational stuff but there is one point which should carefully noted by the unwary: whatever the initial suspicions about Josie Owen as a concrete candidate for the mysterious JOSEPHINE, there is no further mention of her in the files that have been released. For all intents and purposes, she disappears from the investigation and there is no mention of her in MI5’s subsequent final summing up of the case.  Having said that, it is also quite clear that the future Mrs. Danielsson had been interned in Egypt  for “spreading propaganda on behalf of the enemy as apparently one of an organised group during Rommel’s advance on Cairo ”. [25] In addition,  British suspicions of Danielsson himself are further underlined in the uncompromising language used in the internal departmental files.

So what have the Swedish archives to say about all this? Nothing, except for one curious tit-bit in Danielsson’s own personal UD file. There one finds two telegrams from Josie forwarded via UD to the Minister. (See Document  in the Appendix) thus confirming MI5’s assertion that Josie was in touch with Danielsson via the Legation in London. The telegrams preserved are entirely innocuous. Yet as with the retention of the letter intimating the desire of the officials at Auswärtiges Amt to quiz Danielsson about German POWs in Egypt,  one wonders why someone at UD believed it worthwhile to retain these innocuous telegrams rather than simply drop them in the waste paper basket where otherwise they would belong.

Implications and assessment

There are two fundamentally different ways of regarding the above material. According to the first perspective, the important issue is to decide what is true or false.  In line with this, it may be argued on the one hand that we have obtained a wholly new and illuminating insight into Danielsson’s character and political sympathies. Not so much a spy but a man with dubious contacts. We may see this evidence as being consistent with what we already know about the man from entirely independent sources[26].  According to the same perspective, we may choose alternatively to argue that the evidence supplied against Danielsson is entirely circumstantial and that there is nothing that would stand up in a court of law.  What has emerged  is essentially the type of groundless accusation which proliferates in the archives of security services the world over.  Moreover the blackening of Danielsson’s name in describing him as “pro-Nazi”  has to be seen in the context of the Second World War  when, for example, the description “pro-Nazi”  may simply have meant “anti-Soviet”. Furthermore  could not  the whole matter be written off as a storm in a teacup brought about by Danielsson’s sexual appetites? His role as an ageing  Romeo would be repeated in Budapest: not for nothing was his dog called “Tabu”!  In short , from this point of view, Danielsson’s  recall from Egypt may ultimately have rested more on the  scandal he had created in a fairly tightly knit colonial community  than on any involvement in espionage.

The second way of looking at matters is entirely different. This second approach reminds us that on occasion it does not really matter what is true or false. What is crucial  is the interpretation that the main players place on the story that reaches their ears, for it is that interpretation which ultimately determines their responses.

Now the fascinating thing about the above charges levelled against  Danielsson is that they were known -to a greater or lesser extent- by the Russian secret services . This is known from  a statement produced by a certain   Dr. Feigl ( see Appendix I, Document  6 ). The key passage is that where Feigl stresses that the Russians were particularly well-informed about the personal lives of the Swedish diplomats in Budapest during the war and as an example of this, he cites what they had to say about Danielsson’s affair in Cairo.[27]

Now what intrigues me here, is how the Russians had got to hear about this and what it was that they had heard. Needless to say, only they can enlighten us and the chances are perhaps remote that they will do so.  One possible source of knowledge is of course simply diplomatic gossip on the spot. When Danielsson first arrived in Budapest, there was no doubt a string of rumours going about the new Swedish Minister and there may be no more to Russian apparent knowledge of the salient facts than that.

