February 28, 2007

Wallenberg Memorial Seminar

Text Of The Presentation To Be Given At The Wallenberg Memorial Seminar On March 2nd, 2007

It is well known that the R.W. Memorial Centre in Washington keeps more than 150 literary and documentary books on file, while the number of publications is over a thousand. The writings deal not only with Wallenberg’s activity, but also discuss in great depth his personality, his methods of working, and his environment.

Material of this huge size cannot, of course, be reviewed in detail, but it is possible to discuss a few generally accepted and significant works. I feel that, as one of R.W.’s modest fellow helpers still alive, I have a right to do this.

Allow me to tell you an anecdote. Many years after the Battle of Waterloo count Wellington received a Prussian aristocrat who took part in the battle as a young adjutant. He started to talk about the battle. Wellington listened to him for a while, then he said (in a true British way): „one of us two was not there, – maybe me.”

A few theses, capable of standing up against Hollywood legends, misbeliefs, and untruths form the essence of my presentation.

Because of the motivation of the authors, part of the literature – not a small part – pictures both the activity and the personality of R.W. in a way which is often far from the truth.

There is little point to my talk unless I give the name of a few authors and works which endanger the truth of the story which has to be preserved for the future. My time is limited, so I can discuss only three of them, each of them has spawned dangerous legends.

Lars Berg, Swedish diplomat and his book ”What happened in Budapest?”

Looking at his writing, it becomes clear what it is that mattered to him: The Adventure.

The high point of his text is the meeting between Wallenberg and Eichmann, entirely created by him. He describes the conversation at this meeting – which never took place –, his own role in organising the meeting, and the impressive, condescending behaviour of Wallenberg most colourfully.
The reader (not knowing the facts) finds it fascinating to encounter this supposed verbal duel, with Wallenberg and Eichmann exchanging threats. Berg could not have known that his legend, with its emphasis on his own importance, would become a basic source of the Wallenberg-literature of the century. The basic misdeed was his – in vain did many try to discredit this invented story, fitting so nicely into the dream-world of Hollywood, as well as flattering those who saved Jews. My book, published recently, proves that the legend is totally untrue.

The other misdeed of his book is the contempt with which he speaks of Wallenberg’s Jewish helpers in Budapest, ignoring their life-and-death struggle for themselves and for others. He was one of those numerous Scandinavians who preferred Germans to Jews.

Charles (Károly) Müller

A Budapest bookseller and publisher of Jewish origin. As a captain in the first World War, he received a Gold Medal for Bravery (D.S.O). As such, he was exempt from all laws restricting Jews, and this was accepted by all Hungarian governments, even the arrow cross Szálasi one.

All his life long he fawnd upon the aristocracy and the „gentry”. He continued as a publisher after 1945, publishing several books dealing with the tragic events of 1944-45. In 1948, as a result of Communist economic policy, his life and career became hopeless. He thus tried to solve his own life by describing the events of 1944-45, especially his relationship with Wallenberg in the autumn of 1944, in a way which ensured him a good position and existence in Sweden, and among the Jews of the Western world. His testimony for the Royal Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs was based on the above.

In the first part of the document, Mr. Müller gives a colourful, romantic description of his first meeting with baron Elisabeth Fuchs, and of the way she got employed at his firm. He feels it necessary to state: at that time he had already been working with Raoul Wallenberg for several month.
In fact, he never worked with him. He never visited the offices of the Embassy as far as I know. As a Jew certified as Gentile, he had no need of Swedish protection.

According to him, baron Elisabeth Fuchs, – appearing at his flat like a Magic Fairy on the first night after the Szálasi coup – said the following: „I only came to tell you: I will save you and your friends. I’ll save all of you, so help me God and the Holy Virgin. Good night!” He then states that the Baroness signed a document stating that the Müller family and their employees are under her personal protection.

This tale is ridiculous, those alive at the time know that in those days such a document would have been quite worthless, – as were documents of more weight, too.

K. Müller’s statement, according to which he, personally, made the first contact between the Baroness and Wallenberg on 16 Oct. 1944 is an untruth which is easily refuted, as RW – according to his diary — met Elisabeth Fuchs and Gábor Kemény in the Gellért Hotel as early as Aug. the 2nd.

The story of the joint, E. Fuchs – R. Wallenberg rescue operation between Győr and Hegyeshalom is an outright lie. The Gendarme Captain Dr István Parádi, and Gábor Forgács were instructed by Wallenberg on the evening of the 25th of November to save dr Lipót Schischa, dr István Szécsi and dr László Dénes from the death march of Hegyeshalom. So it can be ascertained, both from the diary of R.W. and from my statement as a witness, that on the 26th and 27th of October Wallenberg was in Budapest. On the 28th he had a meeting with the SS officer Kramer at 5.30.

Politically the most dangerous effect of the Müller document is his allusion that the death of Wallenberg was caused by the arrow cross killers group lead by Miklós Dési-Dregán. From this attempt at distortion it is possible to deduce that at this time K. Müller was in contact with the Hungarian Secret Police organisations, or maybe Soviet ones. These attempted (for many years) to show that the arrow cross were responsible for the disappearance of Wallenberg.

The Müller document contains the first germ of this attempt, which was discredited later. We cannot prove it, but we can reasonably assume that Müller gave his evidence as instructed by the AVO, the Hungarian Secret Police. About all this, and its complicated background the late Maria Ember wrote a detailed study, published under the title „They tried to make us responsible” (”Ránk akarták kenni”).

