In 2002 (#), I received a grant from the Swedish Reference Group in the Raoul Wallenberg case to examine one specific issue: Who was the Swedish prisoner mentioned in the testimony of Polish prisoner of war Boguslaw Baj (1988 and 1992). As outlined in my original research proposal, identifying other Swedish prisoners in Soviet captivity in the time since 1940- present is both helpful and necessary for analyzing witness testimonies in the Raoul Wallenberg case. [# I had not applied for this grant at the time it was given, but had done so earlier, in 2001. (when it was refused). Research in Russia was postponed, by mutual agreement, due to health reasons, inaccessibility of certain files in Russia , new insights from Swedish and Russian archives which made an adjustment of the original proposal advisable and conflicting work schedules. On at least two occasions I offered to return the grant.]
As I further wrote in my proposal, since Baj stated to have met the Swedish prisoner in a special camp, I had begun to review the files of that particular facility in 1999 (Bratsk). I came across several helpful pieces of information. Bratsk had acquired special camp status in March 1949 and its files showed that arrangements for special handling of secret prisoners as well as the documentation about their cases had been ordered directly by MVD Moscow. Additional records showed that a contingent of about 400 prisoners had been sentenced by special tribunal (OSO) to serve time in special camps at the time of Baj’s testimony and that of another prisoner, Theodor von Dufving (1948-1950).
As a first step, I decided it would be important to compile a list of known Swedish prisoners in Russia in the time of about 1940-present. I repeatedly asked the Swedish Foreign Ministry for such a registry, but I was told that it did not have one. Nor would it be willing to compile one. This position was reaffirmed just recently by the head of UD’s Eastern European Department, Mats Staffansson (June 7, 2007). [I had no problems receiving similar lists from the governments of Denmark, Norway, Finland and Switzerland.]
Instead, I began to develop my own list (which I had started as early as 1999.) For this purpose, I reviewed in full the Raoul Wallenberg case file at UD, as well as records from SÄPO, MUST and Riksarkivet. The list is now quite extensive and some of the current requests for access to documentation in Russian archives is based on this compilation (see e-mail to Anna Lyberg, June 21-25, 2007).
I have been advised by Mats Staffansson and Jan Nyberg that all files on the subject of Swedish citizens missing abroad (including Russia) are open to researchers. This, unfortunately, is not true. Only documentation before 1949 is currently available. With special permission, more recent records can be viewed, but much of the material remains withdrawn. This poses a problem for the cases of Swedish citizens or individuals working for Swedish interest who were detained after 1949. I have also encountered obstacles with open sources. I have repeatedly requested the files of the UD Special Working Group on missing fishermen (see correspondence with Hans Olson), but I have so far not received any documentation. In this case, as well as in my other efforts, I have tried to fill the gap through open sources and cooperation from other quarters.
In order to cover the broadest possible area of inquiry, I coordinated my early efforts with those of Susan E. Mesinai who in 2001/2002 was studying the official transport (convoy troop) records to and from certain special facilities (for specific years) in the Soviet prison system. (Baj had testified that the Swedish prisoner he met had been moved to Bratsk from Moscow). A by-product of this effort was the creation of a number of graphics for the so-called Transport Study (which includes tables of witness testimonies listing meetings with Swedish prisoners, for specific years and specific geographical areas; see Mesinai, Interim Report/Transport Study, 2003).
Through this work it became evident that there had been numerous Swedish prisoners in Soviet captivity (about whom we had known next to nothing while working in the Working Group); that quite a few had been held in the same facilities as Raoul Wallenberg during the period 1945-1947; that a number of them did not hold Swedish citizenship but apparently had been arrested while working for Swedish interests; that some were reportedly held in Vladimir prison and other key isolating prisons or special camps after 1947; and that we did not have access to most of their files, in both Russia and Sweden. (I have outlined some of the basic problems and potential ramifications in the article “Raoul Wallenberg – or another Swede?” (2007)).
Without going into too much detail, it further became clear that in quite a few cases, in response to formal inquiries, the Swedish Foreign Ministry stated that it did not have documentation for certain individuals even though such documentation was and is indeed available from other sources, i.e. correspondence with the Russian Foreign Ministry (MID), the Swedish Security Police (SÄPO), etc. The most obvious explanation for this is that UD’s reference system appears to be incomplete or faulty. Other cases are less clear. A good example is the case of Erik Andersson who in Russian archival records is identified as a Swedish citizen born 1921, arrested in 1947 on charges of espionage (for Britain). Yet, we have not received any information about him from Swedish files.# Andersson’s case is of great interest because he was held in special isolator facilities. He is also known to have on some occasions tried to pass himself off as Raoul Wallenberg. Establishing the full facts about his person and his imprisonment remains a key priority. Rolf Karlbom has advanced the thesis that Andersson is identical with Evald Linder alias Eichenbaum.