But there is also another possibility which is in danger of being forgotten. It should be remembered that the Soviet secret service had a well positioned agent within  MI5, namely Anthony Blunt.  Now it is in general true that since such secret services are by express design highly compartmentalized, the presence of an agent in the service as a whole does not tell us very much about the information he would be dealing with and hence of his specific utility to his employers. However in the case of Blunt, we happen to know a good deal about his duties. His principal wartime concern, as it happened, consisted in the surveillance and penetration of neutral missions in London, in particular that of Sweden, with a view to ensuring there was no possibility of the leakage of sensitive military information through these diplomatic channels to the enemy. The fact, for example, that a certain private citizen Josie Owen was in touch via the Swedish official channels with Danielsson in Budapest would certainly have been a subject of particular interest to him. Now it is known that Blunt did feed back to the Russians information gained from MI5’s surveillance of the Swedish Legation in London.[28] Might he not then have sent back in a similar way the internal British suspicions about Danielsson and the link with Josie?  Note the question is NOT-repeat NOT- whether these suspicions were justified: it is the question whether he simply reported those suspicions to Moscow.

I am not too optimistic that we shall readily find out the answer to this question. But if nothing else, it serves to remind us that the Soviet organs had impressively wide sources of information[29] to draw on. It is by no means the case that Russian information about the Swedish mission in Budapest derived only from local sources in Budapest or in Stockholm.Whether they were equally skilled in evaluating this incoming information from their stations throughout the world, is another matter.

Document 6. Page from the the interview with Dr. Aladar Feigl on 7/1/1953 in which he points out the scope of Russian detailed knowledge and in particular of Danielsson’s affair in Egypt.

It is now time to sum up. The most likely  cause for Soviet suspicions of the Swedish legation and of Wallenberg’s humanitarian section is  probably to be found in the unwritten book of blunders committed by the Legation and its staff alluded to by Langlet in his letter to Undén. The fact that on occasion protective papers issued by the legation ended up in the hands of the wrong people was no doubt one type of blunder.  But in addition, whatever the truth about what happened in Cairo, we can say without a shadow of doubt that the Swedish Minister in Budapest, Carl Ivan Danielsson had personally acquired a tainted reputation in Allied circles before moving to Budapest. This is an important fact, buried somewhat deep in the archives, which has never been fully acknowledged.

So what ? A nagging question unfortunately remains: did “what happened in Cairo” play a significant part in the accumulation of Russian suspicions about the Swedish mission in Budapest? Can it be shown that Soviet suspicions about Danielsson were charged to Raoul Wallenberg’s account?   Or is the whole perspective presented above, built,  as it is, upon Danielsson’s supposed shortcomings,  in the end of the day , like so much else in the history of the case of Raoul Wallenberg,  merely a fascinating irrelevance?

Appendix:  Christiane  Vlachos

Commonly known as “the Princess”. Said to be Greek by nationality, this lady was a guest of Carl Ivar Danielsson , the Swedish Minister in Budapest, and resided with him for several months in 1944 at the Legation.[30] It is unclear how she came to be in Budapest, what she did there  and what her exact relationship to Danielsson was. What is known  is that Danielsson made a special effort to accede to her wishes on a number of occasions, very often to the great irritation of other people.[31] In discussing the occurrence of irregular passport and identity papers, Valdemar Langlet has the following to say:

« Bland dess finns i mitt arkiv exempelvis ett med underskriften ‘Danielsson’,vilket utfärdats för en mycket tvivelaktig dam , betitlad « prinsessan Vlachos », i verkligheten en bedragerska. Jag tog pappret i beslag, när hon ville utbyta det mot en ny legitimation med rysk text vilket givetvis blev henne förvägrat. »[32]

An interesting sidelight on a related incident will be found in Jonny Moser’s book[33]. He recounts that he was approached by Danielsson at the beginning of December 1944 and asked to go to KEOKH , the Hungarian police authority dealing with aliens, and ask for a prolongation of Vlachos’ residence permit. One can naturally wonder why the Swedish Minister would find it appropriate to entrust a mere boy with this task.[34] At KEOKH, the matter was dealt with by Colonel Farkas , who saw this favour as a way of extracting a tactical advantage. Moser writes:

« Danielssons Schreiben kam ihm sehr gelegen.Nun hatte er einen guten Grund, sich nach dem Motto « Manus manum lavat » an Wallenberg zu wenden, um einen Schutzbrief für die Zeit der Sowjetischen Besetzung zu erbitten. Was er auch umgehend tat. Schon am folgenden Montag sah ich bei Wallenberg. »

