The Hero of Budapest: The Triumph and Tragedy of Raoul Wallenberg 9780755621484, 9781860644016

The story of Raoul Wallenberg - the Swedish businessman who, at immense personal risk, rescued many of Budapest's J

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The Hero of Budapest: The Triumph and Tragedy of Raoul Wallenberg
 9780755621484, 9781860644016

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List of Illustrations 1.1

Naval officer Raoul Oscar Wallenberg

p. 5


Maj Wising

p. 7


Sophie Wising, Raoul’s grandmother

p. 10


Raoul’s maternal grandparents Per and Sophie Wising

p. 12


Raoul with his grandfather

p. 15


Raoul’s stepfather Fredrik von Dardel

p. 16


The schoolboy Raoul in 1924

p. 20


Raoul, his cousins Maj Nisser and Lucette Colvin and his p. 23 half-brother Guy


Raoul in Poitiers in the spring of 1931

p. 34


Raoul’s American ID card

p. 37


Raoul’s drawing of the Parthenon

p. 42


Raoul was a skilled draughtsman

p. 44


Raoul on the steps of Angell Hall Observatory in Ann Arbor

p. 46


Raoul’s housing project

p. 52


Silhouette made during the stay in Chicago

p. 57


Raoul cycled a lot during his years in Ann Arbor

p. 58


Raoul hitchhiking in his ROTC uniform

p. 61


Raoul with American friends

p. 64


The Architects’ Dance

p. 73


One of Raoul’s many sketches of the outdoor swimming pool

p. 80


The Hero of Budapest 5.2

Raoul on board the M/S Hammaren

p. 82


Raoul was an ardent newspaper reader

p. 85


The building on Arlozorov Street with the boarding house where Raoul was staying

p. 94


On the beach in Haifa

p. 95


With friends in Haifa. Raoul to the right

p. 97


Jacob and Marcus Wallenberg junior (‘Dodde’) in their office at the Stockholms Enskilda Bank, 1936

p. 107


Gustaf Wallenberg in Nice in the winter of 1936–7

p. 111


Bernice Ringman and Raoul in central Stockholm.

p. 118


Raoul sailing in the Stockholm archipelago, here with his cousin Lennart Hagströmer’s wife

p. 120


Sergeant Wallenberg as an instructor in the home guard

p. 121


Photos of Koloman and Maria Lauer attached to their applications for Swedish passports, 1944

p. 124


Raoul with his sister Nina during the war

p. 127


Wallenberg’s diplomatic passport

p. 151


Wallenberg’s friend, the Swedish trade attaché in Budapest, Per Anger

p. 156


The Hungarian regent Miklós Horthy, Sweden’s minister Ivan Danielsson and Per Anger, 7 November 1943

p. 160

10.3–4 The legation building on Gyopár Street and “Wallenberg’s house” on Minerva Street

p. 162


Wallenberg with some of his closest co-workers

p. 165


Jews queuing outside the Glass House

p. 166


Some of the members of the Swedish legation in Budapest

p. 169


Protective passport issued to Béla Zwack

p. 172


Sweden’s envoy to Hungary, Ivan Danielsson

p. 187


The queue of people waiting to get into Wallenberg’s office at Minerva Street

p. 188


A cartoon from the Budapest newspaper Pesti Posta

p. 190


The villa that Wallenberg rented at 9–11 Ostrom Street

p. 193

List of Illustrations 12.1

Ferenc Szálasi entering Buda Castle to form a government p. 206 on 16 October 1944


Map of the International Ghetto

p. 226


The hospital of the Swedish legation and the Red Cross

p. 229


‘The house commandants were permitted to use the protégés fit for work to distribute foodstuffs to and within the houses.’

p. 231


‘As long as there is no permission to establish collective kitchens in the houses, the feeding takes place from a common kitchen.’

p. 232


Vilmos Langfelder

p. 233


The organisational structure of the Wallenberg rescue action

p. 236


Wallenberg’s calling card with the inscription ‘Hineinlassen!’ (‘Admit!’) in his own handwriting

p. 239


Józsefváros station on 28 November

p. 242


‘Swedish Jews’ on their way back to the ghetto after having been liberated by Wallenberg

p. 243


A black ledger containing the names of all Swedish protégés

p. 245


One of the pictures of Wallenberg taken in the office on Üllői Road

p. 254


Wallenberg’s address book with Eichmann’s telephone numbers

p. 260


Wallenberg in his office on Üllői Road on 26 November 1944

p. 265


Pál Szalai

p. 278


The Hazai Bank after it was bombed on 2 January 1945

p. 282


Lars Berg in front of the Swedish legation on Minerva Street

p. 285


16 Benczúr Street

p. 292


The Lubyanka’s ‘inner prison’, formerly the Russia Hotel

p. 306


The Chain Bridge after being blown up by German troops

p. 308


The interior of the Lubyanka prison

p. 317



The Hero of Budapest 17.1

Cell No. 203 in Lefortovo, which Wallenberg shared with Willy Roedel

p. 331


‘The square system’

p. 333


The Smoltsov report, certifying that Raoul Wallenberg died of a heart attack on 17 July 1945

p. 350


The Snake-Killer in Szent István Park

p. 371


Plaque commemorating Raoul Wallenberg on the façade of the house on at 16 Benczúr Street

p. 372


Memorial plaque of Vilmos Langfelder at 36 Andrássy Boulevard

p. 373


Raoul Wallenberg’s parents Maj and Fredrik von Dardel

p. 377

Image Credits Angers family archive 10.2 Arkitekturmuseet (Museum of Architecture), Stockholm 3.3, 3.4, 4.1, 5.1 Armémuseum (Swedish Army Museum), Stockholm 9.1, 11.2, 13.8, 13.9, 13.11, 14.1 Bengt Jangfeldt 11.4, 15.4, 19.1, 19.2, 19.3 Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archives) 12.1 (image 183-1990-0518-028, photo: Bernd Settnik) Gregor Nowinski 16.3 Jewish Community of Budapest 13.10 (photo: Bengt Jangfeldt) Kate Wacz 10.1 (photo: Lars Berg), 10.3 (photo: Lars Berg), 10.7 (photo: Lars Berg), 15.3 Museum Kiscell (Budapest Historical Museum) 15.2 (photo: János Manninger) Nadav Kaplan 6.1 Nina Lagergren 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 2.1, 2.2, 3.1, 3.2, 3.5, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 5.2, 5.3, 6.2, 6.3, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.5, 10.5, 13.7, 14.2, 19.4, cover image and colour plates Péter Zwack 10.4, 10.8 Raoul Wallenberg database, 18.1 Riksarkivet (Swedish National Archives), Stockholm 8.4, 11.3, 13.2, 13.3, 13.4, 13.6 Scanpix 16.1 (photo: Jurij Sokolov), 16.2, 17.1 (photo: Jurij Sokolov) Stiftelsen för Ekonomisk Historisk Forskning inom Bank och Företagande (The Foundation for Economic History Research within Banking and Enterprise), Stockholm 7.1, 7.2 Stig Söderlind, map of Budapest (pp. 210–11), 13.1 Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 10.6

‘He was perhaps the only man who had great influence in Budapest. […] At that time, there was a large rescue operation. But he was the man who took the initiative, gave us the strength, who gave a personal example. He was the very opposite of everything taking place in Budapest.’ – Ari Breslauer during the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961 ‘May all that come true which is always on my mind, that you shall become an able man and bring honour to our family.’ – Gustaf Wallenberg to Raoul Wallenberg on his 23rd birthday in 1935

A Sunday’s Child When Raoul Wallenberg was born, his maternal grandmother Sophie Wising noted: ‘Little Raoul was born “with the caul”, as they say. For those who are superstitious this is supposed to have a positive significance – what, I don’t know. I was pleased that he was a Sunday’s child. May it be a good omen.’ It was. In the closing phase of World War II Raoul Wallenberg was responsible for the greatest humanitarian rescue mission ever carried out by a Swede. In the course of less than eight weeks after Germany’s occupation of Hungary in March 1944, almost half a million Hungarian Jews were exterminated. In July Wallenberg was sent on a diplomatic mission to Budapest with the task of trying to prevent the quarter of a million Jews still alive from being gassed. The rescue effort that Wallenberg set in motion in Budapest was impressive in scope. He issued protective documents to close on 10,000 Jews who were made Swedish citizens and thereby avoided deportation and death. It is for this that he is best known. But an equally important part of his mission was the comprehensive social safety net that he built up. He organised health care and the distribution of foodstuffs, he set up children’s homes and homes for the elderly. Thanks to this humanitarian activity, thousands more were saved from starvation and death. Born on 4 August 1912, Raoul Wallenberg was actually a businessman rather than a diplomat. In the social sense he really was a Sunday’s child, born into Sweden’s leading family of financiers, with a seemingly carefree future staked out for him. He grew up in Stockholm’s most privileged neighbourhood, went to the best schools and moved in the best circles. But from the outset his life was overshadowed by a dark sorrow. He was born fatherless and brought up to a large extent by his paternal grandfather Gustaf Wallenberg, brother of the head of the Wallenberg family, Marcus Wallenberg. The part played by Raoul’s grandfather in his upbringing cannot be overstated.


The Hero of Budapest It was he who drew up the guidelines for Raoul’s education and who formulated the moral principles that he wished to govern Raoul’s life. Raoul was to become a hard-working businessman but also a citizen of the world and a man who brought honour to his family. To belong to the Wallenberg family entailed responsibility. Raoul, who had shown signs of serious aesthetic interests from a young age, initially studied to be an architect in the USA. Afterwards he practised as a businessman and banker in Cape Town and Haifa. When he returned to Sweden in 1936 after five years abroad it was with a view to starting work in the business sector. However, he was not conspicuously successful as a businessman despite his drive and acknowledged negotiating skills. Instead, these characteristics turned out to be useful during his mission in Hungary, which made great demands on his ability to take the initiative and his unconventional way of thinking. The caul that Sunday’s child Raoul Wallenberg was born with showed itself to be a good omen – for the Jews of Budapest, but not for himself. In January 1945 he was seized by the Soviet army and taken to Moscow, where he was imprisoned and, in all probability, executed two and a half years later. The story of Raoul Wallenberg is therefore not only the story of his achievements on behalf of Budapest’s Jews, of his actions. It is also about the price he had to pay, about his fate in the Soviet Union, which, 68 years after his abduction, is still shrouded in darkness. In the autumn of 1944 the front line between the two great totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century ran through Budapest. Raoul Wallenberg was caught in the crossfire. Victorious in the battle against the one, he fell victim to the other.

A Wallenberg The letter in which Raoul was said to have been born with a caul was addressed to Annie Wallenberg, the paternal grandmother of the new arrival. Four days later, in a letter addressed this time to both the baby’s paternal grandmother and his grandfather Gustaf Wallenberg, Mrs Wising expressed the following hope: ‘May this helpless little creature, your little grandson, be a great joy to you in the coming days and may he in some measure be able to fulfil the bright hopes you had for his father.’ Raoul’s father had died of cancer three months before his son came into the world. He was also called Raoul. It was in order to honour his memory that the boy was given the same name. In the absence of his father, Raoul’s upbringing and education came to be decided by his grandfather. Although Gustaf Wallenberg was physically absent – he lived and worked abroad – it was in his shadow that Raoul junior was to live for the first 25 years of his life. His second given name, Gustaf, was a homage to the grandfather. Raoul Wallenberg was born into a family whose male members were reared according to established patterns of behaviour and subjected to hard demands. Anyone wishing to understand the ethos of this milieu needs to know something about the ideals and methods of raising children that were embraced by the Wallenberg family and that determined his father’s and grandfather’s childhoods and choice of profession. Raoul’s father was born on 13 July 1888, the son of Gustaf and Annie Wallenberg. The former was a naval officer and the christening was performed in Stockholm’s Naval Church. Among the godparents could be seen Raoul senior’s paternal grandmother Anna, his paternal uncle Marcus and aunt Alice, representatives of his mother’s side of the family and other delegates from Sweden’s upper classes.


The Hero of Budapest Raoul Oscar was his parents’ first child and only son. The unusual choice of name may have been inspired by reading Alexandre Dumas: the son of the musketeer Athos is called Raoul.1 Later, the brood of children would be supplemented by daughters Karin (born in 1891) and Nita (born in 1896). Raoul senior had several cousins, all younger than himself – his uncle Marcus Wallenberg’s four girls and two boys. While the girls were brought up to make socially acceptable marriages, the boys – Jacob (born 1892) and Marcus junior (‘Dodde’, born 1899) – were educated for careers in the bank founded in 1856 by their grandfather André Oscar Wallenberg, Stockholms Enskilda Bank. As the eldest of the band of cousins, Raoul senior was the one nearest in line for a leading position in the bank. But before that he had to get an education. The Wallenberg family’s sons had traditionally studied at foreign boarding schools and then been educated at the Royal Naval College in Stockholm. The school where Gustaf and Marcus (like several of the other siblings) boarded for three years was called the Korntaler Knabeninstitut, and was situated outside Stuttgart. In its advertising the school was presented as ‘A Classical, Mathematical and Commercial School for Young Gentlemen’. The teaching was based on the concepts of enlightenment and progress, which were also central to André Oscar’s philosophy. ‘A son who receives the gift of his father’s counsel, education and experience, ought to achieve more than his father,’ he wrote to his son Knut, continuing: ‘Knowledge is like a staircase where one step is higher than the other and highest of all is all the enlightenment and gratification that a person can achieve in this life.’ After this preparatory education the boys were placed in the Naval College in Stockholm, just like their father. During the second half of the nineteenth century to be a naval officer was an attractive ideal for many men in the higher social classes. According to André Oscar, life at sea conferred important experiences which could also be of use in other contexts: ‘He who has not learned dutifully to obey can never go on to command, but will only be fit to belong to a flock of sheep who run away because one of them happens to have been scared.’ But times had changed since the 1860s and, unlike his father and uncle, Raoul senior was not sent to a boarding school but enrolled in a regular school, the New Elementary School in Stockholm. Yet the tradition of studying abroad was maintained – during the summer holidays he stayed in Germany and England and in the spring of 1902 he was sent to Paris. He received excellent testimonials and graduated the top pupil of 14 – ‘although the least in terms of age’, in his father’s proud words.

A Wallenberg

1.1  Naval officer Raoul Oscar Wallenberg. In the autumn of 1903, after a year in Paris, Raoul senior began his education at the Naval College. The course lasted for six years and after passing his examinations the sea cadet was appointed a corporal and then a sub lieutenant. The theoretical instruction, which was more or less the same as in ordinary schools, was supplemented by military subjects and sea voyages to foreign countries. During the years from 1904 to 1909 Raoul visited no fewer than 24 cities around the world. He was an outstanding student and on several occasions



The Hero of Budapest was awarded prizes and tokens of achievement. On 28 October 1909 he passed his sea-officer’s examination, achieving third place among 18 students in his class. Among the non-military subjects he had the highest marks in his mother tongue, English, German and French together with political science and freehand drawing. By contrast he had a mere pass in algebra, which says something about the nature of his talents. As his mark for drawing shows, Raoul senior was artistically gifted. He loved painting warships and other marine motifs and also enjoyed making copies of well-known works of art. Another sign of his creativity is the Wallenberg chapel at Malmvik, the family’s manor house outside Stockholm, which was built according to his designs. In the few letters that have been preserved, Raoul senior stands out as an energetic young man with a lively imagination, a well-developed sense of humour and a sharp eye. ‘[I] warmed to him immediately because of his conscientiousness and his open and frank manner, as well as his happy and cheerful disposition,’ recalled his cadet officer Fabian Tamm. Tamm was also struck by those traits of Raoul’s that he had an opportunity to observe during a visit to Cherbourg in 1909, when an epidemic broke out among the crew. He remembered ‘in particular the calmness I felt, during the difficult leave-taking from the sick cadets in Cherbourg, after I had spoken with Raoul and satisfied myself that he would take care of and help our other comrades who were not similarly equipped to look after themselves in a foreign country’. After Naval College Raoul senior continued his officer’s education in the coastal fleet. His first goal was to become a lieutenant, something that was going to take three years. But after just one year, in the summer of 1910, he told his father that he was keen to apply to the Technical University, for ‘whatever I do later in life, I will always reap the benefit of such a course,’ as he put it. The explanation for this turn of events lay in the important change in Raoul’s life that took place shortly after he had passed his naval officer’s examinations. In the winter of 1910 he had fallen in love with a young girl; the feelings were mutual and they decided to get engaged. ‘We came to an understanding pretty quickly,’ he wrote to his parents in April 1910, but nevertheless felt terribly unsure as we are after all so young and inexperienced, and we wondered if we really loved each other enough. It’s really a huge responsibility one has not to go and do the wrong thing and make oneself unhappy for the whole of one’s life. We pondered this for a long time and then we decided that if

1.2  Maj Wising, ‘a healthy, strong and well-developed girl who thinks nothing of walking for 30 kilometres in an afternoon. Moreover, she has an unusually slight and shapely figure.’


The Hero of Budapest our parents gave their consent then we would stay together but we would not announce our engagement for some time yet and wouldn’t get married in any event until I become a lieutenant (in three years). The object of Raoul senior’s affections was Maj Wising, daughter of the physician Per Wising and his wife Sophie. ‘Maj,’ he wrote, ‘is a healthy, strong and well-developed girl who thinks nothing of walking for 30 kilometres in an afternoon. Moreover, she has an unusually slight and shapely figure’; she is ‘basically terribly serious and very ambitious’ but at the same time ‘very happy and jolly’. Both Raoul and Maj took the whole thing ‘terribly seriously’ as they were ‘terribly anxious, each in our own way’, that their parents would not approve of their way of going about things – that is, of the fact that Raoul had asked for her hand without first informing his own parents. As one ‘mostly marries the family rather than the girl’, in Raoul senior’s words, their anxiety was not unfounded. As far as Maj’s parents were concerned, there was no problem – they had had the opportunity of observing the young lovers at close quarters and were convinced that they had ‘the best possible prer­equisites for becoming a happy couple’.2 But Raoul’s father was the Swedish envoy in Tokyo and had never met his son’s intended. Moreover, Gustaf Wallenberg had warned Raoul repeatedly against ‘the wicked and cunning sirens who try to snare young men in their web’. But after an exchange of letters with Raoul he agreed to the marriage. The wedding took place on 27 September 1911. They were a handsome bridal couple with every prospect for what in all respects appeared to be a bright future. They moved into a four-room apartment in central Stockholm in the same house as Maj’s parents. But their happiness was short-lived. Shortly before Christmas Raoul senior fell ill and in January 1912 it emerged that he was suffering from a form of sarcoma, an unusual variety of cancer that most often affects young people. The progress of his illness was rapid, but the fact that his case was hopeless was kept secret from both Raoul senior and his young wife. ‘Raoul and Maj do not know much about Raoul’s illness, but he sometimes has his suspicions that it could end badly,’ Per Wising wrote on 9 April 1912 to Gustaf Wallenberg in Tokyo. In fact there was nothing to be done except to try to relieve his pain. On 23 April Marcus Wallenberg told his brother Gustaf that Raoul was bearing his fate with steadfastness: ‘From time to time I have gone to him and tried to distract him with conversation. Unfortunately one can do nothing for him. The morphine is now his best friend.’

A Wallenberg Raoul senior died on 10 May and his funeral service was held four days later in Stockholm’s Naval Church. He was the first in his family to be buried in the chapel at Malmvik that he had designed himself. ‘It was instructive to see the manner in which the young widow bore her sorrow. One almost had the impression that she was borne up by some higher power,’ wrote Fabian Tamm to Raoul’s father, who because of political unrest in China was unable to attend the funeral. According to the order of succession among the Wallenbergs, Raoul senior, as eldest grandchild of the founder of the dynasty, would have been entitled to expect a leading position within the family’s banking and business spheres. Now that he was gone the baton passed to his cousin Jacob, who was four years younger and who graduated from the Naval College in the autumn of the year in which Raoul died. Jacob had planned to continue his career as a naval officer but was now forced instead by his father and his uncle Knut to give up his officer’s post and go into the bank.

‘Life Is So Immensely Difficult’ When her husband died Maj Wallenberg had just had her 21st birthday and was seven months pregnant. ‘With every day that passes life feels harder and this immense emptiness & loss feels ever greater,’ she wrote on 5 July to her mother-in-law. This feeling of utter powerlessness against grim death which has so remorselessly swept everything away, everything for me and for you. But I ought to have understood long, long ago that such great and unbroken happiness as I was granted ever since I got to know my Raoul cannot last for long. She was anxious about her baby’s future: ‘Oh Mamma, what will become of our little baby? I wonder so often if I will be competent to bring it up to be a good human being. Poor little thing that has lost its papa.’ The summer was spent first at Malmvik, where she could visit her husband’s last resting place. ‘How lovely it is there now,’ she reported to her mother-in-law. A little family of larks had made their nest in a niche by Raoul’s feet, the flag still lay across the coffin but the flowers had been removed as the cement had not yet dried. She had seen to it that Raoul’s sabre was taken away so that it would not be destroyed by the damp. ‘If



The Hero of Budapest it turns out to be a boy and an officer he would so cherish carrying his father’s sabre.’ After a week at Malmvik Maj moved on to Kappsta at Lidingö, the Wising family’s summer residence. She was in her ninth month, life was ‘so immensely difficult’ and she did not know what to do with herself in order to ‘be able to forget the horror’ that afflicted her. Sometimes she longed to die. Her confinement took place on 4 August. ‘As you already know from the telegram,’ Per Wising wrote to Gustaf Wallenberg, ‘our dear Maj has had her baby, and in accordance with her own wish she has had a little boy, to whom she has given the name, dear to her, of Raoul Gustaf Wallenberg.’ The christening was also performed at Kappsta, on 3 September, the same day that Gustaf and Annie Wallenberg celebrated their silver wedding anniversary. The godparents included Raoul’s grandfather’s brothers Knut, Marcus and Axel together with their wives, his uncle Jacob and relatives from his mother’s side. The birth went well, the boy weighed 3.3 kilograms and he took to the breast straight away. ‘For myself, I cannot describe the joy I felt at having this little baby, a living reminder of how happy I was in my love,’ Maj wrote to her father-in-law. ‘He is really sweet and cute, Maj says he has Raoul’s mouth, a little snub nose, dark-blue eyes,’ Sophie Wising reported to Annie Wallenberg.

1.3  Sophie Wising, Raoul’s grandmother, at the summer house in Kappsta where he was born.

A Wallenberg Raoul’s birth signified a light in the darkness not only for his mother but also for his paternal grandparents. ‘May the coming years help you more easily to bear the bitter sorrow that has afflicted you,’ Sophie Wising wrote in her letter of congratulation on the occasion of their silver wedding anniversary. She hoped also that Gustaf and Annie Wallenberg would to some extent shoulder the responsibility for his upbringing. ‘I hope so sincerely that Little Raoul, until he grows into manhood, will be able to enjoy the support and the advice of his good grandparents.’ This Raoul did, to excess. From now on Gustaf Wallenberg transferred all the plans and ambitions he had had for his dead son onto his grandson. It was as if he had become a father again. In 1919 he was formally appointed Raoul’s guardian.

Little Raoul After Raoul’s death Maj moved back to her parents’ apartment. She devoted herself totally to Little Raoul, as the boy was called. ‘Mamma’s sweet wish that my only little darling would achieve his mission as comforter has not been dashed,’ she wrote on 20 October to her mother-in-law. ‘And I am glad that I also made Raoul realise and understand that for my future it was only an immense joy and comfort that I should have a little baby.’ That feeling of joy that Maj gave expression to in her letter was ruthlessly crushed barely a month later. Her father was 70 years old, but, despite the infirmities of old age, still active as a doctor. After having been struck down with pneumonia he died on 5 December. Once again Maj had a use for the ‘admirable self-control’ she had given proof of in connection with her husband’s death. ‘By the sickbed she re-enacted the course of her own darling’s suffering,’ Sophie Wising wrote to Gustaf and Annie Wallenberg; ‘she suffered in double measure, poor little thing, but as usual she struggled honourably to keep going, although it took a lot out of her.’ Raoul grew up in a family whose members, on both the father’s and the mother’s side, moved in the highest social circles and lived their lives accordingly. They had several maidservants who helped in the household. Maj played hockey in the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm with Crown Princess Margareta and served a ‘charity tea’ in the Hôtel Royal in the presence of the latter and Princess Ingeborg. She was at a lunch on board the warship HMS Oscar II and was conveyed home to Kappsta in the admiral’s launch. Her circle of friends



The Hero of Budapest included several of Sweden’s leading noble families. Thanks to her friend Elsa von Dardel, in January 1914 she was able to follow the funeral procession of Queen Sophia from a window in the High Court, where Elsa’s brother Fredrik worked. That same winter she spent two months on the French Riviera with her mother while a nurse looked after Raoul. Raoul’s closest friends and playmates included his cousins, the Hagströmer boys, in particular Anders. Maj’s eldest sister Sigrid was married to the appealcourt judge Sven Hagströmer, who had been helpful in compiling the inventory of Raoul senior’s estate. The Hagströmer family had a summer cottage where Maj would stay with Raoul. Maj’s other sister Anna was married to a landowner, Carl Nisser, at whose manor they enjoyed spending Christmas and New Year and a few weeks in the summer. Otherwise the summers were always spent at Kappsta where they often had a visit from Maj’s third sister Elsa, who was married to William Mechling (‘Mech’) Colvin, a captain in the American coast artillery, and her two children Lucette and Fitz John. From a financial point of view the young widow managed well. She had a widow’s pension and her inheritance from her husband amounted to 11,765 kronor (almost 550,000 kronor, or £55,000, today). And on her 21st birthday Maj (like her three elder sisters when they came of age) received 10,700 kronor

1.4  Raoul’s maternal grandparents Per and Sophie Wising.

A Wallenberg from her parents, who were both wealthy. Dr Wising’s estate was valued at almost 15 million kronor (more than £1.5 million) in today’s values. This was the milieu and the reality that Raoul Gustaf Wallenberg was born into: fatherless, with his ‘stepfather’, his paternal grandfather, living on the other side of the globe and a mother who had become a widow a week before her 21st birthday. He was a Wallenberg, but his circumstances could have been more favourable.

A Tremendous Sense of Humour Raoul’s development during his childhood and youth can be followed in his mother’s letters to Gustaf and Annie Wallenberg. As we have seen, his paternal grandfather was in the diplomatic service, from 1906 as Swedish envoy in Tokyo and from 1920 in Constantinople (officially ‘Istanbul’ from 1923). ‘He understands a lot of what one says to him and I work hard at making him obedient,’ Maj reported when Raoul was 14 months old. According to the doctor who examined the boy he was ‘calm and not in the least nervous or shy and he appeared so intelligent.’ A month later he took his first steps. In the reports contained in his mother’s letters about her son’s early years certain traits and qualities appear clearly. Raoul was defiant and had ‘acquired a large portion of stubbornness to work against’, which concerned her. But at the same time she noted a more desirable expression of the same trait, namely his ‘utter independence in understanding and performance’. As an example she quoted Raoul’s response when she hoped that he would be like his father when he grew up: ‘No Mummy, I can’t be like all people.’ This was a quality that Gustaf Wallenberg wanted Maj to encourage in her son. Another characteristic of Raoul’s was his power of observation. Even before he was two years old his mother remarked that he ‘notices everything and tries to learn new words’. And just after his third birthday she reported to her fatherin-law: ‘He thinks so much about everything and his reflections are always so correct and intelligent. His observations are quick as lightning.’ She gave an example. When his cousin Lennart Hagströmer, Anders’s elder brother, pointed out that the Christmas tree in Raoul’s house was small and that theirs reached up almost to the ceiling, the four-year-old Raoul waved his hands and replied: ‘Yes, but, you know, we have a much higher ceiling, you know.’ His reply reflected a mindset that was not only alert but also strikingly humorous – according to his mother he had a ‘tremendous sense of humour’. In a



The Hero of Budapest letter to her mother-in-law in the autumn of 1917 Maj described how she once put on her husband’s sporting trousers in order to pluck fruit from the trees. When Raoul caught sight of her he burst out: ‘No, just look at Mrs Wallenberg, what is she like!’ As we can see, Raoul possessed a rich verbal talent. ‘Raoul has definitely inherited his daddy’s genius for language,’ Maj reported to her parents-in-law when he was just four years old. ‘He understands new words and foreign ideas so easily, I think.’

Maj von Dardel When Raoul was six there was a major change in his life. On 24 October 1918 his mother married Fredrik von Dardel, an appeal-court law clerk, from whose window in the Swedish Court of Appeal she had watched the Dowager Queen Sophia’s funeral procession a few years earlier. The von Dardel family belonged to her circle of acquaintances: Fredrik’s sister Elsa was, as we have seen, a childhood friend, and her father, the landowner Fritz von Dardel, was one of those who witnessed the inventory of Raoul senior’s estate. Fredrik von Dardel, born in 1885, was the elder brother of the famous artist Nils Dardel (who had deleted the ‘von’ from his name) and had a pronounced artistic talent himself. He was an excellent watercolourist and draughtsman and in his youth it was he who was regarded as the more talented of the brothers. But Fredrik (‘Fred’) entered the legal profession instead, and in the year following his marriage he was appointed head of the National Board of Health. A son, Guy, was born in August 1919 and a daughter, Nina, followed in 1921. Raoul’s relationship to his half-siblings would become close and intimate – he was for them ‘an exceptional and beloved half-brother’, Fredrik von Dardel recollected; he ‘amused us with his humorous fancies and our home often resounded with our happy laughter’. The relationship between Raoul and his stepfather was very good, although they were quite different in personality. According to one contemporary witness, Fredrik von Dardel, with his earthy, practical mindset, was an important support to Raoul, whose imagination often ran away with him. In that same autumn in which his mother remarried, Raoul began school. The guidelines for his education were drawn up by his grandfather Gustaf, who insisted that Raoul should begin as early as the autumn of 1918 although he was only six years old. In spring 1921, after three years of prep school, Raoul was entered for the New Elementary School, one of the best schools in Stockholm. If he failed the

1.5  Raoul with his grandfather. This picture was taken in 1916, during one of Gustaf Wallenberg’s rare visits to Sweden.


