Prologue to Budapest: Raoul Wallenberg and Special-Metall Förening

10-06-2008 , by Susanne Berger

To researchers of the Raoul Wallenberg case, the years between Raoul Wallenberg’s return from Israel (then Palestine) in 1936 and his departure for Budapest, remain full of question marks regarding his personal and professional activities. We know he threw himself in a number of business ventures which did not yield great success. He also owned a small printing house (AB Tryck) which appears to have remained operational while he was in Budapest, but which faced difficulties in turning a profit.

This picture has never been published; Raoul Wallenberg and friends in Israel (first to the right), 1936. Picture I. Drukker z.l.

Courtesy of Max Grunberg, ©

It is somewhat surprising that so few of Raoul Wallenberg’s personal documents have survived which could shed light on his early professional life. This includes letters, personal and business correspondence, even company archives, such as those from Mellaneuropeiska, the company he headed together with Hungarian businessman Dr. Kalman Lauer.[1] Very few of his former business partners and friends have provided statements or information about their association with Raoul Wallenberg. As far as I can tell, he is not mentioned in any memoir of the period.

Jenö Levai’s book « Raoul Wallenberg »[2] provides a short glimpse into one of Wallenberg’s associations which appears to have lasted until his departure for Budapest. He writes that around 1936/7, upon his return from Haifa, Wallenberg

« had to face the ‘Jewish Question’ at its most intense level. One of the chief engineers of AEG, Dr. Philippi, whose wife was of Swedish origin, ran into trouble in Berlin. The Gestapo arrested him and he was interned. Wallenberg was 24 years old at the time. He found out, through the wife’s family what had happened and decided to travel directly to Berlin to have him released. Whilst preparing for the trip, the Swedish Consulate in Berlin succeeded in liberating the engineer and he was sent to Sweden. (p.29).

It is not entirely clear if Raoul Wallenberg actually traveled to Berlin or not. There are some indications that he in fact did, but that arrangements for Philippi’s rescue had already been made. The man who saved Philippi was Birger Forell, a Swedish priest attached to the Swedish Legation, Berlin. Forell helped many persecuted Jews and maintained good contacts in the German resistance, including the « Bekennende Kirche » (Confessing Church).[3]

As an immigrant to Sweden, Philippi would have faced difficulties in establishing a professional life. New documents, discovered in the Stockholm’s Stadsarkivet (City Archive)[4], show that Philippi very quickly found a sound basis of employment – apparently with the help of Raoul Wallenberg.

This fact I came across more or less by accident. Raoul Wallenberg’s case file in the Swedish Security Police (SÄPO) includes a short, cryptic statement:  » ‘Miriam’ (apparently a source) Raoul Wallenberg Styrelsen för Special Metall Förening. »

[1] It appears that some private papers, which have not been made public, remain in the possession of Raoul Wallenberg’s sister, Nina Lagergren. In Göran Engblom’s book « Himmlers Fred » (Sekel, 2008), former Ambassador Jan Lundvik reports having reviewed Wallenberg regular (not diplomatic) passport, issued in June 1944. Lundvik did not respond to a request for clarification.
[2] English Version, translated by Frank Vajda, Melbourne 1988
[3] see Sven Ekdahl, Victoriaförsamlingen 100 år (2003); thanks to Johan Perwe who referred this information.
[4] A great thank-you to May-Britt Järnevall without whose persistence these documents would never have been found, and Dagmar Thullberg.


Document 1 shows the documentation for the formation of a new company, Special-Metallförening, upa (utan personlig ansvarighet — without personal liability), on January 24, 1939. The founding partners were (five were required by law):

Hans F. Böhme
Ms Ulla Jacobsson
Axel Persson
Ms Margit Rundqvist
Raoul Wallenberg.

Wallenberg held the majority votes: 996, with one each for his other partners. The company’s board was comprised of one person, namely Raoul Wallenberg, with Hans Felix Böhme acting as alternate.[1]

Document 2 : The stated purpose of the company was “to promote the economic interest of its members through trade, industry and agency activities and through mediation and sale of immaterial rights.“ The available documentation does not include annual earnings reports, protocols of board meetings, etc.

