August 10, 2006

The process of Mr. W


Someone libeled Mr. W, who that morning had been taken by the military, and no one knew anything else about him afterwards. Paying tribute to Kafka’s talent as a prophet of the 20th century totalitarians is the topic of the time. On the other hand, the absurd grotesque ”disappearance” of Raoul Wallenberg represents the key-code of a Kafkaesque novel. But this absurd, worldly and human fact, responds thoroughly to the undecipherable logic of the total-authoritarian standard.

”-Undoubtedly you are very surprised about this mornings event.”

-”Indeed, I am surprised but not very surprised. I’ve been in this world for thirty years now, and as I made my way all by myself, I am a little immune against surprises and I do not make a big drama out of them, specially the surprise of this morning.” Yes, in the morning of January 13th, 1945 a large number of Smersh people, Soviet military counter-intelligence, arrested Wallenberg and his driver. He was accused and remained on trial from then on. Suffering such a prosecution is like loosing it.

This is why the Kafkaesque hero is different from the rest. This difference lies in the fact that he had been accused of something that will forever remain a mystery. These exceptional human beings make up what we call ”the untied union of men”.

After saving 100.000 Jews, Wallenberg could say, ”I am the absent one this time”. For Kafka ”the fate of the Jews represents the uncertain luck of men”.

The destiny of men and the specie is always uncertain. ”Man”, according to Kafka, ”is burdened with responsibilities and risks. This is why, he is exposed to accusation, fallen and backing down.” (”And what is this organization for? Is it to make innocents halt and prosecute them without any reason?”) Something similar happened in Budapest to Swiss diplomats who were carrying out similar activities. But, while the soviet prisoners exchanged the Swiss, nothing was known about Mr. W. The fact that diplomats from two neutral countries were treated alike is not something minor. After being captured Wallenberg and his driver were taken to a prison in Budapest. They were then deported in a train to Moscow, where they were told that they were not prisoners, but they were under ”custody for protection”. After showing them the subway, they were taken to the Lubianka.

The interrogations of people close Mr. W. and his driver in the Swedish embassy in Budapest were oriented to find evidence in order to support the accusations of espionage in favor of the fascists, the Anglo-Saxon allies or all of them at the same time. When writing his memories, an old Chief of the Scandinavian section of Smersh, tells how he asked Molotov to hand Mr.W over to the GPU in order to make him a soviet mole among the high classes in the West. Summing up, the purpose of his arrest and never-ending process is not clear. Following the practice, which was apparently naïve yet highly effective, the Amnesty began sending letters to furious patriarchs to save prisoners of conscience. The International Foundation Raoul Wallenberg is carrying out the same campaign called ”100,000 signatures for 100,000 lives”, in order to press Russian President Putin to make public the documents about the process of Mr. W. The Foundation has received 22,000 signatures so far, among which include Californian democrat senator’s Tom Lantos (saved by Wallenberg), the EUA Museum of Holocaust Memory, executives of IBM, Microsoft, Forbes, members of the House of Representatives, American Jewish Committee and academics from Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Harvard, John Hopkins, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Berkley, Chicago and Yale. This year, the Wallenberg Foundation, with its headquarters in Buenos Aires, carried out the campaign ”Let’s bring Raoul home” (”Llevemos a Raoul a casa”). Among the letters that were sent, was the 1993 Physiology Nobel Prize winner, Richard Roberts, who finds the Russian attitude, practically an insult to intelligence. ”It is incomprehensible that the soviet army did not have a single record of what happened after Wallenberg’s arrest”. The fact is that Moscow presented not one, but two versions of what happened to Mr.W. The first one was that Wallenberg died in Budapest during fights between soviet troops and the Werhmacht, where fascists possibly killed him. Then in 1957 Gromyko said that Mr. W died after a heart attack in Gulag in July 1947. Many researchers suspect that he was a ”secret prisoner” until 1989, when he possibly died since during that year his passport and other personal effects were delivered to his relatives. Up to date, the Russian government insists in closing this chapter supporting Mr.Gromkyo’s story. In June 2006, the embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington sent a letter to the Wallenberg Foundation office in New York, stating ”he was arrested by soviet special forces in Hungary during January 1945.” The letter confirmed that all evidence had been destroyed. In parallel to these events, circumstantial evidence confirmed that Mr.Wallenberg had passed away in USSR on July 17th, 1947. The truth is that during those ten years (1991 – 2001), a Swedish-Russian work group was constituted in order to clear up Wallenberg situation, however they could not even issue a bipartisan declaration. The Russian group burdened Stalin with the responsibility, while the Swedish group expressed other problems and situations. In their report they focused on the fact of the lack of documentation supporting his death. Besides, there are serious evidences that he was in a special prison where prisoners were not identified by their name but by a number. Some evidence also point to a stay in a psychiatric prison. Swedish researchers could not access KGB files or interview former officers.

Was Mr.W the scapegoat of the Swedish ambiguities during the war and of the lengthy enmity between both countries? Since 1814, the Viking lineage took neutrality as a matter of state and a political virtue. But during the first years of World War II, when the machinery of the III Reich resembled an invincible steamroller, Swedish neutrality had a German leaning. Goring had married a baroness and he was getting along very well with the Swedish aristocracy.

Newspapers were confiscated and some anti-nazi work like ”The Great Dictator”, in Spanish ”El Gran Dictador”, was censored. During the war, communists and other such groups were eliminated by sending them to ”work camps”. Still worse, during the short winter war in 1940 between Finland and USSR, some 8,000 Swedish ”volunteers”, most of them officers of the army, fought together with the Finishes. A Werhmacht infantry division passed along its territory to take part in the attack to the Soviet Union. Norwegians called them quite a remarkable nickname, Transitania. More than 2,140,000 German soldiers went past in 100,000 wagons. After the Kursk armored battle, the Swedish government forbid the transit of German soldiers.

As for Stalingrad and the Africa Corps collapse, Swedish neutrality took a more defined Anglo-Saxon direction. But even in the times of the Nazi offensive, Sweden was a northern shelter for those who had been pursued, such as members of a Polish submarine, Norwegian resistance and Danish Jews who were running away in a small fleet of fishing boats. The Count Folke Beernadotte, member of the royal family, went all over the concentration camps in order to rescue ”patients” for the Swedish Red Cross. His methods were anticipatory of what Wallenberg would use later on in Budapest, bribery, astuteness, and a bit more. Thus he could get prisoners weighing less than 50 kg, 12,000 Jews among them.

However, ”the accusatory, inaccessible authority” who started the prosecution to Mr. W was, and still remains, a perfect and inefficient power machine led by the vain logic of the total administration. The documents of the process’ do exist, but where are they? Why do they remain hidden? Those documents that could tell us something about Wallenberg’s fate still remain as classified in Russia, but also in Sweden, United States, Great Britain and Israel.

Translation: Graciela Forman