The Hero of Budapest entrance examination there was the threat of a summer of homework, something Raoul wanted to avoid, as Grandfather Gustaf, who the year before had been appointed Swedish minister at Constantinople, had invited him to come out on a visit. According to his mother, the whole family’s heart was fluttering with ‘anxious examination fever’ – but not Raoul’s: he was ‘absolutely calm’. The test went well and Raoul was accepted into the first class of the junior secondary school, where pupils studied for 1.6  Raoul’s stepfather Fredrik von Dardel. five years before moving up to the high school for a further four years. It was no surprise that Raoul was entered for the New Elementary School. His father had gone there too, as had his cousins Marcus and Jacob.

Gustaf Wallenberg The trip to Constantinople in the summer of 1921 did not come off. But a few years later Raoul made it out to see his grandfather, who from then on came to play an ever more important role in his upbringing and education. As the guardian and his charge lived in different places contact was maintained by letter. Like his father and his brothers Gustaf Wallenberg was an extraordinary letter-writer. At the time of his grandson’s birth Gustaf Oscar Wallenberg was 49 years old. He was born in 1863 in Stockholm as the eldest son in his father André Oscar’s marriage to Anna von Sydow (who bore her husband 14 children in 21 years). Knut was an older half-brother and Marcus one of his younger brothers. Like Marcus, Gustaf was trained as a naval officer, but unlike his brother he continued

A Wallenberg his training to the rank of captain. However, in the early 1890s he gave up his officer’s career to devote himself to business, mainly in the shipping trade. He was particularly interested in transportation issues and in the improvement of Sweden’s maritime and trade connections, something he campaigned for as a member of parliament (for the Liberals) and in numerous newspaper articles. Gustaf Wallenberg was an enterprising, energetic and impulsive person who loved getting things done. He was in addition a marked individualist. His expansive personality differentiated him from both Knut and Marcus, who embraced the Wallenberg maxim ‘to act but not be seen’. The fact that in 1888 Gustaf became a member of the board of Stockholms Enskilda Bank seems to have been mainly due to the lack of alternative candidates. When Knut proposed him as deputy director of the bank the following year, Marcus put a stop to it. The relationship between Gustaf and Marcus was strained for many years. Because of Gustaf’s (in Marcus’s opinion) defective jugement, Gustaf was gradually distanced from the family’s affairs. But after he had been appointed Sweden’s envoy to Japan (and also to China, in 1907) relations between the brothers improved. When, a few years later, he was accused by some colleagues in Sweden’s Tokyo legation of having revealed the content of a Swedish–Chinese trade deal before it reached the Swedish foreign ministry and, despite his public position, of offering his own ferries for sale in Japan, Marcus came to his defence. Gustaf received a warning from the foreign ministry but was allowed to remain in post. Several years later Marcus had to ride out once again to the rescue of his brother, who was entrapped as guarantor for a huge security. Together with Knut, Marcus issued guarantees which enabled Gustaf to be freed from the obligation, something for which he thanked them warmly. ‘I hope he shows his gratitude by never again embarking on business matters,’ Marcus commented in a letter to Knut. And Gustaf never did.


The New Elementary School ‘It wasn’t long before his friends noticed that in several respects Raoul was different from the crowd,’ recalled Rolf af Klintberg, Raoul’s classmate in the New Elementary School. His very appearance was striking, with the big eyes and the wavy, dark hair, and his interests and way of expressing himself were unusual. At first his friends kept their distance and could not really understand a boy who at first didn’t want to play football and get up to mischief, but it wasn’t long before we came to feel a certain respect for the young dreamer. At the same time, according to his classmates, Raoul ‘had no problem defending himself if there was a discussion’ and didn’t hesitate to ‘talk back to the teachers’. Raoul’s lack of interest in competitive sport was also confirmed by his mother. On the other hand, from an early age he delighted in riding and fencing, the latter being part of the gymnastics programme in the New Elementary School. He was a keen philatelist and the stamps that Grandfather Gustaf sent from Turkey stirred his friends’ envy and were prized for swaps. He also liked music, sang in a church boys’ choir and at Christmas enjoyed listening to Handel’s Messiah. ‘He impressed me (at the age of about 11) when he used to open the window onto the garden and sing solos at the top of his voice to the neighbours,’ his cousin Anders Hagströmer recalled. Raoul was also passionately interested in films from an early age and was an enthusiastic and capable draughtsman, a talent he had inherited from his father. In addition, he had a mature interest in politics and society; his comments on the May Day placards in 1923 (when he was ten) bear witness to his ability for observation and analysis. ‘It was said,’ noted Rolf af Klintberg, ‘that – purely for the sake of

The New Elementary School enjoyment – he read his way through the 35 volumes of Nordisk familjebok [the Swedish national encyclopaedia], and in the course of many discussions it was noted that his interests were both extensive and deep.’ According to his mother, Raoul ‘did not take much interest in knowledge he felt was of no use to him’. This aspect of his personality was reflected in his school marks, which were poor in all the subjects he had no interest in. Raoul was often therefore forced to do revision during the summer. His weakest subjects were mathematics and German. Gustaf Wallenberg would have been pleased if Raoul had come to visit him in Constantinople in the summer of 1925, but instead Raoul’s mother sent him to Germany to improve his understanding of the language, in which he had taken extra lessons in the spring. He boarded with a family called von Laffert in the spa of Bad Doberan in Mecklenburg, where he had German lessons every day and spent a lot of time with the boy in the family. He wrote his report home partly in German, ‘and it was well written,’ according to his mother. ‘In addition he is beginning to understand what they are saying.’ During his stay in Germany Raoul also had an opportunity to see his grandfather Gustaf, who was passing through. They visited Lübeck, Dresden, Coburg, the picturesque little city of Goslar and other places. The German cure worked – on 21 August Raoul took his German examination and was able to go on into the final class in the New Elementary School. The trip to Constantinople came off the following year, during the summer holidays after he had finished elementary school. Raoul travelled there on his own, but according to his mother the excursion was ‘carefully planned with a special guide to look after him’. Despite this Raoul disappeared during his stay in Belgrade ‘in order to witness at first hand some disturbances in the city’. Raoul stayed in Constantinople until the end of August and according to Gustaf Wallenberg he was ‘much taken by and grateful for everything he managed to see and be involved in’. Over the two months or so that they spent together they discussed political questions as well as Raoul’s future. During the journey home, which they made together, the grandfather became convinced that his grandson ‘does not seem […] to be cut out for a sea cadet’. Raoul was indeed having quite different thoughts about his future, about which more later. On 27 August Raoul arrived in Stockholm. School had begun the day before he came home, so that he commenced his high-school career by arriving late. He had just turned 14 and was the youngest in his class. Raoul’s uncle Marcus had followed the natural-sciences stream in the same school, but Raoul chose the Latin stream as he was interested in languages. However, it soon emerged


2.1  The schoolboy Raoul in 1924.

The New Elementary School that he was not getting on with the strict Latin teacher. After one semester Raoul therefore switched to the so-called modern-languages stream, with Russian instead of Latin. Russian-teaching was unique to the New Elementary School, which since 1828 had been the State’s testing ground, an experimental school where the latest pedagogical innovations could be put into practice.

Anxiety for Raoul ‘Raoul is getting on well at school although he is not among the very best, but I think he wouldn’t enjoy it at all if instead he was overstretched,’ Maj von Dardel wrote to her mother-in-law in mid February 1927, continuing: ‘In any event he is certainly among the most intelligent. They really have to stick in at German so they are learning that language properly.’ Of these claims, only the one about Raoul’s intelligence had any justification. Raoul had been idle during the spring term and was forced to sit a moving-up test in religious education and mathematics at the end of the autumn term. In view of Raoul’s poor marks in German, another stay in Germany might have been justified. Such a trip was in fact planned, but instead his grandfather invited him to stay in England in the summer of 1927. English was one of Raoul’s better subjects. Raoul’s educational achievements in the second form of the high school were about as lacklustre as they had been in the first, with the difference that he became even worse at German. From now on he was also studying a fourth language, French. The summer of 1928 was spent at a vicarage in Abbots Ripton in England. This trip too was paid for by Grandfather Gustaf. On his arrival in London Raoul was met by the Swedish minister in London, Erik Palmstierna, who had booked him in at the elegant Hotel Cecil. This was something that Raoul’s grandmother had strong opinions about, as was the means of transportation chosen. This was a sensitive issue. Grandfather Gustaf willingly contributed financially to Raoul’s upbringing but he and his wife had an ascetic outlook on life and Maj von Dardel was forced to explain herself: The flight was never what Raoul wanted. But as the cheaper boat services from Malmö did not in the least match with Raoul’s end of term and as the boat fare from Gothenburg to London was about 100 kronor dearer I thought that by paying the difference himself



The Hero of Budapest he could leave for London by air. After all, he has been saving up his Christmas money for many years now. The Hotel Cecil was certainly an absolute blunder and both Raoul and I were quite terrified at the very thought of it. […] Dear Mamma, don’t think I am bringing Raoul up with the habits of a millionaire’s son. On the contrary, he is probably tired of hearing how we must do without everything unnecessary in order to make our money stretch to the essentials. I have not so far noticed that he has any wasteful tendencies. Raoul left London on 15 August and was home again just in time for the beginning of the autumn term. Gustaf Wallenberg, who happened to be in Stockholm, informed his wife that this time Raoul had been the object of his ‘lively interest’: ‘He is really intelligent and has woken up in a remarkable way.’ Raoul’s grandfather had also ‘striven, so to speak, to launch him in suitable directions within the family’. After the marks fiasco of the spring term Raoul now pulled himself together. He had ‘an incredible amount to do with one essay after another both at home and at school, and sometimes it is 11 at night before he switches off his lamp,’ Maj von Dardel reported to Annie Wallenberg on 11 October. However optimistic his mother had been about the results of Raoul’s studies in the autumn of 1928, the term’s marks showed only a marginal development in a positive direction. Against this background Raoul spent the Christmas vacation constructing ‘a smarter schedule for “improving the termly marks”’, an ambition that was ruined, however, by a couple of lengthy spells of illness. In January he had an emergency operation for appendicitis and a few months later he went down with flu. When the spring term’s marks were announced he had once again failed in German while improving his performance in Russian.

Summer in Savoy In the spring of 1929, just as in every spring, Raoul’s plans for the summer were discussed in the family. Gustaf Wallenberg declared that he was willing to contribute financially to a foreign trip as before. It was decided that this year Raoul should go to France, and the summer was spent with a French family in the small town of Thonon-les-Bains, on the French side of Lake Geneva. Monsieur Bourdillon was a school inspector and seldom at home, and so the teaching was undertaken by his wife. Four other youngsters

The New Elementary School

2.2  Raoul, his cousins Maj Nisser and Lucette Colvin and his half-brother Guy, summer 1924.

were boarding there as well as Raoul: a boy from Paris, a young Czech girl and two young Serbs, one of whom had a voice ‘so loud it could wake up a corpse’. In a letter written in the spring to his grandfather, Raoul had promised he would ‘fire off a more entertaining epistle’ as soon as his workload permitted. It was delivered now, in the form of a jocular description of the young Serb with the thunderous voice: when he wants to be funny, which is all the time, he raises the noise level to a bellow and from a bellow to a scream, which – at least yesterday – didn’t stop until he went to bed about 10.30. He may not have stopped then either for all that I know. Thank God his room is two doors down from mine. I tell you all this with some reservation,



The Hero of Budapest since I’ve only been here one day. It does annoy me, though, to have to listen to the half-baked revolutionary rantings of the Serbian. He goes on and on with great pride and glee about all the strikes and revolts he has seen or been involved with in his orderly Belgrade. When he’s not bellowing he is pretty friendly, though. ‘My first day here I knew hardly any French,’ Raoul reported in his next letter, when he had been there for two weeks. ‘I had no trouble with the pronunciation, but my vocabulary was in terrible shape.’ The family’s library lacked any ‘exciting adventure stories’ like those in the English vicarage, only ‘boring poetry and the like’. Instead, Madame Bourdillon gave Raoul Selma Lagerlöf’s The Wonderful Adventures of Nils in a French translation and after only a few days he had learned ‘a good number of French words’. Moreover, he had tuition in grammar and reading aloud every day and did a translation from Swedish. As Raoul had promised to keep his grandfather informed about ‘any progress’, his third letter from Thonon-les-Bains was partly written in good – even if not yet faultless – French. Raoul’s spare time was spent on bathing and rowing and long walks, and on one occasion he took part in a mountain climb of over 2,000 metres. ‘Pleasantly surprised’ by Raoul’s progress in French, his grandfather sent him two essay collections by the Swedish critic and cultural historian Knut Hagberg. Here Raoul could read about leading statesmen and politicians like Gladstone, Lloyd George, Edward VII and others. He enjoyed the books, which he found ‘wonderfully written’, and every day he translated an essay orally for Madame Bourdillon. Before Raoul left Thonon-les-Bains at the beginning of August he received his grandfather’s birthday congratulations and a cheque for 100 kronor – ‘also extremely interesting reading’ of which he ‘heartily approved’. He also found time to order a new suit in which he posed for studio photographs, which he sent home to his family. ‘As far as my studies and my progress during these two months are concerned, I think I can state that my time has been well spent,’ he concluded. He was also able to please his grandfather with the news that his stay in Thonon-les-Bains would turn out to be ‘extremely cheap’ – ‘I do not believe that it was, all in all, dearer than at most 700 kronor [20,000 kronor, £2,000, today].’ Whether or not Raoul’s grandfather shared his view of the level of expense is unclear. 700 kronor, after all, corresponded to almost half the cost of his annual upkeep. However Gustaf Wallenberg regarded the issue, there is no doubt that he was happy to support his grandson.

The New Elementary School

A Prospective Head of Family Raoul’s stay in Thonon-les-Bains produced the desired result in the form of better marks in French at the end of the autumn term. Raoul’s marks in general were better now than after the spring term. Raoul had started to improve his academic performance, well aware that his grandfather’s goodwill and generosity were related to his school results. There were only about five months left before his school-certificate examinations. The spring was devoted to intensive swotting and his marks for the final exams were the best Raoul had ever had, notably in English and French. Mathematics, luckily, was not on the timetable for the last two forms in the Latin and modernlanguages streams. Although Raoul did not have the highest marks in Swedish, he was a noticeably good stylist for his age. It was no coincidence that his letters were highly regarded by his grandfather. And he was widely read outside of his schoolwork, especially in history, economics and social sciences. So, for example, he read Katherine Mayo’s book Mother India, which deals with that country’s social problems, and works by economists like Friedrich List (Das nationale System der politischen Ökonomie). To his grandfather he explained that economics had developed into an ‘utterly absorbing hobby’. Raoul’s analytical and verbal talent is apparent from his Swedish essay in the school-certificate examination. The subject was ‘workers and employers’ and his essay began with a statement formulated with a 17-year-old’s cocksureness: ‘The greatest social problem today is the struggle between workers and employers. The good relationship which ought to exist between subordinate and superior has, in large part through the stupidity, short-sightedness and lust for power of the two sides themselves, been turned into a bitter struggle.’ This is followed by an account of the emergence of industrialism, which led to the growth of unemployment, which in its turn gave birth to the workers’ movement and Marx’s watchword ‘Workers of the world unite!’ ‘It is completely natural,’ wrote Raoul, ‘that a sector of the population suffering under the pressure of poor economic circumstances will try by violence to engineer a better position for itself,’ but at the same time it is ‘very short-sighted and stupid to try to juggle with the laws of economic life, as the workers’ movement has done’. Yet the attitude of the employers has not been much better, the essay’s author feels. They have ‘underestimated the importance of good and skilled workers’ and have acted with ‘unnecessary harshness and arbitrariness’. But gradually both sides have begun to modify their opinions. The workers’ movement has had to abandon its ‘proud Internationale’, ‘convinced of the need to



The Hero of Budapest proceed warily’, and the employers have been forced to revise their stance on several points and have ‘more and more come out with the sensible demand for a qualified workforce’. The essay closes with an analysis of the difference between the labour markets in Europe and the USA. Although the Swedish teacher found Raoul’s reasoning ‘sometimes unclear and even distorted’ he gave the essay a high mark. The oral examination took place on 12 May and the following day there was a splendid dinner party in the von Dardel household. The guests included mainly older relatives, mostly on the Wallenberg side. This was not only because the times and family traditions so demanded. Raoul simply had no relatives of his own age on his father’s side. In 1930 his second cousins Marc and Peter, sons of Marcus junior (‘Dodde’), were only six and four respectively. This in turn meant that Raoul was the one who, age-wise, was first in line to shoulder responsibility after his father’s cousins. Aunt Amalia and Uncle Marcus were abroad and couldn’t make it to the dinner party but they sent their best wishes. In addition Raoul received from his aunt a wristwatch which had the advantage that it ‘not only […] wakes one in the middle of the night with unwarranted, panic-inducing ringing but also shows the correct time and looks nice to have on’. If he could only have another watch like it he would gladly resit the school-certificate examination, which was ‘almost entirely fun’, he added in his thank-you letter. The letter to his aunt ended with ‘many regards from the future caput of the family’ – caput familiæ, head of the family – a jocular form of words which lacked neither seriousness nor subterfuge. That Raoul was aware of the central role he would one day play in the family’s banking-and-business empire is evident from the thank-you letter he wrote the same day to Marcus senior: ‘Uncle Marcus’s friendliness and interest [in me] are of course a strong incentive for me to do my best on whatever path I come to tread, and I hope I am not destined to be the one who besmirches the family name.’ Raoul’s first learning experience within the Wallenberg business world occurred as early as the day after his graduation dinner when he started work at one of the Enskilda Bank’s departmental offices in Stockholm – a post that Uncle Jacob had arranged for him. ‘The work is of inestimable benefit to me,’ he wrote to Aunt Amalia, partly because in the process I am gaining a fleeting insight into the outer workings of a banking concern and its different branches, partly because thereby it is becoming clear to me what office work is all about, and what stuff one needs to be made of in order to cope with it.

The New Elementary School Whether or not he was made of the right stuff was an open question – he did not know himself. But in the meantime he could allow himself to joke about it: ‘The bank too has benefited a great deal from my labours in its service. Already after my third day I could point to a direct profit of 21 million kronor for the bank. However, it emerged later that the profit was partly the result of some “insignificant” errors in counting.’ At the same time as Raoul was sitting his final school examinations, there was a decisive change in Gustaf Wallenberg’s life. He retired and was forced to give up his post as Swedish minister in Istanbul. However, he decided to remain in Turkey, where he had good business contacts and where over the years he had won a strong position for himself. He also feared that he would lose any opportunity to exert influence if he moved back home to Sweden, where, in his own mind, he would soon come to be regarded as a has-been.

Grenadier in the Life Guards On 16 June, after a month as a bank official, Raoul was called up as an officer cadet in the Life Guard Grenadiers. In letters to his family he described the comic side of military life. ‘I am labouring with zeal and great patriotic self-sacrifice for the defence of the country, trotting to and fro in the woods, executing right and left turns, etc. etc.,’ he reported after about a month to Aunt Amalia. And three weeks later, to the same addressee: The colonel inspected our platoon, and, you know, a colonel is something that for greatness and majesty almost exceeds a soldier’s faculty of comprehension. You can appreciate, therefore, that his arrival was heralded by many mystical ceremonies, e.g. by three hours’ cleaning of boots and weapons. The colonel came, saw and grunted. The, to me, most enthralling moment in the firing which was ordered for the colonel’s gracious inspection was when he himself, weighing 100 kilos, had to get himself over a trench several metres wide which we others had to splash over as best we could. Firing was suspended and the whole platoon held its breath when the colonel strolled over the little bridge that the lieutenant, after ten minutes’ frantic activity, managed to get erected. The regiment goes from strength to strength. The other day we had a visit from no less a person than the divisional commander



The Hero of Budapest […]. The difference in rank between him and the colonel was clearly shown by the fact that the visit was preceded by an even lengthier cleaning of equipment and weapons. Towards the end of his national service Raoul was afflicted by jaundice and fetched up in a military hospital. There he met Ingemar Hedenius, future professor of philosophy at the University of Uppsala: ‘We were absolutely open to each other about our sentiments and our views of life,’ Hedenius recalled. ‘We belonged, both of us, to the upper class, and he seemed to me to be more proud of his family than I was of mine. I was left-wing at that time, he was not.’ Raoul had Jewish ancestry, which he emphasised. ‘He spoke of himself as “a Wallenberg and an eighth-part Jew” and seemed to regard this as a guarantee of success in life.’ In another context, Hedenius further refined what Raoul had said: ‘A person like me, who is both a Wallenberg and half-Jewish, can never be defeated.’ Even if the details are less than precise – Raoul was one-sixteenth Jewish on his mother’s side – it is interesting to note that his Jewish inheritance cropped up in the conversation. Raoul and Hedenius, who was four years his elder, dreamed of starting up a big new daily newspaper which would outsell all the others. Raoul would be the owner, the manager and the editor-in-chief and Hedenius would be responsible for politics and culture. As long as they continued to be friends, they ‘should have a deciding influence on practically everything in our country’. When the young invalids were not dreaming of changing the world they spent the time composing songs which, according to Hedenius, ‘were perhaps more obscene than really funny’. Raoul took care of the words and Hedenius the music. Raoul was young and his attitude to military life was far too irresponsible to win the admiration of his officers. Rolf af Klintberg recalled: At the beginning he was extraordinarily keen to become the perfect soldier and even managed to influence the rest of us in the group, with the result that we became easily the fittest among our comrades. For other groups started off by taking military service too lightly. However, it emerged that the officers were lacking in imagination and in appreciation of what for them was the unusual degree of interest that Raoul showed. The effect of this reaction was immediate. Raoul became really rebellious and used up a lot of his energy in annoying the NCOs. On one occasion the two notorious troublemakers in

The New Elementary School the unit had come home drunk and broken chairs and tables in the barrack room. Raoul, who didn’t touch strong drink himself and hardly allowed himself the indulgence of going out to a restaurant for a decent meal, immediately came to their rescue and put all his energy into saving them from punishment. When this was unsuccessful, Raoul organised a triumphal journey for the sinners, the likes of which can seldom have been seen, to and from the guardroom. They were carried there on a golden chair to cries of ‘hurrah!’ and after they had served their punishment they were hoisted up and cheered by a unanimous assembly. The officers, who failed to understand the whole thing, thought Raoul had become a communist. Against this background, it was no surprise that Raoul received a poor mark when he was discharged on 20 December.

A Competent Member of Society Three days after Raoul’s student dinner party, on 16 May 1930, the Stockholm Exhibition opened. Although it was arranged by the Swedish Crafts Society it was praised most of all for its buildings, designed by Gunnar Asplund and other famous architects of a modernist bent. The Exhibition represented a breakthrough for functionalism, which was presented here for the first time to a wider Swedish public. Right from the beginning the Exhibition was a natural topic of conversation for Stockholmers. One of the first to visit was Raoul, who was passionately interested in architecture. According to his mother, even as a child he had been acquainted with ‘all the houses under construction where he went and got to know the foremen and labourers and taught himself’. During the 1920s a new main street in Stockholm, Kungsgatan, was under construction and it was there that her son had his first brush with architecture. In fact Raoul had long dreamed of becoming an architect himself. During his visit to Constantinople in the summer of 1926 he had entered into detailed discussions with his grandfather about his future plans. After his return to Sweden Gustaf Wallenberg reported to his wife that he had spoken to Raoul’s mother and stepfather about the boy’s future, ‘and it seems that everyone is in agreement that he should be allowed to become an architect, which is also what he wants himself most of all.’ ‘I think it’s a good idea as there must be a



The Hero of Budapest fairly strong tendency in that direction in the family,’ he went on, with his own son in mind. In other words, Raoul already had a clear idea at 14 of what he wanted to do with his life. Being an architect was not an obvious choice of profession for a Wallenberg, who was expected to devote himself to the family’s key enterprises within industry or the banking sector. Both Raoul and his grandfather were aware of this, and both of them saw the architect’s profession as one stage in a more far-reaching educational plan. As Grandfather wrote in his last letter, it is his wish that my education should be so designed that right from the start I have the opportunity to support myself in a practical trade so that later, when I have reached mature years, I can apply myself to whatever I feel most inclined to and cut out for. And all the indications are that this is how things will go, i.e. that my final career will start when I am 30 or older. The final career was ‘the business route’, and in order to ‘make possible the most painless development of my “architectural being” into its commercial equivalent’, it would be ‘necessary to have some education in that area too’. In view of Raoul’s ‘commercial training’ other alternatives were therefore also discussed. One was that Raoul should study at the Stockholm School of Economics in order to go on to, for example, the Harvard Business School. An advantage of this, his mother thought, was that Raoul would then have equally good chances of making a career in Sweden and America. Everyone involved seems to have been agreed that at least some of his studies should take place in the USA. Raoul’s and his mother’s argument in favour of his education taking place initially in Sweden was on account of his youth. He would only be 17 when he sat his school-certificate examinations, he pointed out himself in a letter to his grandfather: ‘It might be a bad investment to have me go to America right away, since I would be less mature than my American classmates and thus have difficulties with the harder courses.’ After two years’ education at the Stockholm School of Economics he would still only be 19 when he went to the USA. His grandfather’s opinion was that, on the contrary, Raoul should begin by getting himself an education in the USA. ‘The America plan’, he felt, was designed ‘by way of experiences gained in America to give him a little extra boost in the great competition he will later encounter back here at home with his peers’. For Gustaf Wallenberg, the most important thing was not education

The New Elementary School in itself but his grandson’s upbringing as ‘a capable member of society who from the start can stand on his own two feet’: A baby begins by wanting to be a drummer because that appeals to his rudimentary stage of development. Later it often comes down to shiny buttons, etc. For my part, I have reached the conclusion that young men should not or ought not to decide on their role in life until they are some way into their 30s. With the exception, of course, of such as wish to enrol in the military or administrative boxes and be guided through life solely along the path of seniority. Instead of that, I love being able to educate you to look after yourself and become an independent man, who, when maturity intervenes and you have begun to reap the benefit of others’ experiences, can occupy yourself with whatever problems might turn out to be suitable for your temperament. The best way to become an ‘independent man’ was to acquire the American mentality. In a long letter to his 17-year-old grandson Gustaf Wallenberg explained why he wanted him to study in America. In Sweden young men were still brought up according to military principles, to ‘march to a regular beat and always to keep in step’. America was different, it was there that Gustaf’s own father’s ‘financial acumen developed’ and it was from American influences that his own energy originated. What Raoul hopefully would find there was a ‘direction in life’. His studies in the USA had nothing to do with book learning, which he could get just as well in Sweden: No, what I am trying to give you is completely different: insight into the American frame of mind, the kind of upbringing aimed at teaching men to be self-reliant, even to feel that they are better than others, which may just be the basis and the source of America’s position of leadership today. This is something very different from ‘keeping in step’ here at home. […] Look at those who keep ‘in step’, who arrange their ‘paths in life’ by squeaking by on their exams to become officers or lawyers, start a career, get engaged, etc., then before the age of 30 realise that everything is wrong, that they have failed, and are now burdened with a family that realises more and more with every passing day that they are far from being up to the task. This is the fate of most people, and it is nothing to be coveted.



The Hero of Budapest When one comes from a family in which several generations have managed to acquire a certain reputation for competence and skill, it is more important than ever that you understand that that is quite different from inheriting a family estate. The fact that one generation has succeeded financially makes it harder, if anything, for those who follow. In the same way that André Oscar had drawn up a detailed programme for ensuring that his sons became ‘useful members of society’, so Gustaf’s ideas about Raoul’s upbringing and his future built on a carefully thought-out plan, a programme – the word recurs in letter after letter. Just as important as Raoul’s trip to America, according to his grandfather, was his getting away from Stockholm and ‘your cousins and other young people there’. A terrifying example of what ‘associating with and being surrounded by people who are accustomed to taking life too easy’ can lead to was provided by his own brother Axel’s son, who ‘has become a jazz dancer, I think in Paris’ – Gustaf Wallenberg, who worked as an actor and revue artiste under the name of Gustaf Wally, and who, moreover, was homosexual. According to his grandfather, one fights against ‘the youthful folly’ best oneself, mainly ‘by developing an interest in something’. Gustaf Wallenberg had brought up his son, Raoul’s father, in the same way. When he learned that the latter had been given responsibility for ‘evening entertainment’ at the Naval College he warned him against the dangers that lay in wait in the form of an irresponsible lifestyle, which in the worst instance could end with becoming a ‘drinker’ and going under. In accordance with this philosophy, as we shall see, Gustaf Wallenberg would do what he could in the coming years to keep his grandson away from Stockholm and the temptations that beckoned there. Gustaf had his way. Raoul was sent direct to the USA. As a matter of fact he had no choice. His grandfather financed his studies and had the casting vote. ‘I am more grateful than I can express, Grandfather,’ Raoul wrote, ‘that […] you have both financially and in other ways made it possible for me at a later date, well equipped, to begin to add my straw to the societal stack.’ The first stage of Raoul’s education was complete. Now, in accordance with the Wallenberg model of upbringing, he was to go out into the world. It would be five years before he returned to his homeland to stay.