Similar problems exist in Russian record keeping (at least for those that are open to the public). Susan Mesinai shared with me a list from the Russian Military Archives (Ros-Archive) of the names of Swedish and other Scandinavian prisoners of war (It includes Andersson‘s name). This list is clearly incomplete. It in some cases includes individuals who were arrested after the end of World War II, yet does not include Swedish citizens who were known to have been arrested before hostilities ceased.
When a new Russian publication became available in 2006 which showed that the FSB Central Archive held detailed statistics about all foreign prisoners on the basis of nationality, year of arrest, year of sentence, specific charges, etc., I, together with the former independent consultants to the Swedish-Russian Working Group (Makinen, Mesinai and Kaplan), issued an appeal to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt to request immediately from Russian authorities full information concerning all Swedish citizens imprisoned over the years in Russia, including individuals who were not formally Swedish citizens but who had lived and worked in Sweden, who had family there, or who had worked for Swedish interests. (see letter January 23, 2007). This request – regrettably – was denied (letter Mats Staffansson, June 7, 2007) with the argument that the Swedish government supports research and that researchers should find the information themselves. Appeals to the effect that a formal Swedish inquiry could prove to be much more effective and far less time consuming were unsuccessful. [I have now included these questions in the currently pending research request to the Russian side.]
Another step I took was to request access to the documentation of the Special (Soviet) Commission (which included representatives from MVD, MGB and the Prokuratura) which selected prisoners to be sent to Special Camps. (see Gullgren, December 2003). Unfortunately, no permission was received to review the actual OSO files of specific prisoners or to review a list of all prisoners sentenced by OSO during the years 1947-1949. Such a request had earlier been made by Susan Ellen Mesinai which also had been refused. This request has, therefore, been now included once again in the list of pending questions to Russian authorities (June 2007).
As my research progressed, it became clear that my original research proposal from 2001 was far too narrow and too limited. It would be difficult to impossible to determine the secret prisoner Boguslaw Baj had met from open records in GARF or MVD alone. As I learned from documentation provided to me by ‘Memorial’ in Moscow (Kuzhovkin/Petrov) and from my own earlier inquiries at GARF, the Bratsk camp was far flung and divided into numerous subsections. These included yet more separate sections which served as punitive areas for unruly prisoners and to house special or secret prisoners. (In short, we faced the proverbial needle in a hay stack search) I therefore adjusted my inquiries in order to be able to conduct as specific an inquiry in Russian files as possible.
I redoubled my efforts to identify Swedish prisoners in Russia from Swedish archive material, in order to get as complete a picture as possible from these records before checking up on Baj’s testimony in Russia.
The Swedish Working Group report (2001) included a statement by Konstantin S. Vinogradov that prisoners in Soviet camps may have confused Raoul Wallenberg with a prisoner named “Rudolf Wallenberg who died in Vorkuta.” (p.177). In 2002 I asked the Russian side to provide precise information about this prisoner, to allow access to his file and to provide a list from both MVD and MGB/KGB for prisoners with similar names to Raoul Wallenberg. The Russian reply stated that there was no prisoner by the name of Rudolf Wallenberg, but only a Rudolf Berg (b. 1903) who had been arrested 1946 in Pommern (Eastern Germany). He was held in Berlin and sentenced there to 10 years imprisonment in June 1948. Berg was handed over to German authorities in February 1950. Mr. Vinogradov’s statement has therefore no basis in fact. The Russian reply also referred to two other prisoners with names similar to ‘Wallenberg’ (from the FSB Central Archive): A German citizen, Paul Wollburg (sic), who was sentenced to death in 1945 and who was apparently executed. As well as Ernst Wallenstein (an old acquaintance for Wallenberg researchers.)
I then asked the Russian side to please provide a list of names similar to ‘Raoul Wallenberg’ from MVD archives. An answer was finally received in May 2006 (!). This time the list included three names, 2 Germans and one Ukrainian: Friedrich Wolenberg (b. 1910); Willenberg, Karl Karlovich (b. 1914); and Wolenberg, Richard Christianovich (b. 1913). (A request to review their files is currently pending).
In 2003 I asked for information about a witness whose testimony had come indirectly to Swedish officials in the 1950’s (about Swedish prisoners in Norilsk). The Russian side answered in September 2003, confirming the existence of the witness in question (Peter Baltins). Russian officials also provided the dates and places of his imprisonment.
