Spy archivist discusses fate of Swedish diplomat abducted by KGB
September 29, 2011 2 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The fate of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who was abducted by Soviet intelligence officers in the closing stages of World War II, is one of the unsolved mysteries of 20th century espionage. The 33-year-old Wallenberg was a shrewd businessman who, in the summer of 1944, was posted as Sweden’s ambassador in Budapest, Hungary. During his time in Budapest, he was able to save over 20,000 Hungarian Jews from the Nazi concentration camps, by supplying them with Swedish travel documentation, or smuggling them out of the country through a network of safe houses. He is also reported to have managed to dissuade German military commanders from launching an all-out attack on Budapest’s Jewish ghetto. But Wallenberg was also an American intelligence asset, having been recruited by a US spy operating out of the War Refugee Board, an American government outfit with offices throughout Eastern Europe. In January of 1945, as Soviet forces descended on Axis ally Hungary, Moscow gave orders for Wallenberg’s arrest on charges of spying for Washington. The Swedish diplomat disappeared, never to be seen in public again. Some historians speculate that Joseph Stalin initially intended to exchange Wallenberg for a number of Soviet diplomats and intelligence officers who had defected to Sweden. But according to official Soviet government reports, Wallenberg died of a heart attack on July 17, 1947, while being interrogated at the Lubyanka, a KGB-affiliated prison complex in downtown Moscow. Despite the claims of the official Soviet record, historians have cited periodic reports that Wallenberg may have managed to survive in the Soviet concentration camp system until as late as the 1980s. Earlier this week, Lt. Gen. Vasily Khristoforov, Chief Archivist for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), one of two successor agencies to the old Soviet KGB, gave an interview about Wallenberg to the Associated Press. He refused to provide the news agency with archival material from the KGB’s archives, saying that most of the documentation on the Swedish diplomat had probably been systematically destroyed in the 1950s. But he said that historical reports of Wallenberg’s survival into the 1980s were “a product of [...] people’s imagination”, and insisted that he was “one hundred percent certain [...] that Wallenberg never was in any prison” other than the Lubyanka. Lt. Gen. Khristoforov acknowledged that Wallenberg’s KGB captors may “have helped him die”, but added that he was “more than convinced that if he outlived the official date of his death, it could only have been by a few days”.