What Happened to Wallenberg: Russia’s Chilling Revelation

26-04-2010 , by Amy Knight , ed. New York Review of Books

Amy Knight writes at the New York Review of Books « The FSB would not take such a significant step in the Wallenberg case without the approval of the Russian leadership. It is probably no coincidence that the FSB’s revelation about Wallenberg has been followed by the Kremlin’s recent recognition of the 1940 Katyn massacre, in which the Soviet secret police executed more than 20,000 members of the Polish armed forces. In addition to allowing a Polish documentary about this terrible Soviet atrocity to be shown on Russian state television, the Russian government has for the first time acknowledged the historical significance of Katyn, in Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s comments at the 70th anniversary commemoration of the massacre in early April. (A subsequent event, that was to have involved the Polish and Russian presidents, was horrifically overshadowed by the crash of the Polish delegation’s plane, though there is some hope that the tragedy will result in stronger Polish-Russian relations.)

Given the Kremlin’s blatant disregard for historical truth about the Soviet era, especially since Putin became president in 2000, this openness comes as a surprise. As recently as September 2007, at Putin’s behest, then FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev handed over purported archival documents on Wallenberg to the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar, for inclusion in a proposed Museum of Tolerance. Among the documents was the fake report saying Wallenberg had died of a heart attack.

The motivations behind the Kremlin’s recent shift remain unclear: perhaps it wants to obtain economic concessions from Europe, or perhaps there is a broader recognition by Russian leaders that coming clean about the Stalin period will bring them respect from the West and make it easier to advance Russian foreign policy aims. But surely the documentation about Prisoner No. 7 in the interrogation register did not appear out of the blue; there should be a larger file. And if Wallenberg was ultimately sent to a prison away from Moscow, there might be documentation in the archives of the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs). It’s time for the Swedish government (and perhaps the Americans and other Western leaders) to press the Kremlin leadership directly for answers. » -> More

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