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David Matas

David Matas: Unanswered Questions re The Wallenberg file:

by David Matas, posted March 3, 2014

[ Below is an excerpt of remarks Remarks prepared for delivery to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, 7 October 2013, Toronto, Ontario]


I want to address this evening what the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance can do to try to help Raoul Wallenberg and his family, by attempting to find out what happened to him.  The general drift of these remarks is that the fate of Raoul Wallenberg, while not yet known, is knowable.  Documents exist in Russian archives which would disclose his fate but have not been yet made available to researchers.   There is an opening and a need for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to press the matter at the highest level if we are going to come to a resolution on this case.


These remarks are divided into four components. The first sets out unanswered questions about the fate of Raoul Wallenberg and points to the existing but yet undisclosed archives which would answer these questions.  The second refers to Swedish Government efforts.  The third sets out what I and B'nai Brith Canada have done to attempt to further this effort.  The fourth proposes a specific International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance initiative.


I. Unanswered questions

In 2001, after a ten year investigation, the Swedish Russian Working Group on the Fate of Raoul Wallenberg, presented two separate reports, one from the Swedish side, one from the Russian. In addition, four independent consultants to the Swedish Russian Working Group Dr. Marvin Makinen with Ari Kaplan, Susan Mesinai, and Susanne Berger issued reports of their research.


As an appendix to its report, the Swedish side formulated seventeen questions which need to be answered in full before any binding conclusions concerning Raoul Wallenberg's fate could be drawn.  The independent consultants in May 2005 issued a separate list of their own questions.  Some of these questions combined, in my formulation and updated, are:


A. Arrest

1) Raoul Wallenberg was arrested in Hungary on January 17, 1945 by the Soviets and shipped back to Moscow.  Who took the decision to arrest?  When was this decision taken?  What were the reasons for this decision?  Soviet foreign intelligence records from Hungary and Sweden for the period 1943 1945 would shed light on the reasons why the Soviet authorities decided to arrest Wallenberg; the records have not been released.  What do these records show?


2)  The People's Commissariat for State Security (NKGB) agent in Budapest Mikhail Tolstoy Kutusov reported extensively on Raoul Wallenberg's activities to Moscow. This file could produce valuable clues as to how Wallenberg's case was perceived and handled in the Soviet system.  Russia has refused to permit researchers to review this file.  What does this file show?


B. Fellow prisoners

3)  The Russian side has allowed limited review of files of prisoners closely associated with Raoul Wallenberg in captivity. Russia has not allowed any access or study of the investigative files of some of these prisoners. What do the investigative files of these prisoners reveal about how Soviet leaders handled Wallenberg's case?  


4) In January 21, 1945 Wallenberg was placed in a cell with Gustav Richter, a police attaché at the German embassy in Romania until the Russian takeover. Richter was moved on March 1, 1945. Researchers were not allowed to see the Soviet investigative file for Richter.  What does it contain?


5)  During the work of the Swedish Russian Working Group from 1991 to 2001, the Russian side denied the existence of an investigative file for Willi Roedel, Raoul Wallenberg's cellmate in Lefortovo prison in 1946/47.  Information published in a book about Ivan Serov [former head of the KGB] by Nikita Petrov of the "Memorial" society, contradicts this denial.  The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in 2012 published a book about Willi Roedel under the title "Willy Rödel, Oberführer SA" which contained 150 pages of investigative documentation about Roedel.


The authors of the 2012 book assert that the documents about Roedel they published came from an operational correspondence file concerning prisoners of war which contains materials on foreign diplomats who died in Moscow prisons from 1945 to 1947.  Well, is there anything in this file about Raoul Wallenberg? Could researchers see this file themselves?


6) It was standard Soviet SMERSH/MGB practice to open on arrest, for a person detained by them and brought from Europe to undergo investigation, both a personal and an investigative file.  Why would this practice not have been followed for Roedel or, for that matter, for Wallenberg?


7) Petrov obtained documentation that Roedel was executed in the autumn of 1947.  It apparently came from a file of high level diplomats and foreigners who died of natural causes or were killed in captivity.  An Associated Press reporter was shown this file from the outside only but not allowed to look inside.  Who is listed in this collection?  Is Wallenberg part of the list?


8)  Former Soviet officials have repeatedly alluded to information that they claim originates directly from the interrogations of Vilmos Langfelder, Wallenberg's chauffeur, arrested with him. Where are these interrogation records and why have they not been shared with Swedish officials?  The Soviet government claimed that Vilmos Langfelder had died in March 1948. What were the circumstances of his death?


9)  The references to Raoul Wallenberg and Langfelder have been blotted out in the KGB prison journals.  When did this happen?


10) Sandor Katona, previously a driver at the Hungarian legation in Sofia and arrested in September 1944, was transferred as a prisoner with Langfelder from the Lefortovo Prison to the Lubianka Prison on July 22, 1947.  Why?  What are the dates of Katona's imprisonment?  Where is the documentation related to his case?


