• Sweden edition
 
Pressuring Russia on Wallenberg's fate 'a matter of principle'

Pressuring Russia on Wallenberg's fate 'a matter of principle'

Published: 18 Oct 2012 14:43 GMT+02:00
Updated: 18 Oct 2012 14:43 GMT+02:00

When Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg arrived in Hungary in July 1944, he faced a nearly impossible task. He was asked to alleviate the despair of Budapest's Jews while having few realistic options of providing meaningful aid at his disposal.

The challenges he faced were indeed daunting: an all-powerful enemy set on the physical destruction of a whole populace (as well as those trying to halt the annihilation), aided by a well-oiled bureaucratic apparatus to facilitate the crime. It would have been reasonable to conclude that, facing such murderous machinery, there simply was no remedy.

Instead, Wallenberg and his colleagues probed the system for weak spots, made it work for them, and exploited its bureaucratic nature to help their cause. As a result, thousands of people were fed, housed, clothed, and protected – and somehow managed to survive.

Yet when the rescuer himself became a victim following his arrest by Soviet forces in January 1945, the world fell largely silent.

After more than six decades of continued failure to establish exactly what happened to Raoul Wallenberg in Soviet captivity, some feel that any further inquiries about his fate are essentially futile.

Many Russian as well as Swedish officials encourage this narrative, insisting that at this point, no further information about Wallenberg's fate can be found.

They promote this view even though many of these same officials privately express serious doubts about the clearly outdated, yet still valid, Soviet version of Wallenberg's alleged death from a heart attack in July 1947.

Moreover, new research strongly indicates that highly relevant documentation remains available in Russian archives.

So, why do Swedish officials not make a more determined push for the truth? What serious obstacles do they face today?

An entrenched kleptocracy that uses targeted repression to intimidate the public. At its helm is a strong man whose centrally stated goal is to restore Russian state power to its former glory. To that end, the country's new elite manipulate the news and the history books in order to shore up its internal power base.

Meanwhile, the judicial system is increasingly reduced to serving as a mere extension of these aims. "Putinism" may not send millions of Russians to the Gulag, but instead has put in place a system that slowly silences all critical voices by brutalizing or killing journalists, and - less cruelly, but equally effectively - by muzzling independent media outlets and human rights organizations by cutting off their funding and thereby preventing the public from hearing a full range of opinions and the ability to make educated choices.

Just last month, President Putin ordered the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to leave Russia. The move is yet another draconian step in Putin's long standing effort to limit foreign influence of so-called non-governmental organizations operating inside Russian borders.

Many of these groups rely heavily on USAID funding, such as the human rights organization Memorial. According to a report by the Associated Press, at least 40 percent of Memorial's budget comes from USAID grants. The agency's roughly $50 million dollar annual allocation to Russia also funds numerous social projects devoted to education, health and the environment.

The Kremlin has long resented what it considers outside interference in its internal affairs and just recently the Duma passed a law requiring all group's receiving financial aid from abroad to either register as "foreign agents" or to face a possible ban. This move labels these groups' operations in not-so subtle ways as "anti-Russian" by implying they engage in subversive or possibly even criminal activities.

The step was followed by an equally serious new amendment passed unanimously in the lower house of the Russian Parliament on in September which expands the definition of high treason.

Under these circumstances, any efforts to discover the full facts about historical issues like the Raoul Wallenberg case or about the massacre of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn seem almost certainly doomed, since they require the cooperation of Russian historians and archival experts with international researchers.

Foreign observers have watched these developments with growing concerns, but many leaders of Western democracies have not spoken out forcefully against this new wave of repressive measures. In a strong commentary published September 19 in The Washington Post, David J. Kramer, the President of US-based Freedom House (itself a recipient of USAID funds) sharply criticized this silence, arguing that it plays straight into Putin's hands and other autocrats like him:

"The United States should be pressing publicly and at the highest levels for Putin to reverse his campaign against NGOs, which is wholly inconsistent with internationally accepted norms", Kramer adds.

