September 26, 2007

Russia Turns Over Wallenberg Documents


MOSCOW (AP) – The main successor agency to the KGB on Wednesday gave a top Russian rabbi copies of archival documents on Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat credited with saving thousands of Hungarian Jews from Nazi death camps.

Nikolai Patrushev, director of the Federal Security Service, handed photographs and copies of formerly classified materials about the diplomat, who disappeared at the end of World War II, to Rabbi Berel Lazar for inclusion in a new Museum of Tolerance being built in Moscow.

”We have made copies of the documents concerning the life of Raoul Wallenberg and events surrounding him and we are now turning them over to you,” Patrushev said in televised comments.

Russian television showed copies of Wallenberg’s passport and prison registration papers as well as the 1947 request by the doctor at Moscow’s notorious Lubyanka prison to perform an autopsy after Wallenberg’s death.

The materials are unlikely to give any more definitive answers about Wallenberg’s last years; most of the key materials have previously been declassified and publicized and turned over to relatives.

Wallenberg, a member of one of Sweden’s wealthiest and most prominent families, distributed Swedish passports to Jews in deportation trains and on death marches, won diplomatic protection for whole neighborhoods in Budapest and organized food and medical supplies. He is credited with saving at least 20,000 lives.

Wallenberg and his driver were detained by Soviet forces outside Budapest in January 1945, and imprisoned in Moscow on suspicion of espionage.

Soviet officials said Wallenberg died of a heart attack in a Soviet prison in July 1947, although his family and the Swedish government maintained he was executed by the secret police, perhaps years later.

In 2000, Russia conceded that the Soviet authorities wrongfully persecuted Wallenberg and posthumously rehabilitated him as a victim of political repression.

The authorities then closed the probe into his death, saying there was no chance of finding more documents.

That same year, Alexander Yakovlev, chairman of a Russian commission that investigated the case, said that his panel “had no doubt” that Wallenberg was shot at the Lubyanka, but provided no documentary evidence.

Vasily Khristoforov, an archival official with the security service known as the FSB, said Wednesday that it has no documents showing that Wallenberg was poisoned.

”These documents include a copy of a doctor’s report … stating that Wallenberg died in prison of a heart attack,” Khristoforov said in televised comments.