Out into the World The college chosen for Raoul’s training as an architect was the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the American Midwest. The reason the choice did not fall on one of the more prestigious universities was that Gustaf Wallenberg had come to the conclusion that the university ‘in the “middle States” would be preferable to those on the “Atlantic Seaboard”, where the American mentality is apparently not the same as it used to be’. Raoul was admittedly to be educated as an architect, but his grandfather’s main aim was ‘through his education in America, whose methods of nurture I have confidence in, to make a man of him’. Given that his national service would not be over until December 1930 and that the entrance examinations for Ann Arbor would be in September, Raoul would not be able to embark on his American education until the following autumn term. His time was not to be wasted, however, and in January 1931 he was sent to France, just like his father before him. He matriculated in the law faculty at the University of Poitiers in order to gain a capacité en droit, a basic legal qualification. The fact that Raoul took that course suggests that ‘the programme’ had been expanded. He was not only to ‘learn thoroughly the superior French which is spoken in central France’, in Gustaf Wallenberg’s words, but also to acquire insights into the law. At the beginning of April Raoul made a jaunt to Italy where he met up with his grandfather. Otherwise little is known about his stay in Poitiers. The university principal confirmed that he had ‘met [Raoul] in person on several occasions and had the pleasure […] of congratulating him on his remarkable progress in French’, but at the same time he noted that Raoul had not sat any examinations. On 22 July, after his term in Poitiers, Raoul joined up again to complete his national service, now as an officer in the Svea Life Guards in Stockholm. This time, in contrast with his conscript service the previous year, Raoul gave a good

3.1  Raoul in Poitiers in the spring of 1931.

Out into the World account of himself – ‘there was no doubt that he had exceptional qualities as an officer and he ended his national service with the highest marks,’ affirmed Rolf af Klintberg. ‘The plan’ for Raoul’s upbringing was rigorous and on 12 September, only four days after his discharge, he boarded the M/S Kungsholm in Gothenburg. The destination was New York, where he landed on the 21st – too late to reach Ann Arbor in time for the entrance examinations, which were held the same day. Before Raoul’s departure Gustaf Wallenberg, who did not willingly allow his plans and ambitions to be disturbed by external circumstances, had contacted a couple of influential people who he assumed had the ability to ‘give him a helping hand’. One of them was Rear Admiral Mark Bristol whom Gustaf knew from Turkey, where he had been US high commissioner from 1919 to 1927. The other was the Swedish sculptor Carl Milles, who had just been appointed ‘sculptor in residence’ and head of the sculpture department at the Cranbrook Foundation, an art college situated 60 kilometres from Ann Arbor, known as the ‘the cradle of American modernism’. Gustaf Wallenberg did not know Milles personally and the initiative to contact him probably came from Raoul, who would certainly have known of Milles’s appointment to Cranbrook. Milles obliged by contacting Professor Emil Lorch, director of the Institute of Architecture at Ann Arbor and famed as one of the USA’s best teachers of the subject. ‘Apart from the letter that Milles wrote to the head of my department, he has not had to do anything on my behalf,’ Raoul reported to his grandfather. Admiral Bristol also apparently wrote a letter of recommendation, but Raoul did not need to use it as the entrance examination was not particularly demanding and ‘I became convinced from the very first day that I’d have no difficulty; and being a foreigner made the formalities all that much easier.’ In a letter in which Raoul thanked Milles for his help he also gave his first impressions of Ann Arbor. ‘I’m having a wonderful time,’ he wrote. ‘In large part this is because I have studied in France and it strikes me what a difference there is between the stand-offishness and indifference of the French and the helpfulness and sociability of the Americans.’

Rudy Wallenberg Raoul’s first home in Ann Arbor was in East Madison Street, where he rented a room with a family. He rose at seven, then ate breakfast – usually including grapefruit, which had become his ‘favourite fruit’ – at Michigan Union. Lessons



The Hero of Budapest began at eight o’clock on two days of the week, and at nine o’clock on the other days. Then instruction continued until five. He had lots to do, he reported to his grandfather. The work was ‘in itself not particularly difficult or strenuous but it takes an awful lot of time.’ On 15 October he wrote his first essay in English, ‘What does the idea “The United States of Europe” mean?’ It received an A, with the teacher’s comment: ‘This is an excellent piece of work.’ ‘Things seem to be going very well for Raoul and he is having a good time,’ was Maj von Dardel’s summing up for her mother-in-law after Raoul’s first term at Ann Arbor. ‘It is surprising that he is so good at English,’ she added. This was true. Things went well for Raoul even though he did not shine in geometry, mathematics or chemistry. In English, however, he was the best in the group. ‘I first met [Raoul] in my English class and was amazed at his tremendous vocabulary,’ a female classmate recalled. Raoul soon became a good friend of John Wehausen, who was a year younger than himself and was studying mathematics and physics on the engineering course.1 They used to go and eat at a ‘little place where the others as a rule did not want to follow us’. Raoul subscribed to the New York Times, ‘the best newspaper I have read and it is regarded as the best in the country,’ and he also read the Christian Science Monitor, whose ‘high quality consists in the main of negative qualities, that it does not include scandals, it doesn’t contain lies, etc.’ He joined a debating club in the engineers’ and architects’ school, where he received ‘at one and the same time a good training in English and in the ability to make a speech and take part in open discussions’. But after participating for several months Raoul felt disillusioned: Lots of associations and clubs are being organised and over-organised. I admit that they are more parliamentarian than Swedish students and argue much less at their meetings than we do. But I suspect this is because they are actually not the least bit interested in arguing and possess very little common sense. As far as I am able to tell, they have an easier time subordinating themselves to and acknowledging the skill of a leader, or the advantage of having a leader, or the superiority of an established organisation. Their faith in authority, or whatever you want to call it, is part of a very real effort you find here to foster tradition and continuity. This is especially apparent when you compare it to Sweden, where there are so many traditions and rules and regulations that the response of the students is not one of faith but of opposition.

Out into the World

3.2  Raoul’s American ID card. Despite his critical views Raoul soon adopted the American lifestyle. He loved hot dogs, wore sneakers and got around by hitch-hiking. And it wasn’t long before his friends came up with an American nickname for him: Rudy. ‘He seemed as American as could be – in his dress, his manners and the slang expressions he quickly picked up,’ recalled one of his student friends, Clarence Rosa. Raoul would entertain the company with his talents as an impressionist – he was good at mimicking both people and animals – and his linguistic imagination, which, among other things, found expression in inventing new words to describe events and things. ‘On a warm spring day in Ann Arbor, as we were climbing the stairs, a shapely co-ed in a summer dress passed us on her way down,’ another classmate, Ernst Schaible, recalled. ‘We were both struck by her grace and beauty as she bounded down those stairs, and Raoul remarked that he admired the “kunkling” of her breasts.’ The University of Michigan was a seat of learning with a good reputation which in the main attracted students from families who could not afford to send their children to the expensive colleges on the east coast. As we saw, the lack of snobbery was also one of the reasons Gustaf Wallenberg chose this particular university for his grandson. But even if Raoul had to count the pennies, his financial situation was different from that of most of his fellow students. He never spoke about coming from a rich family, however, and in any event living a life of luxury was unthinkable during the prevailing Depression.



The Hero of Budapest Accordingly, Raoul did not indulge in any activities that marked him out from other students – except perhaps from drinking red wine and eating imported cheeses, which smelled so strongly that his landlady obliged him to keep them somewhere else if he wanted to hang on to his room. The teaching was demanding and there was little scope for entertainments and other leisure activities. In any case there was no question of any alcohol consumption during Raoul’s first years at university – at least not legally – as this was during the period of Prohibition. Along with his fellow student Fredric James he enjoyed visiting the Institute of Music to listen to gramophone records, especially recordings of Mozart. James recalled that Raoul loved music. He studied hard during the week so as to be able to do something else at the weekends: cycling, walking, trips out in his canoe – or to travel to Detroit, where he went to the cinema or saw a performance of an opera or ballet. He liked Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and the Marx Brothers. James remembers Raoul as being ‘full of energy, good humour, and generally a fine guy’.

Greenwich: Life in Grand Style As soon as the autumn term was over Raoul went to stay with the Colvin family in Connecticut. His aunt Elsa was married to a colonel in the American army, William Mechling Colvin, who from 1910 to 1913 and from 1917 to 1920 was military attaché at the American embassies in Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen and in World War I the State Department’s representative for ‘the Relief of American Citizens in Europe’. In the 1920s he served as commandant of the American forts in the Philippines and the Panama Canal zone and afterwards as commander of the Fourth Coast Artillery district with headquarters in Atlanta. Colonel and Mrs Colvin had two children, a daughter called Lucette and a son, Fitz John. Raoul had spent time with his cousins during summers in Sweden but never on their ‘home ground’ – which was new for them too as they had spent their childhood in embassies and military bases all over the world. Their father had his headquarters in Atlanta, but for some time past the family had been living in the little town of Greenwich, half an hour’s train ride from New York. The journey from Ann Arbor to Greenwich was quite a bit longer, especially as Raoul chose to travel by bus. It took 27 hours and cost only $14.85 return, compared with the $37 that a one-way journey by train cost, Raoul told his grandfather, keen to show that he was not throwing the latter’s money around. Lucette was a year younger than Raoul, which is why during previous meetings

Out into the World he had not got much out of seeing her. But during his visit at Christmas 1931 she had her 18th birthday; she had graduated from high school in Washington, had taken lessons from the Russian–American sculptor Gleb Derujinsky and had a driving licence and her own car. ‘I’m having a good time here, and the parties and dances I’ve been attending are a pleasant change from my somewhat monotonous life in Ann Arbor,’ he continued in his report to his grandfather. The other day my cousin Lucette and I went to Philadelphia, about 300 kilometres from here. She drove me there in her own car. We stayed with a wealthy family, and in the evening went to a dance at the Cricket Club, which is supposed to boast the cream of American society. What struck me was that the boys were the worst dressed and seemingly most stupid that I have seen here. Lucette, Raoul explained, came from ‘the most distinguished, the richest and the snobbiest neighbourhood on the whole east coast and from a particularly grand background’. Greenwich was one of the most fashionable places on the east coast, known for its Country Club and its society life. In September 1932, when Lucette was to ‘be presented’ at a debutante ball for 600 guests, the event was reported in the New York Times under the headline ‘Lucette Colvin makes her debut’.2 In truth, the Colvin family lived ‘a very worldly life’, in Raoul’s words – a constant round of parties, dances and other festivities. During the next few years he would pay several visits to his relatives. The life of Connecticut’s high society was far more regulated and etiquette-bound than the upper-class life that Raoul was used to back home. ‘Raoul’s luggage, filled with laundry, always arrived first,’ Lucette recalled. He came by bus himself, or hitch-hiked, ‘which my mother didn’t like’. As Raoul on a couple of occasions also infringed the strict dress code that was in operation, Aunt Elsa complained to her sister in Stockholm who in turn asked her son for an explanation. Raoul said in his defence that his visits to the Colvin family ‘on two out of three occasions amounted only to a small link in a long journey’ and that he had not wished ‘to drag too many clothes along with me just to make a magnificent appearance on one occasion’, and one time, in fact, he had had ‘a very smart white suit’ with him. On the other hand, on two occasions his suits, tailcoat and dinner jacket had been lost by the transport firm. In any case he thought it was ‘more fun to sit and chat with the Colvins than to go to the great balls they have’. Raoul did in fact find socialising with his American relatives to be interesting



The Hero of Budapest and stimulating. As the Colvins were ‘very Americanistic’ he learned ‘more here about the real America in two weeks than during a whole term at Ann Arbor’. The adjective ‘Americanistic’ was a euphemism for ‘nationalistic’ and ‘militaristic’. The colonel, Raoul reported to his grandfather after one of his Christmas visits to Greenwich, was ‘imperialistic and talks seriously about how America ought to hold itself in readiness to extend its territories’. In addition, he always defended ‘lynchings’ and ‘autocracy’, which upset Raoul. Not far from the Colvin family in Greenwich lived the Swedish consul general in New York, Olof Lamm, an acquaintance of Gustaf Wallenberg, ‘eight feet tall and incredibly fat’, according to Raoul’s description. If his fellow countryman made no great impression on Raoul it was otherwise with the city in which he was Sweden’s leading diplomatic representative, and to which Raoul now went on a visit: I’ve now had the opportunity to form an opinion about New York, having strolled around it for a few days. Several of the skyscraper districts, especially the ones around Grand Central Station, i.e. from 41st to 52nd Streets, are magnificent. The new Empire State Building and Chrysler Building, among others, with their 107 and 72 floors respectively, far surpass the Woolworth Building. Down in the Wall Street area several new 40-storey buildings have been constructed. These new skyscrapers are very beautiful, and their appearance is light and graceful. In general neither the horizontal nor the vertical line has been exaggerated, and all the ornaments and classical columns have disappeared. They are usually covered in marble, in the lightest of colours. Cornices and complex systems of little turrets have disappeared, and my impression of them is unconditionally favourable. ‘I like this big city atmosphere very much, and I’m not particularly looking forward to going back to my little Ann Arbor,’ was how Raoul concluded his report to Gustaf Wallenberg at Christmas 1931. But back he had to go. Teaching began immediately after the New Year.

A Wonderful School Year During the spring semester the teaching became more interesting, as Raoul was now studying architectural history, which was ‘a fascinating subject’. ‘For

Out into the World the past month we’ve been immersing ourselves in Greek civilisation, partly because we’ve been dealing with the history of Greek architecture and partly because we’ve been concentrating on Greek designs in drawing and freehand. I now know the Parthenon and all the other temples inside out.’ Apart from architectural history, in which Raoul achieved straight As in his tests, thereby avoiding having to sit the final examinations, there was not much else for him to do during the spring term. He thought he had made progress in architectural drawing but was not hoping for better marks than in the previous term, he reported to his grandfather. In woodwork, which was a new subject, he was poor at first but had become better. ‘A real disaster’ was brewing in chemistry and mathematics. In other words, it was exactly as it had been at high school. And just as in the reports about his school marks, Raoul was keen to emphasise that mediocre results were not due to lack of ability but to other factors – ‘since this is mostly due to laziness I’m not worried,’ he reassured Gustaf Wallenberg. ‘I dont [sic] know whether it is the character of an adventurer that shines through,’ he asked himself in a letter written in English, ‘but I take a particular pleasure in relaxing for a week or two, in order to get time to do what I like, and then suddenly pull myself together and work a whole night or so what [sic] gives you a little more of a thrill than just keeping to your everyday tasks.’ Raoul had no doubts about his intellectual capacity. Perhaps Raoul overcame his laziness, for despite his fears his final marks were not so bad, and matched those from the autumn term: ‘A in freehand drawing, ROTC (the military course) and architectural history, B in two architecture subjects and in mathematics.’ Chemistry was his worst subject, and he got a C. Before the end of the spring term Raoul also handed in the final version of a project to design a restaurant, finished after a good deal of night work. The spring semester was over in the middle of June. Looking back on his first school year in Ann Arbor, Raoul found that he had had ‘just a wonderful time’: I have lots of friends whom I like very much. People have been very nice and treat me well. My schoolwork has, on the whole, paid off not only in terms of grades, because that isn’t too important, but because I really feel that I’ve learned something. You remember that before I came here, I argued that our institutions were better than American schools. But now I find that apart from the intended benefit, which was that I come to America to catch its spirit, I’ve also been getting a technical education that isn’t inferior to what I would have got in Sweden. At least it isn’t marred by laziness.


3.3  Raoul’s drawing of the Parthenon.

Out into the World

Persons of Worth In the spring of 1932, just as in every previous year, Raoul’s plans for the summer came under discussion. He was thinking seriously of doing a summer course and then travelling to Sweden in order to be back for the start of term at the end of September. An alternative was to travel round the USA, perhaps getting a job and travelling home the following year instead. ‘I want to know your thoughts on this since it’s your wallet that’s being hit,’ he wrote in a letter to his grandfather. ‘I feel no special need to go home, except I half promised Mother that I would come and see her once during my four years away.’ Not surprisingly, his grandfather saw the planned trip home as ‘completely inopportune’. ‘It smacks too much of pleasure,’ he wrote to Raoul, ‘which is unsuitable, especially given the current economic conditions, and would have demonstrated that you do not take the whole purpose behind your stay in America au sérieux.’ Gustaf Wallenberg himself had two alternative suggestions regarding Raoul’s first summer in America. ‘One is to find work, to get an idea of what it means to earn a living.’ However, bearing in mind the high level of unemployment, this could wait for another year. The other suggestion was that Raoul travel to California to get acquainted with ‘personnes de valeur’, persons of worth. ‘I think it useful that your book education be supplemented by knowledge of human nature; a study of the character, customs and ideas of mature people. Over-accumulation of theoretical knowledge can easily lead to a sense of self-satisfaction, a kind of arrogance.’ In a long letter his grandfather developed his thinking: Where you will stand out when you return to Sweden is in your knowledge of human nature and experience with life. During your studies in Ann Arbor, you have already had the opportunity to exchange ideas with people who live and think differently from us. I don’t mean that the American way of thinking is superior to ours. But it is different. So you are already ahead of the game through your contact with young people in Ann Arbor. My plan now is to place you even further ahead by putting you in touch with the right people during a vacation trip to California, so that you might profit by their experience and their views on life. […] Nearly every door is open to a young man with your name and your qualifications. Americans are exceedingly hospitable and accommodating towards Europeans and especially toward Swedes. […] They


3.4  Raoul was a skilled draughtsman.

Out into the World share their experiences openly and love to meet anyone versed enough in the art of discussion that it’s worth their while persuading them the American way of life is best. You should turn it into a challenge to provoke a discussion in the course of which you might learn what they think of the future and how they think the great problems facing mankind should be solved. Begin by enquiring about conditions in America, always with the idea of extracting their thoughts about the future prospects for the various European countries. That is of great interest, because Americans have a practical streak and are quicker to perceive possibilities than we are. If you manage to get your foot in the door, people will be lining up to welcome you. During the trip Raoul should behave ‘simply and unpretentiously’, and not stay in luxury hotels but in simple places. ‘It isn’t the address of the hotel that is supposed to attract attention but your talents,’ his grandfather wrote. Raoul accepted his grandfather’s proposal of a trip to California ‘with deep gratitude’ not only because of the financial sacrifices but first and foremost because he knew that he was ‘the constant object of your concern and love’. As the summer school would only be finishing at the end of July, which made a trip to Sweden impossible, he had in fact been thinking along the same lines himself, he told his grandfather. ‘Actually it was mostly for Mother’s sake that I’d thought about going home at all, and I don’t want you to think that I have an uncontainable urge to spend money.’ Before Raoul could leave for California he had to get through his summer school, which started on 27 June. Before then he travelled to Chicago to call on John Wehausen. He went there as soon as term was over, on 13 June. He hitch-hiked in different cars, ‘a method of travelling which is very enjoyable’, he told his mother. Raoul stayed for two weeks with the Wehausen family, ‘a wonderful time’. The boys spent most of the time walking around the city or travelling out to the beaches that surrounded it. Raoul liked Chicago more and more with each passing day, and not the least of the city’s surprises was its wealth of parks. Not surprisingly, it was Chicago’s architecture and building plans that most interested him. After Chicago Raoul returned to Ann Arbor and summer school. He was very happy there. Those who had graduated or who were to graduate the following year and who only had their practical training left to do played the role of architects while ‘we greenhorns do all the detail work’. Raoul found this



The Hero of Budapest arrangement more fun than the usual teaching as everyone had a particular responsibility. ‘I’m in a good mood today,’ he reported to his grandfather, ‘for I was complimented by a professor yesterday on a rather difficult construction I had made for a bathroom.’

California Raoul left Ann Arbor immediately after the end of summer school – ‘the very minute school was over’, on 23 July at one o’clock in the afternoon. He had decided to hitch-hike and walk all the way to California. The Colvins had advised him against it because of ‘all the horrors, hold-ups, etc.’ but he chose not to follow their advice. ‘This is the only proper way to see a country,’ he wrote a week later in a postcard to his mother from Pueblo in Colorado. This was an opinion that was shared by Gustaf Wallenberg, according to whom Raoul’s method of travelling was ‘the most interesting way imaginable of seeing the country from below, so to speak’. Raoul also gave his grandfather a more detailed account of his motivation for preferring to hitch-hike rather than travel by bus or train, which he detested because of all the ‘delays and luggage trouble’:

3.5  Raoul on the steps of Angell Hall Observatory in Ann Arbor.

Out into the World When you travel like a hobo, everything’s different. You take it for granted that you’ll have to be on the alert the whole time, and if it turns out to be a relatively easy trip, so much the better. You’re in close contact with new people each and every day. Hitch-hiking gives you training in diplomacy and tact. It’s also inexpensive; transportation costs for a distance of 2,000 miles were 50 cents. As for the risks, they’re probably exaggerated. During the last few years, a reaction against hitch-hiking has sprung up in America, and several states have outlawed it because of the number of robberies attributed to hitch-hikers. Hitch-hikers have also been attacked and robbed of their extremely meagre means. But common sense tells you that it is the hitch-hiker who runs the smaller risk, and I think that risk is pretty minimal. In any case, I haven’t had a single unpleasant experience of this kind. And even if I had been held up, the loss would have been small because I only carried $25 in bills the day I started, and this sum got smaller with every day. The rest was in traveller’s cheques. I’d also sent $100 ahead to a bank in California. But as I said, these safety measures proved unnecessary and nothing happened. There’s a general tendency to exaggerate unknown dangers. Just imagine the enormous risks you expose yourself to every time you cross the street. Yet it would never occur to anyone not to cross the street. When Raoul reached Chicago he found the city as empty as Stockholm on a Sunday. He trotted up to the Chicago Tribune and asked if the paper would be interested in buying a couple of articles he had been thinking of writing during his trip. But the editorial staff were rather unresponsive and although ‘I finally did manage to convince them to consider the articles when they eventually arrived, I didn’t leave their skyscraper, which reminds you of a Gothic cathedral, filled with hope.’ From the Wehausen family Raoul received a letter of introduction to ‘a lady in Hollywood’, after which his journey continued with the help of an elderly couple who were out for a spin. Like the princess in A Thousand and One Nights, ‘by keeping their attention riveted by telling stories and talking, especially at those spots where they had the best chance of turning around’, Raoul succeeded in getting them to drive him 40 kilometres further than they had intended going. The remainder of the journey is best described in Raoul’s own words. The two long reports contained in letters he wrote on reaching Los Angeles after ten days on the road bear witness to his sharp eyes and way with words:



The Hero of Budapest I continued travelling until late into the night, and even walked a few miles. I met a poor starving ex-student on his way to Denver, where he had managed to find a job. He was very well educated but seemed totally helpless when it came to practical matters. I treated him to dinner, and I’ve never made anyone as happy as that, except possibly the same man when I gave him an opportunity to talk about Russian writers, whom I naturally hadn’t read, but who seemed to be his favourite pastime. This kind of thing is not unusual here now. After a good night’s sleep in a guesthouse, I pushed on towards St Louis on foot. I’d made up my mind to see it even though it was considerably out of my way. Eventually I got a ride, and before long was in the city. It seemed in some way less orderly than the northern cities I’d become accustomed to. The architecture of the skyscrapers struck me as more honest and less theatrical than what you find in Chicago and Detroit. Towards evening I reached St Charles, situated on a branch of the Mississippi, and which, at first sight, reminds you of Tours in France. A young man stopped and picked me up, then gave me a tour of the city. Since I’d lost time in St Louis and made such poor time the previous day I decided to press on through the night, but to target trucks rather than passenger cars. People are usually not eager to pick up strange men on the road in the middle of the night. […] In St Joseph, I met the Swedish–American owner of a gas station. With almost Spanish hospitality, he put his house at my disposal, and I shaved and had a thorough wash. When I was cleaned up, I learned to my surprise that he had arranged a ride for me that would take me 30 miles south, i.e. halfway to Kansas City. I got there in the afternoon, and immediately sent my clothes to be washed and ironed, for they had become thoroughly soaked, and were dirty and wrinkled, and I knew from experience that it pays to look clean and respectable. […] [I got to] Topeka after a trip that included a long hike on foot pretty late at night. Again, I decided to go all night to make up for lost time. A little exhausting, but that’s part of the appeal. At a local truck depot, I found a man who said he’d be happy to help me because, as he said, ‘I’ve been in the army myself.’ (Did I tell you that I was wearing my ROTC uniform? Reserve Officer’s Training Corps.) He gave me the address of a gas station outside the city

Out into the World limits where the big long-distance trucks usually stop and then he wrote the mysterious words [sic] ‘O.K.’ (approval) on a scrap of paper and handed it to me with a smile. I’m beginning to learn that people really are quite nice. At least those in the trucking business. I immediately headed off to the address listed and arrived there at midnight, having passed and watched a lively Negro party in a park. When I got there, I sat in a chair to get some sleep and was awakened an hour later by a truck pulling in with its horn blaring. Unfortunately it wasn’t going as far as Denver, only to the little town of Salina out on the plain. I accepted gratefully, especially since the truck was almost empty and had a magnificent cargo of sacks in the storage space. I slept until morning, when I was awakened by the truck jerking to a stop. We’d reached the home of the trucker, and he evidently was as tired as I had been and went to bed. I took the opportunity to shave and clean myself up. When I’d finished, the trucker’s wife came out with breakfast. Kind soul, she probably thought I was starving. Afterwards we continued on to Salina, where I immediately got a ride with a pistol-toting travelling salesman in a magnificent Oldsmobile. Here the real West began, and I saw more and more cowboys in wide-brimmed hats riding on the plains watching over giant herds of cattle. […] The next morning I was lucky enough to get a ride in a fast car that took me almost 300 miles west through the blazing heat to the relative relief of the large valley that runs south, and in which Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo are situated. I was just north of Colorado Springs and immediately faced with the decision of whether to go on through Denver and Salt Lake City and then down to Los Angeles, or to take the southern route through Pueblo, Santa Fe, and then west to Los Angeles. I let fate choose by hailing cars going both north and south and taking the first one to stop. Pueblo won. A quick trip on wonderful roads took me through Colorado Springs, ‘the garden of the gods’, as it’s called. These regions are very enterprising and still not fully exploited, and you find ads offering this or that property everywhere, unfailingly pointing out that in all likelihood lots of gold and oil wait just beneath the sand. After having tried in vain via the hotel to find someone to hitch a lift from, next morning Raoul made contact with a young man from Minnesota on



The Hero of Budapest his way to Los Angeles. He was in a hurry and the journey got under way immediately: Santa Fe turned out to be a city almost European in appearance, with narrow winding streets and an old and at first glance fairly ugly cathedral. It actually has the honour of being the oldest church of its size in the United States, just as Santa Fe is the oldest state capital. The area is still Spanish or Spanish–American, and the Spanishness here is genuine, i.e. inherited from their ancestors, and not a false veneer the way it is in California. There is a primitive, un-American quality to this area, with its peculiar road surfaces and semi-wild population. Not far from Santa Fe we passed through one of the major Indian reservations and made a long detour to come into closer contact with the natives. These southern Indian tribes are supposed to have kept their civilisation fairly unspoiled by outside influences. […] Our trip from Santa Fe to Los Angeles took four whole days, instead of two or three, as we’d planned. This was actually my fault. From the very beginning, and with diabolical cunning, I concentrated on describing the attractions of the area we were passing through. I told my travelling companion about the splendid petrified forests that could be reached only 30 miles from the main road; about multi­coloured deserts, stretching endlessly on both sides of the road, which saved their greatest views only for those who ventured off on the small bumpy backroads; and finally about the Grand Canyon, which meant a detour of 150 miles. He had hardly given a thought to the fact that his route to California happened to take him through some of the world’s promised lands. All it took was to tell him this, and he would enthusiastically veer off so that we could visit these places. […] After spending the night in the little town of Flagstaff […] we went to the Grand Canyon. Like the petrified desert, much of its charm lies in the suddenness with which this wonder reveals itself. There you are, travelling through huge pine forests and marshlands, when all of a sudden you find yourself on the edge of the canyon itself. It comes as a shock. Far away, sometimes in sharp outline, sometimes shrouded by a blue mist, you can see a sharply illuminated black plateau stretching across the bottom of the valley, cut down in the

Out into the World middle by the present river canyon, the black mouth of which gives you the feeling you’re staring into the yawning jaws of hell. […] Here we are only a hundred miles from Death Valley, the hottest place on earth, located about 270 metres below sea level, covered by a forbidding layer of mineral salts and completely devoid of life. We sat naked in the car, sweating as the car glowed and the motor groaned strenuously. What the temperature was in the shade I do not know. There was no shade with which to measure! However, I later did find my broken fever thermometer, which had done its duty to the last drop of quicksilver. We continued this way, hour after hour, stopping from time to time to keep the motor from overheating. The worst crisis came as we were making our way across the steep mountains surrounding the Colorado River, which has turned to the south at this point and therefore has to be crossed. […] In the evening we went to sleep only 150 miles from our goal, Los Angeles. […] Before long, we smelled the salty breezes and palm trees and flower beds that began to appear along the side of the road. The houses became Spanish, down to the last detail, the billboards assumed a sophisticated air, and you felt that you were approaching that earthly paradise, Southern California. We drove quickly through several miles of snobbish suburbs, and at exactly 9.30 pulled up in front of a large hotel in the centre of the city, and I had travelled 3,000 miles for free without coming to any harm. Two days after arriving in Los Angeles Raoul had his 20th birthday. ‘My birthday passed quietly because I’d asked the city authorities not to make any special fuss,’ he joked in a letter to his grandfather. He enjoyed being in the city, not least because of the summer Olympic Games which were being held between 30 July and 14 August. On several occasions Raoul visited the Swedish Olympic team, which included two of his relatives: Johan Gabriel Oxenstierna, son of his grandfather’s sister Siri, and Carl Bonde, whose wife Ebba, born Wallenberg, was his father’s cousin. Oxenstierna won gold in the modern pentathlon. Bonde was no longer active but had a gold in individual dressage from the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and a silver in team dressage from Amsterdam in 1928. The journey back to Ann Arbor was by way of the northern states of Oregon and Washington – not by train, as Grandfather Gustaf had supposed, but this time too with the help of his thumb.