C. July 17, 1947

11) For decades, Russia claimed that Raoul Wallenberg died on July 17, 1947, in Moscow's Lubianka prison. Yet in 2009, Russian officials wrote in a response to queries from researchers that prisoner number 7 who was "most likely" Wallenberg, had been interrogated on July 23, 1947, six days after his official death date.  Can we see the interrogation registry for Lubianka prison for that day?


12) Though the Russians have said that this prisoner number 7 was most likely Wallenberg, they have not asserted that with certainty. Yet, the Russians were able to provide full identification for an earlier prisoner number 7.  Why can the Russians identify one prisoner number 7 with certainty and not another?


13) What happened to Raoul Wallenberg on 17 July 1947, if anything? If Raoul Wallenberg died of natural causes on that date, how did it happen?  If he was executed, who took the decision?  If he died on that date, where was he buried?  If he was moved on that date into isolation as a numbered prisoner, where are the relevant papers?


14) Access to internal correspondence files containing relayed orders and instructions between the Soviet security services (the Ministry of State Security (MGB) prison department and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) prison directorate) and the Soviet leadership - such as the Central Committee and the Politburo - would reveal how Soviet leaders handled the Wallenberg file.  There is not this access now.  What information would this access provide?  The Politburo in its August 1947 session almost certainly discussed Wallenberg. What do the documents from that deliberation show?


15)  Soviet archival records state there to have been a letter dated July 17, 1947, from Viktor Abakumov, chief of the SMERSH military counter espionage, to Vyacheslav Molotov, then Vice Chair of the Council of Ministers and Deputy Prime Minister about Raoul Wallenberg.   The letter itself is missing.  This letter is dated on the day the Smoltsov memorandum says that Wallenberg died. What was in the letter?  Where is the letter?


D. The Smoltsov report

16) A report by A. Smoltsov states the Wallenberg died of a heart attack on July 17, 1947.  Smoltsov was then chief of health services at Lubianka prison.  A memorandum signed by then Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko from 1957 states that this memorandum had been found. When was the Smoltsov report found? Where was it found? By whom was it found?


17)  According to Smoltsov's son, Viktor Aleksandrevitch, Smoltsov was on medical leave because of illness on the day he wrote the memorandum about the death of Wallenberg and was unexpectedly called to work one evening in July 1947.  This information was given by the son to a Russian representative of the Swedish Russian working group on Raoul Wallenberg.  The son refused to meet the Swedish members of the working group.  What are the precise dates and circumstances of Smoltsov's illness and employment in 1947?  Was he, in fact, at work when the report he was supposed to have written was authored?  Was he called in to write the report on July 17, 1947 or some other date?  He lived till 1953. What was the genesis and purpose of his report?


18) The Soviet Union did not, through the Gromyko memorandum, give an honest reply in 1957 to Swedish queries about Wallenberg. For instance, the Gromyko memorandum mentions the prison medical service's records at Lubianka Prison. No such records exist, or have existed, according to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) deputy head of archives.  To take another example, the Gromyko memorandum pointed out that 'a certain former leader of the state security organisation furnished the Soviet Foreign Ministry with incorrect information over a number of years'. This is not true. The Foreign Ministry received nothing at all from the Ministry of State Security before February 1947, after which it was told that Raoul Wallenberg was in Ministry of State Security custody. Why was the Gromyko memorandum not honest?


E. Numbered prisoners

19) Deputy Foreign Minister A. Vishinsky in May 1947 asked for a solution ['liquidatsye'] of the Raoul Wallenberg case.  That solution could have been either execution or assignment of a false identity and holding in isolation.  Several Lubianka prisoners were convicted by a special military tribunal of counter revolutionary activity and then assigned either a false identity or a number and held in isolation.  Researchers have identified all but six of the numbered prisoners sentenced between the spring of 1947 and May 1948, the period when Wallenberg would have been sentenced if he was convicted by this court.   Who were the six unidentified numbered prisoners, prisoners 14, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20?  In what isolation prisons were the six placed?


F. Witness information

20) A number of witnesses - staff and prisoners formerly held in Vladimir -  gave testimony that Wallenberg was there in the forties, fifties, sixties and seventies.  An examination of Vladimir prison records shows that there was an uncharacteristic frequency of seemingly empty cells in a way which appears to confirm that an isolated prisoner may have been held there.  What is the explanation for this evidence?


21)  Shiryagin from Charkov wrote a letter about Raoul Wallenberg in the spring of 1956 which caused the MID [Soviet Foreign Ministry] to worry about the information spreading. The Foreign Ministry requested the KGB to silence Shiryagin on this issue? Why? What was in that letter? Where can the information in that letter be found today?