In a separate effort, after discussions with Hans Magnusson (in his capacity as former chairman of the Swedish-Russian Working Group) and Harald Hamrin in December 2005, I formulated a request to the Russian side which addressed questions about access to specific prison registers and the failure of the Russian side to provide copies of specific documents on which certain statements in the official Russian Working Group report had been based. (This request included questions related to my own research as well as that of Vadim Birstein, Susan Mesinai and Marvin Makinen). No documentation was received. (The only thing granted was access to a number of prison registers.) I have therefore now repeated the request for specific documentation.
In 2006 I asked Harald Hamrin to formally take up Nikita Petrov’s discovery of Russian documentation which proved that Raoul Wallenberg’s cellmate in 1946/47, Willi Rödel, had been executed in 1947, as well as Petrov’s conclusion that more documentation about Rödel’s case continues to exist today in the archives of FSB than what we were shown in the Working Group. I also had an in-depth exchange directly with Nikita Petrov on this issue.
Since 2001, I have published the following reports, articles and letters:
1. Stuck in Neutral — The Reasons behind Sweden’s passivity in the Raoul Wallenberg case (2005)
2. Raoul Wallenberg and the Complexities of Historic Truth (2005)
3. Questions for President Putin (2005; Press Release by the former independent consultants to the Swedish-Russian Working Group)
4. Time for a Bold Move: Open Letter to the G8 summit (2006; release by the former independent consultants to the Swedish Russian Working Group)
5. Sweden’s public image and the Raoul Wallenberg case (Don’t mention the war) (2006)
6. Raoul Wallenberg or another Swede? (2007)
7. Letter to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt (from the independent consultants to the Swedish-Russian Working Group, January 23, 2007;regarding newly available MGB records).)
8. Jacob Wallenberg’s initiative (2007)
9. Raoul Wallenberg’s unexplored intelligence connections in Hungary (2007)
All are available at www..asso.fr
They outline many but not all of the findings since 2001.
I have also conducted numerous private discussions with historians, researchers, Russia experts as well as past and present Swedish Foreign Ministry officials in order to formulate a truly effective research approach.
In the late spring of 2006, after the publication of the Open Letter to the G8 summit, Tobias Thyberg, then the designated Swedish official in charge of the Raoul Wallenberg case at the Swedish Embassy, Moscow, and I began a formal correspondence about what path future research in the Raoul Wallenberg case could take. (The correspondence is available in UD files and in my personal archive).
In particular, we discussed how to arrive at a research strategy which would satisfy both the needs of researchers as well as those of the Swedish government. We agreed that a coordinated research approach would be necessary if there was to be any hope of making progress in the question in the near term. Another vital requirement, we agreed, would be official Swedish support of researchers, especially when Russian authorities decline access to key material.
We both felt that it would be important for both Swedish officials and researchers to formulate a list of essential files and requests with which Russia must be asked to comply (if it is to be considered cooperative.) Clearly, the current political situation in Russia is far from ideal for pressing further research in the Raoul Wallenberg case, but since the Swedish official position states that the case remains not only on the official Swedish-Russian agenda but constitutes a priority for the Swedish government, we both felt it possible to present a course of action which seemed realistic as well as effective. At the core of our proposal was and remains the creation of a group of researchers, with some support staff, who would receive special access to key documentation in Russia over the period of 6-12 months. The work of this group would be coordinated by one or two people, one a researcher, one a Swedish Foreign Ministry official. (I will not repeat the details here).
Since only the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm could approve such a proposal, I suggested further meetings in Stockholm to discuss the details with key Ministry officials as well as other Wallenberg researchers. This plan was formally rejected by Mats Staffansson in June 2007. I was informed that the Swedish Foreign Ministry plans no official meeting with Wallenberg researchers. Mr. Staffansson instead announced a Wallenberg conference to be held in December 2007 in Stockholm. Further information could be obtained from Harald Hamrin. So far, Mr. Hamrin has not answered a single query from any researcher who has asked for information about this conference.
One can only hope (and these hopes are unfortunately slim) that the planned symposium will provide a serious forum for the exchange of new research information or a discussion of how to reconcile differing views. Until now, the Foreign Office has failed to promote such contacts between researchers, nor does it keep the public informed on progress in the Raoul Wallenberg case. Not even Raoul Wallenberg’ brother, Guy von Dardel has received regular updates on progress in the case since 2001.
Even worse, it appears that in the year of the 50th anniversary of the highly controversial Gromyko memorandum, Sweden has in fact moved to a position which accepts Russia’s claim that Raoul Wallenberg died in Lubianka prison in Moscow in 1947 at face value.