Meanwhile, President Obama and most of his European colleagues have said next to nothing. A clear condemnation of Putin’s actions is necessary out of principle and to show support to those brave Russians who are fed up with authorities’ rampant corruption, abuses and heavy-handed tactics.

Western governments should show unwavering solidarity with those brave Russians.

The key word in Kramer's analysis is "principle" -- it is what distinguishes democratic societies from all others, namely that certain basic rights of individuals are inviolate, as a matter of law.

Similarly, when it comes to the question how to solve the Raoul Wallenberg case, the Swedish government and other associated democracies like the US, Israel, Canada, Germany, and Hungary should realize that they have real possibilities to act.

The term "democratic government" implies and ultimately involves all of us. And "all of us" should not simply throw in the towel and say "nothing more can be done".

Instead, the Swedish government and all of us should emphasize that we continue to seek the truth about Raoul Wallenberg as a matter of principle; that we demand direct access to the many important records that currently remain classified in Russian archives; and that we will put forth these demands until researchers are finally allowed to conduct an investigation that meets the internationally accepted standards of scholarly review.

Let us study first-hand original Soviet-era administrative and investigative prison records; show us exactly which Swedish prisoners were held in Vladimir prison after 1947; let us review Soviet intelligence reports outlining Raoul Wallenberg's contacts and activities in Budapest; and show us the deliberations of the Soviet leadership from 1947 to 1989, so that we can finally engage in a truly informed discussion.

Wallenberg's immediate family has recently asked that both the Russian and Swedish governments formally reopen the Wallenberg case. Both countries should accede to this request and ensure that the still unanswered questions are effectively addressed.

In short, just like Wallenberg in Budapest, we should focus our mindset firmly on the steps that can be taken and the many things that can be done.

And "all of us" should insist that we will continue to seek justice for a man who unhesitatingly showed what it means to be true to one's stated principles.

Such a strong public stance would send a powerful message, one that inextricably links the physical and moral courage Raoul Wallenberg displayed in Hungary sixty eight years ago with the spirit moving thousands of ordinary Russians to demonstrate for the preservation of their own fundamental rights and freedoms on the streets of Moscow today.

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

20:12 October 18, 2012 by TruthFinder
This article is a classic example of "putting all eggs in one basket" and manipulating with historical facts for political reasons. The deliberations of the so-called "historian", who starts with Raoul Wallenberg and ends again with "bad Putin", are a mixture of stupid anti-Russian stereotypes and cliches, phobias and complexes.

The unfortunate fate of Mr.Wallenberg has nothing to do with the current situation in Russia, which, in its turn, is up to Russians (who, by the way, support Presiden Putin in vast majoruty) to tackle. One good advice to "friends of Russia from the West": deal with our own probles, you have plenty on them.

And speaking about human rights, you'd better have a look at your Baltic friens, where more than 300000 people bear a humilating label of "non-citizens", where monuments to Waffen-SS criminals are being built and inaugurated and the "glorious struggle" of nazi murderes are being celebrated. Think about it for a while. Is it what Mr.Wallenberg fought for?
17:00 October 20, 2012 by MarcusC
Marcus Wallenberg, Jacob Wallenberg, Marc Wallenberg - accomplices Nazi Germany (trade, shipbuilding, Shelter for Nazi)

Raoul Wallenberg - "Swedish diplomat who helped prevent the arrests of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Second World War" and US spy.

"to limit foreign influence of so-called non-governmental organizations operating inside" - made in USA. The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was enacted in 1938.
21:08 November 4, 2012 by michael ladochkin
I`m Russsian. and I don`t think that THE VAST majoruty supports putin..and as for Baltic countries. I guess they know themself what is to be done with monuments in their OWN land without any TruthFinders
Today's headlines
Late summer sun set to hit Sweden

Late summer sun set to hit Sweden

Forecasters have predicted sunshine across Sweden this week, with a warm front moving in from Russia and temperatures of up to 25C. READ  

International police hunt
Swedish killer arrested after European hunt
Photo: Police

Swedish killer arrested after European hunt

UPDATED: Police arrested a man on Tuesday afternoon after he went missing from a psychiatric ward in western Sweden at the weekend. The man had been convicted of murdering a five-year-old schoolgirl in 2003. READ  