The Architect In the autumn term of 1932 Raoul chose to study building science, which involved physics and mathematics, two subjects he had always had problems with. The reason was his belief that on his return to Sweden he would find it more useful than architecture. On Christmas Eve Raoul wrote to his aunt Karin: ‘I am enjoying myself very much here and only wish that they taught us a bit more practical architecture and a bit less physics, mathematics, and suchlike. Architectural history is something I find very interesting.’ During the autumn term he was given the task of designing a music school but he found it difficult to decide which of the alternatives he had sketched out to submit. He had a scrap of paper ‘which looks like a fly or the Wright Brothers’ flying machine and it appeals mightily to me’. Architecture had now got a grip on him, he ‘was enjoying it very much’ and was the only one in his class who had received an ‘excellent’ for a ‘sketch problem’, a fountain in a garden. During term-time he had not been out dancing once, he told his grandmother Annie. On the other hand, he had paid a couple of visits to the Cranbrook Foundation, designed by the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, who in that same year was appointed its first president. ‘Saarinen is a great little man who goes around saying nothing with a knowing look,’ was Raoul’s impression. ‘However, he is one of the finest architects here.’ Raoul went to Cranbrook with a female friend, Bernice Ringman, who had a car. About Milles, who had ‘incredibly friendly, aloof eyes’, he reported that he ‘feels himself unjustly treated back home’ and ‘says that he “never has peace” there’. The Americans have as ever been ‘very generous’, Milles has ‘three large ateliers and they are in the process of building him a fourth one which is to be even bigger.’ At the time of Raoul’s visit Milles was working on a statue for the General Motors pavilion at the World’s Fair in Chicago, which was to open in the


The Hero of Budapest summer of 1933. According to Raoul, the sculptor had turned down an offer of half a million dollars from the Rockefeller Center ‘as they didn’t want to give him a free hand’, but the statue – Man and Unicorn – was created later in any case.

The Presidential Elections In the autumn of 1932 the mood in the USA was marked by the presidential elections, which took place three years after the financial crash on Wall Street and in the midst of the ensuing Great Depression. The Republican president Herbert Hoover had not succeeded in changing the course of events. In the 1932 election he was challenged by the Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt who promised the American people a package of reforms with the emphasis on large-scale public works. Farmers were also promised financial help to buy modern agricultural machinery and electrify their homes. ‘The New Deal’ also included more extensive rights for trade unions and new national-insurance laws. Hoover accused Roosevelt of being a dangerous radical, but to no avail: in the election of 8 November Roosevelt won a crushing victory. Raoul’s opinion of the two main candidates in the election was characterised by the same sharp capacity for observation and humour that was his way of confronting reality in general. Hoover, who was renowned for being boring, had ‘a peculiar way of speaking’, Raoul reported to his aunt. He always completely ignores commas and full stops and he only breathes every tenth minute except when it’s a question of long, fat columns of figures – then he never breathes at all. When, just for once, he is moved, it is so unusual that people burst into tears. If Hoover was long-winded and boring, the theatrical Roosevelt’s rhetorical trick was ‘with a charming smile to bid the company an “affectionate goodnight”’. Occasionally he would make a violent gesture with his hand ‘as if he was throwing rotten tomatoes at “God’s green fields”, and would declare that “the time has come – the hour has struck”, and then people would shout with joy till their gold teeth rattled.’ Ann Arbor was a Republican stronghold and, according to Raoul, it was ‘very badly shaken’ by the result of the election. He himself supported Roosevelt. ‘I’m happy the Democrats won the election,’ he explained two years later, with the

The Architect benefit of hindsight: ‘there is absolutely no doubt that times are much better now than when I arrived, certainly better than in 1932, which was a terrible year.’

A Good Vacation Philosophy In the autumn of 1932 the first snow fell as early as the end of November. That Christmas Raoul did not go to the Colvin family but stayed on in the city. ‘For all practical purposes Ann Arbor lives by its university and when it shuts for the vacation the city empties completely and the only people left behind are old folk and invalids, myself and the diminutive police force,’ he complained to his aunt Karin, to whom he sent a witty sally: I feel like Alphonso1 (I’ve forgotten his number), i.e. an exile. It’s raining cats and dogs. The eagle owls and ravens are hanging in clusters, hooting and croaking. The storm is whining in through the broken pane. The moon’s pale beams are streaming in between the rafters. Where are my trousers? That no doubt destroyed the whole thing. I thought I was a new Strindberg, and so of course I had to come tumbling violently down from the lofty heights of art. ‘I’m spending almost all my time sleeping, which feels good after such an exhausting term, and writing to my family, which I didn’t have time for during the term,’ Raoul reported to his grandfather. ‘My plans for the vacation call for studying hard, but so far I’ve been too lazy to get started. I’m going to tackle it though – tomorrow, or maybe next week. Never postpone until tomorrow what you can postpone until the day after! Now there’s a good vacation philosophy.’ The college work that Raoul had been ‘too lazy to get started’ consisted of mathematics and physics, two subjects in which things went badly for him, as expected. During the spring term he finally felt that he had had enough and decided that in the autumn term he would switch back from building science to architecture. In a letter to his mother, who was worried about his ‘work habits and the poor grade in mathematics’, he explained that ‘it’s better to be a good architect than a bad engineer, irrespective of any other aspects’. When he decided not to exert himself in mathematics and physics, he explained, it was not a question of following ‘the road of least resistance’ but rather of ‘deliberately giving more and more time to things that agree with my nature’.



The Hero of Budapest As usual, Raoul’s mediocre examination results were not the consequence of a lack of ability but rather of a certain laziness: ‘Raoul studied little, but he performed quickly and very efficiently. It was not uncommon for him to do a project overnight,’ one of his classmates remembered. Raoul was tormented not only by mathematics and physics but also by an innate handicap: he was severely colour blind. The defect had been discovered by his brother Guy when Raoul, in a school exercise, painted a horse green and the grass red. A subsequent medical examination showed that he was ‘completely red-blind’ and lacked ‘a normal colour sense’. ‘This year for the first time I have begun to discover the full extent of my colour blindness,’ he wrote to his mother in April 1933. ‘I make quite awful mistakes the whole time.’ Yet a classmate of Raoul’s has testified that, despite his colour blindness, he ‘lined up his paints in a precise way and his colour combinations were always very pleasing.’ Whether it was his poor marks, his insight into his handicap or both that made Raoul begin to doubt the suitability of his architectural studies is unclear, but in April 1933 he wondered in a letter to his mother ‘how much success’ he would have in Sweden with his American education, which was not necessarily better than a Swedish one. Although I am very keen on architecture I think that the quicker I get started in some branch of business life after finishing my studies, the better. My architecture studies needn’t necessarily have been a waste of time, since after all there is hardly any way of preparing for business. Raoul completed his education, but his uncertainty about the future and his doubts about his occupational identity would not diminish; on the contrary, they would increase during the following years.

A Century of Progress International Exposition Despite his negative attitude towards the engineering component of his architectural education, Raoul was as interested as before in architecture as an art form. That very summer he had good opportunities to acquaint himself with the latest trends in architecture, science and design. Just as he had rushed to see the Stockholm Exhibition immediately after his school-leaving examinations,

The Architect as soon as college finished on 5 June he went to the World’s Fair in Chicago, which had been opened a few days earlier. Even before ‘A Century of Progress International Exposition’ – the Fair’s official name – began he had written to the head of the Swedish pavilion and offered his services without payment – but ‘with the usual Swedish tact those people have not even answered me’, he complained to his mother. Finally, however, he did receive an offer to work at the Fair during the period he himself had suggested, that is, just after the end of college and for three weeks afterwards. The Swedish pavilion, whose courtyard was decorated with sculptures by Carl Milles, specialised in arts and crafts, especially textiles and glass. Another ‘Swedish’ contribution was the Golden Temple, an eighteenth-century Chinese temple which was dismantled by Sven Hedin and reassembled on the Fair site with funds supplied by the Swedish–American millionaire Vincent Bendix. The temple, which was also named The Bendix Lama Temple after the financier, caused a sensation not least because it diverged conspicuously from the modernistic style of architecture which dominated the Fair. During his time at the Fair Raoul was given different sorts of odd jobs to do: ‘I guided, washed windows, sold glassware, china, furniture, books etc.’ In his last week he received $3 a day from a life insurance firm ‘to distribute fliers’. In other

4.2  Silhouette made during the stay in Chicago.



The Hero of Budapest words, he was an odd-job man, like many others in the pavilion. But, being as enterprising and ingenious as he was, he also did things on his own initiative. One day he managed to get to see one of the ‘top dogs’ in the Fair administration and persuaded him to illuminate the Milles sculptures from one of the 200-metre-high towers which held up the ‘Sky Ride’, an elevated railway which transported visitors between different parts of the site. ‘After yet another visit to the representative of the giant Skyride [sic] organisation, I got their permission and now our courtyard is bathed in soft light every night for free,’ he reported proudly.

4.3  Raoul cycled a lot during his years in Ann Arbor.

Four Suspicious Individuals After about three weeks in Chicago it was time to return to Ann Arbor and summer school, which began on 26 June. As he had earned a little money during his work at the Fair he had cash rather than traveller’s cheques with him on the journey home, which once again was undertaken by hitch-hiking. Raoul got a lift from ‘a gentleman in a nice car’ who entertained him with his childhood reminiscences. They were travelling at 100 kilometres per hour when, too late, they noticed a train rushing past, drove into the car in front and skidded off the road. The owner of the car and Raoul escaped without a scratch but their vehicle was damaged and had to be towed away. The other car was undamaged, so the man who had been driving Raoul drove off in it with the ‘shaken old lady’ who had been travelling in it. Raoul was left alone on the deserted highway. After a while he was picked up by ‘four people’ aged between 23 and 27 who looked ‘a bit suspicious’. The rest of the story is best retold with Raoul’s own pen:

The Architect Suddenly we heard a noise from the back of the car, and the driver stopped to see what it was. It surprised me that they all had to get out of the car for this. Suddenly another car passed us, and the four of them got back in. By now I had become very suspicious because of their questions about money, their lack of luggage and the sudden stop. I started to work my poverty into the conversation. Suddenly the car turned onto a country lane so abruptly that it almost turned over. Fearing the worst, I tried to keep a cool head so as not to make things worse. After another couple of miles through a dark forest they stopped after a rather clumsy and theatrical bluff: ‘Get out and see what’s the matter with the gas tank, Joe.’ They got out one after the other and then I was asked to get out ‘so that they could take a look at me’. One of them had a large revolver in his hand. It might not have been loaded. They demanded my money, and I gave them what I had in my breast pocket and said I had more in my suitcase. They opened it and took out an envelope that in addition to money contained some papers and the key to my safety-deposit box. The latter items I managed to retrieve by bluffing. ‘Sentimental value to me, no value to you.’ I didn’t tell them it was the key to my bank deposit. Maybe it was stupid of me to volunteer where I kept my money, but I’d heard so many stories about people being searched and occasionally left without any clothes at all. I did forget to tell them that I had three dollars in another pocket, however. When they thought they had all my money, I decided it was their turn to show some goodwill, so I asked them to drive me back to the highway, since it was late and my suitcases were heavy. They let me sit next to the driver and then put the luggage up on top to keep me from jumping. By this time they were the ones who were frightened, maybe because I was so calm. I really didn’t feel scared; I found the whole thing sort of interesting. Maybe they thought I was planning to lure them into a trap. The result was that all of a sudden they threw me into a ditch and then tossed my luggage after. I immediately flattened myself under a bush, for fear that they might fire a farewell shot from the revolver. Later, I managed to stop a suburban train that took me to South Bend, 200 miles from Ann Arbor, where I reported the incident to the police.



The Hero of Budapest The incident is a testament to adventurousness and daring – and youthful overconfidence. Was Raoul’s handling of the situation an expression of the same feeling of invincibility that marked his attitude to his studies? A feeling that ‘I can manage anything’, underpinned by the realisation that he belonged to a family whose exclusivity his grandfather never ceased to underline? ‘This will not make me give up hitch-hiking,’ Raoul told his mother, who must have been frightened out of her wits when she read the letter. ‘I’ll just carry less money on me, and try to become more devious.’ The summer school went on until the end of August. This year Raoul was only taking two courses, one in architecture and one in economics – ‘Modern European Society’, ‘a very interesting topic about the changes in Europe since the war’. He got better marks than he had expected, A in architecture and B in economics. There were not many students on the course and they had a ‘wonderful teacher’, with whom they would go downtown in the evenings ‘to drink beer in one of the new places that had just opened’. Prohibition, which had been in force since 1920, had been partially lifted in April of that year, when the sale of wine and beer had been permitted. One of his favourite haunts was Pretzel Bell, which was still there in the 1980s. When school finished Raoul travelled up to see his student friend Lyman Woodard, who lived in the town of Owosso 120 kilometres from Ann Arbor. He cycled the whole distance, which caused a bit of a stir. The Woodard family ‘have a nice place with a lovely river and a wild “racoon” (not in the word list) which they had just acquired’, Raoul reported. When not playing with the racoon they paddled their canoe down the river. After spending some time in Owosso Raoul carried on to Minneapolis, 1,000 kilometres from Ann Arbor (although not by bicycle this time, he pointed out). In Minnesota he drove around in a car with a ‘nice girl’ then continued via Chicago, Toledo and Cleveland to New York, where he stayed for a few days with the Colvin family before travelling on to Montreal. Raoul liked Canada and during his years in Ann Arbor he went there from time to time to ‘make a comparison between the USA and abroad, so that I don’t altogether forget what other parts of the world look like’. In Montreal, moreover, he was able to use his French.

Christmas with the Family During the autumn term Raoul was still studying ‘a number of technical courses’ in which he was not doing too well. In architecture too, he had not ‘celebrated

The Architect any great triumphs’, he told his grandfather, but before Christmas he had handed in a dairy-farm project which received the mark ‘excellent’. In the autumn Raoul also began working on his degree project, which was to be about modern Swedish architecture. He therefore asked his mother to renew his subscription to the magazine Byggmästaren (Master Builder) and to ‘send something that has a lot about modern architecture in it’.

4.4  Raoul hitchhiking in his ROTC uniform. ‘Taken on Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson 40–50 miles north of N.Y. City. I was then on my way to the Colvins in New York and had earlier been to Minneapolis and Chicago. After that I went to Montreal from where I returned to New York before going up to Ann Arbor for the autumn term.’ (Text on the back of the photo.)



The Hero of Budapest Raoul spent Christmas with the Colvin family. On the way there he stayed for a few days with Mr and Mrs Behrend in Erie, Pennsylvania. Ernst Behrend was the founder and owner of the Hammermill Paper Company. Raoul had met Behrend, who was originally from Germany and much older than himself – he was born in 1869 – at the World’s Fair in Chicago and had visited him on a couple of occasions during the autumn. Behrend had also been in Stockholm where he had been a guest of Marcus Wallenberg junior. The family were in the process of building a new house in the ‘Colonial Revival’ style and, although the architect was very well known, Raoul helped his hosts to interpret the drawings during his visit, ‘to see if they could possibly be improved’. After a day visit to Professor Bailey, his architecture professor, in Jamestown, New York, Raoul carried on to his family in Greenwich. ‘My Christmas vacation was wonderful,’ he wrote to Gustaf Wallenberg: For the first time I’ve had a taste of the society life that you always warned me about. Probably because my cousin Lucette is a little older now and because of that or some other reason I no longer found an imbalance in maturity between ladies and men the way I always had in the East. This time I found the dances very pleasant and you had the time to get acquainted before someone cut in. ‘Cutting in’ – which means that anyone has the right to go up to a couple dancing and ask the man to step aside and hand the lady over to him – is a custom in the East. At the dances I went to before, you didn’t have more than a few seconds to dance with a popular girl. After a week and a half with his relatives Raoul travelled on to Washington, via New York. In the American capital he was received in the most exclusive salons. He was only 21 years old but for a young man with his name, as Gustaf Wallenberg had made clear to him, ‘nearly every door is open.’ Raoul had a helping hand from the popularity his grandfather’s brother Axel had enjoyed during his time as Swedish minister in Washington from 1921 to 1926. ‘Uncle Axel and Aunt Elsa are remembered with a phenomenal degree of affection in Washington and I am not exaggerating if I say that in one afternoon at least a hundred people fell into raptures when I was introduced as their relative,’ Raoul reported proudly to Aunt Amalia. ‘Mrs Bristol, the wife of Admiral Bristol, said that “people are so devoted to them” and Mrs McDougal, wife of a colonel in the US Marine Corps, said that “they were charming people and we all admired

The Architect them so.”’ As it transpired, some people also knew Gustaf Wallenberg from Turkey and Japan. Admiral Mark Bristol, who had written one of the letters of introduction to Professor Lorch, received Raoul with open arms. He and his wife ‘were very good’ to Raoul and he liked them a lot. The admiral took Raoul ‘on a “round” of the city, which in addition to sightseeing included five teas and one dance’. Raoul was also invited to lunch by Sweden’s new minister in Washington, Wolmar Boström, who got him an invitation to a New Year dance which gave him ‘another opportunity to see the inside of one of the lovely old colonial-style houses of which there are so many in Washington’.

Raoul’s Future (I) While Raoul was celebrating Christmas with relatives in Connecticut, discussions about his future, unknown to him, were being held on the other side of the Atlantic. His grandfather Gustaf, who as usual was spending Christmas in Nice, had been invited by his brother Marcus to spend two days in Cannes, where Marcus was staying. They ate, drank, played cards and chatted. Their brother Axel was also present during their conversations at the Grand Hôtel. On 4 August Raoul had turned 21. He received birthday congratulations not only from his close family but also from Marcus and Amalia as well as from Knut and Alice Wallenberg. The telegrams were brief and identical: ‘Best wishes.’ It was no coincidence that the patriarchs of the family marked Raoul’s birthday in this way. He was now of age and they had to begin in earnest to discuss his future in the family empire. ‘The boy is quick and it would undoubtedly be advantageous for a youth such as himself to acquire some knowledge of the world in foreign countries,’ Knut Wallenberg wrote to Maj von Dardel a week before Raoul’s birthday. ‘When I get within earshot of Papa Gustaf I will discuss the boy’s future with him.’ One of the issues that Marcus senior and Gustaf addressed during their conversations in Cannes was ‘Raoul’s future prospects’. Along with his sons Jacob and Dodde, Marcus senior had already several times ‘discussed the necessity of strengthening the executive powers’ within the bank and on one of these occasions had ‘suggested that we should think of gradually attaching Raoul to the bank’. ‘On that subject I maintained that, although he had studied to become an architect in the USA, his business blood would out, and I saw it as both convenient and right that he should get his chance in the bank.’ To this,



The Hero of Budapest

4.5  Raoul with American friends. his sons answered that Raoul ‘was certainly gifted’ but that they feared that he ‘talked too much’. No decision was taken about Raoul’s future in the bank. During the talks in Cannes Marcus referred to his sons’ scepticism and gave Gustaf to understand that ‘it would be advantageous [to Raoul] if he would to some extent curb his gift of the gab’, which he was said to have inherited from his paternal grandmother and great-grandmother, ‘known for their endless volubility’ – a trait that Marcus also ascribed to Raoul’s father. As Marcus claimed to be ‘interested in Raoul’ he indicated to Gustaf that when the opportunity arose, Gustaf should ‘give him a warning’. When Gustaf ‘firmly denied that R. was too talkative’, however, Marcus saw no reason to ‘press the matter’, after which the conversation took another turn.2

The Architect

Provocative Curves During the five-week-long diet of examinations that preceded the spring term Raoul worked on a ‘very interesting problem’ related to housing, namely cheap workers’ dwellings. Otherwise, he told his grandmother, he had not done much since Christmas except study Swedish architecture for his thesis. There were plans for Raoul to finish his studies at Ann Arbor as soon as the end of summer 1934 and then to travel to South America to acquire some knowledge of ‘trade frontiers’. The idea came, of course, from Gustaf Wallenberg, who wanted Raoul to work for a while in a modest ‘merchant company’ in one of the newer markets. He was of the opinion that ‘the boy has certainly received a full theoretical education, but he still has all his knowledge of life and practical matters to acquire’, and that an architect, too, needs to know ‘how to conduct business’. Raoul himself was sceptical. ‘The more I think about the trip to South America, the more I think I ought to wait until after school is over in order to take full advantage of my stay out there,’ he wrote to Gustaf Wallenberg in a letter in which for the first time he seriously questioned the wisdom of his grandfather’s plans: There’s no point just going as a tourist, taking a quick look at the region, and then going home. I should go there to learn more about the countries and at the same time about how to make a living. I also should stay here long enough to learn something about certain American things. I’ve made up the following list of things to study, things that are better here than anywhere else: Air conditioning, restaurants, hot-dog stands, drugstores, hotels, kitchen instalments, small newsreel theatres, cleaning and laundry service and advertising and newspaper techniques. If I knew something about these areas I would be of greater use both on the frontier and in Sweden than I would be if I only came home with theoretical experience. I therefore emphatically suggest, since I have thought the matter over, that I wait to go to South America until early in 1935, having gone back to Sweden before then, so that I can seize whatever opportunities I find once I get there without having to worry about going home. I also think that Mother’s loyalty should be rewarded by my showing her this consideration. She never complains about my having been gone for so long, yet I know from relatives passing through that she would love to see her firstborn.



The Hero of Budapest I would like to see my parents and my beloved grandfather before I become too much of a foreigner. Raoul got what he wanted, especially as some of the courses that he had been thinking of studying were not on offer until the autumn. Grandfather Gustaf accepted Raoul’s ‘modification’ of his plan, especially since they agreed ‘that studying trade frontiers is worthwhile’. As the South America trip had been postponed, there was time during the summer for the visit to Sweden that Raoul and most of all his mother had been longing for so ardently. ‘I am certain that it would give your mother great happiness. You may therefore make the necessary preparations for a trip home,’ Gustaf Wallenberg declared. His grandfather’s thinking was that Raoul should travel to Sweden during the summer and not during the ‘height of the season’, when social life was at its most hectic. He was worried that until Raoul had ‘acquired a sufficiently strong and markedly mondial (not mundane) perspective you will be unprotected against the frivolity and pleasures to be found at home’, as he wrote to him on 11 May. The letter, whatever one thinks about the point at issue, is a shining example of the racy rhetoric that distinguished his grandfather’s choice of wording: It is unfair of course to generalise, but when you see two of our royal princes and one of the young men in our own family display such a lack of self-control that without considering the consequences they rush off and bind themselves to persons completely different from themselves, it does call for caution. It destroys the resistance of your own race and class from the galloping attacks from below on what has taken so many centuries of work to build within a culture. All it takes is a moment’s mistake under the spell of unchecked natural urges. A young man is helpless against this danger unless he has acquired an outlook on life sufficiently wide that he doesn’t get lost. Whenever you find yourself in such a situation, I’d prefer you to be cynical rather than show any evidence of being naive. When you find yourself tempted by the charms of young girls, I want you to remember that a woman’s beauty is nothing more or less than well-situated fat beneath the skin. Her inner worth depends on breeding, character and talent. Those sorts of qualities are not flaunted, only those that tempt the eye and addle the mind. Nowadays, the battle for existence is so keen that a young man must not limit his

The Architect mobility by entering into marriage too young, lest he lose the chance to become independent. The opportunities accorded you by your global education must not go to waste. They are to be used to make you independent before you assume such responsibilities. I have observed that the lack of mobility of our pioneers was often due to the fact that their wives wanted them home to help them in their efforts to participate in society, which mostly is nothing more than an exhibition of toilettes and provocative curves. When you come home, you should not only consider what you find in the dance halls, but also study older women so you understand what they will look like 20 years from now. In this respect, our families have set a proud example. No one has got there by displaying legs and uncovering bosoms, and everyone frowns on painted lips and cheeks. However, Gustaf Wallenberg had to give in. There was no trip to Sweden during the summer. Raoul had in fact had a ‘fine opportunity’ to go to Mexico, according to Maj von Dardel. His grandfather retreated and replied, with reference to the unease he had expressed in his letter to Raoul, that ‘one must not think that one is always right and it may well be that it would actually be better if his visit to Sweden was put off for a bit’.

Raoul’s Future (II) Gustaf Wallenberg’s amenability as regards Raoul’s plans for the summer was perhaps not altogether surprising. His grandfather had in fact been unusually absent from Raoul’s life during the winter and spring. Gustaf Wallenberg was an enthusiastic and diligent correspondent, but the letter to Raoul on 11 May was the first in almost five months. ‘There are sometimes periods when one loses the inclination to write. I have found myself in such a period during my stay in Nice. There were so many distractions. I am sorry that you haven’t heard from me.’ The distractions that Gustaf Wallenberg had in mind were not confined to playing cards and other ways of killing time. At the end of April he wrote a letter to his brother Marcus in which he accused the latter of having said to other people that Raoul ‘ought to seek his livelihood within the political circles so decried by us’ – on account of his ‘eloquence’, one may suppose. Through his criticism of Raoul, Gustaf wrote, Marcus had hit his ‘tenderest spot’ – his grandson. Marcus did not answer the letter but asked their brother Axel to



The Hero of Budapest mediate. Axel wrote to Gustaf explaining that Marcus actually had Raoul’s best interests at heart and he reminded Gustaf about the concern Marcus had shown for Raoul senior during his illness. This reminder succeeded in making the choleric Gustaf calm down and explain why he had reacted so strongly: ‘I am not aggressive by nature, but my father’s heart was aroused by the words that were spoken. My grandson, who has turned out well, is now the dearest thing I own.’ In order to understand the irritation and mistrust that prevailed between Marcus, Gustaf and to some degree Knut regarding Raoul’s future, one must be aware of the competitiveness that existed among the generation of Wallenbergs who were in line to take over the family banking-and-business empire. According to Raoul’s grandfather, his main rivals were ‘the young people in our own family’. By ‘young people’ he was referring to Jacob and Marcus, who belonged to his son’s generation. In 1934 Jacob was 42 years old and Dodde was 35, so they were significantly older than Raoul, but in the absence of Raoul senior Gustaf Wallenberg saw his grandson almost as their contemporary. Raoul was to implement what Gustaf’s son, because of his early death, had not managed to achieve, and in the competition for position and influence Gustaf was wholeheartedly on his side.

