August 1, 2010

A friend indeed. The secret service of Lolle Smit

Source:

The present essay is made available as a web contribution to public awareness and to encourage further historical research. In return, the author asks those making use of its findings, some of which are made publicly available for the first time, to acknowledge the fact by citing it as a source (title, author, webpage) in their own work.

A little video clip has been placed on YouTube to draw in particular younger people’s attention to Smit and what he did.

No historian needs to be told that truth can lie hidden in the archives for a very long time, not least in the case of that curious branch of human affairs, the activities of secret services. Indeed some facts, we may sorrowfully reflect, are destined never to emerge at all and disappear without a trace. But on occasion, through a combination of luck and patient investigation, new light can be thrown on old events and a veil can finally be removed to expose what was once hidden.

So where did the story begin? I had come across Lolle Smit in the process of studying Raoul Wallenberg’s humanitarian mission to Hungary and the reasons for his apprehension and detention by the Russian authorities. As part of this project, I had reason to investigate in some detail the Swede’s contacts both in Stockholm, prior to his departure and later in Hungary itself.

In July 1944, Raoul Wallenberg had arrived in Budapest. Among his new personal acquaintances was a lively young Dutch girl called Berber (Barbara) Smit. Somewhat typically, she scarcely figures in the vast literature on Wallenberg, although her name occurs in several places in Wallenberg’s pocket diary, confiscated by the Soviet authorities and later returned to the family at a meeting in Moscow in the autumn of 1989.  More ->