It has now been ten years since a joint Swedish-Russian Working Group presented its report on the fate of Raoul Wallenberg in the Soviet Union following his arrest by Russian troops in Budapest in January 1945, a few months before the end of World War II. In spite of the Working Group’s efforts, the full facts of Wallenberg’s fate remain unknown.
Not surprisingly, relatively little progress has been made since the case moved from an official investigation to a subject of historical inquiry. Although researchers have produced quite a few new insights, without strong official Swedish support there is no way to effectively pressure Russian authorities to present the key files necessary to answer the remaining questions. In other words, we know crucial documentation is available, but we are not allowed to see it, nor do we get adequate help to obtain access to it.
Nevertheless, there have been some important breakthroughs since 2001. We do know now without a shadow of a doubt that Russian officials intentionally withheld information from documentation presented to the Working Group as early a 1991, when the group began its work. The documents were censored not primarily out of concern for Russian secrecy and privacy laws (that issue could have been easily circumvented), but clearly to prevent Swedish officials from learning information that would have led them to question the longtime Soviet version of Raoul Wallenberg’s fate, namely that he died of a heart attack on July 17, 1947 in Lubyanka prison. The censored material – which remains secret to this day – would have shown that with great likelihood Wallenberg was interrogated by Soviet Security officials six days later, on July 23, 1947. If such information had been received in 1991, it might have set the whole inquiry of the Working Group on a different path.
The actions of the Swedish side also leave a few question marks. For example, in 1997 Russian officials informed the Working Group that Russian Foreign Ministry archives contain a number of secret coded telegrams which make direct reference to Raoul Wallenberg, although the Russians claim they include no information about his fate. For that reason, Swedish officials agreed not to insist on a review of the documentation, even though the material may have proved valuable for our inquiries in other ways. Fourteen years later, the cables still have not been released. The same is true for a wide range of investigative files and other documentation from Russian intelligence archives that have remained completely inaccessible to researchers.
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