Despite Langlet’s negative view  of Vlachos and his refusal to give her the protective papers , he seems to have been overruled by Danielsson. The name  of Vlachos appears  (number eight) in an undated list of 15 people said to be actively involved with the Swedish Red Cross in  Budapest and according to Langlet’s wife, Nina,  the Princess was eventually placed by Danielsson in the Red Cross house at Üllöi-utca 32.[35]

Vlachos has also a role in an incident which took place  in  March 1945, following the departure of the Swedish Minister and the rest of the Legation staff  at the request of the Russians. (Valdemar Langlet and his wife, however, were allowed to remain somewhat longer on health grounds). Before his departure, Danielsson had given Nina Langlet instructions to go over to the Buda Side of the capital where the legation was situated and blow up a safe in the Legation which contained valuables deposited by various individuals for safekeeping. In the event, the safe was blown up by a group of  « Yugoslav partisans » hired by Vlachos and Countess Ferrari, a  member of the Italian Legation. As Karl Fodor, a servant of the Legation would  later recount:

« Frl. Vlachos zeigte mir einen Brief, in der die Befollmächtigung des Herrn Gesandten Danielson war für den Aufbruch des Wandschrankes. Ich las den Brief nicht, da ich den Worten Frl. Vlachos Vertrauen schenkte. »[36]

When the safe was opened  and her valuables were retrieved, the Princess then applied to Nina Langlet for a half-million pengö to pay off the partisans, who were incensed to find that the safe they had been set to blow up contained grenades as well as deposited treasure . Nina Langlet, according to her own story, refused to pay. What happened to the Princess after the war is unknown to me.

© C.G.McKay, 2010.


[1]© Dr. C.G.McKay, 2010. This is a revised version of an essay presented at  an internal  symposium attended by Wallenberg researchers  and  organised by  the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs early in 2011.

[2] Lars Berg was made one of the Righteous the same year.

[3] Per Anger noted that “ Danielsson hade aldrig några invändningar när det gällde att undeteckna de tusentals skyddspassen.” See Anger, Med Raoul Wallenberg I Budapest, (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1979) p. 151. From correspondence with Yad Vashem, I have formed the impression that the fact Danielsson signed personally a great many protective papers issued to Jews was crucial in his being named as one of the Righteous.

[4] The case of the Eismann girls is mentioned in Paul Levine’s doctoral thesis, From Indifference to Activism. However, he leaves open what finally happened to the Eismanns. Through my own investigations, I have been able to verify that both sisters survived the war. After reaching Bucharest in 1945, they made their way to Copenhagen and finally to Sweden. Alice settled in Stockholm but moved eventually to Israel. She died, however, in Stockholm in 2006 and is buried in Israel. Eva stayed in Sweden only a short time and spent most of her life in New York before moving to Israel. She was still alive in 2008.

[5] Göran Rydeberg, Raoul Wallenberg, Historik och nya forskningsfält, p.35. ” Alltjämt kvarstår som en av de stora gåtorna i ärendet hur litet intresse som visades Danielsson efter hemkomsten från stats- och utrikesledningens sida. Anger, Berg m fl av beskickningsmedlemmarna har skrivit utförliga referat ochintervjuats vid flera tillfällen rörande sina erfarenheter under de sista månaderna i Budapest. Den förhållandevis rikhaltiga informationen från dessa personer kontrasterar på ett mycket märkligt sett mot den tystnad som omger legationschefen.”

[6] The fact that he was nevertheless prepared to attend a Red Cross Committee meeting under Bernadotte to discuss issues raised by Langlet’s book and the latter’s criticism of Asta Nilsson, however,  speaks against this theory.