Mexico Beside his studies, during the spring term Raoul led ‘a very pleasant life’. On Sundays he and his friends went for ‘long Sunday walks, Swedish style’, and he played golf for the first time, which whetted his appetite for more. He was a frequent visitor to the library where he read books about England and Germany and Winston Churchill’s latest book Amid These Storms, ‘very well written as usual’ and with ‘beautiful use of the language’. He also amused himself by making pastel drawings which he hung up on the walls of his rented room. ‘On two walls is a picture of paradise, with Adam and Eve, an elephant, a pig, a giraffe, a polyp, a peacock and lots of trees and hills. On the other two walls is an allegory showing the [Stockholm] City Hall, a white transatlantic steamship, and New York harbour.’ Raoul himself thought that ‘none of this is great art’ but that opinion was not shared by his teacher, who asked him to make a large drawing in chalk and pastel for the wall in the corridor outside his office. ‘He worked on it for days, maybe weeks, and it was so good that I allowed it to remain in place for perhaps a year or more,’ one of Raoul’s professors, Jean Paul Slusser, recalled. ‘Probably about 12’ × 15’ in size,

The Architect it contained some excellent groupings of large figures in full colour and had a true mural feeling, or so it seemed to me.’ Raoul left Ann Arbor immediately after the spring term was over. The ‘fine opportunity’ mentioned in Maj von Dardel’s telegram was a reference to his maternal aunt Nita, who lived in Mexico City, where her husband Carl Axel Söderlund worked for the Swedish gas company AGA. The plan was that Raoul would travel there along with Lyman Woodard, whose father put a Ford truck at their disposal. But, just as on many previous occasions when they had planned trips together, Lyman was forced to change his plans at the last minute and Raoul travelled instead with another classmate, Dick Shields, who had an old private car, also a Ford. ‘It’s really nice of you to let me go, Grandfather,’ Raoul wrote, presenting his travel plans. We intend to take tents and cooking utensils with us. The roads in Mexico are very poor and perhaps impassable. So we are not at all confident but hope to succeed in reaching our destination. We intend to make sketches of buildings and scenery and, if possible, sell some of them to defray our expenses. In Mexico we are going to visit the various ruins and archaeological remains of the Aztec and Mayan cultures. If we can carry out any kind of work, of whatever kind, then of course we will take it on. We will be there for the whole summer, i.e. three months. All assuming that we succeed in getting over the mountains and through the deserts on the way there. In the province of Durango we mean to visit a camp, or, rather, five small one-man camps belonging to the University of Michigan’s geological expedition. After a week in Chicago, where the World’s Fair had proved to be an unexpected success and was reopened for another season, the friends continued via St Louis to New Orleans and Houston, Texas, which they reached on 14 July, ‘pitching a tent every night along the way, which worked out fine’, reported Raoul, who found a use during the trip for both his artistic and his commercial talents. ‘Every afternoon we did a sketch and sold it. Excellent salesmanship training.’ He had earned $8.25 and knew that if necessary he could earn his living this way. On the way from New Orleans to Texas they were able to stay with a ‘southern’ family whose house they had drawn and who invited them to a ‘wonderful crab dinner’. A few days later they crossed the Mexican border at Laredo. There they picked up a Mexican boy who had been deported from America because of an



The Hero of Budapest invalid passport and whom they used as an interpreter during the rest of their trip. As the Pan-American Highway had been closed to traffic during the rainy season Raoul and Dick were occasionally forced to proceed by minor roads and cattle and donkey tracks. For safety’s sake they joined up with two newly married Jewish couples who were also heading for Mexico City. It took ten days to put behind them the 1,000 kilometres from the border to Mexico City. Raoul fell sick on the way and on arrival was forced to take to his bed. ‘He made his appearance in an ancient little Ford jalopy, with a week’s growth of beard and dysentery,’ according to Nita Söderlund. His illness had been caused by dirty spring water. Raoul was treated with a medicine made out of a Mexican plant, estafiate, and recovered after ten days. Raoul the architecture student was strongly attracted by Mexico with its rich Aztec culture and together with his aunt and uncle he travelled to the ruined cities of Mifla and Monte Albán in Oaxaca province and other places. He visited other Aztec towns too and enjoyed himself very much in Mexico generally. He found Nita’s husband Carl Axel to be ‘a wonderful man’ and the whole Swedish colony pleasant. The feeling was mutual. ‘I can really gladden your mother’s heart by saying that we thought you have a smart, pleasant and spirited boy, who moreover has some style to him,’ a family friend in Mexico wrote to Maj von Dardel. Raoul also made a deep impression on the younger Söderlund generation. The family’s eight-year-old daughter Birgitte recalls that he played with her and tried to teach her to play chess. Raoul also amused her by imitating animals: ‘He was a marvellous mimic and could do 25 to 30 different animal sounds,’ his cousin remembered. ‘He was good at foreign accents, too, and used to keep us all in stitches. It was always fun being with Raoul.’ Mexico was a lovely country which according to Raoul had great tourist potential: The temperature stays cool when the worst heatwaves hit the States. Furthermore, there are plenty of picturesque monuments in Mexico and it’s very romantic. There’s no reason why the same class of Americans that go to Europe shouldn’t go to Mexico as well. The country is less expensive and getting there takes less time. Once the country acquires a reputation for safety and progress, American capital will find its way there, more than is the case now, and a real golden age will begin.

The Architect Throughout his travels Raoul made observations of a similar nature, and not only because his grandfather expected it. He had a natural aptitude for enterprise and an alert eye for business opportunities. In Mexico this talent found expression in a concrete project. During their stay, he and his travelling companion acquired ‘lots of Mexican things’ – ‘tablecloths, napkins, mats, china (rather poor quality) and straw items’ – which they took with them to Ann Arbor in order to do some business there. The things were samples – when they found a client they sent an order to the manufacturers in Mexico. It was fairly smallscale business but promising enough that Shields gave up his studies to devote himself to it full-time.

The Last Term Raoul and Dick Shields left Mexico on 1 September and at the end of the month Raoul started his last term at Ann Arbor. He was studying the final courses in architecture, a course in ‘Decorative Design’, a course in Spanish and two courses in concrete studies (which he did not enjoy). During term-time he worked on two projects, one of which was on ‘cheap housing’. ‘The problem calls for constructing 16 city blocks, with space for 4,500 people. The entire area – at least in my project – is designed as a park in which there are four-storey rustic houses. We are also to include two churches, a school, a childcare centre, a “community centre”, stores, a fire station, etc.’ (See the illustration on page 52.) After the project on cheap housing, which was marked ‘excellent’, Raoul was given the task of designing a natural-history museum. This confronted him with purely aesthetic problems, which he enjoyed. ‘A building like that, where no practical considerations are taken, would of course never be built, but it was a lot of fun designing it after the slightly arid housing problem.’ When not devoting himself to his studies, Raoul, as we saw, liked going to the cinema or to concerts. Jean Paul Slusser remembers that Raoul ‘dated several girls and was always very accepted socially’. However, there do not seem to have been any close or intimate relationships. According to one of Raoul’s classmates, Fred Graham, Raoul was ‘a loner’ and his ‘friendships never seemed lasting’. Another, Richard Robinson, noted that Raoul ‘had many friends, both men and women, but not one close friend’. The transitory nature of Raoul’s relationships with the opposite sex was certainly due in part to the promise he had made to his grandfather ‘that he would have no serious personal involvement while in college’. For a couple



The Hero of Budapest of years he had been going out with Bernice Ringman, a slightly older girl of Swedish–American origins, but the relationship does not seem to have been intimate. Bernice, who spoke Swedish, was a physiotherapist at Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern University of Michigan) and worked with disabled children. She recalled that Raoul was always sketching on his pad and would try to teach her as much as possible about his work. In December 1934 they went to Detroit to see the musical Roberta, which was a big success in the USA and which was filmed the following year with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the leading roles. At Christmas Raoul, along with Bernice, also listened to Handel’s Messiah, which was performed every year in the university’s auditorium. After the end of term on 25 January he devoted all his time to working on his thesis on modern Swedish architecture. However, the thesis was taking longer than expected. ‘It is rather difficult and futile to write about a subject like Sweden when one has nobody to talk to and match wits with,’ he reported to Gustaf Wallenberg (in English), and as a result of this he was ‘proceeding slowly and without much enthusiasm’. Although Raoul’s grades were ‘a bit lower than usual’ he passed his examinations with honours. He received the American Institute of Architects’ medal, which was awarded to the student ‘who has in our judgement distinguished himself in the work of the school’, as Emil Lorch put it in a letter to Raoul. According to Jean Paul Slusser, Raoul excelled not least in the more creative areas of his training: ‘He was one of my brightest and best students in 30 years’ experience as a professor of drawing and painting.’ Once when Slusser asked Raoul if he couldn’t envisage a career as a painter, Raoul replied, ‘slowly and perhaps a little sadly’, by telling him about his family and the type of education that a Wallenberg was expected to undergo.

‘I Dream about Sweden Every Night’ Before Raoul left Ann Arbor at the end of February he paid a visit to Owosso. Lyman Woodard’s mother had asked him to give a lecture about Sweden. ‘Although he had arrived with his clothes in a knapsack, when he appeared for his lecture at the Women’s Club he wore striped pants and a cutaway jacket with a batwinged collar, and of course the good ladies of Owosso were charmed,’ Lyman recalled. In fact Raoul had postponed his trip home in order to be able to deliver the lecture – but not only for that reason. He was actually suffering from acute

4.6  ‘I am enclosing […] a report to the President of the University, which shows something of those activities which can be recorded in print. By this I mean that perhaps the most colourful and human aspects of education do not appear in such documents, for how would it be possible to picture for instance the Architects’ Dance?’ (Emil Lorch in a letter to Raoul written shortly after the latter had left Ann Arbor.) Raoul is standing with his hand on his forehead. To the left of him, in Swedish folk costume, is Bernice Ringman.


The Hero of Budapest sadness at the thought of leaving America: ‘The prospect of leaving the United States does not please me at all. […] It is a wonderful place and I am sure I will long to go back to it,’ he wrote to his grandfather on New Year’s Day, and three weeks later (in English): ‘I had my last day of school yesterday. It felt very peculiar to end these pleasant and interesting years of study in America. I have had a wonderful time and the parting was very sad.’ Raoul was torn by strong emotions: a longing for Sweden and sorrow at having to leave the USA. But the closer the time for departure came, the more the first impulse grew in strength. ‘My memories of Sweden have been sleeping for three years now but they are suddenly breaking out in full bloom again and I am actually dreaming about Sweden every night,’ he confided to his grandfather, again in English. ‘I long to get home soon to see my parents and everybody else.’ Raoul left New York on the S/S Bergensfjord on 26 February 1935. On 5 March the boat reached Oslo and a day or so later he was back in Stockholm, after three and a half years’ absence.

South Africa While Raoul was finishing off his last term at Ann Arbor, discussions were continuing about his ‘commercial education’ between himself, his grandfather and his mother. What career path was Raoul to choose? According to Gustaf Wallenberg there were two main alternatives. The first was to ‘join the queue of job seekers and earn your own living’: This will mean the drawing table and the office chair, and you will enter a world of more or less industrious young people quietly intent on making it only at the expense of their friends. A bit of sports activity and an occasional visit to a café will lighten the existence, true, but the heavy clouds of the struggle for existence will mean that when one turns in at night, exhausted, one’s reflections on the day are likely to be dark. Competition is hard; there are many in the same position, ‘with nice clothes, solid schooling and a university education’. The second alternative was to ‘find something outside the usual order of things, to find a place among the leaders, not just among your peers’. Then it is a question of ‘making others, the decision makers and those in positions of leadership, aware of your usefulness’. To be sure, one then exposes oneself to the envy of one’s peers, but, Gustaf Wallenberg stressed, ‘it is the duty of those who have the talent to carry out the great tasks to rise above their contemporaries.’ This is the path that Raoul should follow. It is not presumptuous of me to count on your talent. You have it through your blood, your inheritance, and through the wonderful gift


The Hero of Budapest of a cool head. I have always spoken of the importance of self-control. The qualities I have enumerated, more than family connections, justify my conviction that you should be directed towards becoming a leader, not just another hard-working worker among many. However, such advancement should not come about through relationships and contacts, for that kind of a career benefits neither the person in question nor the interests he is bound to serve. A career should be constructed on the basis of talent and knowledge. ‘I have tried,’ his grandfather wrote, to equip you with something that we are not accustomed to here in Sweden, and that in fact we ignore – knowledge of the world and familiarity with other people, understanding their way of thinking, their customs and their way of seeing. I thought that this would give you an advantage over your contemporaries. The conviction here at home that we are better than anyone else needs to be shaken. No country can do without contact with other peoples. This requires understanding their habits and customs. Anybody can see that life abroad is more difficult than here at home. A trailblazer discovers the good to be found out there among the foreigners. He studies them and broadens his horizons. So how was Raoul to be educated to be a leader? By graduating from Ann Arbor the first stage of his education, the theoretical one, was now finished. After that began the practical stage. As Gustaf Wallenberg still disapproved of ‘the way young people live in Stockholm’, he wanted Raoul to remain abroad for a bit longer. In the 1870s Gustaf’s brother Knut had spent some time working for the Crédit Lyonnais in Paris and Jacob and Dodde had worked in different places in the USA; in all three cases this had worked to their advantage. However, one ought to avoid large banks or businesses where one is placed in a department and given minor tasks to perform. Instead, Raoul should seek practical experience in a smaller organisation where ‘it is easier to get an overall picture,’ everyone comes into contact with everyone else and it is easier to understand ‘how things work’. ‘The crucial point is to come into contact with those who make the decisions.’ If Raoul liked the idea, Gustaf said he would activate his contacts in Bogotá, Colombia. This stage in Raoul’s education could be concluded sometime in 1936. A possible follow-up stage, according to Gustaf Wallenberg, might be practical

South Africa experience in a small ‘pioneer’ or ‘frontier’ bank. Raoul’s grandfather had been intimately acquainted for many years with Istanbul’s ‘sharpest banker’, Erwin Freund, a 42-year-old Czech Jew. Freund, who was about to take up a new post as director of the Dutch Bank’s branch office in Haifa, Palestine, had himself offered to give Raoul the chance of some practical experience. ‘Having worked for a commercial firm in Bogotá,’ Raoul’s grandfather wrote to him, ‘you would then have the best possible inside view of the activity inside a frontier bank. […] In the course of your employment you would have the opportunity to observe many areas, such as the projects undertaken by the Jewish immigrants, whose talents and experience are considerable.’ Raoul accepted in principle his grandfather’s programme for the next few years, even if he thought that Mexico was preferable to Colombia. It was not Raoul who had to be persuaded, but his mother, who saw her son’s future in a bank, meaning the Enskilda Bank. However, she gave in to Gustaf Wallenberg’s argument that a spell working in a frontier bank would be ‘in the highest degree an all-round education in business’. Besides, Gustaf Wallenberg only financed Raoul’s education as long as he remained abroad, yet another argument for letting him have his way.

Raoul’s Future (III) The nub of the plan, according to Gustaf Wallenberg, was Haifa. The post in Colombia was only a preparatory stage, to save Raoul from feeling ashamed of his ‘total ignorance of office work’ when he came to Freund. But the response from Bogotá was evasive and his grandfather put out feelers in both India and Mexico. When Raoul arrived in Stockholm at the beginning of March 1935 the question of the first stage on his continuing ‘commercial education’ was still unanswered. As soon as Raoul was home the question of his future came to a head within the family. On 24 February Gustaf told his brother Marcus that Raoul was on his way to Stockholm, continuing: ‘I have the prospect of getting him a post in South America, India or Mexico, but have not yet decided between these countries. […] A job in a merchant firm would be designed to give him some office experience, for I don’t want to hand him on to Freund without such experience.’ Gustaf asked Marcus to give him his opinion on his plans for Raoul and to ‘put in a good word for the boy’ with the industrialist Axel Johnson. As soon as Marcus received the letter – and he received it the following day as he was in Cannes and Gustaf was in Nice – he wrote to Dodde in Stockholm,



The Hero of Budapest pointing out the necessity for him and his brother Jacob to ‘consider your position regarding Raoul’s future course’: I am convinced that Raoul in his heart of hearts wishes to start in the bank and to go as far as possible there. There is nothing bad to be said about this, provided he has the necessary qualifications. His grandfather is of a different opinion. He wants to train him abroad to become the head of a pioneer bank. This is his present fad. Maj Dardel, who is much smarter, has worked on Uncle Knut to have R. enter the bank. I have told Uncle Knut on one or two occasions that it is not us but the two of you who shall exclusively pick your future employees. I think that it would be appropriate if Jacob could say something to Uncle Knut so that he does not unpremeditatedly give a half-promise about something upon which you are not agreed. It is so easily done to make oracular promises which one later has to fulfil even though one would like not to. Dodde’s reply was restrained and uncommitted. ‘Thank you for the letters about Little Raoul. I have shown them to Jacob, who promised to talk with Uncle Knut. We are of the opinion that we should see him and find out how he has developed after all these years abroad.’

A Dangerous Aura As well as his mother and his siblings, Raoul was hoping to see his grandfather in Stockholm. Gustaf was certainly very eager to see Raoul but was not so keen on travelling home. The reason was a quarrel with his brother Marcus over their views on Swedish trade policy. However, he overcame his doubts and in the early summer of 1935 he met his grandson for the first time in four years. Before Raoul’s return home, his grandfather not only warned him about the dangers that would tempt him ‘in the realm of the passions’ but also instructed him on how to conduct himself in his dealings with the older generation. Raoul, he wrote, would certainly be well received by the different branches of the Wallenberg family, initially perhaps even too well as he had been away so long. He was surrounded by an aura which meant that great demands were made

South Africa on him, and that was ‘a dangerous situation that unless handled correctly may easily lead to dire consequences’. The older men he would meet were experienced and ‘are not fooled by nicely combed hair or an unabashed torrent of words’. Raoul must not forget that he knows nothing in comparison to them and that his ‘experience of people and the world is slight’. He should listen to them, but if he receives an offer of a job he must protest that his ‘practical education’ is not yet complete and that he is therefore not ready to work in his homeland. Otherwise he will end up among a mass of other young people who will all be ‘competing for the fleshpots’, and then the future will be uncertain. If on the other hand he first of all gains some experience of the banking and business worlds abroad, Gustaf Wallenberg writes: Afterwards, the upper hand will be yours, because no one in Sweden will have seen or experienced anything like what I have planned for you. You will be worth something, not just in your own circle but also among those who will eventually realise, in coming years, that Swedish industry lags behind, and whose thoughts increasingly will revolve around how to remedy its backwardness. They will need what they currently lack – a strong presence, a person acquainted with business abroad on a large scale. With luck, you will be unique. In order not to ruin his chances Raoul should stay at home for as short a time as possible. During a long visit the risk of ‘finding weaknesses’ would be much greater and once one has got wind of such weaknesses they become the only topic of discussion. ‘It is human nature for people to seek to bring everybody else down to their own level. Your current popularity will give rise to an urge to destroy any halo, even if it contains no element of arrogance.’

The Pool Project On his arrival in Stockholm Raoul was thus well prepared by his grandfather. He was to avoid dangerous pleasures, he was to behave well in his contacts with older people, he was to turn down all offers of a job and he was not to stay for long. With these admonitions in mind Raoul did all that was in his power to show what he was made of during the three and a half months he spent in Stockholm. He looked for part-time jobs and attracted the attention of both the press and professional architects with his proposal for an outdoor pool in Stockholm.



The Hero of Budapest

5.1  One of Raoul’s many sketches of the outdoor swimming pool. The background was that the old open-air, cold-water bathhouse had been closed because of the poor water quality. Because of pollution the planned new bathhouse had to be constructed as a swimming pool. According to Raoul’s proposal it was to be built on the same spot in the Old Town where a harbour basin had been located in the seventeenth century. If it was taken up, it would reinstate the architectonic space that had once defined the place. The last thing Raoul did before his departure was to have a brochure printed in which he presented his idea. Nothing is known about Raoul’s stay in Stockholm in the private sphere. Obviously he and his family were pleased to be reunited. After all, they had not met for nearly four years. Obviously he met up with his old friends. And obviously his future was discussed within the family circle. But no documents throwing light on these discussions have been preserved, which suggests that no formal decisions were taken. Yet the final verdict on his visit, according to Gustaf

South Africa Wallenberg, was very positive: ‘To sum up: I was very satisfied with your stay in Stockholm. You have pleased your parents, myself and our close relations.’ When Raoul left Stockholm he was furnished with a letter of recommendation from Marcus Wallenberg senior. It was addressed to the Standard Bank of South Africa in Cape Town. In other words, the plans regarding Colombia, India and Mexico had been scrapped. If Gustaf Wallenberg felt his stay in Stockholm to be a ‘witches’ sabbath’ and left the city before Raoul, he noted with satisfaction that his fears that his grandson might be caught up in the fleshpots of Stockholm had been unfounded. ‘It was a high point for me when one of my friends told me that after a week at home you were running around town looking for a job. Job meant a variety of things, and was indicative of energy and the desire to be active.’ The reason his grandfather nevertheless insisted to the end that Raoul should leave Stockholm was not that he had enjoyed himself too much, but rather that Gustaf did not want Raoul to ‘get too stuck in some artistic architectural activity’. ‘I want you to be better trained in the art of business techniques (a good phrase), so that you would have an opportunity to learn how to earn money – crass, I know – but you will never achieve a satisfactory kind of self-sufficiency unless you become financially independent.’ Raoul’s professional successes made Gustaf Wallenberg uneasy: it was not an architect that he was destined to become – that training was only a stage on the way to other goals! But he could not help being impressed by Raoul’s go-ahead attitude and people skills, as in the way in which he conducted the negotiations about his pool project with the responsible officials. ‘It was a joy for all of us to have you in Stockholm,’ he wrote to Raoul. ‘You handled yourself well and it was useful to you. You became known, which is invaluable to a young person, and this was not only because you had been in America, California, Canada or Mexico, but because of your own innate qualities.’ Given that Raoul was completely unknown in architectural circles, his pool project attracted an unwonted degree of attention. It was presented on the front page of the daily Svenska Dagbladet and reviewed in the trade journal. Although the latter article was critical, Raoul was ‘very happy with the journal’s position’, he explained to his grandfather, to whom he immediately sent a copy of the article. For Raoul, the criticism was allayed by the fact that the project had been noticed by a serious trade journal, one which moreover was a ‘mouthpiece for functionalism’ and, according to Raoul, ‘rather extreme’ in its views. That was not bad for a young and unknown architect.



The Hero of Budapest

5.2  Raoul on board the M/S Hammaren, second from right.

Cape Town On 14 June Raoul took the train to Oslo, where, the following day, he boarded the M/S Hammaren, which plied between Norway and South Africa. His destination was Cape Town. The vessel was laden with Swedish wares – wood, paper, pasteboard, boxes, machines, steel, tools – on their way to South African buyers. Raoul partly filled the three weeks that the voyage took with work. He had decided to participate in an architectural competition for a new fire and police station in the northern Swedish town of Umeå and was in a hurry to draw up his proposal. Although the Hammaren pitched so violently, especially towards the end of the voyage, that ‘doing the detail work on it was hard’, he had a first draft ready on arrival. Raoul had had the company of two Swedish lads on the ship: Björn Burchardt, who was a year older than Raoul and the son of the owner of an ironworks, and Björn’s friend Göte Spets. Burchardt had been in South Africa before and worked on a Norwegian whaler. This time he was going there to try to sell paper – according to Raoul, he would probably be successful as he was ‘very energetic and intelligent’. Spets, who was also a rich man’s son, was one of Sweden’s most talented motorcyclists.

South Africa ‘Cape Town is unexpectedly beautiful,’ Raoul wrote to his grandfather on 8 July. Although it was winter at this time of year at this latitude, on his arrival it was as hot as summer. The first day was hectic, with ‘getting used to new circumstances, customs officials and other nuisances’. On the advice of Nils Hegardt, the Swedish consul in Cape Town, who ‘seems to be an exceptionally pleasant and generally well-liked man’, the boys put up at a little beach hotel outside the city itself. During his first few days in Cape Town Raoul was busy putting the finishing touches to his fire and police station.1 Then, suddenly, the unexpected summer heat disappeared and was replaced by normal winter weather. ‘Cape Town has turned out to be a disappointment,’ he reported after two weeks. My last letter was written when I was still under the influence of the favourable impression I got when the Hammaren came into port and the city seemed to have an almost Italian air about it. It was warm and beautiful then. But I had barely sealed the envelope when the temperature sank to almost nothing. And when it is cold here it is really cold. I have never been so cold in my life as during this past week. The firm Raoul was working for was called Arderne, Scott & Thesen Ltd, dealing in timber and construction equipment. Consul Hegardt had introduced him to the directors, who did not, however, appear very interested. Their indifference was matched by Raoul’s. ‘So far all I’ve done is sit around, checking bills and receipts. The office appears to be big, maybe even too big, and the work can’t be all that illuminating. I will of course ask them to move me around from one department to another, and then I’ll see how it goes.’ ‘Once more, as always, my sincerest thanks for all the love and kindness you have lavished on me, of which my presence here is yet further proof,’ Raoul had written to Gustaf Wallenberg on his first day in Cape Town. But it wasn’t long before he began to be fed up both with the city and with his work assignments. He seemed not to know what he was there for – he would rather have stayed on in Stockholm. ‘I must confess I don’t like it very much here,’ he wrote to Lyman Woodard after a month. ‘It isn’t that the place isn’t romantic and all that, but I am beginning to long for home. I enjoyed my visit to Stockholm so much; it’s really a marvellous place, and to have to tear oneself away from it is quite an ordeal.’ Mexico or South America was one thing. But South Africa? The country had never been mentioned as an alternative in Gustaf Wallenberg’s plans for Raoul’s



The Hero of Budapest future. So it must have been a late decision, during his stay in Stockholm, to send him there. Once again it was one of Gustaf Wallenberg’s contacts who was drafted into service: Theodor (‘Thore’) Fevrell, who had served as secretary to Gustaf at the legation in Tokyo during the war years and who was now Swedish consul in Pretoria. A clear sign of Raoul’s unhappiness is that, after barely a week, he sought out the American consul to explore the possibility of obtaining a visa for the USA. ‘For I am homesick for it from time to time,’ he admitted to his grandfather. The decision to let Raoul work as a volunteer for Thesen does not seem to have been based on any substantial preparatory work. ‘I have no instructions for your work at Thesen’s,’ Gustaf Wallenberg wrote in his first letter to Raoul in Cape Town. ‘You will figure that out better yourself.’ But he wanted his grandson to do a course in bookkeeping right away, as he would need to master that ‘to keep a check on the work of your subordinates’. For his grandfather, it didn’t matter all that much what Raoul did and was – the important thing was that he distanced himself from Stockholm. The office-work phase of Raoul’s ‘commercial education’ was, moreover, only a preparation for the more important work in the bank in Palestine. As early as 2 August Gustaf Wallenberg sent Raoul a list of ship connections between Cape Town and Haifa, for a voyage that was planned for the winter of 1936! At Arderne, Scott & Thesen Ltd Raoul got a little bit of everything to do. He felt himself over-qualified in the architects’ office. What he found most fun was accompanying the salesmen on their rounds and seeing how they handled customers. But on the whole he did not learn all that much in the firm, where he was ‘lower than a supernumerary stamp-licker’. After only a month he had had enough and was trying to get away. Raoul’s new workplace was a Swedish firm, the Swedish African Company, led by its director Carl Frykberg. Also working here was Björn Burchardt, who had arranged the contact. The firm sold, among other things, paper, wood products and artificial leather. It was ‘exactly the kind of office that you wished for me’ – a small business which apart from Frykberg, Burchardt and Raoul only employed a secretary. At about the same time Raoul also obtained work as a salesman with another Swedish firm, Albert Florén, who were agents in the building trade (parquet floors, sanitary porcelain, water-heaters, and so on). Raoul’s first task for the Swedish African Company had to do with an invention to prolong the life of cinema films. A suitable assignment for a film buff! The invention was Swedish and the aim either to sell it to South Africa’s biggest film company or to build their own laboratory. Either way, Raoul appreciated

South Africa

5.3  Raoul was an ardent newspaper reader. This photo was probably taken in South Africa. ‘being allowed to do things more or less on my own’. In addition, he also got to handle timber sales. After a couple of weeks at Frykberg’s, Raoul’s mood was quite different. He was very happy at the firm, where he could work independently but at the same time in close contact with the boss. Moreover, Frykberg was always receiving invitations to represent new companies, which he passed on to Raoul, who was selling sports gear, travel accessories and tents for one firm in Gothenburg and chemicals for another. ‘This way I learn both office work and how to do business,’ he reported to his grandfather. ‘I’m learning how to buy and how to sell merchandise.’ It is clear that Raoul had come to realise what type of business interested him most and what he had the greatest talent for, in other words, selling. It was a new area for him but he learned a lot from Björn Burchardt, who was the first ‘young Swedish businessman’ he had ever met. ‘And,’ he wrote to Gustaf Wallenberg, ‘I think it’s good to know someone your own age, someone you really believe in



The Hero of Budapest and who is your friend.’ Burchardt for his part was deeply impressed by Raoul’s business skills: ‘Raoul didn’t do things in the usual way,’ he recalled. ‘His way of thinking was so winding and involuted. But his intellect impressed everyone. And he could out-talk everyone. Perhaps his greatest asset was his charm, which influenced people to respect him. The result was that Raoul always seemed to achieve his goals sooner than anyone else.’

