• Sweden edition
 
'Other Swedes in the Gulag complicate Wallenberg search'

'Other Swedes in the Gulag complicate Wallenberg search'

Published: 22 Aug 2012 15:51 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 Aug 2012 15:51 GMT+02:00

Was a “Swedish Prisoner” who was seen in Lwow in 1946 held in Vladimir Prison a decade later? And was this prisoner Raoul Wallenberg or an unidentified Swedish Red Cross official? Contributor Susanne Berger explains how the confusion about other Swedish prisoners in the Gulag complicates the search into Wallenberg’s fate.

In October 1956, in his first interview with Swedish officials after his release from Vladimir prison, Austrian citizen Otto Schöggel stated that while in Vladimir in the spring of 1955, he had briefly spent time with a Swedish prisoner.

He described the person he met as very weak, partially paralyzed and receiving special injections to build up his strength.

According to the interview protocol, Schöggel also indicated that he remembered the man telling him that he had once been held prisoner in the Ukrainian town of Lwow. The unknown Swede had supposedly been imprisoned in Lwow “for approximately eleven months, on his way to Lubyanka prison in Moscow”.

Over the next few years, Schöggel would repeat his story of a secret Swedish prisoner in Vladimir, one of the Soviet Union’s most important isolator facilities, insisting that the Swede he had met was the missing Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.

Schöggel was known as a notorious story teller and informant. Yet, to their credit, Swedish officials did not dismiss Schöggel’s story out of hand.

They noted that there had been several earlier accounts of a Swedish prisoner held in Lwow, most notably the testimonies given by Adolphe Coen and Aron Gabor.

Swedish author Bengt Jangfeldt has analyzed these statements in some detail in his recent biography about Raoul Wallenberg (“Raoul Wallenberg”, 2012)

Both Coen and Gabor said that they heard of or personally met a Swedish prisoner in a former cloister complex called Brygitki which served as a prison facility in Lwow in 1946/1947.

Jangfeldt claims that in particular the information Coen received from this “Swede” could have been provided only by Raoul Wallenberg, including details about documents and valuables he was carrying at the time of his arrest by Soviet troops in January 1945.

A closer examination of Coen’s and Gabor’s testimonies shows that the Swedish prisoner they had encountered was referred to by others most often as a "Red Cross official.”

This description could well have applied to Raoul Wallenberg who worked closely with both Swedish and International Red Cross representatives during his humanitarian mission in Budapest in 1944.

There are, however, other possibilities to consider as well.

In 1957, a former German prisoner by the name of Ludwig Hunoldt testified that in 1950, in Vladimir prison, he had met a Red Cross official called “Eriksson” who had been arrested in 1944/45 in Eastern Europe, in “Sofia, Bucharest or Budapest”.

At the time, he had been working together with two Swedish colleagues, "managing the transition of Nazi Germany's diplomatic missions in the Balkans."

Hunoldt described “Eriksson” as about 50 years old and very weak after having just undergone an operation on his gallbladder. “Eriksson” claimed to be a Swedish citizen, with a wife in “Uppsala or Lund”.

He was most definitely not identical with Raoul Wallenberg.

Hunoldt’s testimony was both very detailed and deemed reliable by former Cabinet Secretary Leif Leifland who interviewed him. Surprisingly, however, Hunoldt’s information elicited no follow-up from the Swedish Foreign Ministry.

It would be easy to conclude that witnesses like Coen, Gabor, Hunoldt and Schöggel had simply received incomplete or confusing information, if strikingly similar statements had not been given by several other former prisoners in the Soviet Union.

One such testimony was provided by Karl Spuller, also a former German P.O.W., who reported hearing a detailed report from a friend in 1954, concerning three Swedish Red Cross officials.

The men had supposedly been imprisoned in Lubyanka for several years, following their arrest “in Romania or Bulgaria” at the very end of 1944 or early 1945. Spuller’s friend related that the men had told him how after their arrival in Lubyanka prison their backpacks had been taken from them by the guards.

In return, they had been forced to sign a receipt which itemized their belongings. Spuller stated that one of the men had been especially upset about the loss of his camera.

The three “Swedes” had been sentenced only in 1949, to 25 years imprisonment for espionage. Two of them were described as having been in good health, while the third had been left ill and weak from imprisonment. Could the men have been Swiss instead, Swedish investigators wanted to know? No, Spuller said, he was quite certain that the discussion had concerned Swedish citizens.