[7] Letter from Langlet to Undén, Stocksund 23/3/46, Langlets arkiv, Kungliga biblioteket,Stockholm.  In  Verk och Dagar I Budapest, (see p. 44)  he accuses  Danielsson of  scaling down  the figures of Jews being sent to the gas chambers which he had received from his various sources. I have checked the so- called Auschwitzprotokollet obtained by Langlet and forwarded to UD via the legation ( reproduced in Räddningen  Budapest 1944 Judarna Skall Deporteras (Stockholm: Fischer & Co., 1997) against the version of the report available for example in Rudolf Vrba, I escaped from Auschwitz  including the text of the Auschwitz Protocols,  (London:Robson Books, 2002).  No disparity is detectable. So if Langlet’s assertion is correct, it must have concerned other reports which he submitted. It should be noted that Langlet had a personal grudge against Danielsson because he believed that the Minister had taken Asta Nilsson’s part in a dispute with Langlet about the Red Cross chain of command in Budapest. The debts later incurred by Nilsson’s activities gave rise to an embarrassing financial situation for Langlet in Budapest in 1945.

[8] Rommel’s success  would inter alia have spelled doom and disaster for the Jews in Palestine since they eventually would have disappeared in a mopping-up operation.

[9] A number of books and articles have been published about Salaam and Condor. I have consulted  Eppler’s  personal account  Operation Condor, Rommel’s Spy (London: Macdonald and Jane’s,1977) and H.O.Dovey’s essay Operation Condor,  Intelligence and National Security 4:2 (1989) :357-373. An interesting broader picture written from a German perspective is provided in Hans-Otto Berendt, Rommel’s Intelligence in the Desert Campaign 1941-1943 (London:William Kimber, 1985.

[10] They had also a reserve scheme to make contact with a German station in Athens.

[11] A.W.Sansom, I Spied Spies (London: Harrap,1965) . See pp 127-128.

[12] Notably KV2/1467, TNA  dealing with Eppler.

[13] Arvid Hugo Berns,Leg.råd and förste legationssekreterare.

[14] The transmitter- an American Hallicaster- in the basement had been deposited there by the German Archaeological Expedition.

[15] There were a number of senior Egyptian officers  involved in  the German schemes, including a future Egyptian President, Mr. Anwar Sadat.

[16] See Document in the documentary appendix.

[17] The name appears with various spellings in British official papers.

[18] I am grateful to Malvern College and the archivist at St. John’s College, Cambridge  for providing with crucial details about Owen’s career.

[19] It is not clear to me if Owen remain a teacher for the duration of the war. If anyone reading this note can throw light on this matter and can provide a more detailed account of the Owens,  the present author would be most interested in receiving the details.

[20] Danielsson married Contessa Maria Giuseppina Lodron-Laterano at Bollebygd on 30-10-1945. She was 33 and he was 65.

[21] Those interested will find a longer sketch  of the case in the present author’s From Information to Intrigue, Studies in Secret Service based on the Swedish Experience 1939-1945 ( London:Frank Cass,1993). The present author has carried out an exhaustive analysis of the JOSEPHINE case which remains unpublished.

[22]Most Secret Letter B1.b Mrs Spring. From S Robert Seeds 20/3/44. In the Krämer dossier KV2/ 145  Volume 2, TNA,Kew.

[23] B1b. Mr. Hart. 25/3/44 in KV2/ 145  Volume 2,TNA,Kew.

[24] B1b. Mr. Hart. 25/3/44 in KV2/ 145  Volume 2,TNA,Kew.

[25] It is also a curious fact that it was K.H.Krämer who was given the task by Ritter of  initially maintaining contact with Almásy on behalf of Abwehr I Luft  in Hamburg.

[26] Danielsson’s susceptibility to women is borne out by various Swiss assessments: “ Trotz seiner fortgeschrittenen Jahre war er davon űberzeugt, dass Frauen ihn unwiderstehlich fanden.” Theodor Tschuy, Carl Lutz und die Juden von Budapest ( Zűrich: Neue Zűrcher Zeitung, 1998). Apart from the enticements of Josie, he seems to have been ensnared by another titled lady of uncertain origins, namely “ Princess Vlachos”. See the Appendix II dealing with her.