22)  Varvara Ivanovna Larina and Aleksandr Timofeiyevich Kukin, former employees of Vladimir prison described a foreign prisoner in 1960 held in Korpus 2 in solitary confinement who met the description of Raoul Wallenberg.  Josip Terelya, a former prisoner, did the same for 1970.  Who were the foreign prisoners in solitary confinement in 1960 and 1970 in Korpus 2 of the Vladimir Prison?


23) Zigurds Kruminsh, the former cellmate of Francis Gary Powers and of Marvin W. Makinen in the Vladimir Prison, stated that he met a Swedish prisoner in Vladimir.  Who were the Kruminsh cellmates in the Vladimir Prison, particularly those in Korpus 1 at the time the Gromyko Memorandum was released in February 1957? 


24) Who were the Swedish prisoners in Vladimir prison?  How many were there?  Other Russian prisons issued statistical information about foreign prisoners by nationality.  This was likely done for Vladimir also but researchers have never been allowed to see the reports from the warden of Vladimir which would contain these statistics.


25) In 1961 Dr. Nanna Svartz of Sweden reported that her Russian colleague Dr. A. L. Myasnikov revealed to her during a meeting that he had direct knowledge of Raoul Wallenberg's presence in the Soviet Union. A second Russian physician, Dr. Grigory Danishevsky, was also present during part of the conversation. What do the reports of Drs. Myasnikov and Danishevsky to Soviet authorities about their encounter with Dr. Svartz say?


26) In May 1965 the Central Committee of the Communist Party Soviet Union approved an official reply to be given to Dr. Svartz. The notations on the document show that the Myasnikov/Svartz issue was also discussed by a full session of the Politburo. What are the contents of the documentation that was preparatory to the meetings of the Central Committee and the Politburo?


G. Exchange

27) Did the Soviet side try at any time to indicate that they were interested in an exchange of Wallenberg for a Soviet prisoner in the West? The Soviet embassies in Istanbul, Turkey and later Helsinki, Finland attempted through Pavel Erzine and Viktor Vladimirov in 1956 to arrange discussions through Finnish diplomat Ake Frey between the Soviet leadership and the Swedish Prime Minister about the possibility that "they (the Soviets) will repatriate him (Raoul Wallenberg) if he is still alive".    Where are the papers relating to the discussion between Vladimirov and Frey?


H. Transfer of belongings

28)  Soviet officials in October 1989 handed over belongings of Raoul Wallenberg to his family, including currency, claiming that they had recently been found during refurbishment of a basement containing KGB records. Raoul Wallenberg's belongings were kept in a file in the care of a KGB archive official during the 1950's, 1960's and early 1970's.   What happened to Raoul Wallenberg's other possessions?


29) The Soviet and Russian governments claim that Wallenberg died in 1947.  Once a prisoner died, under official Soviet administrative rules any currency was permanently confiscated by the Soviet State within six months of his death.  If Raoul Wallenberg indeed died in 1947, why then was his currency not confiscated?


30) Soviet authorities in 1989 may not have returned the original bills taken from Raoul Wallenberg, but may simply have issued authentic World War II currency to reimburse Wallenberg's family. In that case, how did Soviet authorities know what amount they should return?


31) A receipt stating the precise amount taken from Wallenberg should have been placed in his prisoner file when he arrived in prison. Does this mean that this receipt and possibly Raoul Wallenberg's personal or investigative files were available in 1989? Researchers have copies of receipts for Langfelder and Katona but not one for Wallenberg.


32) What possessions did Raoul Wallenberg take with him from the Lefortovo Prison to the Lubianka Prison in March 1947?   The entry in the official registry of possessions of prisoners in the Lubianka Prison which shows this is censored. When did this censorship occur?


I. Documents

33) Few internal KGB papers were preserved, it seems, from the 1956-57 period.  Why is this so?  When were the papers destroyed? On whose orders were they destroyed?


34)  Wallenberg researchers found in Swedish archives in January 2012 and released a September 16, 1991 memorandum from the Swedish Embassy in Moscow citing the former head of the Soviet "Special Archive," Anatoly Prokopenko, as telling Swedish diplomats that the KGB instructed him to stop a search for documents by researchers working on the fate of Raoul Wallenberg.  Prokopenko said he complied because he was working to open other archives to the public and realized that open disobedience would lead to his immediate ouster. "I had to make a sacrifice for the sake of uncovering numerous other secrets of the archive," Prokopenko said.  What procedures will be implemented to ensure meaningful access to important documentation so that a credible investigation can be conducted?


35) The Russian Foreign Ministry released in the spring of 2012 classified diplomatic cipher cables to and from the Soviet Embassy in Sweden from 1944 to 1947.  One of these cables, sent July 16, 1947, said that Swedish advocates for Wallenberg had visited the Embassy and that Moscow should give some reply.  The cable is interesting in itself in light of the fact that chief of SMERSH Abakumov wrote to Deputy Prime Minister Molotov about Raoul Wallenberg one day later.  It also raises the question, what other documents are there in Russian foreign intelligence (SVR) archives not yet disclosed about Raoul Wallenberg?

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