The Soviet arrest on Raoul Wallenberg

The Red Army found Wallenberg on 13 January 1945, on 16 Benczur Street in Budapest. They reported this to headquarters in Moscow. 17 January Wallenberg was taken into Soviet custody, after which he mysteriously disappeared. A document from the Swedish Embassy in Moscow, written 31 December 1944, found in the archives of the Soviet Foreign ministry, ensures that the USSR knew about Wallenberg’s activity. This very document includes a list of all the members of the Swedish Legation in Budapest (Wallenberg included) and a request from the Swedish Foreign Ministry asking the Soviet military to give these people protection as they entered Budapest . The Russian historian Vladimir Galitsky, accounts for the extreme suspicion by the Soviet leadership regarding the Eastern Front. Any detained person with connection to the front line was taken to SMERSH (Soviet military counter intelligence, later known as the KGB) and then usually sent to prisoner of war camps. Detainees of special interest were taken to Moscow for questioning and eventual imprisoning despite their status of ”prisoner of war”. A huge amount of war-prisoners were taken behind the Soviet front lines and little was required for being arrested. Agents at SMERSH were known for their extreme suspicion. Any prisoner who had been in the British occupation zone would be accused of espionage for the British. The Soviet military leaders, including increasingly paranoid Josef Stalin, were sceptical of the operation led by the Swedish Legation. Evidently they never considered the Swedish request of protecting Wallenberg. Instead, an arrest order, not containing any actual reason, was issued by the Russian Deputy Defence Minister and sent to the Ukrainian front the 17th of January 1945 . Wallenberg was to be sent to Moscow. There is clear evidence of SMERSH being involved in this arrest . An interesting fact is that similar arrest orders were sent regarding two Swiss diplomats, Max Meier and Harald Feller, performing similar missions in Budapest as Wallenberg .

According to Dr György Gergely, employed at the special department of the Swedish Legation, Wallenberg had been under Soviet surveillance from 12 January. Supposedly, he had been well treated by the Soviets and was therefore attempting to contact them in order to discuss a possible improvement of conditions for Jewish people. He left with his chauffeur, Vilmos Langfelder, for an arranged meeting 17 January, bringing three suitcases and a large amount of money. Another member of Wallenberg’s staff, Béla Révai claims that Wallenberg never was escorted to this meeting, but immediately arrested after meeting the Soviet army officials. Two German fellow-prisoners of Wallenberg (Ernst Huber and Gusav Rischer) at the Lubianka Prison in Moscow, recount what Wallenberg supposedly told them: Wallenberg and Langfelder (the chauffeur) were stopped in their car, which had got its tyres punctured by Russian soldiers. One must consider that the stories of Huber and Rischer are oral statements made more then 10 years after the actual event. There might be elements of misunderstanding and failing memory decreasing the reliability of the Huber and Risher’s recounts. Anyhow, they continue by describing how Wallenberg and Langfelder were taken to a provisional prison in Budapest to later be deported to Moscow by railway. In Moscow they had been told not to regard themselves as prisoners but as in protective custody. They were shown the Moscow metro-system and walked on foot to the Lubianka Prison. Meanwhile, a Russian officer in Budapest told the rest of the staff that Wallenberg was in their care and would soon return to Stockholm.

Even though the arrest order officially came from the Soviet Deputy Minister of Defence, Bulganin, who usually never issued any orders to the front line, it is not yet fully clear who actually ordered this arrest. When asked, Ambassador Hans Magnusson, formerly responsible for the Wallenberg Dossier at the Swedish Foreign Ministry, promptly answers that it was a command from Stalin himself. He bases this argument on recovered papers about the two Swiss diplomats, whose arrest appeared to have originated from Stalin directly. Assuming that the document is originated Stalin, one might find a connection between the three diplomats. The Soviet leader may have decided to arrest diplomats from neutral countries still operating in Budapest, for some reason.