Bernice The social life in Cape Town was ‘hardly what you would call roaring’, according to Raoul. He occasionally had a beer or a whisky in ‘one of the innumerable oldfashioned bars around the city’ and as usual went a lot to the cinema, although it was a long way to the nearest one. ‘I seem to have inherited Grandmother’s phenomenal ability to laugh long and heartily at the silliest things,’ he declared. The girls in South Africa drove Raoul to despair because they were ‘so badly made up’ and moreover went about in clogs. At the same time he was concerned about his own appearance. He was beginning to lose his hair, ‘not visibly, but still getting thinner every day’, and on the doctor’s advice he had had it all cut off. ‘I look very funny now,’ he admitted, in English, to his grandfather, but ‘I think it already has done some good.’ But Raoul’s worries about girls in clogs and his own hair loss paled in comparison to the romantic drama he was drawn into at this point in time. On the occasion of his 23rd birthday on 4 August he was congratulated not only by his grandfather but also by Bernice Ringman, the young woman he had been seeing at Ann Arbor. If Gustaf Wallenberg hoped in his letter of congratulations that Raoul would become ‘an able man and bring honour on our family’, Bernice wanted to know in her telegram if he loved her. Raoul’s listlessness during his early days in Cape Town was in fact not only the result of unhappiness at his workplace combined with homesickness. Ever since he had left the USA he had been pursued by letters from Bernice, who in the farewell telegram she sent to Raoul in his ship in New York had called him ‘my angel’. ‘I’ve been rather upset the last few months, including when I was in Stockholm,’ he wrote to his grandfather. A girl whom I used to spend all my time with in the United States and whom I liked very much unfortunately fell in love with me, and I’ve had a very difficult time of it, when everything I wrote or did

South Africa only hurt her. I have found it depressing to be the cause of so much pain. About two weeks ago, I decided to tell her that we should stop writing, but it was difficult. I think it was for the best. As Bernice was older than Raoul, however, he was afraid that ‘it will be rather more difficult for her to recuperate’. Raoul liked and Bernice was in love – the choice of words is significant. The relationship was not an equal one and the parting was therefore harder for her. That Raoul was suffering more for Bernice’s part than on his own account is borne out by a female classmate who was also one of his fleeting ‘dates’ and who remembered him sitting in the drawing classroom shortly before his departure from Ann Arbor: ‘Now that he was leaving he was saddened, not only because he would miss his friend, but even more that his friend would be emotionally hurt.’ As Raoul had promised his grandfather that he was not going to become emotionally involved during his time at college, it would perhaps have been best to keep quiet about the business with Bernice. And sure enough, Gustaf Wallenberg was ‘upset and sad at having perhaps lost that which I had made the object of my dreams’, namely, Raoul and his career. He therefore demanded an honest answer from Raoul. If the romance was an ‘honourable’ one that was one thing, but if Raoul had seduced the girl, that was very serious. ‘If you seduce an American girl you are trapped’; then the future would be bleak and there would have to be a complete change of plans. Sweden was too small for Raoul to live with a wife who was ‘tarnished by an illegitimate liaison’. Raoul would then be forced to make his career in America. Gustaf Wallenberg did not reproach Raoul for allowing his sexual urges to lead him into ‘a liaison with a young girl’ but he was terrified of the consequences if it turned out that she was pregnant. The letter is a variation on earlier warnings he had issued about women’s seductive tricks and the dangers of forming an attachment with someone outside one’s own class. Moreover, a young man with Raoul’s advantages ought not to commit himself before he had managed to ‘organise his life and his work’: A young wife wants everything to revolve around her. She wants to be entertained and amused. She wants to travel. If she has any spirit, she wants to stand out among her women friends. […] The tendency towards competition inherent in our time (mostly at the expense of others) means that the peace necessary to life together will be lacking. A young man absorbed by his sexual urges pays no attention to any such considerations. He wants her body. He wants the pleasure



The Hero of Budapest of the moment, and she does nothing but offer it. […] In your case, I assume that the fault is yours. You have not been careful and prudent enough, and that is what makes the matter so tragic. But you must not give up your life. You must not deprive your mother and me of our expectations of you. ‘Nothing can make me happy except the news that you have managed to extricate yourself completely from this unpleasant affair,’ Gustaf Wallenberg ended his long letter, dated 23 September 1935 at Istanbul. ‘Please don’t worry. No complications. Affection her part only. Correspondence finished,’ Raoul telegraphed (in English) on 11 October in an attempt to calm his grandfather. He succeeded. ‘I have considered the message from every conceivable angle to see if there was anything hidden or omitted, but I have come up with nothing,’ Gustaf wrote back. ‘I found it clear and straightforward and was reassured. Thank you for sending the telegram!’ In a letter sent several days later Raoul regretted that through his unclear choice of words he had caused his grandfather distress. But he was glad he had raised the subject and he saw his grandfather’s letter as a proof of his love and consideration. Gustaf Wallenberg could breathe again and Raoul’s commercial education could proceed as planned.

The Programme Is Called into Question In October a Swedish trade delegation was visiting South Africa. Among its members was AGA boss and Nobel Prize winner in physics, Gustaf Dalén, who stayed in Cape Town for seven weeks, occasionally calling on Raoul and Burchardt to drink sour milk, which he enjoyed. In mid November Frykberg, Raoul and Burchardt went on a five-week business trip across the Union of South Africa. Their first stop was Johannesburg, ‘the boomtown of the world’, which reminded Raoul strongly of America. Here there were ‘drugstores, bars and skyscrapers, endless streams of people and a building and hammering and cleaning that echoed in our ears from morning to night as long as we remained there’, he reported. ‘It seemed to us that all the houses that were not being built were being torn down. The air is loaded with intensity, suspense and eagerness to work.’ In Johannesburg Raoul worked from morning till night selling sanitary porcelain and sports goods. He enjoyed his work as a salesman and made so bold as to suggest in a letter in English to his grandfather that he should stay

South Africa on in South Africa ‘under the excellent tutelage where I am now’ and only go to Haifa after carrying out his military service in Sweden in September. He would then have ‘six solid months of valuable experience that ought to put me in a position to learn and understand better than before what goes on in that bank’. After his years of study in the USA Raoul had got the taste for a freer and more independent life. Working on the swimming-pool project, moreover, had strengthened his self-confidence. In South Africa he had discovered his talent as a salesman, a talent he wanted to develop. Now, therefore, for the first time, he dared to challenge his grandfather’s authority. But although Raoul ‘strongly recommended’ his grandfather not to insist that he should go directly from South Africa to Palestine, that was just what Gustaf did. Gustaf Wallenberg certainly appreciated Raoul’s ‘energy and sense of duty’, the same qualities that made it hard for him to tear himself away from Stockholm – but the pool project and his work as a salesman in South Africa were only ‘training in details’. Gustaf saw no reason to alter his original plans, especially as he was beginning to grow old and wanted to see Raoul’s education completed. In the bank, under Freund’s guidance, Raoul would achieve insights that his contemporaries could never get. If, as planned, Raoul went to Haifa direct from South Africa, he would have six months’ practical experience there before it was time for his military service. And when he came to Stockholm in September his grandfather would travel there to help Raoul ‘get in touch with people in leading positions’ who might wish to employ him. ‘I will look for them,’ Gustaf Wallenberg continued, primarily outside the Wallenberg group, which is not to say that I am averse to your being employed by them, but the point is to widen whatever possibilities there might be. I want to eliminate any thought of acceptance based on your ‘being part of the family’, and I know that young men with your qualifications are not very easy to find there. […] In no way is it my intention to wangle a position for you, only to plant the thought, among those we meet, that it might be advantageous to snare a young man with such considerable experience.

South African Impressions The official name of South Africa was the Union of South Africa, which was a federal state within the British Commonwealth. It had been founded in 1910 and



The Hero of Budapest consisted of four provinces: Cape Province, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The capital was Pretoria. Seventy-five per cent of the population of around 10 million were, in the terminology of the time, ‘blacks’ and ‘coloureds’ (the latter term describing Indians, Chinese, Malays and those of mixed race) and 25 per cent were white Europeans. About a half of the white population lived in towns while most black people lived in villages in the countryside. It was this segregated society that met Raoul when he landed in the country in 1935. It was a reality that one could not shut one’s eyes to, especially not Raoul, who was well acquainted with race problems from his years in the USA. His views on the question were aired in a travelogue called ‘South African impressions’ which was published in the autumn of 1936. In this reportage, partly illustrated with his own photographs, Raoul presented his observations of the country’s economic development and his thoughts about what he called ‘South Africa’s great problem’, namely, the race question. In Raoul’s opinion, equality between the races could certainly function in countries with a small white population, but in lands where there were many white people (as in the USA, Australia and South Africa) it led to unwanted consequences. It is, he writes, ‘not just the joy of being able to feel the equal of the whites which one ought to grant to the Negroes – one must also beware of the racial mixing which would then come about between white and black.’ One such example is the ‘coloureds’ in South Africa. As the ‘unfortunately largescale’ amount of intercourse between the races in South Africa has not been sufficiently controlled, Raoul believes, ‘a mixed race has been created which represents a very great problem.’ These opinions about racial mixing appear obsolete nowadays, but they reflected the prevailing attitudes among white Europeans in the 1930s. Raoul’s view of the roots of South Africa’s problems is, however, free of illusions: Now the white European has to submit to the world’s barely concealed ill will. He has only two possibilities: either to think of himself first and continue logically to fulfil an imperialistic policy or to think first of all about the interests of the coloured peoples, in which case he has to give up colonial riches and power, which would mean ruin for him. The policy which actually follows on from this is a cunning compromise between both these positions: one talks idealistically, but stubbornly keeps a tight grip on money bag and sceptre.

Palestine Gustaf Wallenberg had suggested that Raoul travel to Palestine along the east coast of Africa, from Cape Town to Port Said. But on 3 October Mussolini’s troops occupied Abyssinia and the League of Nations introduced sanctions against Italy. This complicated their plans. But the reason Raoul finally chose the west coast rather than the east was not the political situation. He intended to do a little bit of business along the way and there was no room on the German boat he wanted to travel on, and the British boat which was the alternative did not stop at so many ports. On 7 February he boarded the Italian boat Duilio, which among other places called in at Monrovia, Dakar, Gibraltar, Marseilles, Genoa and Alexandria. The voyage cost a mere £32. For this, Raoul told his grandfather, he got ‘a first-class cabin all to myself, with bath, window, a sofa and two beds’. Also on the boat – which was almost empty because of the League of Nations sanctions – were a couple of hundred Jews on their way to a Zionist congress in Palestine. ‘Knowing the average South African Jew, I’m a bit pessimistic, but the trip may turn out to be pleasant nonetheless.’ After two weeks on the boat, however, his attitude was significantly more positive: these ‘Zionist Jews’, he reported to his mother from Gibraltar, were ‘unexpectedly interesting and nice’. Once in Genoa Raoul discovered that he should have obtained a visa back in Cape Town for Palestine, which was a British protectorate. His visit to the British consul general in Genoa was in vain. ‘When it comes to visitors in Palestine the restrictions are apparently much stricter than you would think, and the moment the consulate found out that I intended to stay there for six months they pricked up their ears and refused to issue a visa,’ he wrote to his grandfather, who was staying in Nice with his wife. While he was waiting for the visa question to be resolved Raoul went and called on his grandparents. The discussions between him and his grandfather


The Hero of Budapest were frank, not to say hot-tempered, at least on Raoul’s side. The topic was a possible revision of his grandfather’s programme. Raoul suggested that, in connection with his military service in September, he should stay on for a while in Sweden before returning to Haifa. The reason was that he wanted to get to know Sweden’s export industries ‘not just in a theoretical way but also from seeing them from the inside, so to speak’. He claimed to have only a ‘rather hazy’ notion of Sweden, as ‘I only know Swedish school life and not Swedish working life.’ Gustaf Wallenberg did not give in to Raoul’s argument. He was, he explained, worried ‘that you’re considering going home before your commercial training has been concluded’. The plans he had drawn up constituted ‘an entity and should not be fragmented’. As a matter of fact, he would have preferred Raoul not to travel home at all for his military service (which was a refresher course), as it was possible to defer it. Once again Raoul had questioned the wisdom of his grandfather’s plans. But this time too he was forced to apologise for ‘losing my temper’ – ‘I’m far too aware of my debt to you not always to yield to your decision,’ he wrote after returning from Nice. ‘But I was sorry that you sought to find ulterior motives in my objections. All I wanted to do was contribute to the planning of my programme […] I have no particular objection to living abroad and no particular urge to go home at this point when I have not earned any money.’

Haifa The visa problem was soon resolved after Raoul returned to Genoa. On 29 February he left for Palestine. After his arrival in Haifa, Raoul wrote a report reflecting the anxiety of the times: The food was horrible, and I got seasick towards the end. One thing was excellent, however, and that was the fact that we put in at Piraeus and I therefore got to see Athens. I was not disappointed in the slightest. On the contrary, it was much more beautiful than I’d expected. We were also in Alexandria for almost a whole day, but I didn’t go up to Cairo. There were close on a hundred British warships, among them three battleships and one aircraft carrier. It took us more than ten minutes to pass through their ranks, and when we left again at night they were all lit up like a great Tivoli. It was a wonderful sight. In Port Said, a picturesque and quiet town except

Palestine in the bad quarters, which were really bad, there was yet another British battleship. As we were leaving, an Italian troop transport filled to overflowing with soldiers and workers came steaming into the mouth of the canal. Our crew and I and the 2,000 men on the troop carrier waved frenetically at each other, yelling wildly and screaming ‘Duce, Duce, Duce’. Then we sang the nice new Italian song, ‘Faccetta nera, bella Abessinia’ [sic]. After that the other boat disappeared in the dark. We were followed for a while by a motorboat filled with Italian girls and rented by the Italian consul in Port Said to meet each new troop carrier as it enters the harbour. One of the girls got on a bicycle and followed the boat through the canal along the bank, still singing ‘Faccetta nera’.1 Raoul found the voyage from Genoa to Haifa interesting. The mixture of passengers meant that lively discussions were always springing up on the boat. When the rumour got about one day that the German army had occupied the Rhineland (which actually happened from 7 March onwards), the French had mobilised and the British had sent their fleet to Kiel, the atmosphere became ‘especially jolly’, he related in the same letter. While the German passengers were in the best of spirits, among the others there prevailed a general pessimism about the future of Europe, especially among the Jews – ‘but they probably had their reasons’, Raoul noted. As early as the morning after his arrival in Haifa, Raoul trotted off to the Dutch Bank where Erwin Freund received him – ‘friendly but surprised’. It turned out that the banker had not received the letter that Gustaf Wallenberg had sent him at the beginning of February about Raoul’s imminent arrival, and thought that it would be another year before Raoul turned up. His trainee work with Erwin Freund, which Gustaf Wallenberg had set so much store by, could undoubtedly have begun better. But Raoul soon found his feet. He took a room in a boarding house at 17 Arlozorov Street where a young Dutch Jew by the name of Gerson, Freund’s secretary, was also staying. The other tenants were mainly German Jews. Strict kosher rules were observed in the boarding house, hats had to be worn indoors, and on the Sabbath only vegetables and milk were served. The bank had 30 employees, only two or three of whom were non-Jews. The Jews came from Russia, Romania, Germany and the Netherlands. The main languages spoken were German and French and after a short time in the bank Raoul’s fluency in these languages was ‘rapidly returning’. Everyone advised him



The Hero of Budapest

6.1  The building on Arlozorov Street with the boarding house where Raoul was staying. to learn Hebrew, a language which had been on the point of dying out before the great Jewish emigration to Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s, but which was now ‘rising like a phoenix from the ashes’. But Raoul was thinking of learning Arabic instead. The bank was open six days a week and the employees could choose whether they wanted Saturday or Sunday off. Raoul, like most of the others, chose Sunday. He had no formal post, being an unpaid trainee, just like with Frykberg in South Africa. It was a status he himself did not like and even found ‘dangerous’, as an employer’s recommendation ‘is only worth something if whoever has written it has had to pay your wages’. But his grandfather had not thought it reasonable to ask for a paid post as Freund did not know Raoul, and moreover he had not wanted to risk a refusal.

Freund’s Bank Raoul was assigned to the correspondence section and given routine tasks not directly connected to banking. He copied letters, went through documents – ‘to


6.2  On the beach in Haifa. see what they look like’ – and compiled statistics about fluctuations in the New York Stock Exchange. He saw Freund once a day but had not yet had any close dealings with him, he reported after his first week in the bank. The director was liked by his staff but was ‘somewhat nervous’, and ‘throws tantrums every now and then whenever anything goes awry’. After a while Raoul was moved to bookkeeping, where he learned more about proper banking, which, however, he found ‘complicated and difficult to understand’. Even after a month in the bank he still understood ‘very little of what was going on’. Apart from working in the bank, Raoul was enjoying Palestine. ‘One nice thing here is the climate, day after day of sun and warmth, sometimes almost too much of a good thing, but in any case better than snow and slush.’ On the outskirts of Haifa there is a fine bathing beach, Bat Galim, which Raoul visited with some friends and young ladies almost every Saturday afternoon. The girl he was seeing most of was called Dora Aronowski. He was working on Saturdays, when his Jewish friends celebrated the Sabbath, but as the bank closed early he still managed to get out to the beach after work. During the Easter weekend Raoul and two friends from the bank went out



The Hero of Budapest on a Volvo bus to Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, ‘on which Jesus walked’. They also visited towns full of Arabs like Osh, Mina, Safed and Acre, the last ‘an entirely Arab town which is one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen, with extremely narrow, mysterious streets and surrounded by huge walls’. Here they came into contact with the Arab element of Palestine’s population. When they asked two Arab women the way during a nocturnal walk, they were met with ‘the most horrible insults’. ‘We ran as fast as our legs would carry us, for we suddenly realised we had committed a grave sin by addressing veiled women, and Arabs quickly draw their knives.’ Even after six weeks Freund had not taken Raoul in hand, which irritated him. Gustaf Wallenberg, not surprisingly, saw things differently, heartened by a letter from Freund which in his opinion showed that Raoul had misinterpreted Freund’s attitude to him. In the letter the bank director reported his impressions of Raoul. He was ‘very intelligent and cultivated’, by his behaviour he earned ‘sympathy and goodwill’, he showed ‘a lively interest in all aspects of culture, economic life and politics’ and differed ‘in an advantageous way from most of his friends of the same age’. His grandfather’s joy and pride knew no bounds. ‘You could not ask for a better and more persuasive testimonial,’ he wrote to Raoul, simultaneously sending him an extract from Freund’s letter. ‘It will be of the greatest value once you are home and looking for a position.’ If Gustaf Wallenberg hoped that Freund’s letter would change Raoul’s mind, he was mistaken. On the contrary, Raoul regretted that his grandfather had allowed himself to be so impressed by the letter, which he himself found ‘a rather devious piece of writing’. He and Freund had only met for about four hours in total and Raoul was ‘generally not too pleased’ with what he had learned about the bank. The question of whether or not he intended to return to Haifa after his military service he left open.

A Jewish National Home In his letter to Gustaf Wallenberg Freund wrote that Raoul seemed to have adjusted well to Palestine and he, Freund, had formed the impression that ‘the country with its different problems interests him greatly’. This was true. In fact it was difficult not to be interested in Palestine and in developments there. After having been subject to the Ottoman Empire for three centuries, after World War I it became a British protectorate, the British Mandate of Palestine. According to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, a ‘national

Palestine home’ for the Jewish people would be created in this mandated state on condition that it was done in a manner that would not have a negative effect on the Arab population already living there. Before World War I 800,000 people lived in Palestine, of whom 60,000 (7.6 per cent) were Jews. The establishment of the ‘national home’ led to a Jewish immigration which increased year on year. In 1933 Palestine had an Arab population of 800,000 and a Jewish population of 175,000 (17 per cent). In the wake of the persecution of the Jews in Germany the Jewish population of Palestine doubled during the years 1933–6 to 370,000 or 27 per cent. In the boarding house Raoul came into close contact with the new immigrant Jews, whom he described as ‘very nice and humorous’. On one occasion one of them told Raoul that her brother had been murdered by the Nazis. According to Raoul, it was mentioned ‘in passing’. ‘Otherwise, people here don’t talk much about the past, but almost exclusively about the future of Palestine, in which everyone believes wholeheartedly – it would be a pity if they didn’t, since Palestine is their home and the realisation of a long-time dream,’ he reported to his grandfather, who in a letter to Raoul had expressed his great admiration for the Jewish immigrants’ energy. He continued:

6.3  With friends in Haifa. Raoul to the right.



The Hero of Budapest There is a kind of self-generating boom caused by the steady stream of new immigrants bringing ever-growing needs that can only be met by a continuous process of starting up and expanding enterprises. As long as people remain optimistic and believe in the future of the country, the construction will continue and there will be a lot of money floating around. But should that faith ever fail, I believe there will be a terrible crisis. Palestine’s hope is to become the industrial centre of the Near East, and they already have lots of industries, though they are designed primarily to satisfy the domestic market and export hasn’t yet started. Because of this, their economy is rather fragile, but the Jews are firmly convinced that all will work out. They are used to suffering worse things than a financial crisis, so they don’t care about the risks and, besides, they have no choice except to settle here. I never knew that so many Jews were as deeply and fanatically religious as many here are. To them, Palestine is much more than a mere refuge; it is the promised land, the land designated for them by God. It will take an enormous effort to make the country suitable for farming, for there is very little water and much too much stone. Before they arrived there were only about 800,000 Arabs, if that many, and they would like to reach a Jewish population of 4 million. When a foreigner asks how the country will feed that many, they reply with a beautiful fable. Palestine, they say, is like the skin of a deer. When the skin is removed from the animal, it shrinks, and you wonder how it could ever have covered the animal. It is the same with Palestine: so long as Palestine contains a Jewish population, it drips with milk and honey and can support a large population; when there are no longer any Jews, it shrinks in value, unable to support even a small Arab population and its miniscule demands. Raoul could acquire knowledge of the economic reality in Palestine not only at the boarding-house dinner table but also during his travels around the country. He visited the ‘Levant Fair’ in Tel Aviv, an international trade fair which had been arranged for the fourth time since 1929. The exhibition had ‘not much to it, but the city is pleasant, the architecture better than in Haifa, and some of the streets are tree-lined,’ he told his grandfather. Raoul was also keen to visit Jerusalem but would postpone the trip for as long as possible because the interesting parts of the city were off-limits due to the disturbances. Moreover, the curfew took effect after seven o’clock, which ‘should make life rather boring

Palestine for those people, especially the young ones, who work until seven and then have to go home to their rooms without the chance to go to the movies or out for a walk. A sort of three months’ prison sentence for the poor Jews.’ When Raoul finally got there, there were soldiers everywhere on the road from Tel Aviv and the taxi ride went at a furious rate, ‘evidently to reduce the risk of being shot at’. ‘It was wonderful,’ Raoul wrote, summing up his impressions of Jerusalem, ‘but because of the bad conditions you aren’t allowed to see anything.’ If Raoul was denied access to the oldest monuments of the Jewish people, he was instead given an opportunity to acquaint himself with the most modern expressions of Jewish civilisation. During an Easter outing to the Sea of Galilee he and his friends visited ‘one of the new socialist Jewish colonies, located where the Jordan flows out of the lake’: a kibbutz. During Turkish rule agriculture in Palestine had gradually declined and large areas of farmland had been abandoned. These areas had been bought up by immigrant Jews, of whom many had come to Palestine out of religious conviction and others because they hoped to create a ‘national home’ for a model socialist society. An important component of this type of society was collective agriculture, where all the workers received the same wages irrespective of their contribution. The first kibbutz was created in 1909. It was one like this that Raoul visited by the River Jordan. He was impressed by what he saw: It was truly admirable. The Arabs don’t like selling their unused and neglected land to the Jews, and when they do they jack the prices up as high as possible. The Jews therefore try as hard as they can to farm efficiently, to get maximum yield. The organisational form is that of a socialist collective and made up mostly of young people who work terribly hard in the worst possible climate. Hundreds of lives have been lost to malaria. They are doing well with all kinds of fruits and vegetables, but grain apparently doesn’t work too well. The Jews’ problems were far from being solely of an economic nature. Right from the start the movement of Jews into Palestine was met with strong resistance from the Arabs. ‘The Jews here are afraid of the Arabs, who are beginning to wake up and dream of an empire,’ he noted. ‘Poor people, they evidently have to adjust to being in a minority wherever they go.’ In fact, Raoul’s stay in Palestine coincided with the first great Arab uprising, led by the strongly antiJewish Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and chairman of the Supreme Muslim Council. The uprising started at the beginning of April 1936



The Hero of Budapest and was directed against both the British authorities and the Jewish population, which in 1935 alone had increased by 5,000. Between 9 and 22 April 16 Jews and five Arabs were killed in Jaffa and Tel Aviv. According to what Freund wrote in his letter, the uprising should soon be over, but Raoul’s grandfather had heard from a well-informed source that ‘the situation is more dangerous than the papers say and that an explosion is feared’. However, he left it to Raoul to decide whether or not to leave Palestine. ‘If you feel there is a risk, I advise you to leave. But you have to decide for yourself and also consider to what extent staying would be useful to you.’ Yet if Raoul should wish to leave Palestine it was important that it didn’t look as if ‘you are afraid and want to flee’.

The Plan Is Adjusted to Fit the Circumstances Raoul replied to his grandfather three weeks later, sitting in a café in Haifa, which was still ‘fairly peaceful’. ‘One heard bombings now and then; at least my Jewish friends used to – I suppose their nerves were all shot to pieces, poor people,’ he would recall a few years later. But if one avoided the Arab quarters, he wrote, it wasn’t dangerous to go out: ‘There has been some bomb throwing, with meagre results. They usually explode prematurely and kill the would-be assassin.’ Having read between the lines that his grandfather was uneasy, however, he assured him that right from the start of the uprising he had decided to leave immediately ‘should the situation so warrant, i.e. without first asking permission’. The insubordinate tone of the subordinate clause – ‘i.e. without first asking permission’ – was an expression of the growing revolt against Gustaf Wallenberg’s authority which Raoul had demonstrated during the past year. He certainly didn’t need his grandfather’s permission to take such a decision! The differences of opinion which had led to Raoul’s ‘losing my temper’ in Nice during his visit in February reappeared in June–July in even sharper relief. Raoul was dissatisfied with the study plan that his grandfather had drawn up and which he found too rigid. He was tired of working as an unpaid volunteer and was keen to find a proper job. You cannot have helped but notice that my letters this last year have betrayed a certain anxiousness, stemming from the fact that while I thought my present course of study, which is entirely your doing, clever and logically directed towards the goal you set, namely a

Palestine foreign bank, it didn’t serve its purpose of preparing me to earn an income in the near future. It’s true that a couple of years of working abroad in agencies and bank branches as a volunteer is something that corresponds to your intentions, but it doesn’t help when it comes to getting a well-paid position right away. Faced with Raoul’s repeated complaints about the lack of flexibility in his plan of study, Gustaf Wallenberg made a partial retreat. Although he thought that it would be best to have ‘a programme to stick to’, even after Raoul’s military service, if Raoul chose to stay on in Sweden his grandfather would help him to get in touch with ‘highly qualified people’. However, he explained, this was not a ‘definite programme’, and if Raoul had a better suggestion, he would consider it. At the same time Gustaf made clear that if Raoul chose to stay at home he would consider his ‘mission’ with regard to Raoul’s education to be completed. If on the other hand he remained abroad, Gustaf would continue to pay his expenses. A copy of the letter was sent to Maj von Dardel, who was invited to give her opinion about it ‘so that, as always, we may cooperate fully in the best interest of our dear boy’. Conscious of the fact that Raoul was no longer prepared to follow his instructions blindly, and that what he wanted most was to return to Sweden for good, Gustaf Wallenberg had only one argument left – ‘girls’, and what they can get up to. The only thing that worries me about your going home is the girls, not those on the streets, but those in the salons. It wouldn’t be sensible to commit yourself. […] Nothing so shackles a young man as having to go to work in poverty. One must first and foremost obtain one’s independence, have a yearly income of 20,000 kronor and two maids. Otherwise you have nothing to offer a wife apart from being a skivvy and that doesn’t taste good in the long term. Gustaf Wallenberg’s willingness to ‘adjust the plan to fit the circumstances’ pleased Raoul. On these conditions he declared that he was ‘willing to be cooperative’ and to accommodate himself to his grandfather’s wishes more than he had thought lately. ‘I don’t want to hide from you that during the last few months I had begun to think that I would have to cry “wolf” in order to make myself heard.’ As for his grandfather’s worry that he wanted to have a paid job ‘only to go out and get married right away’, Raoul confided that his main motivation



The Hero of Budapest was a strong desire to make some money, ‘preferably lots of money’ – ‘I want a wife as well, but for the time being I think money comes first.’

Not Really Cut Out for Banking What Raoul wanted most was a paid, permanent job rather than working ‘only to acquire knowledge’. Moreover, by this stage he had come to realise that bank work was not for him. What he had experienced of banking in Haifa had inclined him to regard it as ‘a kind of glorified pawnshop’ and mechanical, routine slog. Working in a bank did not require the same degree of intelligence or independent thinking as working in an architect’s office or an agency. While he had demonstrated his aptitude for architecture, in which he had a lifelong interest, he might not – he admitted to his grandfather – ‘be particularly suited for banking at all’. In education as well as character he was fundamentally different from his relatives, something that he did not hesitate to point out: To tell you the truth, I don’t think I am really cut out for banking. The director of a bank should be judge-like and calm and cold and cynical besides. Freund and Jacob W. are probably typical, and I feel as different from them as I could be. My temperament is better suited to some positive line of work than to sitting around saying ‘no’. After five and a half months in Haifa, Raoul made his way homeward, to Sweden. ‘Mother has repeatedly written that she is looking forward to having me home,’ he told his grandfather, and I have therefore taken the attitude that I will stay abroad so long as it is definitely better and so long as it really does provide me with skills I cannot get at home and benefits the development of our plans. I still maintain, however, that I need more insight into how things are done at home. On the one hand, I admit that being abroad is a good way to hide flaws and deficiencies. On the other you also hide your potential talent and may be met by scepticism when you finally do go home. The Polish boat Polonia left Haifa on 18 August and five days later entered the harbour of Istanbul. During the half a day that he spent with his grandfather

Palestine the discussions about his future continued on the same lines as before. By this stage Gustaf Wallenberg had reconciled himself to the idea that Raoul would stay in Sweden after his military service and his wish now was simply that Raoul would not regard his work in Haifa as definitely over. ‘It can be something to keep in reserve, to fall back on,’ he opined, ‘if your eventual attempts to find a job immediately are unsuccessful.’ A continued work placement in Freund’s bank was thus no longer a part of the plan but instead a ‘reserve plan’, a way out if things should turn out badly for Raoul in Sweden. On the same evening of 23 August the Polonia continued along the Black Sea coast towards the Romanian port of Constanta. From there Raoul continued on ‘a dreadfully overcrowded immigrant train’ via Lwów (Lviv) to Warsaw. Poland made a mixed impression on him. The country looked ‘lush and pretty’ but from the window of his compartment he could see that there were ‘very few roads or other evidence of progress and capital investment in the countryside’. From Warsaw he travelled on to Berlin. During his stay there Raoul called on his ‘favourite cousin’ Maj Nisser, who the previous year had married Count Enzio von Plauen and was living in Schloss Wiesenburg, an hour’s journey from the capital. Raoul’s trip through Germany took place in the weeks following the summer Olympic Games in Berlin. He was impressed by what he saw: ‘Nazi Germany itself also made a good impression on me and the people I talked to, except for the Jews, claimed to be quite contented.’


