Sweden refuses to press Russia for Key Files in the Raoul Wallenberg Case

08-06-2008 , by Susanne Berger

In spite of the sharply worded conclusions by two Swedish Commissions – the Swedish-Russian Working Group from 2001 and the Eliasson Commission from 2003 – that Russian efforts to investigate Raoul Wallenberg’s fate in the Soviet Union have been deeply flawed and evasive, the Swedish government has shown no urgency to ensure that researchers can review material deemed vital for clarifying the circumstances of Raoul Wallenberg’s disappearance in Russia. Wallenberg, a young Swedish businessman-diplomat who helped to protect thousands of Jews from Nazi persecution in wartime Hungary, was arrested by Soviet forces in January 1945 and subsequently taken to Moscow. In 1957, Soviet officials announced that he had succumbed to a heart attack in prison in 1947 — a claim which has never been substantiated.
Ignoring newly discovered documents as well as repeated requests from Wallenberg researchers, historians and legal experts, the Swedish Foreign Office refuses to press Russian authorities for access to key files known to exist in Russian archives. The Russian government, although publicly supportive of continuing research, routinely denies access to special collections, particularly a variety of intelligence documentation.
When Riksdag member Cecilia Wikström (fp-Uppsala) last year formally asked Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt to address the problem of access to special Russian archives, Bildt expressed his willingness to approach Russian officials on the matter. He stressed, however, that the Swedish Foreign Ministry would not actively lobby Russia on behalf of individual projects. This « hands off » approach leaves researchers (whose projects are funded and approved by the Swedish Foreign Ministry) to fend for themselves precisely when they are most in need of support. For many this has created the impression that Sweden is quite content with the mere appearance of progress.
This conclusion remains valid even in light of the admittedly difficult political situation in Russia.
Since 2001, the Swedish Foreign Office has made little to no effort to continue its own official investigation in the Raoul Wallenberg case, preferring to place the onus of inquiry almost exclusively on historical research.
The final report of the Swedish-Russian Working Group specifically outlined seventeen questions which the Russian side can and has to answer before any binding conclusions about Raoul Wallenberg’s fate can be drawn. Many of these questions derived from special Working Group research projects, including a quantitative computer study of Vladimir prison (the Soviet Union’s most important isolator prison) and an extensive prisoner file analysis. The Swedish-Foreign Ministry considered the research important enough to fund it with over $300,000.
Yet, instead of decisively acting upon the results, for seven years the Swedish government has taken no steps to press Russia for a constructive reply to the many concrete questions pending from these studies.
Another example is Russian historian Nikita Petrov‘s 2005 discovery of documents which prove that additional information concerning a key witness in the Wallenberg case — Wallenberg’s cellmate in Lefortovo prison, Willi Rödel — continues to exist in Russian archives. Despite numerous appeals to UD, Swedish officials have done nothing to pursue Petrov’s finding wich concerns an explicit KGB order in the mid-1950’s to preserve Rödel’s file. The material is of central importance because it could shed direct light on Raoul Wallenberg’s fate.
Up to now, the Russian side has provided only a few loose documents about Willi Roedel. More importantly, we have never been allowed to view these papers in the original, nor have we been able to study them in the context of the collection in which they were supposedly found. Petrov’s discovery adds to the long held suspicion that the Russian side continues to withhold key documents in the Wallenberg inquiry.
The unfortunate result of Swedish foot dragging (in the matter) has been the at best, casual, at worst, willful perpetuation of ambiguity where real progress could be possible. There are other indications to this effect. While the Wallenberg case officially remains on Sweden’s and Russia’s bilateral agenda, over the past year Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has repeatedly signaled that Sweden will no longer insist on the full truth about Wallenberg’s fate – a stark contrast to the position held by the previous Swedish government. It stated unequivocally that unless Russia presents formal proof of Wallenberg’s fate, Sweden considers the issue an open question which it will actively pursue.
An even more serious retrenchment of attitudes is evident on the Russian side — finding its most glaring expression in the September 2007 comments made during the formal handover of old KGB records in the Raoul Wallenberg case by the current head of FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, to the director of the yet-to-be-created Russian « Museum of Tolerance ». By reviving the Soviet era claim that Wallenberg had most likely died of a heart attack in prison and that no other further information exists in Russian archives, Patrushev plunged the official Russian position firmly back into the dark ages. Like Mr. Bildt, he blithely ignored the formal conclusions and remaining questions of the ten-year investigation by the Swedish-Russian Working Group (1991-2001).
In short, both Russia and Sweden seem to find the status quo in the case not only acceptable but possibly preferable. This malaise also afflicts other investigations. The question what happened to the men of the Swedish DC-3 which was downed by Soviet air power in 1952 (four were found at the crash site, four remain unaccounted for) could be answered with relative ease from Russian files — yet there is little Swedish pressure on Russia to release the information.