In his blog entry from August 3, 2007, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote the following:
I morgon är det 95 år sedan Raoul Wallenberg föddes. En födelsedag olika de flesta andra – men förvisso värd att uppmärksamma.
Hans heroiska insatser när det gällde att rädda judar undan förintelsens slutrensning av Budapest har under senare år beskrivits av allt fler. Han är hedersmedborgare i såväl USA som Israel. Vi har inte den institutionen, men i allmän bemärkelse är han det självfallet också i Sverige.
Även om det funnits vittnesmål om att han överlevde längre och vi inte har fått absolut klarhet i varje del talar i dag det mesta för att Wallenberg efter sin arresting av de sovjetiska säkerhetstjänsterna i Budapest avrättades i Ljubjanka-fängelset i Moskva 1947.
Under senare år har vi – inte minst genom att arkiven i Moskva öppnats – fått reda på mer om de felsteg som gjordes från Sveriges sida under dessa år.
När Sveriges dåvarande ambassadör i Moskva säger till Stalin att han utgår från att Wallenberg var död – vid en tidpunkt då det är alldeles klart att han levde – kan det mycket väl ha varit som att utfärda dödsdomen. Denna del av deras konversation – den enda de hade – fanns i de sovjetiska arkiven – inte i de svenska.
Det finns åtskilligt som vi som svenskar har anledning att känna stolthet över i hans insats. Men också åtskilligt när det gäller hur frågan hanterats som vi måste känna skam för.
This statement highlighted in red directly contradicts Sweden’s official position in the Wallenberg case. Mr. Bildt certainly has the right to his personal opinion but if, in in official capacity as Swedish Foreign Minister, he chooses to telegraph to the world that Sweden has resigned itself to accepting the official Soviet version of Raoul Wallenberg’s fate – for which Russia has offered no proof and which has received cutting criticism from an official Swedish Commission as recently as 2003 -, then the Russian government will undoubtedly have very little incentive to produce the full facts in the case. Without such a clear public commitment, Sweden’s efforts in the Wallenberg case will have no credibility.
On Raoul Wallenberg’s 95th birthday Mr. Bildt offered praised for his heroic effort, but did not stress the need (or Wallenberg’s example) for a principled stand in matters of human rights. Instead he delivered one message only: Raoul Wallenberg is likely dead in 1947 and Sweden accepts it. The Russians will gratefully take the cue. In that sense, Sweden’s Foreign Minister joins an ignoble tradition: While speaking about the shame of early Swedish “efforts“, Bildt in fact committed his own version of the same faux pas.
If this is now indeed Sweden’s position, then it should make a formal policy adjustment. If Sweden, on the other hand, is committed to an effective search for the truth, then Mr. Bildt’s statement needs to be immediately and officially corrected. Otherwise his public remark will serve to reinforce the long held impression among many researchers that, in spite of its public rhetoric, Sweden’s attitude towards finding the truth about Wallenberg’s fate is far less sincere than it claims to be.
– Fact is that there is important documentation in Russia today which directly and indirectly concerns the Raoul Wallenberg case and which researchers have not had a chance to review.
– Researchers and the Swedish Foreign Office need to agree on a list of key areas of inquiry, (including specific questions) as well as requests for direct, unhindered access to specific collections and files in Russian archives. (I have tried to summarize some of these core questions in my request to the Russian side filed in June 2007).
– This joint research plan should be discussed at a meeting in Stockholm.
– Meanwhile, the Swedish Foreign Office needs to clarify its official position in the Raoul Wallenberg case. It also needs to provide clear guidelines about what type of administrative support it is willing to offer researchers (especially when access is denied in Russia).
The last six years have provided ample evidence that splintered research, without proper coordination, stands to accomplish nothing.
It is possible to define and carry out an agenda that is precisely targeted and hopefully effective. I am convinced that a lot can be accomplished, even in the current political climate. We know which files we must see – most of the questions have been on the table since 2001.
Even though there are serious problems to contend with — funding limitations, lack of familiarity with detailed aspects of the Wallenberg investigation on the part of (some) current UD officials, not to mention the precarious political situation in Russia — these issues can be overcome. The key question is: Is Sweden willing to do this?
I am currently waiting for the Russian response to the request for access (plus specific questions) filed in June 2007, with the support of the Swedish Foreign Ministry, Moscow. Once an answer is received, I will travel to Moscow to begin to coordinate a review of this material (which covers, among other things, the updated set of questions dating back to the original research proposal from 2001).
Susanne Berger August 13, 2007