Mystery in History Disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg Part 1

About the mystery in history involoving the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg in World War II including possible solutions.


The Event: The Disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg

When: Jan. 17, 1945

Where: En route from Budapest to Debrecen, Hungary

The Mystery: Raoul Wallenberg, a 32-year-old architect from a prominent banking family in Sweden, had completed his mission in Budapest at the close of W.W. II. He had saved literally tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from Adolf Eichmann and the Nazi crematoriums. Attached to the neutral Swedish mission in Budapest, he had handed out protective Swedish passports to thousands of Jews, whom he then hid in 32 safe houses protected by diplomatic immunity. He once saved 70,000 Jews in one evening, through sheer force of intimidation: Having heard that Hungarian Nazis and German soldiers were about to slaughter the entire population of the city's walled ghetto, he informed the commanding officer, Gen. August Schmidhuber, that if the pogrom took place he personally would see that the German commander was tried as a war criminal after Hungary's liberation. Permission for the raid was withdrawn.

On Jan. 16, 1945, with the German surrender now a foregone conclusion and the Russian forces laying siege to Budapest, Wallenberg decided to seek out Marshal Malinovsky, the Russian commander headquartered at Debrecen, 120 mi. east of the capital. He wanted to discuss plans for his proposed Wallenberg Institution for Rescue and Reconstruction, an agency that would restore to Hungarian Jews property confiscated from them during the war. Wallenberg made his intention known to Soviet forces fighting in Budapest, and the next day he was picked up by two officers of the Russian secret police, who said they would escort him safely to Debrecen. Thus on Jan. 17, 1945, Wallenberg and his Hungarian driver, Vilmos Langfelder, set out for Debrecen with the two Russians. Making a final stop at his Budapest office before leaving the city, Wallenberg whispered to his aides, "I am going to Marshal Malinovsky's headquarters, whether as a guest or a prisoner I do not know yet." The four then drove east towards Debrecen. Neither Wallenberg nor his driver was ever heard from again.

Possible Solutions: On Mar. 7, 1945, Radio Kossuth, the Soviet station in liberated Budapest, announced that the Gestapo had ambushed and murdered Wallenberg and his driver en route to Debrecen. It sounded reasonable. After all, the Swede had been on Eichmann's hit list for a long time. But no body was ever produced, and with the release of German and Italian prisoners of war from Russian camps came reports of a Swede held captive in a Moscow prison. Asked by Swedish officials for an explanation, the Soviets insisted that Wallenberg had never been held captive in Russia. Then, on Feb. 7, 1957, Moscow issued a correction. Yes, Wallenberg had been a prisoner at Lubyanka Prison in Moscow, Soviet authorities admitted, but, alas, he had died of an apparent heart attack on July 17, 1947. They blamed his wrongful detention on Viktor S. Abakumov, former minister of state security, one of Stalin's henchmen who had recently been executed during the period of destalinization. The Soviets expressed their regrets and considered the matter closed.

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