Newly released documentation from the Swedish Foreign Ministry Archive show that in late 1990 KGB officials acted to stop a review by investigators working for an International Commission charged with determining the fate of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Wallenberg, who had been instrumental in protecting thousands of Jews in Hungary during World War II, disappeared in January 1945 when he was arrested by Soviet forces.
According to the new documentation, Russian archivist Anatoly Prokopenko received a phone call from KGB officials instructing him to stop two researchers of the human rights organisation “Memorial” studying documentation directly related to the Raoul Wallenberg case. The researchers in question were Arseny Roginsky, a founder and current President of Russia’s “Memorial” Society; and Vadim Birstein, a historian and molecular geneticist. The work had been undertaken on behalf of The International Commission to Establish Raoul Wallenberg’s Fate, headed by Wallenberg’s brother, Dr. Guy. von Dardel. Mr. Prokopenko at the time headed the so-called “Special Archive” (now Russian State Military Archive) which includes important document collections related to special prisoners in the Soviet Union, including foreign prisoners of war.
Already in September 1991 Prokopenko informed the Swedish Embassy in Moscow that months earlier KGB officials had asked him to provide copies of every piece of paper Roginsky and Birstein reviewed. KGB officials were apparently worried that the researchers would discover previously unknown information in the Wallenberg case. It was Prokopenko’s impression that the KGB had not inspected the material held at the “Special Archive” prior to Roginsky’s and Birstein’s arrival.
Mr. Prokopenko further pointed out to Swedish officials that some of the major archival collection Birstein and Roginsky had been studying, the so-called “Fond Nr. 451 of the NKVD/MVD’s Executive Committee for Questions related to Prisoners of War and the Interned [GUPVI]” contained important files regarding the Wallenberg case. Most importantly, it held – and still holds – operative correspondence files between Soviet prison authorities, the Soviet security services and the Soviet leadership.
In 1992, a joint Swedish-Russian Working Group continued the work begun by the International Commission on Raoul Wallenberg’s Fate. Swedish officials repeatedly tried to solve the problem of proper access to important collections. They acceded to the Russian side appointing a single person, a trained Russian military archivist, Vladimir Galitsky, to review Fond 451, part time, during a one year period. Independent researchers working with the Swedish side of the Working Group repeatedly raised concerns that one person alone could not possibly conduct an effective review of the vast holding of Fond 451. In 1997, the then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in a “Note Verbale” petitioned Russian officials to allow full and unhindered access to Fond 451 for foreign researchers. Russian officials declined, stating that the review conducted by Mr. Galitsky had been sufficient. American researcher Susan Mesinai was granted permission to study a series of “Personal Files” for individuals closely connected to the Wallenberg case. She and other experts, however, were not allowed access to critically important investigative material for these prisoners.
Just two years ago, in March 2010, Mr. Prokopenko renewed his public call for a systematic review of Fond 451, during an interview at an international news forum organized by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.
In 2009 it was learned that KGB officials had also on other occasions intentionally withheld key information from Swedish investigators. In 1991, KGB archivists handed over photocopies of interrogation registers from Lubianka prison which disguised the fact that Raoul Wallenberg had been held as a numbered prisoner, with the designation “Prisoner Nr. 7” and that he was interrogated on July 23, 1947. This was six days after July 17, 1947, the day Russian officials have claimed for decades as Wallenberg’s official death date. KGB representatives had repeatedly assured Swedish officials that Wallenberg had never been held as a numbered prisoner. Censoring these vital pieces of information essentially prevented the Swedish side from taking proper steps to pursue important leads in Russian archives at the time. The current Chief of the FSB Registration and Archival Collections Directorate (successor to the KGB), Lt. Gen. Vasily Khristoforov, maintains that his collections contain no further information about Raoul Wallenberg’s fate. Anatoly Prokopenko clearly disagrees. He stressed to Swedish officials in 1991 and has stressed since that he firmly believes Raoul Wallenberg’s personal file not to have been destroyed and that a similar file survives for Wallenberg’s Hungarian driver, Vilmos Langfelder.
January 17, 2012