We know from the Eliasson-report, published by the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Sweden, that the attempts to save Wallenberg, made by the Swedish state administration, and official politics, were clumsy and made without conviction. Among numerous other factors, they might have found Müller’s witness statement – certified as a state document – to their liking. According to them, Wallenberg was killed by the arrow cross. This false information was conveyed by the Swedish ambassador, Mr Sjöderberg to Visinsky in an almost relieved way. Swedish diplomacy found the witness statement so useful that, – as shown by the note written in the margin of the document – they communicated its contents to Bulganin as well.

Müller, the self-important, self-justifying sham Jew placed a pebble on Wallenberg’s grave.

The evil one.
About the book by Attila Lajos

Attila Lajos is a historian of Hungarian origin. He was on the faculty of the Romanian Bólyai-Babes University of Kolozsvár (Cluj), then emigrated to Sweden where he did research at the University of Vaxjő. Based on years of research he wrote an analytical book of large calibre, (from now on called. ”the Book”) with the title „The hero and the victims. Raoul Wallenberg and the Jews of Budapest”.

The writing of the Book was preceded by many years of research of estimable depth, processing all available Hungarian and Swedish source materials and publications. The depth of the work is shown by the fact that 143 references are listed. The historian’s ethic demands that all works thus listed have been read and worked through, with notes made of material considered relevant. If this has truly happened, we’ve met with a great historical mind.

And if maybe it hasn’t happened…

There are also 962 foot notes, containing quotes from cited material, and historical facts. These are a great help when we study the book critically, as the authenticity of the material can easily be checked and disputed.

The author gives the introduction of the Book an exacting title: „Theoretical and Methodical Considerations”. The philosophical and psychological depth of these „considerations” is stunning. It could well be a model for teaching how a piece of work can be set up right at the beginning with so-called „scientific circularity”.

I spent half a year going through more than 150 statements of Attila Lajos, checking sources, analysing. In more than a hundred of them I found factual mistakes, strongly biased interpretations, and distorted quoting of sources.
I can accept five important findings of his, relating especially to the activities of the non-Jewish helpers of the action. We have to emphasize the deeds of Károly Szabó, Pál Szalai, Dr István Parádi, who were risking their life everyday.

It is amazing to see how some of the errors of Braham, Philip and S. Kramer are worked into the Book in a tendentious way. All those errors through which Wallenberg’s work and character can be belittled. There is no time here for showing you the proof, obtained by the detailed analysis I described on 25 pages of my book. The populist implication of Lajos’s Book is that Wallenberg completely disregarded ordinary folk, concentrating only on his partners, and those of other, major Swedish firms.
At the beginning of the rescue activity the conditions to obtain a Schutzpass were related to very strict conditions. Those favoured obviously members of trade and industry. But Wallenberg and his staff did everything to elude the control of Swedish, German and Hungarian administration. As I quote later turning point was the 23rd November to loosen the frames.

My theses

  1. Wallenberg did not want to be a hero and did not consider himself to be one. He was brave and sober.
  2. He was a manager, a man of action, conscientiously controlling, organising and improvising, if necessary. He preserved these characteristics in all situations, even in the most critical ones. To prove both of the above statements, I want to recall the saving – action at Józsefváros train station, of which I was a witness. It is sad that in numerous texts this action is described in a wildly romantic way, while spurning and belittling the role of Wallenberg. The truth is that Wallenberg and his staff misled the gendarme officers present with an improvisation of genius, producing blank certificates already bearing a stamp. The forms were only filled out as the names were read out. The forced labour people waiting for deportation figured this out and someone came forward for each name read out, receiving the certificate at once. What the officers of the police and the gendarmerie noticed of all this, or what they didn’t want to notice, can’t be ascertained today. The SS were not present, whatever the legends say. Like in all saving-actions, there were aggrieved losers, and those that couldn’t be saved, or their family cursed later Wallenberg and the action.
  3. In that witches’ cauldron, under continuous threat he made sure that the activity of the group be truthfully documented, including book keeping, inventory and preservation of the documents.
  4. He chose the members of his staff with great care, evaluated them strictly, and he tried to get rid of those unsuitable. Occasionally he made errors, but he was pressed by time, by the need for instant action. He expected his staff in the Schutzpass-office, those preparing the tasks and making the decisions, to prepare the activities carefully and thoroughly. All documents were thoroughly checked and those which did not validly prove that the owner had a right to Swedish protection were rejected. This was the rule until the 23rd of Nov. 1944, when deportations by foot started from Budapest. From then on Wallenberg allowed this strict order to loosen, and a Schutzpass was issued to all who were able to request one. This was a conscious decision, however, he still expected the group to investigate bogus passes.
  5. He wasn’t sentimental, he remained strong, with the aim in mind he kept to the strong daily, weekly discipline. We have to quote ridiculous story of Márton Vörös: the morally collapsed Wallenberg is weeping on his knees.
  6. Among a hostile atmosphere, among menacing Hungarians and German officials he knew exactly who was who, and he adjusted his behaviour accordingly. The Wallenberg-literature tells many uncontrolled stories, some highly coloured, of Wallenberg’s meetings with the Gestapo, and with various Hungarian and German henchmen.
  7. It is regrettable that reliable and well-intentioned chroniclers like Werbel, Clarke, or Gilbert have had to accept untrue stories, which are used as source material by now. Attila Lajos’s book shows, sadly, how these errors and untruths are utilised by authors according to their motivation. All portrayals, (whether well-intentioned or not) using inventions or distorting the real facts result in leaving false picture for those historians, educators and human rights activists who want to leave a model for the youth for the present and future. The aim of my book and my presentation is: to help us get a clearer image of one of the unselfish heroes of the 20th century. On the 17th of January 1945, on the burning Erzsébet tér, among the ruins he said to his fellow-workers: ”It was a job” – although he never spoke English with them.