The following Open Letter to the G8 Summit request leaders to urge Russian President Vladimir Putin to reveal all facts about Raoul Wallenberg’s fate. The letter has the full support of Raoul Wallenberg’s family and is signed by international Wallenberg experts, historians and other prominent individuals.
The full text of the document is being delivered by email to all G8 leaders: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Canada) President Jacques Chirac (France) Chancellor Angela Merkel (Germany) Prime Minister Romano Prodi (Italy) Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (Japan) President Vladimir Putin (Russia) Prime Minister Tony Blair (United Kingdom) President George W. Bush (United States of America); as well as the following officials in Sweden: Prime Minister Göran Persson Foreign Minister and head of the U.N. General Assembly, Jan Eliasson Cabinet Secretary Hans Dahlgren.
TIME FOR A BOLD MOVE – OPEN LETTER TO THE G8 SUMMIT
Fifty years after Nikita Khrushchev’s famous speech condemning Stalin’s crimes, full access to all documentation in Russian archives could finally solve the question of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg’s fate.
St. Petersburg, historic residence of the Russian czars and President Vladimir Putin’s political home base, has known ruthless power as well as enlightenment. Meticulously refurbished over the past decade, the city is ready at last to present itself to the world for the upcoming G8 meeting on July 15-17, a powerful symbol of the new Russia.
But a two weeks before the eight strongest industrial nations gather against this magnificent backdrop, the new Russia knows it has work to do. Despite President Putin’s defiant stand at the ”State-of-the-Nation” address last month, the mounting international criticism of the country’s record on democracy and human rights is taking a toll. U.S. Senator John McCain has called for an outright boycott of the meeting and the Financial Times recently reported that if U.S. President George W. Bush attends the gathering, he may choose to publicly ”snub” Putin.
Russia, for its part, is not sitting idly by. On May 1, the Financial Times reported in a front page article, that the Kremlin has hired one of the world’s leading public relations firms, Ketchum, to polish its public image.
We suggest instead a simple thing President Putin can do that would secure Russia the admiration of the world.
Russia could make a historic gesture by finally presenting what it really knows about the fate of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews in World War II. Wallenberg was arrested in January 1945 by Soviet forces – in flagrant violation of the rules of diplomatic immunity and neutrality – and taken to Moscow where he disappeared. His fate and that of his Hungarian assistant, Vilmos Langfelder, remain unknown.
The Russian government claims Raoul Wallenberg died in Soviet captivity in 1947 but it has never provided conclusive proof for this assertion. President Putin has expressed his respect for Wallenberg’s achievements while arguing that all direct evidence concerning Wallenberg’s fate has been destroyed long ago. That claim is firmly rejected by almost all Wallenberg experts due to overwhelming evidence that Russia has withheld critical documentation.
A decision by President Putin to reveal the true circumstances around Raoul Wallenberg’s disappearance would be a courageous act and would send a strong signal for greater openness, public accountability and respect for international law, including minority and individual rights. Sixty-one years after the event, no state secrets can possibly stand in the way of telling Wallenberg’s family and the world what really happened to a compassionate and heroic man who is an honorary citizen of the United States, Canada, Israel and Australia.
Sweden, too, could use this opportunity for a bold move of its own. As a representative of the European Union, Sweden should invite to Russia Raoul Wallenberg’s sister Nina Lagergren and his brother, Dr. Guy von Dardel, as special guests of the Swedish Prime Minister and the Swedish Embassy during the G8 meeting. Rather than constituting a provocation, such an invitation would underline the importance Sweden insists it attaches to solving the case.
The presence of Raoul Wallenberg’s next of kin in St Petersburg or Moscow would offer them the opportunity to conduct meetings with Russian officials and to seek support from the international community. Russia could finally answer the seventeen still pending questions that were posed by the Swedish Working Group at the end of its official report from 2001 and that Sweden has made clear Russia needs to answer in full before any binding conclusions about Raoul Wallenberg’s fate can be drawn. [All questions can be found at http://www.raoul-wallenberg.asso.fr]
Russia can then present the important documentation related to the Raoul Wallenberg case which is known to exist in Russian archives and which the family has repeatedly requested. Until now, Russia has refused access to what it broadly terms ”operational material,” but it simply has to allow a full review by Wallenberg experts and qualified historians, if a credible investigation is to take place.
