LONDON (Jul. 11)
British publisher Robert Maxwell, a personal friend of Mikhail Gorbachev, called on the Soviet leader Sunday night to act in the spirit of “glasnost” (openness) and disclose the truth about Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.
Maxwell, a Czech-born Jew, made his appeal at the opening of a week-long conference on the Holocaust at Oxford. It has attracted more than 500 scholars and writers from 48 countries.
Since the and of World War II, the world has wondered about Wallenberg’s fate. Revered in the West as a hero of the Holocaust, he was arrested by the Red Army in Budapest in 1945, after having saved tens of thousands of Jews from deportation to Nazi death camps.
For 12 years the Soviets maintained stony silence. Then they claimed Wallenberg had died in prison of a heart attack in 1947, two years after his arrest.
But numerous reports have surfaced over the years that he has been seen alive in Soviet custody. The Swedish government’s official position is that Wallenberg is alive. If so, he would be 75.
The Soviet authorities, however, have not budged since 1957, when they proclaimed him dead. But with Gorbachev pledged to open the “blank pages” in Soviet history, there seems to be a chance that Maxwell’s appeal will be treated more seriously than similar approaches in the past.
One source of optimism is the declining political standing of veteran Poliburo member Andrei Gromyko, the former Soviet foreign minister, now president of the USSR.
It was Gromyko who personally announced Wallenberg’s supposed death 31 years ago, and he has long been regarded as “the stopper in the bottle” in this affair.
Should he finally be swept from high office, a possibility raised at the recent Communist Party conference, the way might open for a genuine investigation of the Wallenberg episode.
Most of Maxwell’s family perished in the Holocaust. His wife, Elizabeth, a French Protestant, spoke at the Oxford gathering. She said the conference had to find out what happened to “Christian love,” why Christians stood by while the Nazis murdered people. She called on people of all faiths to join to stamp out anti-Semitism.
As the delegates arrived at Oxford, the socalled World Revisionist Organization distributed leaflets saying there were no gas chambers to kill people at Auschwitz.
“Scholars attending this conference will know how to treat this tripe,” Maxwell said.