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Stalinism and Gulag

Raoul Wallenberg: a duel with Stalin

    Whoever saves one life – saves the world entire.


    The article in Russia

    The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989) rightly said in his memoirs that Raoul Wallenberg “is one of those people who make not just all of Sweden but all of humanity proud” (1) . As long as Judeo-Christian civilization continues to exist, his fate is sure to move people, for he was one of its most praiseworthy examples that has lived among us. Humanity’s greatest good always begins with the ability to do good on behalf of other people. In saving the lives of the Hungarian Jews, Wallenberg made his own contribution to the development of all Western Civilization. It is apparent that through his acts of self-sacrifice over the course of several months in 1944, he fathered the standard of our attitude to human dignity which was subsequently laid down in perpetuity as the foundation of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For this reason, this article is dedicated to the sacred memory of a saint of many nations, Raoul Wallenberg (1912 – ?).
    As is well documented, in the period from 1933 to 1945, some 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated in Europe by the combined forces of Nazi Germany, their allies, and in addition their collaborators in occupied countries (2). Such ruthless mass murder of Jews while the entire world looked on was to become the single most unmitigated catastrophe in the history of the Jewish people.

    Surprised Again – New Documentation about Raoul Wallenberg’s Cellmate Surfaces

      Willy ROEDEL from Dieter Roedel's archive

      The recent publication of two statements written for Soviet interrogators by Willy Rödel, Raoul Wallenberg’s cellmate in Soviet captivity, are the clearest sign yet that Russian archives still contain critically important documents in the Wallenberg case.

      * Russian authorities are believed to have intentionally withheld at least fifity-seven pages from Rödel’s file

      * The missing documentation most likely contains important information about Raoul Wallenberg

      Since the beginning of the Swedish-Russian Working Group in 1991, researchers have tried to obtain as much information as possible about Raoul Wallenberg’s fellow prisoners during his time in Soviet captivity. Over the years, the Russian side provided a number of documents about Willy Rödel, Wallenberg’s long-term cellmate in Moscow Lefortovo prison from 1945-1947. However, we were never allowed to see these papers in the original, nor were we allowed to examine the file from which they had supposedly originated. Officials of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB, successor of the KGB) also routinely insisted that no records of Rödel’s interrogations had been preserved.

      Therefore, we were enormously surprised when we came across a new book with a very long title, “Secrets of the Third Reich Diplomacy: German Diplomats, Leaders of Foreign Military Missions, Military Policemen and Police Attaches in Soviet Captivity. Documents from Investigation Files. 1944-1955”, just published in Russian as part of a series of publications by Aleksander Yakovlev Foundation (Moscow). It contains full texts of interrogation protocols of and statements written by a number of German diplomats captured by the Soviets at the end of WWII, including two statements from none other than Oberfuehrer SA Willy Rödel ! The included documents were selected, compiled, and commented on by two FSB archivists, Dr. Vasilii Khristoforov and Vladimir Makarov. In fact, Lt. General Khristoforov heads the FSB Directorate of Registration and Archival Fonds to which all FSB archives belong, including the FSB Central Archive from which we received answers to our research questions in the Wallenberg case, while Makarov is a researcher at this archive.

      The two statements by Willy Rödel date from December 26, 1944 and January 14, 1945, respectively, before Rödel shared a cell with Raoul Wallenberg. Rödel, a former Political Adviser to the German Ambassador Manfred von Killinger in Bucharest, became Wallenberg’s cellmate in March 1945, mostly in Lefortovo Prison, one of three Moscow state security investigation facilities. The two men were held together at least until about March 1947, when both were transfered (separately) to Lubyanka Prison.

      In the now released statement made in January 1945, Rödel describes the activities of Sturmbannfuehrer SS Gustav Richter, Police Attache at the German Embassy, Bucharest and a German consultant of the Romanian government on the so-called “Jewish question”. This is an interesting fact, since Soviet investigators placed Raoul Wallenberg in Richter’s cell in Lubyanka Prison, shortly after his arrival in Soviet captivity in February of 1945. While it does not have any bearing on our current discussion, the mere existence of Rödel’s statements in the FSB archives is more than noteworthy.

      Khristoforov and Makarov indicate that the originals of Rödel’s two statements are kept in file PF-9653 at the FSB Central Archive. It appears that this file was also the source for materials that were presented to the Swedish Working Group back in April 1993, when Russian officials turned over a set of documents about Willy Rödel.