The End of an Epoch Raoul landed in Stockholm at the beginning of September. He had not been home for about a year and there was an emotional reunion. His mother, he discovered, had bought a car and learned to drive as his parents were in the process of moving to their new villa where transport links were poor, and Guy and Nina had grown so that they were now almost as tall as he was.1 A week after his arrival home Raoul joined the Svea Life Guards to carry out 25 days of his compulsory military refresher course. He had been placed at the disposal of the company commander, which he thought was ‘quite good, as that will most likely be less strenuous than ordinary army service’. The exercise was over by 6 October. According to his mother, Raoul enjoyed his military service and he received top grades. Raoul was keen to get on with his new life as soon as possible. During his first week in Stockholm, before reporting to the military, he managed to see ‘most members of the family’, who turned out to be ‘very nice’. One family member whom he mentioned particularly in his reports to his grandfather was ‘Uncle Knut’, who ‘asked straight out’ if he wasn’t ‘aiming to come and work in the bank’. Raoul emphasised that it was not himself who brought up the subject, ‘and when I gave a hesitant answer he hinted that if I did, the intention was that I would eventually “get to the top”, as he put it.’ One relative whom Gustaf Wallenberg warmly recommended Raoul visit in Stockholm was Fredrik Wallenberg, the widower of his sister Ingeborg. Gustaf’s brother-in-law had spent the greater part of his life abroad, among other things, as a journalist on the Daily Mail in London, and now that he was back in Sweden he was Gustaf Wallenberg’s main source of knowledge about the family. Although Fredrik was almost blind he was exceptionally well informed and wrote long and detailed – but never malicious – reports on the doings of different family members. He was, wrote Raoul’s grandfather, ‘talented, very

The End of an Epoch knowledgeable, and likes to talk’, which was ‘why it should be particularly tempting for you to meet him’. Raoul was happy to meet Fredrik Wallenberg, and the impression he left was altogether positive. As Fredrik reported to Gustaf Wallenberg: on Sunday he came here with his mother and I am not surprised that you are pleased with your grandson. It will be very agreeable to get to know him more intimately as I have heard quite a lot about him both from America and from South Africa, from quite independent sources. Another relative on whom Raoul made a good impression was Anna Rytzell, the illegitimate but acknowledged daughter of André Oscar and thus Gustaf Wallenberg’s half-sister. In her report to her brother she noted the difference in temperament between Raoul and his relatives which Raoul himself, with his declaration that he felt himself ‘so unlike them’, showed himself to be well aware of: Raoul came over immediately and greeted me. I have always thought he was so nice, cheerful and interesting and, in contrast to all the other Wallenbergs, open and frank and not in the least timid or shy, but rather inclined to speak his mind freely and he finds it unusually easy to make conversation […] I hope to have occasion to meet Raoul as often as possible. I telephoned Maj right away and told her that Raoul was welcome to come for lunch and dinner when he had time. Raoul is doing his military service so he is fully occupied now but he will have finished it in about a week – and then we will see what he is going to do – for myself, I really hope he will stay in Stockholm – and Maj really hopes so too – which is very natural. He will spend a lot of time with his cousins then and they are all nice people and it would be good for Raoul to have a bit of family life. I think he wants to be able to stay at home now – for some time to come.

Waiting for Grandfather The plan was that Gustaf would come up to Stockholm directly after Raoul’s military service to act, as he put it, as ‘director’ of Raoul’s career in Sweden. Raoul ‘is so eager to know when you are coming home, Minister, he has rung



The Hero of Budapest and asked so many times,’ Gustaf Wallenberg’s Stockholm secretary Hanna Wernberger wrote to him in mid October. But Raoul’s grandfather was not well and instead of travelling to Stockholm he took himself off to Nice at the end of October for the sake of his health. Raoul was careful not to take any steps of his own before his grandfather arrived. To be sure, he had ‘some talks’ with his former boss Carl Frykberg, who was in Stockholm and wanted him to return to South Africa, but after the end of his military service, in his own words, he had been ‘hanging around doing nothing in particular. I have not wanted to enquire about a job so as not to anticipate you.’ Gustaf Wallenberg’s continued stay in Nice, however, meant that Raoul had to think of alternative strategies: ‘Since I do not wish to be a burden to my stepfather nor live off my assets and, as you told me in Istanbul, will receive support from you only when abroad, I find it necessary to find some work,’ he wrote on 22 October. Raoul applied for some jobs and received a few proposals, but none of them sufficiently tempting to make him snap it up. ‘I now await your instructions with great impatience, and I sincerely hope that soon you will be in robust health,’ he wrote on 10 October. But his grandfather was unwell. He remained in Nice and sent no instructions. Raoul didn’t find a job, but in the same month he made his debut as a writer with the reportage ‘South African impressions’ in the travel magazine Jorden runt (Around the World). When Thore Fevrell had suggested to Raoul that he should ‘write some sort of article about South Africa’, he had been doubtful: ‘I can’t understand those people who come to a country and stay there for a week then write the most marvellous stories about it, stuffed with the most acute observations and conclusions,’ he commented ironically in a letter to his aunt Karin. ‘To sit down and hammer out “Some impressions from South Africa” is I think next to impossible.’ As it turned out, it was not, and publication presumably meant a much-needed boost for Raoul’s self-confidence.

Raoul’s Future (IV) Raoul suffered from having nothing to do and from the long-drawn-out wait for his grandfather, whose health continued to worry both him and his family. In mid November, accordingly, it was decided that Gustaf Wallenberg’s sister Lilly Crafoord would travel to Nice. She took Raoul with her for company. On 18 November they left for the French Riviera.

The End of an Epoch

7.1  Jacob and Marcus Wallenberg junior (‘Dodde’) in their office at the Stockholms Enskilda Bank, 1936. ‘Everything is fine with grandfather, as far as I can see, and I don’t think we have any cause to worry,’ Raoul reported to Aunt Karin. When we arrived, he was at the station. Certainly he looked thinner than usual, but you wouldn’t have thought he had lost 13 kilos. […] Otherwise he is behaving sensibly and doesn’t seem to be depressed. He doesn’t sit up till four in the morning and is livelier than you might expect after so much dieting. A contributory factor to Gustaf Wallenberg’s relative well-being was the fact that it was his sister Lilly and not his chatty wife who had come visiting – ‘she is so excitable and that didn’t suit me at all,’ he confided to his secretary in Istanbul, Fina Johansson. Also in Nice were Knut and Alice Wallenberg, who had been spending the autumn there for 30 years. For company they had Marcus senior’s daughter Gertrud, who was married to the Austrian count Ferdinand Arco auf Valley and lived in St Martin in the Austrian Tyrol. They were staying in the Riviera



The Hero of Budapest Palace, where they always set up camp, while Gustaf, Lilly and Raoul had rooms in the Grand Hôtel. That Knut was well disposed towards Raoul, whom he thought would ‘eventually get to the top’ if he chose to go into the bank, was no secret to Marcus and his sons, among whom Raoul’s Riviera trip unleashed immediate and febrile activity. In order to keep himself informed about the direction of the conversations, Marcus asked his daughter Gertrud to take on the roll of informant. ‘It would be interesting to find out, sans bruit, if Grandfather Gustaf has squeezed out of Uncle Knut some half-promise that R. is to get a position in the bank. I know that R.’s mother has approached Uncle Knut before with this aim.’ Marcus and his sons did not want to have Raoul in the Enskilda Bank and were afraid that Gustaf would talk Knut into smuggling him in behind their backs. Gertrud took on the assignment. She had never met Raoul before and now when she had an opportunity to get to know him, she told her father, he made ‘a very Jewish impression’ on her. Her conclusion was openly anti-Semitic: I think, then, that he & Nachmanson might just as well take over the running of the Bank & by the way I didn’t know that Uncle Knut had the right to make that kind of decision about the Bank & and nor did I know that the Bank was a charitable institution for the family!! The wordings must have been hard to stomach for Marcus senior, bearing in mind that several Jews had worked and were still working in leading positions in the bank, among them the brothers August and Joseph Nachmanson. The next intelligence report followed a week later, after Raoul had left Nice. At a lunch with Lilly Crafoord Gertrud enquired ‘in general about this Raoul, if he had gone and what he was doing’. Lilly’s reply, which Gertrud immediately passed on to her father, ought to have calmed his fears: ‘In the presence of Knut & Alice Aunt Lilly said that Raoul only wants to be an architect, but about a year ago Grandfather Gustaf made him work in a bank, but he was not happy there & he says himself that he never wants to be a banker.’2 Raoul had confirmed that he was not aiming for a post in the bank. Marcus and his sons could breathe easy. That these had been nervous weeks is evident not only from Gertrud’s spying assignment but also from the fact that Marcus simultaneously wrote a letter to Raoul in Nice offering him the chance to take charge of ‘a little Swedish company’ that he was thinking of starting up to make zip-fasteners according to a new German patent. If Raoul was interested, he should ensure that on his way home from Nice he met Nachmanson (!) in Neustadt in Baden, where

The End of an Epoch there was a factory making such fasteners. The letter was sent from Stockholm on 23 November and reached Nice a few days after Raoul’s arrival. That the offer came just now was of course no coincidence, but rather a deliberate attempt on Marcus’s side to steer Raoul’s thoughts away from a possible career in the bank.

On the Borderline Between Architecture and Business The investigation into the prerequisites for a zip-fastener business with Scandinavia as the potential market took up about a month of Raoul’s time. He enjoyed working and being active. ‘Raoul is so happy now that he has lots to do that interests him,’ his mother reported to her in-laws on Christmas Eve 1936. He ‘writes letters to all corners of the world’ and was taking soundings from different buyers about their potential interest in the zip-fastener in question. ‘If we were to start manufacture I would be given a well-paid position, but on the other hand it might be a disadvantage to be tied to a venture that might fail,’ Raoul wrote to his grandfather. ‘I am therefore weighing up the pros and cons with the utmost care before making a decision.’ Although the zip-fastener project could have led to a paid position Raoul does not seem to have nourished any real enthusiasm for it and it would appear that it came to nothing. So how did he see his future? He had given up any thought of a career in banking once and for all. An architect? Raoul was bright enough to realise that, in the current depression, the chance of a 24-year-old with a foreign degree getting work as an architect in Sweden was slight. Moreover, his American degree was not automatically valid in Sweden. Yet it was architecture that appealed to him and the ideal, as he saw it, would be to combine this passion with some kind of business activity. During his stay in Nice, Raoul wrote to his old teacher Emil Lorch in Ann Arbor to ask his advice before he made up his mind about his future. Certainly, he wrote, he had received some ‘very good offers for work’ but he longed to return to America and would prefer to find some use for his architect’s training: I feel it a pity to turn my back on architecture after all the good times it has given me. I believe the building industry has an enormous development ahead for the next few years in America and I would like to do my share in the great things that are to come. Please tell me if you think that conditions now are such that I would have a chance of finding a



The Hero of Budapest paid job as draughtsman in New York or Detroit. Besides the training in your school I have had little training in matters architectural – only the bath project of which I sent you some illustrations. But I have some good business training that might do somebody some good if he employed me in his firm. In South Africa I was a rather good salesman and organiser. We introduced many new Swedish articles there and it was extremely important that negotiations were carried on diplomatically, persuasively and speedily. They were put in my hands – it was a good training. Maybe you know of somebody who needs a man with a training on the borderline between architecture and business [my italics]? I have such a longing to come to America again that I would be coming over on much less than a definite offer for a job. By the autumn of 1936 Raoul seems to have achieved some insight into where his professional strengths lay and what he most wanted to do in life. That the form of words used in the letter to Lorch was not the expression of a whim is shown by the fact that it was repeated in a letter to his grandfather sent at the same time, in which Raoul talks about a ‘sphere of activity […] on the borderline between architecture and business’.

In Grateful Memory Gustaf Wallenberg was still poorly and remained in Nice. He had problems with his kidneys and liver and was suffering from jaundice. He had lost weight and had no appetite but was forcing himself to eat as much as he could in accordance with doctor’s orders. ‘You can imagine how ill I am, Fina,’ he wrote to his secretary, ‘when a heavy smoker like me who in general smokes five cigars a day could not manage to smoke a single cigar for a month.’ Gustaf Wallenberg did not have much faith in the French doctors and when King Gustaf V landed in Nice on 8 February he asked the monarch’s permission to consult his personal physician. After a thorough examination, Dr Casserman advised him to travel home immediately to be examined. ‘I had not in fact wished to travel home until I was more or less restored to health, for I felt embarrassed to appear among my siblings as an emaciated invalid, but given Casserman’s advice there was nothing for it,’ he wrote to Fina Johansson on 13 February. The following day he and his wife – who despite everything had come down for Christmas – left for Stockholm.

The End of an Epoch

7.2  ‘The last photo, taken in Nice.’ Gustaf Wallenberg in Nice in the winter of 1936–7. Gustaf Wallenberg’s time in his native land was short. On 21 March he died in the Red Cross hospital in Stockholm. The disease that ended Raoul’s grandfather’s life at the age of 74 was kidney cancer. As contributory factors the death certificate cites pneumonia and chronic inflammation of the heart muscle. Gustaf Wallenberg was buried on Maundy Thursday, 25 March, in the Naval Church where he had been christened 74 years earlier. Notable among the mourners were, apart from the family, representatives of the diplomatic corps and the Swedish Foreign Office – among others, Ivan Danielsson, whose fate a few years later would come to be intertwined with Raoul’s. Also present was Sven Hedin. Condolences came from the king and several other members of the royal family. After the funeral ceremony, the mortal remains of Gustaf



The Hero of Budapest Wallenberg were then taken to the family burial plot in Malmvik on the island of Lovön, where his son had rested since 1912.

A Desire to Hear about Papa Gustaf Wallenberg was dead and Raoul was thus bereft of both father and grandfather – the two male role models in his life, one of whom he had met for a total of a few months and the other of whom he had never seen at all. What did Raoul know about his father, Gustaf Wallenberg’s son? The basic information came from his mother, who in the early letters to her father-in-law talks of Raoul’s childlike curiosity about his father. But what and how much she told him when he was older is unknown. She herself had only known Raoul senior for a few short years. Yet it is clear that Raoul saw his dead father as an almost unattainable ideal figure. The fact that his father is absent from the comprehensive correspondence between Gustaf Wallenberg and Raoul has a natural explanation: the grandfather quite simply did not know his son all that well. ‘Thank you very much for your letter of the 13th,’ Raoul wrote to Gustaf Wallenberg from Haifa in July 1936 with reference to a letter which has not been found. ‘When I read the first sentence I suddenly had an urge to ask you to tell me something about my father,’ he went on. ‘Preferably in a letter so that I can always have it with me. I have always felt myself very inferior to him in a half-unconscious way. In my photographs he looks so fine and honourable and self-sacrificing, and I feel myself to be a poor substitute.’ The reason Gustaf Wallenberg chose just at this time to touch on a subject which he had avoided earlier was conceivably that he realised that he did not have that much longer to live. So when Raoul asked for more information in a letter his grandfather took him at his word – but passed on the task to a relative. On 14 September, in a long letter, he exhorted his half-sister Anna Rytzell to ‘tell Raoul as much as possible about his father’ and about the family in general. It is a remarkable letter, written by a father and grandfather who had devoted half a century to rearing two boys whom he knew almost solely from correspondence: You knew him better than anyone else. Much better than I did myself, as, during the most important part of his early life, I was in the Far East. And when boys enter the Naval College one is not allowed to see much of them. It was during those years when he was a young officer

The End of an Epoch in Stockholm that you had so many opportunities to meet him – I only saw him quite briefly during an incidental visit to Stockholm. You ought therefore to be able to tell his son much that will be of great interest to him. Raoul has quite a different disposition from his father, who had an artistic nature. Young Raoul is the practical type and finds it very easy to mix with people. He receives praise for his skill at negotiating. Raoul has great admiration for his mother and quite rightly, for Maj is an excellent woman. What I would like is for you to give him as much information as possible about our family, and primarily, of course, about his father. […] I want Raoul to understand the value of belonging to the Wallenberg family. The letter also contains a portrait of the grandson as his grandfather saw him: You will enjoy being with Raoul. His sparkling eyes and lively mind, united with rather good presentational skills and very wide reading, mean that he holds his own well in conversation. And if you then ensure that the abovementioned subject is openly aired – our family’s activities and family members’ character traits – you will see that the questions will come thick and fast. Raoul has great admiration for his mother’s family. However, this is based more on the loveableness of individual family members than on their achievements. We Wallenbergs are certainly of a different sort. Anna was happy to take on the assignment: Raoul was so ‘open and frank and not the least timid or shy […] and he has an unusual facility for conversation […] so that it will not be at all difficult for me to talk about his father – whom I knew so well.’ In Gustaf Wallenberg’s letter his son is described as having an ‘artistic nature’ while the grandson is said to be ‘the practical type’. The analysis is unexpectedly insensitive, coming from someone who was well aware of Raoul’s passionate interest in architecture and the fine arts. In fact Raoul possessed a talent for both art and business. The question was how best to combine them. He did after all want to work, and he wanted to earn money. One opportunity lay ‘on the borderline between architecture and business’. The dream of a line of work where he could combine his creative and practical talents was to be realised – but only many years later, and in a wholly different area from that of the business world.


Interlude At his death Gustaf Wallenberg left a large and almost debtfree estate of around 1 million kronor: in today’s terms, almost 30 times as much (£3 million). Raoul’s share of the inheritance amounted to at least 70,000 kronor, which in today’s values corresponds to around 2 million (£200,000). He also inherited furniture and parts of Gustaf Wallenberg’s wine cellar.1 While his inheritance gave Raoul a certain financial independence, his grandfather’s decease placed him in a situation that was not easy to cope with. If, earlier, he had felt obliged to act according to Gustaf Wallenberg’s instructions, he was now free – and forced – to make his own choices. Given his name, though, it was natural that in the first instance he should turn to the family for advice and guidance – a family that not only owned the Enskilda Bank and controlled several large Swedish companies but also had a wide network of contacts in the business world. Raoul dreamed of a nice job and a good income and had his head full of projects and plans. Rolf af Klintberg, who only met Raoul sporadically after his return home from abroad, recalled that ‘when he turned up, it was as if a gale of new ideas and bold, sometimes bewildering initiatives blew through the room’. As Raoul had been abroad for five years, however, he was out of sync with his generation and lacked colleagues and student friends of his own age in Sweden. This feeling of being an outsider, in combination with the economic depression of the 1930s, is yet another explanation for his dependence on his family in the hunt for an interesting and salaried occupation. After his grandfather’s death Raoul had several meetings with the Wallenberg family about his future. The person he had most contact with was Jacob, whom he is said to have regarded as something of an ‘idol’.2 There were several reasons for this. Firstly, of all the brothers Jacob was the one who had been closest to Raoul’s father (there was only a four-year age difference between them and

Interlude both were naval officers). Secondly, he was Raoul’s godfather. And, thirdly, he was unmarried and had no children of his own (at least not officially). It was also Jacob who had found Raoul his first job in the bank immediately after his graduation. However, Jacob did not offer Raoul any permanent employment, only consulting jobs. One of them concerned the possible involvement of the International Match Corporation (in which the Enskilda Bank had a major stake) in Turkey. Raoul offered his services, stating that he was particularly interested in the question ‘as I know the Levant from visits to Turkey and from my work in Haifa with the Holland Bank Union’. The claim that he was knowledgeable about the Levant after a few short visits to Turkey was a slight but justifiable exaggeration, which shows how keen he was to obtain some work assignment, however trivial. His services were never required, however. Raoul was also asked to do market research, just as he had done previously with the German zippers, on the ‘Soro technique’, a new way of making steel, which had been taken up by a Swiss company. Raoul delivered a positive presentation to the board of the Enskilda Bank, which, however, decided to turn down the offer. He also did market research for a coffee firm. This job filled Raoul with optimism, not least because Jacob Wallenberg held out the hope of further assignments. What type of jobs Jacob had in mind is unknown, but word never came. At the beginning of February 1939 he repeated his promise and urged Raoul to be patient. While waiting for new assignments, there were talks about a possible post in India with the Swedish Match Company. This Raoul rejected, however, since he ‘would prefer to work in Europe or America rather than in the colonies’. The quote is taken from a letter that Raoul wrote to Jacob Wallenberg on 27 April, which exudes a growing desperation about the lack of meaningful job assignments: It is rather depressing to walk around waiting like this. I would therefore be grateful to you if you could tell me whether, like in early February, you advise me to continue to wait for the job of which you held out the prospect or if conditions are such that you would rather advise me to try and get a job on my own. In the former case, I wonder if you possibly could offer me anything to do in the meantime. ‘In the meantime’, Jacob set Raoul yet another investigative assignment, this time with a connection to his vocational orientation as an architect. The Wallenberg



The Hero of Budapest business empire had an interest in land in Huvudsta in the Stockholm area, which it intended to develop for housing. Raoul worked on the project for two and a half months but it came to nothing: in September 1939 war broke out and the scheme was mothballed. At a stroke the political situation and the state of the labour market had changed. On the other hand, Jacob explained, the war might bring in its wake ‘a number of problems’ which he might want to harness Raoul’s services to deal with. Raoul, however, was sceptical about the prospect of further assignments of the kind he had been given so far and he asked Jacob straight out if he could not be given a steady job. Jacob promised to think about it and when he failed to get in touch Raoul pressed him for an answer: ‘I would now be grateful if you could let me know what you have decided.’ No word of a permanent job ever came. Why? Was it really utterly impossible to find Raoul a suitable job within the Wallenberg group of companies? Of course it wasn’t. Were there doubts about his capability? Or was it his notorious weakness for ‘chattering’ that let him down? In the course of their conversations in Cannes in December 1933, one recalls, Marcus senior had said to Gustaf that it would be good if Raoul would ‘curb his gift of the gab’ and that his brother, given the chance, ought to ‘give him a warning’. Did Raoul’s ‘new ideas and bold, sometimes bewildering initiatives’ (as Rolf af Klintberg put it) have an off-putting effect on Jacob, someone who, according to Raoul, had an air of being ‘judge-like and calm’, and who was ‘cold and cynical’ and very unlike himself? Was Raoul, with his imaginativeness and his unconventional ideas, an exotic interloper in Jacob’s and Dodde’s world? Rolf af Klintberg talks of him as a ‘dreamer’ and the same epithet is used by Gustaf von Platen, another person who moved in the same circles. Was Raoul, in short, too detached to fit into the business culture that ruled in his family? Or was it the closeness to his grandfather that proved Raoul’s undoing? There is a striking parallel between Marcus senior’s efforts to keep his brother Gustaf off the bank’s board of directors and his and his sons’ anxiety that Raoul might join the bank, as well as their manifest unwillingness to give him a post within the Wallenberg business sphere. Were they worried that Gustaf’s adventurous business sense had been inherited by his grandson? Did ‘Uncle Marcus’ want to promote his own bloodline at the expense of his brother Gustaf’s? Whatever the answers to these questions may be, Raoul was at the mercy of his relatives. His main supporter within the family, his grandfather, had been dead for two years and in the summer of 1938 Knut Wallenberg had died too. Even if they had not enjoyed a close relationship Raoul had always

Interlude been able to count on the goodwill of ‘Uncle Knut’. Bertil af Klercker, who saw a lot of Raoul during these years, said he had ‘the feeling that he wanted to do something more worthwhile with his life’, and recalled him being ‘a little depressed’. In the absence of support from his family Raoul was forced to try to build a future for himself by his own efforts. Even if the German zip-fastener project led nowhere it opened Raoul’s eyes to that particular article. In the spring of 1937 he was entertaining plans to begin importing Japanese zips. He also speculated in coffee and tried to take control of the Swedish market for Portuguese sardines. However, none of these projects became success stories. At about the same time Raoul and a business colleague started up a small import–export firm, the Swedish–Swiss Industrial Syndicate. One of the syndicate’s products was a patent for a cork which jumped out with no need for a corkscrew and which they succeeded in selling to the French glassworks SaintGobain in 1938. However, the QUICK cork also failed to catch on and the syndicate was eventually wound up. A year later Raoul became involved in yet another company, Special Metal Union, which handled commercial, industrial and agency work and the selling of intellectual-property rights. When he left the firm after only a year, he handed over his shares for the symbolic sum of one krona to Erich Philippi, a German Jew who had escaped to Sweden. In connection with his business affairs Raoul made several trips to the continent. In 1937 he was in Paris (where he also visited the World Exhibition) and in the late autumn of 1938 he was in Berlin.3 According to one source, in the summer of 1938 he was also in Budapest. Although he was there as a businessman ‘all the palaces were open to him,’ recalled László Hertelendy, who met Raoul for the first time at a garden party arranged by the Hungarian regent Miklós Horthy. ‘Wallenberg found it very easy to make contact with people – in five minutes he was everybody’s friend,’ according to Hertelendy, who remembered that Raoul ‘said yes to every invitation he received’ – official receptions, church services and boy-scout meetings.4 The people that Raoul saw in Budapest belonged to the upper reaches of society and the aristocracy. Among those he met was the regent’s son, Miklós Horthy junior. He also spent time with the carefree Baron Tivadar Zichy, a professional racing driver who took him along on death-defying – and, in Zichy’s case, not entirely sober – jaunts in his Bugatti. Raoul, who was very interested in cars, also had a good relationship with Vidor Petrovics, general secretary of the Hungarian Automobile Club, with whom he would visit nightclubs, among them the renowned Szatyor (Basket) Bar in Pest.


8.1  Bernice Ringman and Raoul in central Stockholm. On the back someone, probably Bernice, has written: ‘Don’t we look silly?’

Interlude In contrast to Baron Zichy, Raoul drank in moderation. However, this did not stop him enjoying himself. ‘On one occasion I went with them to the amusement park,’ Hertelendy remembered. Palmolive’s products had just begun to be advertised and the attraction was a lady on a swing over a swimming pool full of Palmolive bath foam. When you hit the target she fell into the water. Wallenberg and Zichy – neither of them had money worries – made a deal with the owner to pay him twice his daily wage so they could take the lady with them.

Lunches, Boats and Bridge After his return from Haifa Raoul lived at home with his mother and stepfather in their villa, to which they moved in October 1936. However, his mother soon began to feel isolated and in the autumn of 1938, after only two years in the new house, the family moved back to the city again. Not much is known about Raoul’s private life during these years. On a few occasions he got a visit from classmates at Ann Arbor, among them Clarence Rosa and his wife, who arrived in Stockholm on the day that war broke out in 1939. Another visitor was Bernice Ringman. ‘I can only hope that time heals her wounds,’ Raoul had written to his grandfather. What form the healing process took is unclear, but one thing we do know: contacts between Bernice and Raoul did not cease in the autumn of 1935, as he had assured his grandfather. A photo she sent Raoul is dated New York, March 1936, and, judging by another photograph, she at one point visited Stockholm. Otherwise little is known about the women who, as John Bierman, one of Raoul’s biographers, put it, ‘flitted in and out of his life’. He went out with lots of young ladies but their relationships seem to have been superficial and without commitment. One of the girls he dated was his sister Nina’s old classmate Viveca Lindfors, who was studying drama at the Royal Dramatic Theatre and would become a famous actress. She remembered him as ‘very shy and very serious’ – he held her at such a distance that another dancing couple could easily have fitted in between them. This image of Raoul as someone who was unwilling to allow women into his life is borne out by Ralf af Klintberg, who was invited to Raoul’s parties on the understanding that he would keep as many girls as possible busy on the dance floor.5 Lacking a proper job, Raoul lived quite a carefree life, with lunches and dinners



The Hero of Budapest

8.2  Raoul sailing in the Stockholm archipelago, here with his cousin Lennart Hagströmer’s wife. in fashionable Stockholm restaurants. ‘It is rather depressing to walk around waiting like this,’ he complained, as we saw, to Jacob Wallenberg. So depressing that in November 1938 he told Nina that he had taken up a new hobby to pass the time: ‘I have struck my colours and on Friday I am starting bridge lessons with Mrs Fagerberg. In this way I hope to get another two hours’ sleep a day, which I need.’ A 26-year-old taking bridge lessons… There is something a little tragic about the whole thing.

Sergeant Wallenberg Germany’s attack on Poland and the Soviet Union’s attack on Finland in the autumn of 1939 caused great anxiety in Sweden. Fifty thousand men were called up. Raoul joined up on 17 November and was released six weeks later. He was a platoon commander and sergeant in an infantry company of the Svea Life Guards in Stockholm. In the spring of 1940 he was called up again. This time his service lasted for five months, from 26 April to 30 September.


8.3  Sergeant Wallenberg as an instructor in the home guard. After his military service Raoul signed up for the home guard. The conscript army had limited resources and demands began to be made for other types of defence forces. On 29 May 1940 the Swedish parliament decided to set up a home guard: by this time Denmark and Norway had been occupied by German armies. The new organisation was to consist partly of young men who had not done their military service and partly of those who were over the age for doing it.



The Hero of Budapest Ever since childhood Raoul had been passionately interested in military questions and he knew all about warplanes, battleships, and so on – an interest not unusual for boys, which in Raoul’s case was strengthened by the fact that his father had been a naval officer. Raoul senior left behind a number of watercolours portraying warships, which stimulated his son’s imagination. Another expression of Raoul’s interest in the military was his involvement in the ROTC at Ann Arbor. In the autumn of 1940 Raoul attended a command course for home guards­ men. Afterwards he worked as an instructor himself. Raoul’s speciality was physical training. Every morning he would go for a long run and he was very fit. Often he took his sister Nina with him for company. If he ran for ten kilometres, as he often did, he allowed her to follow him on a bicycle. Given the varying ages and backgrounds of home guardsmen, their degree of physical fitness was mixed and an important aim was to ensure that it was improved. Raoul organised forced marches – of different lengths and speeds so that everyone could take part. He set about his tasks with energy and enthusiasm. It had been demoralising to be underemployed for so long and here he had an outlet for his need for activity. ‘One of the hardest-working instructors was conscript sergeant Raoul Wallenberg, who had been seized with such an interest in the home guard that he voluntarily stayed on in the emergency service for long periods so as to be able to devote himself to its training,’ recalled the head of the home guard, Gustaf Petri.

