Karoly William Schandl was born in Budapest, Hungary on July 20, 1912. His father, Karoly Schandl Sr., was a lifetime member of the Hungarian Upper House and the president of OKH (Országos Központi Hitelszövetkezet), the National Credit Cooperative.
In 1944, Karoly William Schandl was a lawyer and chartered accountant. His residence was the upstairs apartment of his parents’ villa, at 16-18 Kelenhegyi ut (Street). The Schandl home on Kelenhegyi Street was next door to the Finnish embassy, which was also used by the Swedish legation. Raoul Wallenberg’s Swedish embassy was located a double house lot away. Karoly was hiding a Jewish friend in his apartment, and was a member of the British underground. His group was led by his best friend, Gabor Haraszty, a Hungarian lawyer of Jewish origin and trained British agent. Gabor’s ISLD (SIS) code name was ALBERT. He was also connected to MI9. The group helped those who needed to escape, and was engaged in gathering military intelligence for the Allies. Secret meetings with Gabor Haraszty were held at Karoly’s private apartment, and sometimes those meetings were attended by Raoul Wallenberg.
In December 1944, at the request of the British, Karoly agreed to accompany a Dutch lieutenant, Gerit Van der Waals *, across the front lines, to deliver a message to British intelligence. Karoly was to be transported to the newly formed anti-Nazi Hungarian government, while Van der Waals, who was functioning as a courier of the British, was to be forwarded to Bari. Van der Waals had also been employed by Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest, and was an expert at making false documents. Instead of forwarding the two men, the Red Army arrested them and handed them over to Smersh. After a month of interrogations in Hungary, during which time they were presumably investigated, Karoly and the Dutchman were taken to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow, under heavily armed guard. In prison, Karoly at one point communicated with Raoul Wallenberg, when the Swedish diplomat was tapping on the wall. He never revealed the nature of their communication. Karoly and Van der Waals were soon moved to Lefortovo prison, where they were kept in deplorable conditions, accused of being spies. Van der Waals was eventually removed from the cell and Karoly never saw him again, though he heard that the Dutch lieutenant had perished shortly thereafter. In 1950, Karoly was transported back to the Lubyanka for a night-time hearing in which he was not permitted to speak. He was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment and was moved to Vladimir prison. There he was held as a secret numbered prisoner, whose name was not to be revealed to the outside world. He was kept in the same section as two other Hungarians – Clement (Klement) and Pap – both of whom had been in the same British group as Karoly. Schandl, Clement, and Pap would later be referred to by the International Wallenberg Commission as three Hungarian numbered prisoners in Vladimir, connected to the Wallenberg case.
In 1954, after Stalin had already died, Karoly was moved from the special section to the general section of Vladimir, then transported to a gulag. In May 1956, he was released into the custody of the Hungarian communist authorities, who continued his imprisonment for another four months. On September 25, 1956, he was released in Budapest and immediately went into hiding. Shortly afterwards, the communist authorities were looking for him again. Following the chaos of the Hungarian revolution, Karoly slipped across the border to Austria, and continued on to England. He ventured to Whitehall several times, to try and tell them of the men remaining in Soviet captivity and what had happened, but, as he would write “they acted as if they would be afraid of me.” He later believed that his entire group had been betrayed by a communist mole in the ranks of the British. After one year in England, he moved to Canada, where he became a university professor, married, and raised a family. He spoke of the Soviet prisons, but was reluctant to discuss certain details, particularly the subject of Raoul Wallenberg. His Soviet captors had threatened him with swift punishment if he ever revealed what he had learned in the prisons.
Karoly William Schandl never returned to Hungary. He passed away in Canada in 1990, and is survived by his wife and 7 descendants, one of whom is Catherine Eva Schandl, his daughter and the author of this testimony. The testimony was approved by his wife.
The Soviets released Karoly Schandl’s Vladimir prison card to the International Wallenberg Commission in the 1990s. They also released to the Swedes the interrogation report of Gerit Van der Waals, which corroborates Karoly Schandl’s account – that he had been accompanying the Dutch lieutenant, as per a request of British intelligence.
Documents in the U.K. archives (PRO) show that in 1945, the War Office and British intelligence were aware that Karoly Schandl and Gerit Van der Waals were in Soviet custody. In addition, the British Military Mission had high praise for the Schandls, for hiding a British SOE agent in their home during the most perilous months of the war.
In December 2004, a historical researcher from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences contacted the Schandl family in Canada, searching for information on Karoly Schandl. He wrote “As far as we know from the available archival documents … your father, late Karoly Schandl played an important part in the British-led anti-Nazi activities in 1943-1945 which led to his arrest and imprisonment by the Soviets.” This proves that in addition to his lengthy prison record, there is communist era documentation on Karoly Schandl in Hungary. It would also have been this documentation a Hungarian journalist used for a 1992 article, in which Karoly Schandl’s statements, given decades earlier to communist interrogators, were inaccurately printed as “interview” quotes.
Catherine Eva Schandl
April 10, 2010
* Catherine Schandl has written a book about the British underground in Hungary « The London-Budapest Game », 2007