      The documentation offered by Mr. Khristoforov’s predecessor, Konstantin Vinogradov, included Rödel’s prisoner card, an envelope containing personal items, such as his passport, a full copy of his death certificate and an autopsy report. The documents indicate that Rödel was held in Lubyanka Prison until October 1947, when he suddenly died of a heart failure (which is extremely suspicious) during a transfer to the Krasnogorsk Camp for POWs in the Moscow suburbs.


        Dear Mrs. von Dardel, dear Marie and Louise,

        We are writing to you to share the information enclosed below. As you know, over the last few years, we have continued an often slow but productive exchange with the archives of the Federal Security Services of the Russian Federation (FSB). The latest round of discussions, in November 2009, have yielded a resounding surprise. In a formal reply to several questions regarding Russian prison interrogation registers from 1947, FSB archivists stated that « with great likelihood » Raoul Wallenberg became « Prisoner No. 7″ in Moscow’s Lubyanka prison some time that year. The archivists added that “Prisoner No. 7” had been interrogated on July 23, 1947 which – if confirmed – would mean that the Soviet era claims of Wallenberg’s death on July 17, 1947 are no longer valid. Never before have Russian officials stated the possibility of Raoul Wallenberg’s survival past this date so explicitly.

        The Swedish Ambassador, Tomas Bertelman, and his staff responded quickly to the new information. In a letter addressed to Yuri Trambitsky, head of the FSB’s Central Archive, dated December 9, 2009, Bertelman asked Mr. Trambitsky for clarification, writing that “if this hypothesis is confirmed, it will be . . . almost sensational.”

        We have also sent a detailed follow-up request to FSB officials, asking for more precise information about “Prisoner No. 7,” including procedural details pertaining to the assignment of numbers to prisoners under investigation, as well as possible steps to be taken to verify “Prisoner No. 7’s” identity and his fate after July 23, 1947. So far, Russian officials have not presented any additional information for their claim that “Prisoner No. 7” could be identical with Raoul Wallenberg.

        We stress that an in-depth verification of the new information has to take place before any final conclusions can be drawn, but if indeed confirmed, the news is the most interesting to come out of Russian archives in over fifty years.

        Americans in the gulag

          The little-known story of US citizens trying to escape the Depression

          Mountainous Kolyma, only a few hundred miles west of the Bering Strait, is the coldest inhabited area on earth. During Stalin’s rule, some 2 million prisoners were sent there to mine the rich deposits of gold that lie beneath the rocky, frozen soil. In 1991, when researching a book about how Russians were coming to terms with the Stalin era, I travelled to the region to see some of the old camps of Kolyma, legendary as the most deadly part of the gulag, some of whose survivors I had interviewed. In a country beset by shortages of building materials, all of the hundreds of former prison camps accessible by truck had long since been stripped bare. The only ones still standing were those no longer reached by usable roads, and to see them you had to rent a helicopter.

          Marvin Makinen and Ari Kaplan report 2000

              In the following report prepared on the basis of our analysis of prisoner registration cards in the kartoteka of the Vladimir Prison No. 2, we have generally used the full name and year of birth at the first mention of any prisoner for full identification according to general Russian custom to facilitate follow-up investigations by others who may wish to carry this analysis further. Subsequent mention of the prisoner in the text is thereafter restricted generally to use only of the family name.

            The Smoltsov Report

              The Smoltsov report – analysis and comment

              Texte from the Report of the Swedish-Russian Working group, Stockholm 2000

              “As the Smoltsov report is the only document that has something definite to say about Raoul Wallenberg’s fate, further analysis and comment is necessary. In the first place, a representative of the working group from the Russian Ministry of Security talked to the prison doctor’s son, Viktor Aleksandrevitch Smoltsov (who refused to meet the interview group on the grounds that he had nothing further to add to the details given below). The son  was 23 years old in 1947 and already employed in the security service. He stated that his father was unexpectedly called to his work on an evening in July 1947. This was unusual considering that he suffered from heart disease, did not therefore work full-time and was preparing to be discharged. His father did not return until the following morning and then said that a Swede had died in the MGB inner prison (Lubianka). This story must be treated in the same way as every other oral communication; it comprises a version which is not sufficient proof in itself.

              In an effort to determine the authenticity of the Smoltsov report, it was decided at an early stage to have the handwriting analysed by experts and to subject it to a technical investigation. The Russian side undertook to do this at an institute of forensic expertise at the Soviet Ministry of Justice (App. 48). As far as the technical analysis was concerned, their conclusions were that the report could have been written on the date mentioned, i.e., 17 July 1947. It was not possible to determine by means of a chemical analysis (of ink and paper) the exact point in time on which the report was created because there is no method of determining the absolute age of a document based on changes in the material due to its age.