There are three compelling reasons for requesting such a review:
1. The discovery of Raoul Wallenberg’s personal belongings in Russian archives seventeen years ago raised fundamental questions. The material is the strongest indication to date that Wallenberg’s personal and investigative file/s still exist today. More importantly, it may well be evidence that he lived longer: If Raoul Wallenberg died in 1947, his possessions and valuables should have been confiscated by the Soviet state within six months of his death. Instead, they were available in 1989 and, in a generous gesture, were returned to his family by Soviet authorities.
2. Just as critical are numerous witness testimonies, including that of a former female employee at Vladimir prison, where Wallenberg is reported to have been incarcerated at various times after 1947. From a series of different photographs, she repeatedly and consistently identified a picture of Raoul Wallenberg not previously published in the international press, directly associating his captivity in solitary confinement with the death of a Ukrainian prisoner in a nearby cell. The verification process for this and other testimonies was cut short in 2001 before it could be completed.
3. There is also important new information, outlined by the Deputy Director of Russia’s ‘Memorial’ Society, Nikita Petrov, in his recent book, ”The First Chairman of the KGB Ivan Serov,” (Moscow/Materik, 2005). Petrov shows that after years of insistent denials by the Russian government, highly relevant information about Raoul Wallenberg’s cellmate in Lefortovo prison in 1946/47, Willi Rödel, a German diplomat, survives today in Russian archival collections, as do important investigative files of other prisoners linked with the Wallenberg case. Despite repeated requests, these files were never made available to the Swedish-Russian Working Group during its ten year investigation (1991-2001).
It is now clear that Rödel was killed in October 1947, that his case was discussed at the highest levels of the Soviet government and that the Russians have known about this for decades. Yet, only a few documents were previously released, which stated that Rödel had died of natural causes.
If Russian officials as late as the 1990’s chose to actively mislead investigators, how can we believe that they have told all they know and have on file about Raoul Wallenberg?
Petrov’s and the previous findings all reinforce one central question: Is the flimsy documentation of Wallenberg’s alleged death in July 1947 really due to destroyed or removed papers, and the wish to protect Soviet leaders who not only knew of but who had ordered Wallenberg’s arrest? Or – since key documentation is preserved about the death of Wallenberg’s cellmate and other foreign diplomats, – do we not have a formal death certificate or autopsy report for Raoul Wallenberg because he did not die at that time?
Sweden and other concerned countries, in particular the United States, have not effectively challenged Russia on these issues and there are no signs that they are vigorously demanding access to the withheld material. Sweden claims that the Raoul Wallenberg case remains very much an official item on the current Swedish-Russian agenda. Russia, however, clearly can do far more than it has done until now to solve the Wallenberg mystery. The current stalemate is therefore unacceptable.
For Russia it is time to lay the cards on the table: Did Raoul Wallenberg die in July 1947, and if so, how? Or did he live longer and if so, what happened to him?
President Putin rightfully points with pride to a 70 percent approval rating and other accomplishments, such as a steep drop in Russia’s overall poverty rate. Democracy, he says, takes time. Mr. Putin certainly has the right to highlight the glaring contradictions and downright hypocrisy of other foreign leaders when it comes to telling the truth and maintaining respect for the rule of law. But this does not change the fact that without real information, accountability and law, no democracy can grow.
By finally presenting the truth about Raoul Wallenberg, who has become a symbol of humanitarian action, President Putin would let the world know where he stands. The PR experts at Ketchum will have a hard time matching that.