Regarding Raoul Wallenberg too, Sweden has underutilized its options. Aside from insisting on full disclosure of all material about Willi Rödel, Sweden should pursue a systematic review of the following files:
1. Soviet intelligence reports from wartime Hungary and Sweden. Of key interest is the file of Mikhail Petrovich G. Kutusov-Tolstoy, the chief foreign intelligence agent in Hungary in 1944. (The request has been pending for more than a decade) It would provide essential clues as to why the Russians detained Raoul Wallenberg and possibly, why they failed to release him. Also of great relevance in this connection are the intelligence reports from the Soviet Legation, Stockholm for pertinent years which would answer the question of how Raoul Wallenberg’s mission was perceived from the outset and what instructions Moscow sent to Sweden.

2. There are strong indications that Raoul Wallenberg’s personal and/or investigative file exists today, either in full or in consolidated form. Just as important are the personal and investigative files of Raoul Wallenberg’s cellmates and individuals associated with his case. In the 1990’s, important information about Wallenberg was found in precisely such files. Since then, Russia has provided access to some (but far from all) personal files but has never allowed a review of investigative files. This,material, is critically important since it not only contains detailed protocols of prisoner interrogations but allows critical insights into the workings and the rationale of Soviet decision making.
3. The Russians have not allowed a review of the full list of prisoners sentenced by secret, extrajudicial tribunal (OSO MGB) in the period of 1947-1953. Likewise, the Russians have not provided the identity of specific numbered prisoners held in Vladimir prison from 1947-1954, as requested in 2001. Numerous other questions remain unanswered, concerning missing prisoner registration cards as well as the identity of Swedish prisoners who reportedly were held in Vladimir in the mid 1950’s.
4. Critical gaps remain to be filled from other Soviet administrative records, like the internal and inter-agency correspondence of Soviet intelligence personnel with the Soviet leadership (concerning special prisoners like Raoul Wallenberg); the confidential files of the Politburo, Central Committee and individual Soviet leaders for pertinent years (which would shed light on the administrative flow of information); and key statistical records of the Soviet Intelligence Serviceswhich meticulously traced prisoners by distinct categories, including nationality. These records would clarify which other Swedish prisoners were held where and when in Soviet captivity. A request to see the material was rejected just last month.
5. Internal Soviet documentation related to secret Swedish-Soviet contacts concerning a possible exchange of Raoul Wallenberg or clarity about his fate. They include the Svartz-Myasnikov discussion from 1961-1965. The Erzine-Frey discussions conducted in 1955-57 through Turkey, Finland and Stockholm. No information has been released about an attempt in 1954, made by Jacob Wallenberg, to learn information about Raoul Wallenberg’s fate through confidential business contacts in Prague. Of interest are also the Svingel-Vogel contacts (through East Germany) from 1965-1974, which involved possible Soviet compensation to Sweden for convicted Soviet spy Stig Wennerstroem. There also exists currently no access to general Russian intelligence files on the Wallenberg family which could provide important background information in the case.
All of this material is currently governed by Russian secrecy laws. These pose serious obstacles, but such restrictions can be overcome – as the previous Working Group research has already partly shown – if all parties wish to find a solution.
If, as Mr. Bildt’s statement suggests, Sweden has decided not to continue an active investigation of Raoul Wallenberg’s fate, then the Swedish government should clearly say so. If Sweden, on the other hand, is committed to an effective search for the truth, then a well coordinated, manageable research agenda should be implemented as quickly as possible. Efforts to do precisely this failed in 2007 when the Swedish Foreign Ministry rejected the proposal without discussion.
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