Yet another testimony was provided by a man called Fritz Bauer who said that in 1955, on a transport to a labour camp in the Ukraine, he had met a former Red Cross official named “Johansson” who had been arrested in Romania in 1944/45.

Johansson said that he was a Swedish citizen and that his wife continued to live in Sweden, “in a university town”.

The case profile of these Red Cross men – Swedish “officials” arrested in Eastern Europe in 1944/45 – is so similar to that of Raoul Wallenberg that their presence could have caused enormous confusion among witnesses.

Returning to the “Swede” reportedly seen in Lwow in 1946/47: It cannot be excluded that he was one of the as yet unidentified Red Cross officials supposedly arrested in Eastern Europe in 1944/45 and that he together with his colleagues was held in Lwow on his way to Moscow. Lwow was a known transit point for prisoners arrested in Eastern and Central Europe.

Similarly, taking into account the statement by Otto Schöggel, it is possible that this Swedish prisoner in Lwow later was transferred to Lubyanka and from there to Vladimir prison.

Jangfeldt’s (and Schöggel's) theory that the Swede in Lwow in 1946/47 was Raoul Wallenberg cannot be entirely dismissed. However, it seems unlikely that Wallenberg would have been moved to Lwow in late 1946, after he had already spent almost two years under investigation in Moscow.

Also, several witnesses have claimed to have been in knocking contact with Wallenberg during this time in Lefortovo prison, until early 1947. Still, the matter awaits full resolution.

Soviet and now Russian authorities have always claimed that Wallenberg died in Lubyanka prison in July 1947, yet no conclusive proof for his death has ever been presented. If Wallenberg was instead at some point transferred to an isolator prison such as Vladimir, his presence could have further complicated an already highly complex situation.

In 2000, the former consultants to an official Swedish-Russian Working Group that investigated the Raoul Wallenberg case in Russia, Marvin Makinen and Ari Kaplan conducted an extensive study of the prisoner population of Vladimir prison, especially Section II (Korpus II) which housed the hospital section where Schöggel claimed to have met an unknown Swede and Hunoldt reportedly had met “Eriksson”.

No record for a prisoner named "Eriksson" or one matching his description has been found.

This raises the possibility that “Eriksson’s” card is missing and those of his two colleagues could be missing as well. If that is so, could other cards also have disappeared, including perhaps that of Raoul Wallenberg?

Makinen and Kaplan, together with Wallenberg expert Susan Mesinai, are currently investigating the statements of several other former prisoners who say they met a Swedish prisoner in Vladimir, accused of espionage, in the years 1955 -1970.

The central questions are: Was this prisoner Raoul Wallenberg or another Swede? And, in fact, how many “Swedes” were held in Vladimir altogether after 1947?

For the moment, researchers are left with many pressing questions and few answers:

To begin with, it needs to be clarified if any “Swedish” representatives affiliated with the Red Cross or associated help organizations were arrested in Eastern Europe in 1944/45.

Similarly, it needs to be determined if any “Swedish” prisoners or persons affiliated with the Red Cross were ever held in a prison facilities in Lwow and Moscow in 1946/47.

So far, Russian officials have not permitted direct and uncensored review of prison registration and interrogation registers where the presence of such individuals may have been recorded.

Nor have they provided full information about all Swedish nationals imprisoned in Vladimir.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry too has not been able to identify “Eriksson” and his two colleagues. The task may be complicated by the fact that they may well have been expatriate Swedes, or mixed nationals, such as native Germans with Swedish wives or even so-called “stateless” individuals.

Nevertheless, with a concerted effort it should be possible to clarify these issues. By removing a major element of confusion, proper identification of the three unknown “Swedish” Red Cross officials would undoubtedly help to move the search for Raoul Wallenberg a big step forward.

Susanne Berger

Susanne Berger is a US-based German historian heavily involved in research into the life of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who helped prevent the arrests of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Second World War.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

23:12 August 23, 2012 by jimfromcanada
Surely the Red Cross has a definitive list of its employees or agents their names, pseudo-names, and their nationalities.
00:53 August 25, 2012 by Thomas VH
There is also a possibility that four men survived the shootdown of the Swedish Air Force Tp 97 Hugin ELINT aircraft on June 13, 1952, that was part of the so-called "Catalina Affair". The full story is at: http://fly.historicwings.com/2012/06/the-catalina-affair/ -- interesting reading.

