MONTREAL (Jun. 3)
The unknown fate of Raoul Wallenberg was a not a highlight of the Bush-Gorbachev agenda.
But there were many around the world who hoped the summit meeting that ended in Washington on Sunday would shed some light on the mystery of one of the humanitarian heros of World War II.
A report by the International Committee of Inquiry Regarding the Fate and Whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg concluded that “the evidence is incontrovertible” that he did not die in 1947, as the Soviet authorities have consistently claimed.
The 1,200-page report is the basis for an International Helsinki Appeal to be launched at the forthcoming human rights parley of the Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe, which will convene in Copenhagen.
The report was presented to the annual assembly of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights in Moscow this weekend by the committee’s chairman, McGill University law Professor Irwin Cotler.
Before leaving for Moscow, Cotler addressed an appeal to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to release Wallenberg if he is still alive, or at least make full disclosure of his fate and whereabouts.
In Washington, a letter urging President Bush to raise Wallenberg’s fate with Gorbachev was signed by 27 members of Congress and sent to the president, at the initiative of Rep. Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.).
The letter pointed out that the young Swedish diplomat had been dispatched in 1944 to Hungary, an ally of Nazi Germany, at the specific request of the U.S. War Refugee Board.
Wallenberg’s mission was to try to save as many Jews as possible in Hungary, the only Eastern European country where a Jewish community remained intact.
He succeeded to the extent that as many as 100,000 Jewish survivors credit their lives to his efforts.
When the Red Army entered Budapest in January 1945, Wallenberg disappeared and has not been heard from since.
In 1957, the Soviet authorities, silent until then, claimed Wallenberg had died of a heart attack 10 years earlier in the KGB’s Lubyanka prison.
But the evidence presented was sparse and suspect. It was contradicted by other evidence, including reliable eyewitness reports that Wallenberg was seen alive long after his purported demise.
According to the report of the Cotler commission, which reviewed thousands of pages of documentary evidence and witness testimony, the evidence is “incontrovertible” that Wallenberg did not die in 1947, “compelling” that he was alive in the 1950s and 60s, and “credible” that he was alive in the 1970s and 1980s.