Document 3a shows an agreement between the new company and “Dr. Erich Philippi, Stockholm” According to the agreement, Philippi transfers his rights of representation abroad, including Sweden, (received via verbal agreement from “Fürstlich Hohenzollernsche Hüttenverwaltung”) to Special-Metall Förening. The text states that

“Dr. Phillipi will perhaps also transfer certain rights according to the enclosed table”.[2]

In return, Special-Metall Förening guarantees Dr. Philippi “90% of its after tax profit (netto vinst) ». The agreement dates from September 1, 1939. At the bottom of the page, Raoul Wallenberg has inserted a handwritten addendum, dated April 11, 1940:

“That from the foregoing (agreement) no claims arise in case of my death, I certify herewith. Because my rights in this connection transfer in such a case to Dr. E. Philippi.” (signed 11 April, 1940, Raoul Wallenberg”)

Document 3b, also dated April 11, 1940 shows a formal acknowledgement of receipt of the sum of 1,030. 51 Swedish Kronor by Raoul Wallenberg, as his 10% share of the company’s profits. It is not clear what period of time this sum covers, nor can it be verified that the stated sum truly comprises 10% of the post-tax profit of Speciall-Metall Förening. at that point. The transaction is clearly part of the handover of the company’s affairs to Dr. Philippi, since Raoul Wallenberg emphasizes that he now “has no longer any claim and any rights to any part of future earnings.”

Document 4 shows an authorization (Fullmakt), signed by Raoul Wallenberg, providing Dr. Erich Philippi with full authority to act on the company’s behalf in all areas of its business, including its mail and banking privileges.

A few days earlier, on April 4, 1940, Raoul Wallenberg had written a letter to Dr. Philippi’s wife[3]. In it, he offers her to purchase

“for the sum of 1 Krona from me or my estate a part of the founding capital which I have held from the start of the company, (practically the full capital). I wish to add, that I consider the earnings I have until now received from the company constitute full compensation for my efforts.” (signed, Raoul Wallenberg; witnessed by Gustaf Waldén and G. Magnusson).

Document 5, dated April 19, 1958, is a request by Dr. Erich Philippi to formally deregister Special-Metall Förening. However, according to Sweden’s ‘Handelskalender’ the company continued to exist as late as 1961.[4]

Document 6: The name “Philippi” appears repeatedly in Raoul Wallenberg’s appointment calendar from 1944. While these entries most likely refer to Erich Philippi, they could also refer to Philippi’s wife or to his son, Bernhard Philippi. A short entry in Raoul Wallenberg’s personal file at the Swedish Security Police (SÄPO) reads that Bernhard Philippi (HD722.41) received a six-months permit to visit Sweden for the period August 16, 1939 until February 2, 1940. But Bernhard Philippi appears, in fact, to have already arrived in Sweden as early as 1937. It would appear, then, that it was Erich Philippi who arrived in August 1939. As a reference, he provided the name of Raoul Wallenberg. No further documentation about either Bernhard or Erich Philippi is currently available in SÄPO’s archive.

Document 7: Another document in the collection at Stadsarkivet shows that Erich Philippi in the Spring of 1945 had contact to Vilhem Scharp.[5] Scharp, a lecturer of Swedish languages in Berlin, was known during the war as one of the sharpest critics of the Nazi regime. He exerted considerable efforts to identify Nazi sympathizers living in Sweden. Philippi’s contact to Scharp appears to have been limited to a one time inquiry by Scharp about a person Scharp was investigating.[6] An inquiry to Kungliga Biblioteket, where Scharp’s papers are housed, including his extensive correspondence, yielded the information that no known additional letters passed between Philippi and Scharp. Scharp also appears to have never corresponded with Raoul Wallenberg or Kalman Lauer.

[1] Böhme, born 1898, was a lawyer in private practice in Stockholm. By the 1940’s he began to suffer from Multiple Sclerosis and became an invalid. He died in 1951. Thanks for this information to Professor Benny Carlson at the University of Lund and Hans Felix Böhme’s daughter-in-law.
[2] Unfortunately, the enclosures could not be located.
[3] I handwrote a copy of this document in the archives – I will provide a typed copy shortly. The document was for some reason not enclosed in the set of copies made for me by Stadtsarkivet.

