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The Independent Working Group


    In December, 1993, on a trip to the Vladimir Prison under the accompaniment of Colonel Mikhail Tarakanov, Director of MVD Prisons in the Russian Federated Republic, Makinen interviewed Larina, Varvara Ivanova, a semi-retired sanitarka, who had worked in Korpus 2 since the mid-1940’s. During the interview conducted in the presence of the chief physician of the prison hospital, Dr. Polinina, Lyudmila Ivanovna, Larina recalled a foreign prisoner who was held in solitary confinement on the third floor in a cell opposite to that occupied by the prisoner ‘Osmak’. Larina stated that she did not know the origin of the prisoner but that he was Western and of non-German origin and that he was on the third floor at the time of Osmak’s death. She remembered the prisoner because the head guard had ordered her to bring meals to the prisoner first before she began to distribute food to other cells. From a selection of photographs of different individuals, she identified as the prisoner a side profile of Raoul Wallenberg taken in Budapest, that had not appeared in the international press. Later inspection of the Prison kartoteka revealed the registration cards of Osmak, Kirill Ivanovich, and that he succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage on May 16, 1960.

    Since Russian authorities insisted that Raoul Wallenberg had never been in the Vladimir Prison, Makinen requested to be allowed to conduct an analysis of the occupancy of all cells in Korpus 2 based on the chronological data entered into prisoner registration cards in the kartoteka. If Larina was mistaken in recalling the foreign prisoner, the analysis would likely show that the cells opposite Osmak’s cell were occupied by identifiable prisoners; however, if the foreign prisoner were under a special or numbered category and registration cards and other documents had been removed by authorities, the analysis would show that a cell opposite Osmak’s was unoccupied coinciding with the time of Osmak’s demise. The database extracted from over 11,000 prisoner registration cards of 8034 prisoners who had spent at least one day in Korpus 2 between January 1, 1947, and December 31, 1972, and consisting of over 98,000 cell changes was analyzed through computer programs developed by Ari D. Kaplan. The occupancy of all cells in Korpus 2 could be thus reconstructed over time, revealing the history of cellmate changes for all prisoners, prisoners occupying neighboring cells, patterns in cellmate changes and relocation of prisoners into different cells, according to the cards in the Vladimir kartoteka. The analysis showed that two cells opposite cell 2-49 in which Osmak died were unoccupied for 243 and 274 consecutive days, respectively. The analysis also corroborated the conditions as to cell location and identity of cellmates described in a large number of evidentiary statements by repatriated prisoners-of-war who reported having heard about Raoul Wallenberg during their confinement in the Vladimir Prison.

    The analysis showed that the average length of time that a cell remained unoccupied was less than seven consecutive days. Consequently the occurrence of a cell remaining “unoccupied” for 274 consecutive days is unusual and cannot be ascribed to ordinary prison activities since prisoners were continually relocated into and out of neighboring cells during this time. Makinen through the Swedish-Russian Working Group has requested from Russian authorities clarification and identification of the prisoners confined to the two cells in The Independent Working Group question, but no answer has been yet provided.

    Susan Mesinai:

    In her report Mesinai shows that it is possible to piece together indirectly a papertrail tracing Raoul Wallenberg’s presence in the Soviet administrative prison system through the systematic analysis of his prisoner files and those of his cellmates and of other prisoners incarcerated at the same time. She also shows that, as well as through the close examination of so-called secondary records, i.e., transport registers and medical files, can be used to glean information relavant to testimonies of prisoners. Mesinai shows that the system of numbering special prisoners in the Soviet prison system appears to have become centralized in the Spring of 1947. Mesinai further demonstrates that the chronological numbering of secret prisoners in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s appears to have been done according to a chronological order and that the list of numbered prisoners includes obviouscontains gaps, for sentenced prisoners in Vladimir prison. In fact, for the critical time in the Raoul Wallenberg case, 1947/48, three numbers prisoners No. 17,18, 19 [for sentenced prisoners] remain unidentified. It ispossible that one of these numbers was assigned to Raoul Wallenberg. in or around July 1947. Mesinai also found that censoring prisoner names in prison registers – as was done with Raoul Wallenberg’s name – did not always meanthat these prisoners died. At least one foreign prisoner whose named had been censored became a so-called numbered prisoner and was later released from captivity. In addition, Mesinai’s research raises important questionsabout the handling of Raoul Wallenberg’s personal belongings which were returned by Soviet authorities to his family in 1989. The returned currenc is of particular interest. Under official Soviet administrative rules, once the prisoner in question died, any currency was permanently confiscated by the State.  Until then, the currency was kept on the prisoner’s behalf, leaving open the possibility that Raoul Wallenberg may have survived until 1989.

    Susanne Berger

    Berger’s research addresses the question of why after sixty years the question of Raoul Wallenberg’s fate remains unresolved. In particular, Berger examines the wider political and economic aspects of Wallenberg’s humanitarian mission to Budapest, as well as their associated effects on theinvestigation of his disappearance against the twin backdrop of Swedish neutrality and the Cold War. On the Swedish side, Berger has raised important new The Independent Working Group questions about Raoul Wallenberg’s personal and professional background, as well as his contacts and activities in Budapest. It appears that Raoul Wallenberg had closer connections to the influential Wallenberg family than was previously known. Berger was also able to show that Swedish Intelligence actively supported U.S. and British intelligence interests in Hungary and that this involvement may have had a direct impact on Soviet perceptions of Swedish wartime initiatives. At the same time numerous questions persist as to what deals may have been struck with German and Hungarian Nazi representatives. Her examination of the handling of the case by Swedish authorities has provided new insights about possible reasons behind Swedish passivity in the case, including Sweden’s failure to reach out to the international community, as well as its post-war strategic and economic interests. In Russia, Berger’s research has focused on the reasons behind Raoul Wallenberg’s arrest and Russia’s failure to release him. Her findings have provided indirect evidence that Russia holds additional relevant records in the Raoul Wallenberg case which so far have not been shared with researchers. She has also pursued the fate of other Swedish prisoners held in Soviet capitivity, including Vladimir prison, in order to make the investigation of witness testimonies in the Raoul Wallenberg case more efficient. Berger’s review has led to new efforts to systematize and formally analyse witness statements.

    The Independent Working Group

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