[27] Göran Rydeberg has noted that the Soviet organs in Hungary took a very negative view of Danielsson.See p.49 of his valuable survey Raoul Wallenberg, Historik och nya forskningsfält.

[28] Evidence of this can be found in Nigel West &Oleg Tsarev, The Crown Jewels, (London:Harper-Collins, 1998), see p.150-151 and the same authors’ Triplex, Seccrets from the Cambridge Spies ( New Haven:Yale University Press, 2009. In the case of the latter, see pp. 5-13.

[29] And thus also, wide sources for sucking up misinformation and disinformation! In popular books  about  Soviet espionage, this corollary is seldom noticed.

[30] In her diary, Dora Grtatz  writes as follows (p.21):  » Frl. Blahos[Vlachos], angeblich eine Freundin des Gesandten, die schon seit einigen Monaten auf der Gesandtschaft wohnt. »

[31] Langlet in his book  Verk och dagar i Budapest  (see p. 189) speaks of her enjoying some relationship with the Swedish Royal Family.

[32] Letter from Langlet to the Board of the Swedish Red Cross, dated 16/8/47 in Langlet’s archive, Kungliga Biblioteket .

[33] Wallenbergs Laufbursche, Jugenderinnerungen 1938-1945, Picus Verlag, Wien 2006. See pages 270-271.

[34] In mentioning Moser’s story to an acquaintance with expert knowledge, the latter was inclined to believe that the incident had never taken place. The idea that the Minister would have proceeded in this manner was implausible, even absurd.  I am not so sure! If Danielsson was aware that what he was doing was somewhat questionable,  the employment of a mere boy as his personal messenger to KEOKH was a nice example of the proverbial long spoon in dealing with a delicate matter.

[35] Nina Langlet, Kaos i Budapest, Harriers Bokförlag, Vällingby, 1982. See p. 164.

[36] Karl Fodor’s statement, Budapest 21/4/1945 in Langlet’s archive, Kungliga Biblioteket.

One Response to “What happened in Cairo?”

  1. Servus. dit :

    C.G. McKay´s , professional analysis of  » the RW-case  » is really worth reading. For instance, his conclusions of the domestic official, Swedish views, the  » blinkers » concerning, Iwo Wiklanders book seems correct, because, IW introduced already then (1988) , the informations of the pro-German sympathies, held by the Swedish ambassador, Danielsson,in Budapest, and his duty in Spain and Egypt, and the presumed visit by RW in Stockholm, as late as the autumn of 1944.

    This have not been common knowledge (But O.K., IW:s book(s) can even give some unrealistic impressions.) The same thing with the Granovskij case of 1946, it have not been mentioned in the Swedish context. And why weren´t the Russians informed about RW:s most dangerous Budapest-mission ? (As McKay put it.) So if the Swedish Foreign Office (UD) can hide and make cover-up´s , what then couldn´t the Soviet/Russian authorities execute, if needed ?

    I was anyway, inspired, to add some more facts/questions about RW:s contacts as refered to in Susan Berger : « Stuck in neutrality », what I never seen in print, concerning RW, perhaps by the same domestic  » blinker-attitude ». : The Jewish businessman, Fritz Hollander. In Lena Einhorn´s book: « Handelsresande i liv. »(1999). FH is referred to as a Jewish patriot, one(?) of those) people, K. Lauer,N. Masur, G. Storch, who gave the idea of to contact RW, for his mission in Budapest,1944. FH was a refugee, from Hamburg-Altona, (b.1915.-d. 2004.), and Einhorn mentions, FH as even assisting in obtaining boats for the rescue of the Danish Jews in the autumn 1943. Hollander and Norbert Masur, was employees in the same company, « The Baltiska skinnkompaniet », in Sweden, owned by FH:s father, Julius.

    (Citation: From: « Stuck in neutrality » /S. Berger. »)
    – – -(161) Aalders and Wiebes, p. 113; Ekonomiska Aspekter pa Raoul Wallenberg fallet. On a smaller scale, in the years after the war some of Raoul Wallenberg’s associates secured exclu-sive trading rights, for example  » Fritz Hollander [Baltiska Skinnkompaniet] in furs, for Eastern Europe. Kalman Lauer and Sven Salen continued the profitable business, begun during the war, of providing ships to the Red Cross and other international organizations. – – -)

    But why this information by Berger of Hollanders connections with RW ?