TYPED COPY: Letter from Raoul Wallenberg to Mrs. Dr. Erich Philippi, April 4, 1940

Wallenberg, Stockholm 11.4.1940
Östermalmsgatan, 7

Doktorinnan Erich Philippi
Valhallavägen 46

Sedan de värden, vilka jag tillskjutit vid grundandet av Special-Metall Förening u.p.a., kommit att vis sig mindra värdefulla och sedan å andra sidan Eder man, Dr. Erich Philippis, arbete till slut kommit att visa sig vara ensamt avgörande för företagets rentabilitet, erbjuder jag Eder härmed att när Ni så önskar av mig eller av mitt stärbshus för en summa av en krona (Kr. 1: –) inköpa den del av andelskapitalet, vilken jag från företagets start innehaft (praktiskt taget hela kapitalet). Jag ville tilläga att jag anser att en lön jag hittills utfått i föreningen utgör fullvärdig ersättning för min insats.

Bevittnas: Gustaf Waldén G. Magnusson Högaktningsfullt,

Raoul Wallenberg (signature)

[4] This fact was first pointed out by Istvan Tasi, who wrote a letter of inquiry about this to Stockholm’s Länsstyrelsen. (Tasi to Länsstyrelsen, Stockholm, Attn: Bo Carlerup, Mach 5, 1981.

[5] The letter is also contained in the Vilhelm Scharp collection at Kungliga Biblioteket. Johan Perwe provided me with a copy of that letter and it is identical.

[6] Apparently a man named « Dillenberg ». Philippi refers to a matter called « Hemdenmatz » – apparently some type of coded reference. It is not clear what the word signifies. « Hemdenmatz » is German slang for a very young child.

Analysis & Questions

For now, simply a few general remarks. The documents included here are of interest to researchers for several reasons. For one, they cast light on some of Raoul Wallenberg’s activities in the period 1937 – 1941 (before he joined Mellaneuropeiska). They also raise numerous questions, both about the documents themselves as well as the broader issues they describe:

How did Raoul know Dr. Erich Philippi? Philippi appears to have been acquainted with Hans Felix Böhme. But the details of their acquaintance remain unclear. It has also not been possible to establish how Böhme and Raoul Wallenberg knew each other.[1] It is equally unresolved if either one knew Bernhard Philippi.

Did Raoul Wallenberg form Special-Metall Förening with the intention of turning its operations over to Dr. Philippi? The speed with which he transferred authority over the company and the completeness of the turnover would suggest just that. The timing of the agreement with Dr. Philippi is of interest for other reasons. September 1, 1939 marked Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland. Both Philippi and Wallenberg may have felt it prudent to formalize their arrangement, especially the transfer of representational rights Dr. Philippi held.

What prompted Raoul Wallenberg’s close involvement with Dr. Erich Philippi, at a time when – as Jenö Levai has pointed out – Wallenberg was barely 26 years old? He clearly went to extraordinary lengths to provide Philippi with a way of earning a living in his field of expertise. Did he do so on his own volition or were other parties involved? Other than the name of Böhme, the documents as such provide few clues.

For some reason, Raoul Wallenberg does not include Special-Metall on the list of companies with which he is associated, when on June 19, 1944 he sends a formal letter to the Swedish Foreign Office to resign from all commercial activities while he is in Budapest. He mentions Pacific Trading Company, Mellaneuropeiska and Jacob Wallenberg. Even though Raoul had turned over all authority regarding Special-Metall Förening to Dr. Philippi, he apparently did remain on the board of the company.[2]

Another interesting question is why was Raoul Wallenberg concerned about his possible death in 1940? The obvious answer is that he at that point departed for a lengthy period of compulsory military service. This service was not without dangers and quite a few soldiers suffered serious injuries during exercises. It will have to be studied further, however, if Raoul Wallenberg’s handwritten addendum was a routine legal matter or if his concerns were prompted by other considerations.

[1] Böhme’s short biographical sketch in « Kända Stockholmare » (Well-known Stockholmers), published 1936, mentions that he was a member of several Swedish clubs and associations, including the Committee for « Swedish Flag Day » and the local Freemason lodge. There is no evidence that Raoul Wallenberg was ever a member of any of these two organizations.

[2] Since Raoul was the sole board member, Hans Böhme had fallen ill and he had no direct involvement with commercial activities of the firm, Raoul may have felt that he could not resign without jeopardizing Dr. Philippi’s position. .