Here are quotes from the key section of that report:

"Notably, there were rumors in the years following the shootdown that a Soviet torpedo boat had picked up a life raft with four Swedish intelligence officers on board.... What little evidence there is points to the four Swedes being conveyed to Tallinn, the capital of Soviet-occupied Estonia, where they were turned over to the Soviet authorities for intensive debriefings and interrogations."
Today's headlines
'Baffling' Swedish raid on German sub makers
The Kockums Malmö shipyard and FMV headquarters. Files: TT

'Baffling' Swedish raid on German sub makers

After the Swedish military raided the Malmö premises of German defence giant Thyssen Krupp, a military expert tells The Local why recent Russian aggression means Sweden's Saab needs to take control of national submarine production. READ () »

Swedish kids crack adult content 'code' at school
A child, unrelated to the story, on her computer. File photo: TT

Swedish kids crack adult content 'code' at school

Swedish parents who busted their children looking at adult content online were shocked to find the kids saying 'they'd learned the code at school'. READ () »

Industry bellwether SKF recovers to turn profit
A file image of ballbearings. Photo: Shutterstock

Industry bellwether SKF recovers to turn profit

After a drab end to 2013, Swedish ballbearing makers SKF anew posted a profit in its first quarter review. It could spell good news for the manufacturing industry worldwide. READ () »

Swedish Hobbit actor jailed in cocaine case
Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt. File photo: TT

Swedish Hobbit actor jailed in cocaine case

Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt has appealed a five-month prison sentence, handed down on Tuesday after he was found guilty of buying cocaine. READ () »

Property of the Week
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
The property in Skinskatteberg. Photo: Fastighetsbyrån

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week

The Swedish countryside is littered with small second homes, many up for a steal if you can see beyond dated wallpaper and imagine a country retreat with chanterelles and lingonberries growing in your backyard. READ () »

Puppies lost in 'black market' chihuahua raid
A chihuahua papillon crossbreed puppy. File photo: Shutterstock

Puppies lost in 'black market' chihuahua raid

Thieves escaped from a flat in Malmö on Monday with jewellery, electronics, and four chihuahua-papillon puppies. Police worry the dogs will be sold on the black market, a growing trend in Sweden. READ () »

JobTalk Sweden
Sweden's worst office clichés revealed

Sweden's worst office clichés revealed

"We have to hit the brakes and the gas at the same time." Does your Swedish boss confuse you? You're not alone. Swedes have crowned that phrase as the worst workplace cliché of the year. READ () »

More Swedes want to join Nato

More Swedes want to join Nato

Almost one in three Swedes support joining Nato, compared with just 17 percent in 2013, a survey revealed on Tuesday. The sentiment was echoed by the Finnish Prime Minister. READ () »

Elections 2014
Is the PM overstaying his welcome?
Kinberg Batra (L) next to the prime minister. File photo: TT

Is the PM overstaying his welcome?

Seen both as a statesman and a normal guy, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has a solid standing, despite his government's poor poll ratings. But have the Moderates prepared for life post-Reinfeldt? And does his successor matter to the voters? READ () »

Op-Ed
'Six-hour work day will hurt Sweden'

'Six-hour work day will hurt Sweden'

The six hour workday would punish employers who already struggle to find competent staff. And if parts of the economy slow down, so will industries reliant on them, argues liberal commentator Nima Sanandaji. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
Advertisement:
TT
Society
Aussie choir member wows Abba in Sweden
YouTube
Society
Stockholm magic a surprise YouTube hit
Fastighetsbyrån
Society
Gallery: The Local's Property of the Week
Private
Society
Swedes find 200-year-old gravestone in living room
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Deepti Vashisht
Features
Deepti Vashisht dissects the magic of Sweden's personal ID number
Shutterstock
Society
Ten signs you've been in Sweden too long
Society
Jimi Fritze heard every word when doctors discussed taking his organs
Society
A Swedish farmer explains why the new bestiality ban is 'pointless'
Society
'Blondes have more brains': Swedish study
TT
Society
VIDEO: Leaked 'Save Slussen' film goes viral
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching, March 28-30
ESL
Sponsored Article
Learning Swedish the easy way
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

721
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com