    In Sweden, FH financially supported the German refugees, from the KPD, (Communists) as especially Karl Mewis, (then later GDR-official), who he had met as early as 1935 in Moscow. FH became Swedish citizen the 6th of November 1942, and FH was then known just  » as a businessman » by the Swedish SÄK, when the German KPD-refugee Herbert Wehner was arrested in ca March 1942, and told the SÄK of of  » the businessman », they perhaps
    didn´t believed of.

    But the RSHA/Gestapo in Copenhagen had identified Hollander as early as in May 1941, (when they arrested and interrogated the KPD-organisation « Aufschnittsleitung Nord « -leader, in Denmark, Heinrich Wiatrek), FH, as one of the owner of the company : « Baltiska skinnkompaniet », which gave FH, possibilities to travel in Europe, and even Germany, U.S., and funct-ioned even as a courier for KPD. Wehner was convicted as Comintern-agent and was jailed 1942. Then ,1946,went to Westgermany, and joined the SPD, then minister in the W.Brandt-government for BRD/GDR joint German questions. (But in then GDR and in Sweden (SKP) by some viewed as an « informer »,of his comrades who is said to have caused even the jailment of other resistance people, perhaps in order to avoid his own risk of extradition to Germany.)

    (But during his time in Moscow/Comintern in late 1930s, H. Wehner, (with Pieck) approved merciless the purging of members of the KPD, protocols were signed with HW:s alias  » Funker » . HW was of course very interested of Hollanders identity,  » the rich businessman », but Karl Mewis never told him. Hollander couldn´t after the war remember he ever met HW.)

    Hollander was very active in the Swedish Jewish community, even after the war, member of the board, of the World Jewish congress, and founded after negotiations with Olof Palme, the  » Hillelschool in Stockholm » (1974), and even Stockholm´s Jewish Center.This mentioned in an FH-obituary written by Lena Posner-Körösi, (« He was one of Europe´s greatest Jewish leaders !  » ) chairman of the Jewish community, (Judisk kronika) 2004,(photo of OP and FH, together,) but she didn´t mentioned FH as a former active KPD- member, and financier, during the war. And why do that ? One can´t blame her.

    And why did Olof Palme, due to Gummesson´s « Palme-biography » (2001) write the obituary of Gilel Storch, 1983 in the « Stockholmstidningen » , going as, « when at home of my uncle,(=Otto von Knieriem, in fact  » a dangerous nazi » / allied listed ») Gilel Storch and Felix Kersten in 1944, met to negotiate of rescue Jews from the German kz:s. » And why not ? One can´t blame him.

    But what then in the RW-case, of the Latvian, Edgar Klaus, Jewish busin-essman and German Peter Kleist (SS/AA) contacts, during 1943, concer-ning peacefeelers between Germany and the Soviet Union, where RW could have been participated, (as McKay asks.)

    The Soviet chargé d áffairs during the convalescence of A. Kollontay, 1943, Semyonow, (biography) (1992) dealed with them, describe Klaus as a
     » Soviet/German, doubleagent.  » 6/12-1942 a high Swedish official,(who?) suggest to Kleist, to start peacefeelers with the Soviet legation, as the only way to beware the German nation, which the Western powers most wanted to destruct, its industrial capacity, no matter of ideology at power. It didn´t work, there wasn´t any westallied forces in Europe, even to surrender to.  » Then after Kursk 1943, Kleist, renewed his peacefeelers, and Semy-onow writes about, some letters without sender, presumably from Edgar Klaus, due to Semyonow, but, then all that activities were stopped.

    So: what about Fritz Hollander and Raoul Wallenberg contacts, Hollander as one of those, experienced, Jewish activist refugees, perhaps giving the first idea of sending Wallenberg, on his mission, 1944 ?

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