Music
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Swedish singer Tove Lo. Photot: TT

The five best Swedish songs of the month

The summer may be (almost) over but the music will keep on playing here at The Local. Our resident music guru Paul Connolly will be selecting his top new Swedish tracks for us in a new monthly feature. READ  

Hedgehog pet craze sweeps Sweden

Hedgehog pet craze sweeps Sweden

African pygmy hedgehogs are being bought by growing numbers of Swedes, as a trend for keeping exotic pets sweeps the country, the Department for Animal Welfare and Health tells The Local. READ  

Poisonous mushrooms cause stir in Sweden
The mushroom in this picture is not the same as the one from the story. Photo: Shutterstock

Poisonous mushrooms cause stir in Sweden

A person selling freshly-picked mushrooms in Gothenburg has come under fire after it turned out the delicacies were not only poisonous but also hallucinogenic. READ  

Pirate Bay founder case starts in confusion

Pirate Bay founder case starts in confusion

The largest hacking case in Danish history began in confusion on Tuesday, after lawyers representing Swedish Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg accused the prosecution of "unreasonable" tactics. READ  

Swedfund joins H&M in Ethiopia expansion

Swedfund joins H&M in Ethiopia expansion

As H&M expands into Ethiopia, Sweden's state venture capital unit Swedfund has announced that it will back the clothing giant, in a move hoped to create more jobs for local women. READ  

Elections 2014
Social Democrats reveal election manifesto
Photo: TT

Social Democrats reveal election manifesto

UPDATED: Sweden's main opposition party the Social Democrats has revealed its election manifesto at a press conference at a high school in Stockholm, with a key focus on education and welfare benefits. READ  

Teen run over by train after 'shoplifting' chase

Teen run over by train after 'shoplifting' chase

A teenage boy is in a critical condition after he was hit by a passing metro train in Stockholm. The accident ground rail traffic to a halt, and has police suspecting attempted murder. READ  

Swimrun
Record win at Sweden's tough island race
Photo: Jakob Edholm/ÖTILLÖ14

Record win at Sweden's tough island race

Two Swedes crushed last year's course record at the Swimrun world championship in Stockholm's archipelago on Monday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
National
Huge clear up underway after Skåne floods
Politics
Sweden's Alliance reveals full manifesto
Tech
Sweden's highest peak to lose title next year
Blog updates

02 September

America night (Blogweiser) »

" There was an event this weekend for the ‘Americans in Sweden’ Facebook group. I’m a member, and I brought my girls to the evening. The gathering was at a Boston-themed sportsbar in a mall. There were loads of screens, a bowling alley, a game room and a jumbotron. It was as good a place as any to..." READ »

 

25 August

Hit och dit, här och där (The Swedish Teacher) »

" Hej igen! A common challenge for Swedish language students are the location adverbs hit/här, dit/där, hem/hemma etc. Some of the location adverbs come in two versions. We should use one type of location adverb when we use a verb describes where we are, and we should use the other type of location adverb when we the verb..." READ »

 
 
 
Politics
How immigration became a key election issue
Society
Brit's life in Sweden becomes BBC radio show
Gallery
People-watching August 27
Gallery
Top ten false friends in Swedish
National
Roma advocate scoops Wallenberg prize
Society
Meet the man who made a Swedish store recall its high heels for kids
Business & Money
'How I came to run my own business in Sweden'
Politics
Expert explains why Sweden's election oozes uncertainty
National
City plays Schindler's List theme at Nazi rally
Society
For Stockholm Fashion Week, here's the A-Z of Swedish fashion
National
'Amnesiac' man avoids deportation for ten years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Swedish city all set for six-hour workday trial
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Gallery
People-watching August 22-24
National
Armed royal guards caught (very) drunk on the job
National
Sweden orders textbook on Roma discrimination
Gallery
Violent anti-Nazi demonstrations in Malmö
Society
A closer look at Sweden's five official minority languages
Sponsored Article
Find out what gives this Swedish school executive appeal
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

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 Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

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

755
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
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se