NEW YORK (Oct. 17)
News of a meeting Monday between Soviet authorities and the family of Raoul Wallenberg has been greeted with reserved gratitude by supporters of the World War II hero, as questions over his exact fate remain unanswered.
In an emotional ceremony in Moscow, the Soviets presented Wallenberg’s family Monday with the personal effects of the former Swedish ambassador, who is credited with saving the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews.
It is the first time in the nearly 45 years since Wallenberg vanished that the Soviets have produced tangible evidence of the man, who disappeared in January 1945, after Soviet troops entered Hungary.
But despite repeated Soviet insistence that Wallenberg died of a heart attack in Lubianka Prison in 1947, his family remains unconvinced and believes he may still be alive today.
In Washington, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and his wife, Annette, two native Hungarians who worked with Wallenberg and who spearheaded a campaign to find out his fate, welcomed Monday’s ceremony.
Nevertheless, the Lantoses, who are founder and chairperson of the International Free Wallenberg Committee, were not swayed by the Soviet declaration that Wallenberg died in prison.
“The Soviets have not told the whole truth,” Annette Lantos said. “The story is not closed, the mystery is not solved.”
‘MORE CREDIBLE CHECK’ URGED
Rep. Lantos said, “The Soviet government must do a much more credible check of the facts. Repeating a lie that has already been discredited does not answer the question ‘Where is Wallenberg?’ Glasnost calls for the Soviets to do considerably more to resolve the mystery of Wallenberg,” he said.
In Los Angeles, the Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a statement urging the Soviets to “tell the family of Raoul Wallenberg the entire, painful truth about the fate of the Holocaust’s greatest hero.
“While we applaud the Soviet Union’s humanitarian gesture in allowing this historic trip, it would turn into a cruel hoax if authorities continue to allege that Raoul Wallenberg died in prison in 1947.”
In New York, the Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States said it would not issue a statement until the family made one of its own.
In Moscow, the family was presented with the former Swedish diplomat’s passport, several notebooks and even some money. But the artifacts “do not prove that Raoul is dead,” said Nina Lagergren, Wallenberg’s half-sister.
The Soviets said they found the papers during a recent search of KGB archives.
“It was just terribly emotional to see Raoul’s handwriting and his passport, his portrait, his identity papers in Budapest,” said Lagergren.
She was accompanied by Wallenberg’s half-brother, Guy von Dardel, as well as Per Anger, Wallenberg’s diplomatic associate during the war, and Sonia Sonnenfeld, the secretary of the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg Association.
Lagergren presented Soviet officials with a list of 20 persons who said they had seen Wallenberg since 1947.