The documents presented here provide an important glimpse into Raoul Wallenberg’s activities before he joined Mellaneuropeiska in 1941. As Jenö Levai had pointed out, his active involvement in matters of Jewish rescue date back as far as 1937. The new documentation shows that Wallenberg’s extraordinary resourcefulness, which he would later display in Budapest, was already in place and that he was willing to engage himself in the lives of people in need far beyond the commonplace. Many questions remain: How exactly was Dr. Philippi rescued from Germany?[1] What was his family background? What were Dr. Erich Philippi’s precise professional qualifications? Was the arrangement with Raoul Wallenberg and Hans Felix Böhme a completely private matter or did it involve third parties? And why has Raoul Wallenberg’s involvement with Special-Metall Förening remained unknown until now? Other details will have to be clarified, like Raoul Wallenberg’s association with the other founding members. Whose idea was it to found Special-Metall? And, perhaps most importantly, why did Raoul Wallenberg remove himself completely from the company, especially in terms of financial remuneration, at a time when it is generally believed that he was struggling for employment himself?

Precisely around this time, Raoul Wallenberg also approaches Jacob Wallenberg with a request for full employment. On September 27, 1939 he writes the following:

« At our last meeting, you told me that the war would perhaps lead to a number of problems and that you possibly would want to use me for their solution. »[2] It is not clear from the currently available record if he came to an arrangement with Jacob Wallenberg at this time.[3]

Dr. Philippi’s letter to Vilhelm Scharp from 1945 suggests that Philippi possibly was involved in matters which required (internally) coded correspondence. Given his personal history, it would not be surprising if Philippi had tried to offer the kind of help he himself had received to other victims of the Nazis[4]

On the whole, the documentation appears to show a young man who went to extraordinary length to provide assistance to a refugee from Germany. It appears that he was possibly far less aimless during this period of his life than has been alleged by earlier research.

It may also help clarify an interesting and often overlooked remark Raoul Wallenberg makes in a letter in 1944 to Kalman Lauer.[5] In it, he tells Lauer that he is looking forward to his long-planned transfer to Banankompaniet after his return to Stockholm. He adds:

« Definitely this company will derive some advantages from it. » (his transfer — SB)

Banankompaniet was a well-established firm by then. Its board included, at various times, luminaries such as Sven Salén, Carl Mathiessen and Tore Grönwall. Why should such a company gain significant advantages from someone like Raoul Wallenberg, a supposedly small time, relatively inexperienced businessman? His professional history, which is now slowly coming to light, will perhaps provide an answer to that question.

Susanne Berger, June 9, 2008

[1]As Johan Perwe pointed out, the German Gestapo archives as well as the archives of the Swedish Legation, Berlin can probably provide key details about this. So can also possibly the personal papers of Birger Forell, some of which are located at the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz, as well as those housed in the Archiv des deutschen Kirchenkampfes, Bielefeld. Christoph Gann has inquired with the archives of AEG, but received the response that the company has no documentation about Dr. Erich Philippi.

[2] See Berger, Dagens Nyheter, July 17, 1997; and Gert Nylander and Anders Perlinge, Raoul Wallenberg in Documents, 1927-1947. Banking & Enterprise, 2000.

[3] Ibid; Somewhat surprisingly, Håkan Lindgren’s recent well crafted biography of Jacob Wallenberg (Atlantis, 2007) fails to address any of these issues. This is all the more surprising since it is well documented that through the years Jacob Wallenberg maintained an active interest in Raoul’s fate.

[4] Did he, for example, keep up contact with Birger Forell and the German resistance? If – a big if – such activity is confirmed, it would be equally interesting to see if Raoul Wallenberg had any role in such activities.

[5] Raoul Wallenberg to Kalman Lauer, September 29, 1944; Kalman Lauer, private papers, Riksarkivet.

Anyone who wishes to cite the article or make use of all the documentations must do so with proper referencing. All rights of publication and reproduction, copyright, Marie Dupuy,, 2008 ©.

References   [ + ]

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3 Responses to “Prologue to Budapest: Raoul Wallenberg and Special-Metall Förening”

  1. Urban Forell dit :

    Anm.: Das meiste des Berichts habe ich selbst von meinem Vater B. Forell erzählt bekommen. Siehe auch Bertil Neuman « En miljon bortglöda hjältat: Berättelser om mod och goda gärningar under Förintelsen », Stockholm 1999, page 32 ff.

