Wallenberg -- A Swedish hero whose cause lives on
Raoul Wallenberg lives -- as a cause. This much was proved beyond reasonable doubt at an emotiomally charged, chaotic two-day public hearing into the mystery of Sweden's "lost hero of the Holocaust."
And on Saturday night a torchlight on the Soviet Embassy marked the 36th anniversary of Wallenberg's capture by the Red Army.
Whether Wallenberg is actually alive -- now aged 69, after 35 years in the Soviet prison system -- remains a matter of speculation. If he is, whether the hearing has done anything to improve his chances of release is problematical.
The Soviet news agency Tass described the proceedings in the Swedish capital as "a provocation."
Commenting on this, Dr. Gideon Hausner, chairman of the Israel Raoul Wallenberg Association and one of an international panel of "experts" hearing evidence aimed at proving Wallenberg is still alive, said: "We regret that they see it in this light. No provocation was intended."
Greville Janner, British member of Parliament who chaired the second day of the hearing, admitted that not all the evidence produced at the hearing was reliable.
"None of us here would like to have to rely on such evidence in a court of law," said Mr. Janner, a Queen's Counsel. "Each individual strand of evidence is weak. But put all the strands together and you have a powerful case."
The most powerful strand was Andre Shimkevich, an insurance salesman from Paris. Shimkevich, a surprise witness, was jailed for anti-Soviet activities while living in the Soviet Union in 1930. He was released in 1957.
In December 1947, Shimkevich said, he shared a cell in Moscow's Lubyanka prison with Raoul Wallenberg. The only official Soviet statement on Wallenberg says he died in July 1947.
Wallenberg was attached to the Swedish Embassy in Budapest with a special mission to save the lives of Jews doomed under Adolf Eichmann's extermination program. In the final year of the German occupation of Hungary, Wallenberg used American money and Swedish passports to save the lives of an estimated 100,000 Jews.
The dashing young Swede, member of a wealthy banking family, rapidly became a legend in the Jewish community for his daring in facing up to Eichmann and the German SS. But when the Red Army marched into Budapest in 1945, Wallenberg was arrested and taken to Moscow. He was accused of spying but never put on trial.
Initial timid attempts by the Swedish Foreign Ministry to clarify his fate met with silence. As pressure mounted and as Wallenberg slowly became a "cause celebre" in the West, the Soviet Union in 1957 put out its statement that he had died of a heart attack.
"Weak strands" of evidence were produced at the hearing claiming that Wallenberg is, in fact, still alive after having been shunted through 12 prisons and three psychiatric hospitals.
a conversation with "I. L.," produced by Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, claimed a Soviet general named Gennadi N. Kupriyanov died under questioning by the KGB after being quoted in the West as having said he had met Wallenberg on two occasions in the 1950s in the Soviet prison system.
An anonymous statement from another former Soviet citizen claimed that in 1976 Wallenberg was kept in total isolation in cell No. 77 in Spets Korpus jail in the Gorki prison area.
Cronid Lubarsky, a Russian dissident now living in West Germany, said a reliable source in Moscow had told him: "In 1978 in Blagoveshchensk special psychiatric hospital one old Swede was held. His physical state was very bad."
Dr. Hausner told me after the hearing: "Wallenberg was not killed by the Russians because after Stalin's death things changed. Extermination was no longer used. He has been kept in jain instead. Why? Who knows? Perhaps the Russians are afraid they will lose face if they have to admit that they made a mistake in declaring him dead."
The hearing asked Swedish Foreign Minister Ola Ullsten to raise the Raoul Wallenberg c ase once again with the Russians.