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Gold treasure behind Wallenberg arrest: report

18 May 2012, 08:13

Published: 18 May 2012 08:13 GMT+02:00

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“It is a reasonable interpretation that the Russians thought it was Nazi gold that Wallenberg was trying to keep from the Red Army. The reason why Wallenberg was arrested could therefore turn out to be rather banal,” said Jangfeldt to daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

Despite his heroic efforts on behalf of Hungary's Jews, the fate of diplomat Wallenberg, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in August, remains shrouded in mystery.

He was detained by Soviet forces in 1945 and later disappeared. In 1957, the Soviet's issued a statement saying that Wallenberg died of a heart attack in 1947, but the exact circumstances of his death remain a mystery.

But according to Russia-expert Jangfeldt’s new book “Raoul Wallenberg – en biografi” (“Raoul Wallenberg- a biography”) there is enough evidence to suggest that when Wallenberg arrived in the Soviet controlled area, between 15 and 20 kilogrammes weight of gold, jewellery and cash was hidden in the car’s petrol tank.

According to the book, the Russians only found the fortune after a high ranking officer had taken his sweetheart - a female officer - out for a spin in the seized car to impress her. Upon running it into a ditch, the Russians discovered the hidden valuables.

The value of the gold today is estimated to 1.7 million kronor ($236,000).

Jangfeldt's book proposes that this was the amassed fortune of many of the Jewish victims Wallenberg had helped, who had left their valuables to their benefactor for safekeeping.

“The same way that he was saving the Jew’s lives, he also meant to save their valuables. This was a logical part of the rescue operation. He thought the valuables would be safer in Sweden than in Budapest,” Jangfeldt told SvD.

However, according to the author, this may have been Wallenberg’s fatal mistake.

The Russians already believed that Wallenberg was involved in a “German conspiracy” and allegedly suspected him of trying to escape with property belonging to anti-democratic persons.

Story continues below…

The fact that Wallenberg had what could be perceived as German loot in his car when he was arrested by the Soviets may also have been a reason for a perceived reluctance from the Swedish foreign ministry to act on Wallenberg’s behalf at the time, SvD reports.

TT/Rebecca Martin


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Your comments about this article

09:08 May 18, 2012 by RobinHood
The last days of the siege of Budapest were a bloody and chaotic affair. The Russians had lost tens of thousands of men and were in no mood for compromise. The Russian commanding general needed a large bag of "German" prisoners to prove to his bosses in Moscow that his own heavy losses had been proportional to the strength of the defence of the city. The Russians therefore put all able bodied men into the category of "German" prisoner, no matter who they were, or why they were in Budapest. Suffice to say, being a "German" prisoner at that time was an unpleasant and high-risk affair. Wallenberg was a bit of a mystery to the Russians, and the proper way to deal with mysteries at that time was to send them back to Russia for interrogation and processing. A large part of the adult male population of Budapest (soldier or civilian, Hungarian or German) met that fate, many never to return.

It is no surprise, or even secret, Wallenberg carried large quantities of gold and other valuables. At that time, gold was the only recognised international currency, and highly valued by anyone hoping to secure themselves a decent life in post-war Europe. Wallenberg had for several months been bribing (with gold) German and Hungarian officers and other officials, and had been buying (also with gold), large amounts of property in Budapest as safe-houses for Jews. The gold had been supplied to him by diplomats from allied and neutral countries for that task.

It is plausible that the gold was later found by the Russians, but by the time Russian officers were taking joyrides in Wallenberg's car, he had already been arrested, and may well have been on the train east.
13:27 May 18, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
One wonders if the gold was found not by a ruptured gas tank at the end of an officer's joyride (somewhat implausible annecdote, but not impossible), but rather as a result of horrific interrogation of W. himself, or revealed under questioning of one of the other people who were captured, in the hopes that the gold would buy him/them a ticket out of the Russian prison camps.

One also wonders if W's disappearance and death might be linked to the basest of reasons, namely greed. Dead men can't ask for their gold back.

I am probably oversimplifying, but anyway good to hear Obama's words of remembrance for a fallen war hero in this memorial year for W.
14:10 May 18, 2012 by jostein
Hm, noone else thinking what im thinking of this story? I mean, "gold safer in sweden", yea, well, i mean, im sure no harm would come to the actual gold in sweden. But how would he return it, was he carrying lists? Looks more like he was cashing in, if you ask me. I mean, if i was a hounded refugee in hungary i sure as heck wouldnt send my gold off to sweden, id keep it close and use it to try to get me and mine out of a fix.
15:25 May 18, 2012 by millionmileman
Is it possible Raoul was hidding the valubles from the likes of George Soros, the Nazi collaberator, who was deling with confiscated property? It could have been theat these possesions were to be used for bribbing the Nazis to obtain the release of some of the Jews.

The Nazis were in stall-tacticac, negations to obtain 10,000 trucks from the Allies.
16:42 May 18, 2012 by james_g
@ millionmileman - what does "The Nazis were in stall-tacticac, negations to obtain 10,000 trucks from the Allies" mean?

@ jostein - your comment paints you, wrongly no doubt, as a rather mean-minded individual! "Jangfeldt's book proposes that this was the amassed fortune of many of the Jewish victims Wallenberg had helped, who had left their valuables to their benefactor for safekeeping" - in which case the owners weren't "hounded refugee(s) in Hungary" any more. This is quite apart from the valid observations of #1 RobinHood!
17:32 May 18, 2012 by CJ from Sunshine Desserts
Maybe he was simply arrested because he was an interfering pain in the ass foreign diplomat who went too far ? Honestly the Wallenberg affair is getting a bit old hat now..along with "who-murdered Palme"....still this alone won`t eliminate the collective guilt the Swedish upperclass feel over WWII. SVT`s Pappas Pengar "det var farfar som gjörde affärer med Hitler" ........sums things up really.Still Mr. Blix was right, he gets some respect for that.
19:26 May 18, 2012 by jostein
Well, if it walks like a duck its probably a duck.
21:04 May 18, 2012 by Greysuede
Why Jangfeldt wouldn't tell us who actually was Wallenberg by nationality?
01:50 May 19, 2012 by rabbemos
Wallenberg is no hero. The valuable items were from the Jewish families he sold the passports to. He was a war profiteer not a hero. During WWII many Jewish children were allowed to come to Sweden but their parents were not...many parents died because of that...Sweden got a young workforce they could train to be Swedish. There is no humanity in this story.
09:04 May 19, 2012 by RobinHood
@ rabbemos

Your ignorance about this affair is plain for all to see. Please do not post again until you have at least a basic knowledge of Wallenberg and Sweden's role in saving tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews.
09:54 May 19, 2012 by guliver
Wallenberg saved the life of the Jews he took under his custody in the factory he directed, the Nazies new about his intentions to keep the Jewish workers from transportation to Auschwizim ,but did not touch him as long as the factory worked good for the 3 Reich ,at war end the Jewish prisioners gave him a thanks letter in which they wrote he saved their life, unfortunatly it had not helped him as he was taken to USSR and disapeared there.

Certainly by his acts he was an hero ,as Israeli I think my country has not done enough to find what happened to him, he should be brought to his last way with honour of heros if not in Sweden in Israel.
20:22 June 12, 2012 by Finnish guy
Guliver, are you sure that you are talking about Wallengerg and not about Schindler? As far as I know, Swedish Wallenberg, who was a diplomat, gave jews Swedish passports and didn't have any factory, unlike Schindler who was German industrialist.
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