    (signed) UF

  2. Craig Mc Kay dit :

    In Muessener’s dissertation « Exil in Schweden: politische und kulturelle Emigration nach 1933″ (Carl Hanser Verlag, Muenchen 1974), he discusses at one point a pressure group called « Intressegemeinschaft deutschsprachiger Emigranten » which was formed on
    19 July 1944. This group appears to have been formed by certain Jewish refugees from the German-speaking countries and had official support from Socialstyrelsen and the Jewish Community in Sweden. It aimed at being a non-political body and was concerned at a practical level with ways to ease the position of these refugees in Sweden as regards obtaining Residence and Work Permits, the right to choose where one could reside in Sweden, Swedish citizenship and to assist in commercial and legal matters etc. The position of foreign doctors in Sweden was particularly noted. In addition to this, the group was concerned with the (future) task of obtaining compensation from Germany and with the re.uniting of families.

    At the meeting of 19 July 1944, a working committee was appointed under Dr. Julius Hepner. The committeee had the following members: Dr. Walter Bachmann, Frau Greta Berges, Otto Hermanns, Dr. Victor Kafka, Dr. Erich Philippi, Martin Rosenthal, Dr. Hans Scherbel, Dr. Heinrich Scherlag . The treasurer was Rudolf Eisenstein.

    It is almost certain that this is your man.In summing up the activities of the group, Muessener has the following to say:

    [quote p. 114] Die >>Intressegemeinschaft deutschsprachiger Emigranten<< hat allem Anschein nach nur eine geringe Rolle innerhalb der deutschsprachigen Emigration in Schweden gespielt und ist nach aussen hin kaum in Erscheinung getreten. Ihre Arbeit duerfte lediglich fuer die Geschichte der Wiedergutmachung von Intresse sein.

  3. Birger Forell dit :

    Rettungsaktion Birger Forells fuer Erich Philippi im Jahre 1938

    Birger Forell war schwedischer Pfarrer in der schwedischen Victoriagemeinde in Berlin von 1929-1942. In der Gemeinde war eine schwedische Frau, Ellen Philippi, die mit einem deutschen Juden, Dr. Erich Philippi, verheiratet war. Sie hatten zwei Kinder, Bernhard und Ingeborg. Frau Ellen wollte in dieser Zeit irhe schwedische Staatsangehörigkeit wieder bekommen. Deshalb fuhr sie im Jahre 11938 nach Schweden. Ende November erhielt sie ihre schwedische Staatsbuergerschaft zurueck, Erich Philippi blieb in Berlin zurueck. In November hat ein Freund ihn vor einer Razzia gewarnt. Philippi fuhr dann zur schwedischen Kirche, um Schutz zu suchen. Birger Forell kannte die Familie gut. Philippi erinnerte sich plötzlich, dass er etwas wicthiges zuhause vergessen hatte und fuhr schnell nach hause. Ein Nachbar sah sein Auto und meldete ihn zur Polizei. Vor seiner Verhaftung konnte er noch einen Brief an Birger Forell durch seinen Haushelfer schicken lassen.

    Als Forell von der Verhaftung Philippis erfuhr, fuhr er direkt zur Gestapo, um sich nach Philippi zu erkundigen. Im Hauptquartier wollten die Wachen ihn nicht hereinlassen, aber er zeigte seinen Diplomatenpass so dicht an die Nase der Wachen, dass sie ihn fuer einen Gestapooffizier hielten. Als Forell bis zur Tuer des Gestapochefs gekommen war, wollte die Sekretärin ihn auch nicht hereinlassen und als sie die Tuer zumachen wollte, setzte Forell seinen Fuss dazwischen und zwang sich herein. Nach einem längeren Schweigen fragte der Chef ihn, was ein schwedischer Pfarrer mit einem deutschen Juden zu tun hätte. Forell antwortete, dass Frau Philippi Mitglied seiner Gemeinde sei. Und dazu drohte Forell mir der schwedischen Botschaft under der schwedischen Presse, wenn Philiuppi nicht freigelassen wuerde. Das war allerdings ein Bluff von Forell, denn niemand wusste sonst, wo er gerade jetzt war, und die Botschaft war gar nicht benachrichtigt.

    Der Gestapochef hat sich angeboten, einen Brief an das KZ-Lager Sachsenhausen zu schreiben, um die Freilassung zu verordnen. Forell erklärte darauf, dass ein Brief sehr leicht verschwinden könnte und hat deshalb verlangt, dass der Chef einen Telefonanruf an das KZ-Lager machte und zwar sofort, als Forell noch bei ihm in seinem Buero war. Das geschah auch. Nach dreizehn Tagen in dem KZ-Lager wurde Erich Philippi freigelassen.

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