Prof. Elena Cohen Imach [Psychologist and poet]
Ricardo A. Faerman [President, Confederación General Economica]
Dr. Benjamín Horacio Koltan [Psychologist]
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
Ricardo Monner Sans – [Human Rights Lawyer]
Frank Vajda [Raoul Wallenberg Committee]
Jan Anger (son of collaborating Swedish diplomat Per Anger)
J. S. Dammery
Dr Daniel Talmont, Sydney Australia
Marcel Collet [Director]
Prof. Irwin Cotler [former Canadian Minister of Justice]
Jacques Coutour [Producer]
David Matas [Human Rights lawyer]
The Raoul Wallenberg International Movement for Humanity
Mart Laar [Former Prime Minister of Estonia]
Pentti Peltoniemi [Journalist]
Louise von Dardel [Raoul Wallenberg's niece]
Marie Dupuy [Raoul Wallenberg's niece]
Susanne Berger [Independent expert to the Swedish-Russian Working Group
Christoph Gann [Author]
Wolfgang Kaleck [Human Rights Lawyer]
Dr. Andras Kain [President, Raoul Wallenberg Loge]
Eleonore Kius [Wallenberg expert and Human Rights activist]
Petra Isabel Schlagenhauf [Human Rights Lawyer]
Pastor Annemarie Werner [Vaterunser Kirche, Berlin]
John Le Carré
Dr. Gerard Aalders [historian]
Dr. Ferenc Orosz [Presidium member, The Raoul Wallenberg Association]
Casa Argentina en la Tierra Santa
Max Grunberg [Raoul Wallenberg Honorary Citizen Comittee]
Larry Pfeffer [Jerusalem Wallenberg Committee]
Malkiel Tenembaum [Casa Argentina en Jerusalem]
Yoav Tenembaum [Historian]
Solly Ganor, Holocaust survivor
Dr. Pamela Rotner Sakamoto, author and historian
Dr. Renata von Hanffstengel, Director of the Institute for Intercultural
Tracey Petersen, Education Officer, Cape Town Holocaust Centre, 88 Hatfield Street, Cape Town, 8001, SOUTH AFRICA
Dr Ivor Shaskolsky, Cape Town, South Africa.
Roger Älmeberg [Editor]
Maria Pia Boëthius [Historian]
Lena Einhorn [Holocaust researcher and author]
Prof. Stig Ekman [Historian]
Ingemar Karlsson [Editor and historian]
Prof. Georg Klein – [Scientist and author]
Gerald Nagler [Chairman of the Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights]
Anders Pers [Former Editor-In-Chief of Vestmanlands Läns Tidning]
Arne Ruth [Former Editor-In-Chief of Dagens Nyheter]
Tuve Skånberg – [Member of Parliament]
Per Tistad [NIR]
Prof. Dennis Töllborg [University of Gothenburg]
Claire Wikholm – [Actress]
The Angelo Roncalli International Committee
Charles Fenyvesi [Journalist]
Ari Kaplan [Independent expert to the Swedish-Russian Working Group]
Dr. Amy Knight [Historian]
Dr. William Korey [American Jewish Committee]
Prof. Mark Kramer [Harvard University, The Cold War History Project]
Prof. Marvin W. Makinen [Independent expert to the Swedish-Russian Working Group]
Susan Ellen Mesinai, Founder, ARK Project; Independent expert to the Swedish-Russian Working Group]
The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States, Ltd.
Eric Saul, [Director, Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats Project
Institute for the Study of Rescue and Altruism in the Holocaust]
Prof. Christopher Simpson [The American University]
Prof. Hugh J. Schwartzberg [Raoul Wallenberg Committee of Chicago]
Kate Wacz born Kadelburger, Budapest, Hungary, rescued by Raoul Wallenberg
Marissa Roth, family saved by Raoul Wallenberg
Knud Dyby, Danish Rescuer of Jews and others
William T. and Abigail Bingham Endicott (son-in-law and daughter of Diplomat Hiram Bingham IV)
GILBERTO BOSQUES TISTLER (Grandson of Mexican Ambassador Gilberto Bosques)
Rositta E. Kenigsberg, Daughter of a Holocaust Survivor, Executive Vice President, Holocaust Documentation & Education Center, Inc.
David Rubinson, Executive Producer: SUGIHARA Conspiracy of Kindness
Lawrence Baron, Nasatir Professor of Modern Jewish History, San Diego State University
Represenative Joel Judd, Colorado House District 5
Ferne Hassan, American Jewish Committee
Laurence Jarvik, Producer-Director, Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?
Peter R. Rosenblatt (lawyer and former U.S. ambassador)
Alan and Sheila Granwell
Aaron and Courtney Cohen
Marilyn Gilbert, Attorney At Law, Civil Rights Litigation
Steven T Geiger, of Palo Alto, CA, USA, Retired Engineer, saved by Carl Lutz in 1944
Dr. Wayne Grossman
Klara Firestone – Founder and President of Second Generation of Los Angeles (Children of Holocaust Survivors) and community leader and activist
Renee Firestone – Holocaust Survivor, world famous Holocaust Lecturer, fashion designer, community leader and activist
Rabbi Irving Greenberg
Liebe Geft, Director of the Museum of Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles, California