The Turning Point: Koloman Lauer Raoul’s name was often mentioned in newspaper reports about home-guard exercises, and always in positive terms. Without exception he was described as a good leader. But as regards rank Raoul was only a sergeant, a non-commissioned officer (NCO). When, on 9 June 1941, he applied to the chief of staff of the home guard for promotion to officer, his argument was that ‘it has been seen as inappropriate that an NCO should perform the functions that I have come to fulfil through force of circumstances’. A higher rank would, thought Raoul, make it possible for him ‘to carry out work which I regard as being of value, without the possibility of such an objection being raised’. Raoul did not receive an answer to his request, or at least none has survived, and he remained a sergeant. His motives for the request are unclear, but they were presumably more psychological in nature than career-driven. He was doing

Interlude a good job for which he was earning praise, he was working closely with the officers of the home guard but when they were about to have their meals he was not allowed to sit at the same table. This may have felt difficult for someone of Raoul’s social background. Through working for the home guard he had found a field of activity where he was able to realise his talents as an organiser and leader – perhaps he saw officer’s rank as an official recognition of his successful work. After all, his career as a businessman had only stuttered on and been a constant source of dissatisfaction. However, the situation was soon to change. In the spring of 1941 Raoul made the acquaintance of the Hungarian businessman Koloman (or, in Hungarian, Kálmán) Lauer, who had been living in Sweden for some time. It was a meeting that would have far-reaching consequences. Koloman Lauer, born in 1899 in what was then Austria–Hungary, was a lawyer and at the early age of 24 had defended his thesis on criminal law at the University of Debrecen. But there was to be no legal career. As a result of the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, Hungary lost three quarters of its territory to its neighbours in the former Austria–Hungary: Austria, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine and Romania. This led to most of the highly educated individuals from the ceded areas gathering within the reduced territory that was now Hungary. The opportunities for a young lawyer to make his way in the face of this competition were slight and Lauer therefore decided instead to embark on a career as a merchant. During the 1930s Lauer worked in companies involved in the food industry in the Dutch East Indies, Germany and the Netherlands, where he founded an export agency with the emphasis on transit business between Europe and China. The company did well but when Germany occupied the Netherlands in May 1940 he lost all his assets. Lauer had made contact with the Swedish market in 1939. He was then the representative for the Hungarian Cooperative Society in Sweden, where he was staying to research the market for Hungarian goods. The upshot was that he put together a sale of large quantities of Hungarian geese to Sweden. He also managed to organise the sale of 500 horses from Hungary to the Swedish army. In Sweden Lauer had close links with the Cooperative Society and with shipowner Sven Salén, who helped him obtain Swedish residency. In March 1941 Lauer and his wife Maria moved to Sweden. In July of the same year the Central European Trading Company Ltd was set up. Sven Salén put in half of the share capital, 15,000 kronor, while Lauer received shares to the same value for the expert knowledge he was bringing to the firm. The goal of the company



The Hero of Budapest

8.4  Photos of Koloman and Maria Lauer attached to their applications for Swedish passports, 1944.

was to carry on an import–export trade between Sweden and the countries of central Europe, especially Hungary, ‘as well as to pursue any activities consistent therewith’. Raoul was introduced to Lauer by Salén and was appointed to the firm in August 1941, immediately after it was founded. He was, Lauer recalled, ‘good at languages, with a good head for business, organisational ability and a pleasant negotiating manner, which was the most important thing at that time when it was of the utmost importance to obtain foodstuffs for Sweden’. The Central European dealt mainly in foodstuffs and from October 1941 to the summer of 1944 it imported goods to a value of around 10 million kronor, almost 200 million (or around £20 million) in today’s values. Vital imported goods were fresh eggs and egg powder, vegetables, dried onions and tomato purée for the Swedish army. Among the more exclusive articles were goose liver, a Hungarian speciality, and other delicacies. Hungary, which was a rich and fertile agricultural country, was on Germany’s side in the war but was not occupied and production of foodstuffs continued more or less as in peacetime. Since Lauer, who was a Jew, could not move around freely in Europe, responsibility for foreign activities in the Central European fell to Raoul, who was

Interlude soon appointed the company’s foreign director. In March 1942 he became a member of the board. Between 1941 and 1943 Raoul made several business trips to continental Europe, something which, given the wartime situation, was not without its complications. Like all other Swedes of an age to bear arms, Raoul was called up at regular intervals for emergency military service. At the end of December, therefore, he applied to the army for permission to stay abroad during October– November 1941. His application was approved on 8 October ‘with the exception of such time as the applicant may be required for war service’ and on 10 October he received his cabinet passport. A ‘cabinet passport’ was a kind of diplomatic passport for people who were not formally connected to the foreign ministry but were travelling abroad on official business. With such a passport one could obtain a transit visa through Germany, which was difficult otherwise. The background to the trip was that the State Horse Export Body had asked the Central European to act on its behalf in negotiating the sale of Swedish carthorses to France. Koloman Lauer, as we saw, had some experience in the trade and believed he could get a better price for the horses in France than in Germany and German-occupied areas. However, Raoul’s trip was postponed and only came off between Christmas and New Year 1941, when he travelled to Paris via Zurich and Vichy (which was the only way to get to Paris from Sweden since the Vichy regime came to power in the summer of 1940). The negotiations were successful and the sale was concluded, according to Lauer, ‘at considerably higher prices than previously obtained from Germany’. The agreement also led to Sweden having the opportunity to import goods that the country was lacking. Raoul remained in Paris for a whole month before returning to Stockholm at the end of January, which suggests that selling the horses was not his only assignment in France. After only a week in Stockholm he went abroad again, this time to Budapest, where he stayed for three weeks. In between his foreign trips he did his emergency service from 25 July to 30 September. Shortly afterwards, in mid October 1942, he travelled to Vichy and Paris again on a three-week trip. His journey home was by way of Geneva and Berlin. During 1942 he also visited Bucharest. In the winter of 1943 Raoul was called up for emergency service again. Afterwards he applied for and was granted permission to stay abroad for about nine months, from 15 June 1943 to 1 March 1944. On 4 September 1943 he travelled once more to Budapest, where in June 1942 his friend Per Anger had taken up his post as second secretary at the legation. This trip was the last one that Raoul undertook for the Central European.6 When he applied to the foreign



The Hero of Budapest ministry for an extension to his passport as he was planning two trips, one to Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey and one to Argentina, ‘in both cases in order to purchase foodstuffs’, the appropriateness of the trips was called in question and he was turned down.

Agreeable Dinners and Nice Girls In January 1944 Raoul’s sister Nina and her husband Gunnar Lagergren had moved to Berlin, where Gunnar had been appointed secretary at the Swedish legation. The evening before they left, Raoul had as usual entertained them with his imitations of different languages. ‘It’s terribly dreary here without you and the dinner table at home might have been cut out of a Strindberg play,’ Raoul wrote to his sister on 28 February. The letter is uneven, he apologises – it has been written on different typewriters since he has so much to do at the firm. The wagons of oranges roll in one after the other, so far without any major losses or deterioration. This last week the market has been glutted with oranges because of very large imports simultaneously from different quarters so the prices have dropped substantially. However, thank God, we had sold all ours in advance. But life was not just business. A few snippets from Raoul’s letters and pocket diary for January–February 1944 bear witness to a hectic social life: lunches and dinners with friends and family, dates with girls. On 19 February, for example, there is a ‘[formal] dinner’ with Maj and Enzio von Plauen, the Romanian minister and his wife, and others. The discussion turned to crime, whereupon Raoul maintained that every human being ‘had his price, so to speak’, and that if the temptation was sufficiently strong and the risk of discovery slight, anyone could be transformed into a criminal. The following week there was another formal dinner ‘with Prince Colonna and his agreeable spouse and Prince Carl Johan and all the same old regulars’. Despite the war and the shortage of foodstuffs life among Stockholm’s upper classes, as we can see, went on more or less as usual. For some years Raoul had been renting a two-room apartment 50 metres from his parents’ home. His own parties were popular because of his ready access to delicacies (through the Central European) and wines (thanks to his inheritance from Gustaf Wallenberg). ‘I remember that we used to converse about art and architecture, which interested


8.5  Raoul with his sister Nina during the war. both of us, and his select dinners were pleasant and he served up the best wines I had ever drunk,’ recalled Gustaf von Platen. ‘He was a very charming host with the most fabulous wine cellar.’ Many of the bottles that Raoul had inherited from his grandfather were getting so old that they had to be drunk up. Some of them, according to von Platen, were ‘fantastic’.


Recruitment While life was proceeding much as usual in Stockholm, the war was continuing in continental Europe. During the winter and spring of 1944 the news came to be dominated by developments in Hungary. As we saw before, the country had lost the greater part of its territory as a result of the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. Towards the end of the 1930s Hungary started to draw ever closer to Germany and after the Munich Agreement of 1938, through German and Italian intercession, it regained large areas with a Hungarian majority in southern Slovakia and northern Transylvania. In the autumn of 1940, in hopes of adding more lost territories, Hungary became an official ally of Germany. Its hopes were partially fulfilled when in the spring of 1941 German and Hungarian forces occupied Yugoslavia, and the territories that had once belonged to Hungary were reconquered. As in every country where Germany ruled or had major influence, the ‘Jewish question’ was high on the agenda. Around 825,000 Jews lived in Hungary, a quarter of a million of them in the capital Budapest. Many of them had intellectual professions; for example, almost half of the country’s doctors and lawyers were Jews. As early as 1920 the Numerus Clausus Act had come into force, limiting entry by Jews into higher education, and in 1938–9 two comprehensive ‘Jewish Laws’ were introduced which severely restricted the rights of Jews and their opportunities to find work. In certain professions there was a total ban on employing Jews, for others a ceiling of at first 30, then 6 per cent. Their rights of ownership were also restricted. The third Jewish Law, adopted in the spring of 1941, was blatantly racist as it forbade marriage and sexual relations between Christian Hungarians and Jews. The regent Admiral Miklós Horthy’s support for Germany rested on two strong convictions: deep-rooted anti-communism and a desire to assert Hungary’s territorial greatness. Support for German policies, however, was not

Recruitment unconditional, either in military or Jewish questions. Horthy was an anti-Semite but he acknowledged the great importance the Jews had had and still had for Hungary’s economy. ‘It is therefore impossible,’ he declared, ‘to eliminate the Jews in one or two years, as they hold everything in their hand.’ He continued, ‘I was perhaps the first openly to express my anti-Semitism but I cannot look on with indifference as the Jews are treated inhumanely and exposed to meaningless insults when we still need them.’ Despite his anti-Semitism Horthy met and socialised with Jews – for example, he played bridge with the liqueur manufacturer János Zwack and the banker Samu Stern, president of the largest Jewish congregation in Pest. For Horthy the threat from the ultra-right, especially from the Arrow Cross Party (of which more later) was significantly more dangerous: ‘The Jews are linked to us by their own interests and are more loyal to their new homeland than the Arrow Cross people, who with their disordered brains will cast us into the arms of the Germans.’ In contrast to the Jews of Poland, for example, the Hungarian Jews were also well integrated into their country’s society and the great majority saw themselves first and foremost as Hungarians, not Jews. Moreover, many in the higher social classes had converted to Christianity. The period from 1867 – when the rights of Jews in Austria–Hungary were confirmed – to World War I was a golden age for Hungarian Jewry. Against the background of the Jews’ special position in Hungary, Horthy and Prime Minister Miklós Kállay tried to ensure that the Jewish laws were applied with moderation. The prime minister even went so far as to declare publicly that ‘the government will stand up not only against the destruction of the Jews but against those who see the Jewish question as the only problem in this country’. In 1943, when Hungary started to send out feelers for a separate peace with the Western Allies, the German government began to plan for an occupation of the country. However, such an occupation had to be prepared to the last detail and the Germans delayed as long as possible occupying their last faithful ally. But by the spring of 1944 the Soviet army had moved so close to the Hungarian border that an invasion became more or less unavoidable. As Hitler trusted neither in the loyalty of the Hungarian government nor in the battle-preparedness of the Hungarian army, he demanded that Horthy sack Kállay and replace him with a more German-friendly prime minister. When the regent refused, Germany occupied Hungary and set up a puppet regime under General Döme Sztójay, former Hungarian minister in Berlin and a person whom Hitler trusted. The occupation took place on 19 March and the persecution of the Hungarian Jews was launched on the same day. ‘The city of Budapest itself is not occupied



The Hero of Budapest by German troops; they have set up camp around the capital,’ Sweden’s minister plenipotentiary in Budapest, Ivan Danielsson, reported to the Swedish foreign minister Christian Günther on 23 March. ‘On the other hand, Budapest is swarming with SS units and Gestapo agents and a ruthless pursuit of Jews in leading positions has got under way.’ One week later, on 31 March, the first new ordinances about the Jewish population of Hungary were published – including persons ‘regarded as Jews’. Among those forbidden to exercise their professions were Jews employed by the State or local government, newspapermen, lawyers and actors. Jews were not allowed to prosecute business, own a telephone, use taxis or drive a car or motorcycle, and they had to report their possession of cash, valuables, savings and radio sets. Their right to frequent public places was strongly curtailed and all Jews over six years of age were forced to wear a yellow, six-pointed cloth star. Danielsson gave a detailed account of all this in a confidential report to Günther on 1 April. On the same day the Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter commented on the Jewish laws in a leader: The Nazi regime’s treatment of the Jews has a single goal: to exterminate them, as far as is possible. This treatment cannot in any way be rationally justified. The large-scale massacre serves no political ends, its staging demands a massive amount of time, money and labour force, it in no way strengthens the war effort, it goes against all the sensible aspirations that German foreign policy could ever be thought to have had. But then the massacre is not politics. It is a blood ritual. […] In the face of decisions of this sort the world outside the beleaguered fortress stands powerless. It is not unfeasible that there will be time for the decision to be implemented before deliverance arrives. An army of executioners has been carefully put together for the purpose, a powerful, perfect apparatus of execution, in which the constituent parts were once thought to be material for human beings. Similar information could be read in various other organs of the press during the spring of 1944. The Swedes were thus well informed about the genocide that was under way and about the numbers involved. According to well-known statistics the number of Jews already murdered in Europe could be estimated at 4 million. The Jews of Hungary constituted the last intact Jewish population group in Europe. ‘The last million’ was the headline of Dagens Nyheter’s leader. The extermination of the Jews in Hungary differed from the operations in

Recruitment Poland and other countries partly because it was set in motion more quickly and more effectively, and partly because it was taking place with the world watching. In less than two months, between 14 May and 8 July, according to official German figures 437,351 Jews were deported, mainly from the provinces. It was the largest deportation operation of the whole war, and, according to Winston Churchill, ‘probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the history of the world’.

‘A Personality, Clever, with a Good Reputation…’ Within Stockholm’s Jewish circles, developments in Hungary were followed closely and with growing unease. On 18 April Norbert Masur, director of the Baltic Fur Company (which had been doing business in Hungary for 50 years) and a delegate to the Jewish World Congress (active in Stockholm since 1942), drew up a proposal in a letter to the chief rabbi in Stockholm, Marcus Ehrenpreis: We ought to find a personality, clever, with a good reputation, a nonJew, who is willing to travel to Romania/Hungary to lead a rescue mission there for the Jews. The person in question must enjoy the trust of the foreign ministry and be equipped with a diplomatic passport, and the foreign ministry must ask the legations in Bucharest and Budapest to assist him as best they can. We must place a large sum of money at his disposal, for example 500,000 kronor. His task is to help the Jews to leave Romania/Hungary. In Romania many could be helped to flee (also by boat) to Turkey by bribes. […] I believe that several hundred people can be saved by means of this plan. The prerequisites are: the right man, support from the foreign ministry, money. The latter is perhaps the least of our worries, for we could certainly obtain the greater part from the USA. The support of the foreign ministry also ought to be possible to obtain in view of the willingness to help that now characterises our authorities. Ehrenpreis backed Masur’s thinking and asked Koloman Lauer to suggest someone answering to the requirements set out in the letter. Lauer put forward Raoul’s name. The chief rabbi and Raoul met, but the meeting was not a success. Raoul is said to have made an impression of immaturity on Ehrenpreis, who put his name aside ‘while waiting for some more suitable candidate’.



The Hero of Budapest

Help for Hungary’s Jews Masur’s initiative signified the start of febrile activity within Jewish circles in Stockholm, where Koloman Lauer came to play a central and driving role. In the spring of 1944 several of his and his wife’s relatives in Hungary were arrested. Koloman and Maria Lauer were of Jewish origin but had converted to Christianity, more specifically, to Calvinism.1 (Calvinism was the main Protestant sect in overwhelmingly Catholic Hungary; Horthy, the regent, for one, was a Calvinist.) The fact that Lauer mentioned Raoul’s name to Ehrenpreis was not just because they were business partners and because of Raoul’s knowledge of Hungary, but also because he and Raoul themselves had been thinking of sending Raoul to Budapest – in a private rescue operation, to try to save the Lauers’ relatives. In this way, the interests of the Lauers and of the Jewish Congregation in Stockholm coincided. On 24 April Lauer approached the foreign ministry to ask for help for his and his wife’s relatives together with some other persecuted and deported individuals. At the same time he decided to apply for Swedish citizenship for himself and his wife. The reason was that the Swedish foreign ministry had given the Swedish legation in Budapest permission to issue entrance visas for Hungarian Jews who had ‘some kind of connection with Sweden and who are in danger’. If the Lauers became Swedish citizens their relatives would thereby be able to apply for such visas. One of the people who recommended Lauer for citizenship was Jacob Wallenberg, to whom both Lauer and Raoul turned to ask for a reference. ‘I assume that you are aware of the situation of the Jews in Hungary,’ Lauer wrote. ‘My relatives and those of my wife have during the last few weeks been deported to an unknown place. My 79-year-old father-in-law and my 74-year-old motherin-law lost two sons in the last world war and the third son, who was a doctor, was already deported six weeks ago.’ Jacob Wallenberg sent his letter of recommendation by return of post, and on 14 July the Lauers became Swedish citizens although they had only been resident in Sweden for three years, not five as the law demanded. The justification was that Lauer’s ‘manifestly outstanding business competence and commercial links overseas will be of benefit to Swedish interests’. At the time that Lauer was preparing his application for citizenship, work was continuing to form a Swedish Aid Committee for the Jews of Hungary. Involved in this planning exercise were, apart from the board of the Jewish Congregation, the industrialist Heinrich von Wahl, who had arrived in Stockholm on 13 March with the dual aim of improving his health and marrying a Swedish

Recruitment woman. Von Wahl, a Hungarian Jew, was managing director of the Manfréd Weiss Works, one of Europe’s largest industrial concerns, a Hungarian Krupp, whose founders included his maternal uncle and his father. From this position he was able to contribute important information about the situation in his homeland. Just like Lauer, von Wahl was keen to send someone to Hungary to rescue relatives and friends – as well as to secure financial interests. Lauer’s and Raoul’s Hungarian acquaintances in Stockholm included Antal Ullein-Reviczky, who was sent to Sweden in 1943 as a Hungarian envoy to conclude negotiations with the Allies about a separate peace which would allow Hungary to withdraw from the war. However, as the USA, Britain and the Soviet Union wanted Hungary to surrender to all three of them, the negotiations were fruitless. Horthy refused to lay down his arms for the Bolshevik Soviet Union. After the German occupation in March 1944 Ullein-Reviczky, who had an English wife and was strongly anti-Nazi, was recalled to Budapest. But he refused to return and the Swedish government allowed him to remain in Stockholm as a private individual with retention of his diplomatic status. Against the background of the ‘dreadful persecution’ that the Jews of Hungary were suffering Ullein-Reviczky, in his capacity as minister for ‘Free Hungary’, approached the Swedish foreign minister and asked the Swedish government to raise its voice ‘on behalf of the victims of persecution and to take such steps or make such diplomatic representations as it considers suitable in order to improve the situation for my Jewish fellow countrymen’. When Raoul organised a cocktail party at his home on 2 December 1943, Ullein-Reviczky and his wife, whom he knew from Budapest, were on the guest list. Another Hungarian that Raoul was in contact with was also a sacked diplomat – the journalist and former press attaché Andor Gellért, who in 1942 had begun the negotiations with the American legation in Stockholm about the separate peace that Ullein-Reviczky had been sent to Stockholm to conclude. Gellért also functioned as a contact man between the Hungarian Social Democratic Party and the Swedish Social Democrats, as well as with the British Labour Party. Reports of the persecution of Hungarian Jews increased in frequency during April and May and it was decided that Raoul should try to get to Hungary as soon as possible. The problem was that he had been called up for military service and would not be released until 31 May. He could not travel before that date. Moreover, as before, he needed the permission of the army high command to leave the country even if not called up to the military. On 14 May Raoul applied to the head of the army with a request to be allowed to stay abroad from 1 June to 31 December 1944. The intention was to travel to Hungary in order to:



The Hero of Budapest buy up foodstuffs, partly for export to Sweden, partly for distribution among the Jews of Hungary through the committee which is to be set up for this purpose. This relates to a matter that is of the utmost urgency and that in the true meaning of the words concerns life and death. The following day, 15 May, Koloman Lauer sent a letter to Rabbi Ehrenpreis, who by now seems to have accepted Raoul as an emissary to Budapest for the planned rescue operation. As he told the chief rabbi, he and Raoul had come to the conclusion that it would be best to form a Swedish ‘support agency’ in Budapest, such as a sub-department of Save the Children under the aegis of the Swedish legation. So Mr Wallenberg will travel to Budapest to form a committee whose members he will appoint on the spot to the best of his ability. We have decided that the chief administrator should be a Swede living in Budapest, and in addition some right-minded Aryans and a few Jews should belong to the committee. We are already in contact with these people. When this framework has been established Mr Wallenberg will have many opportunities to help, even if one naturally cannot express an opinion today as to how far this help can extend. At my request Mr Wallenberg has declared himself willing to remain in Budapest for two months, until this rescue operation can function by itself. The work on the aid plan for Hungary was conducted in close cooperation between Lauer, Raoul and the Jewish Congregation. One of the members of the action group was Ebba Bonde, Raoul’s paternal aunt, who called on the foreign minister in order to explain the mission. After their meeting she reported to Raoul, who forwarded the information to Ehrenpreis. The foreign minister, she wrote, had declared himself ‘fully inclined to help’ and had ‘promised to write to Minister Danielsson about the question of possible means of transport to the ghettos’. Danielsson would also be ‘requested to organise the distribution of eventual consignments through the legation in Budapest’. The idea was that goods bought in neutral countries would be sent to the legation via the Red Cross. Raoul was prepared to travel to Budapest without delay but was forced to wait until he heard from the army high command. Although he had asked for

Recruitment a quick decision, the answer was a long time coming. On 6 June permission was finally given for him to ‘reside in Hungary’, with the same precondition as when he had last applied: ‘unless during that time the applicant should be required for war service’. The following day Koloman Lauer wrote a letter to the Red Cross delegate Valdemar Langlet – the ‘Swede living in Budapest’ referred to in the letter to Ehrenpreis: The great misfortune that has befallen all of us has been particularly harsh on my relatives, who as you know are no longer at liberty. I beg you to help Mr Wallenberg, so that in the first instance my parents-in-law Lájos and Irene Stein and little Susanna Mihaly may come to Sweden. Director Salén and I myself will make the necessary means available. Raoul Wallenberg, whom I have come to know over three years as an honest and good-hearted human being, will certainly do everything within his power to help.2 On 14 June Raoul signed for an ordinary Swedish passport. It was never used; when he left for Budapest three weeks later his identity was confirmed by a more impressive document.

The War Refugee Board The plan was that Raoul would travel to Budapest as representative for the Central European and that he would do this as soon as it was practicable. However, this plan was thwarted by a similar project initiated a long way from the Swedish capital. During the winter the ‘Jewish question’ had become the focus of interest for the American government. But opinions as to how the USA should act were not unanimous. While the State Department opposed attempts to accept Jewish refugees, the Treasury, under Henry Morgenthau, himself a Jew, took a different stance. At the beginning of January 1944 the secretary of the Treasury received a report on the State Department’s position on the refugee problem which he forwarded to President Roosevelt. On 22 January, on the basis of this report, the president issued an ‘executive order’ (which did not require the consent of Congress) about the setting up of the War Refugee Board, with the task of



The Hero of Budapest ‘rescu[ing] […] the victims of enemy oppression’ and establishing ‘havens of temporary refuge for such victims’. The Board had wide-ranging powers, including the right to enter into financial transactions with the enemy, something that was forbidden under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. The state grant was insignificant and the work was financed for the most part by American Jewish organisations. The representative of the War Refugee Board in Sweden was Iver C. Olsen, an American of Norwegian stock. Since December 1943 Olsen had been serving as financial attaché at the American legation in Stockholm and in April 1944 he was given additional responsibility as attaché for refugees. What only a few people knew was that Olsen was also working for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the intelligence service that was the forerunner of the CIA. On 25 May 1944 the US secretary of state Cordell Hull informed the American minister in Sweden, Herschel Johnson, that a ‘systematic mass extermination of Jews’ had commenced in Hungary. As foreign observers in Budapest could have a moderating effect on the Nazis and thereby save lives, Hull instructed Johnson to ask the Swedish foreign ministry to strengthen the country’s diplomatic representation in Hungary: ‘Please urge the appropriate authorities, in the interests of humanity, to take immediate steps to increase the numbers of Swedish diplomatic and consular personnel in Hungary to the greatest possible extent and to distribute them throughout the country as widely as possible.’ Similar exhortations were directed to other neutral states, including Turkey, Spain, Switzerland and Vatican City. First to act on the issue was not Minister Johnson but Iver Olsen. The American legation was in the same building as Central European’s office. One day when Olsen asked Lauer if he could recommend ‘some reliable, energetic and intelligent person’ who could be sent to Budapest, Lauer had suggested Raoul, just as he had done earlier to Ehrenpreis. Lauer then sent a telegram to Raoul’s military camp asking him to seek permission to meet Olsen. Permission was granted. The meeting, which took place at the Grand Hotel in Saltsjöbaden, owned by the Wallenberg family, began at seven p.m. and went on all night, until five the following morning. ‘It was clear to everybody that it was a dangerous mission,’ Lauer recalled. ‘When Mr Olsen asked Raoul if the foreign ministry might send him out to Hungary Raoul replied at once that he would undertake this task.’3 During the meeting Raoul would presumably have informed Olsen that he was unable to take on the task until he had obtained permission from the army to reside abroad – which in its turn may explain why Johnson delayed for two

Recruitment whole weeks before contacting the Swedish foreign ministry about the issue. As we saw, Raoul received his permission on 6 June. Three days later, on the 9th, Johnson called on the undersecretary of state for foreign affairs at the foreign ministry, Erik Boheman. After the meeting the minister reported to the State Department that Boheman had ‘reacted positively to the suggestion of augmenting the Swedish representation in Budapest’. (Sweden was in fact the only country that agreed to the American appeal of 25 May.) Boheman’s positive reaction was partly because Sweden, for political and diplomatic reasons, was keen to accommodate the USA. On 3 March Johnson had delivered ‘a very curt note’ to Foreign Minister Günther on the subject of Swedish exports to Germany of, among other things, ball bearings which could be used for the German war effort. Boheman’s positive reaction was possibly an expression of Sweden’s aspiration to improve relations with the USA. However, there was another, more immediate reason for the foreign ministry’s accommodating attitude. The American initiative coincided with a request for an increase in staff which had arrived a week earlier from the legation in Budapest. ‘The situation as regards the Jewish question is becoming more critical day by day,’ Minister Danielsson wrote on 2 June, and the legation had received appeals from various quarters ‘for Swedish involvement in possible initiatives with regard to acting to save children, women and the elderly’. One organisation that got in touch was the Hungarian Red Cross, which was keen for representatives of its Swedish sister organisation to come to Budapest. After the first meeting between Olsen, Raoul and Lauer, Lauer informed Sven Salén about the discussions and Olsen told Johnson. ‘When Salén, the shipowner, rang the minister he was already fully informed and they decided to have lunch with Raoul,’ Lauer recalled. On 12 June Johnson sent a telegram to Secretary of State Hull: ‘Have found Swede who is going to Hungary very near future on business trip and who appears willing to lend every possible assistance on Hungarian problem.’ In the same telegram the minister asked for instructions on how to coordinate Swedish and American aid contributions. On 14 June Raoul met Jacob Wallenberg to discuss his prospective task and on the 15th he had Lauer and Olsen round to his house for dinner. American interests thus coincided with those of Raoul, Lauer, the Jewish Congregation and the foreign ministry. When and how Raoul contacted the foreign ministry is unclear, but it must have been directly connected to the dinner with Johnson and Olsen on 12 June. During the meeting Boheman is said to have asked Raoul if he would take on the task in Hungary and, according to Lauer, Raoul accepted ‘after thinking about it for a few days’. He was given a



The Hero of Budapest monthly salary of 2,000 kronor (about 40,000 kronor, or £4,000, today) and at the same time had to promise not to engage in business, such as for Central European. On 19 June Raoul wrote to Boheman, thanking him for the confidence that had been placed in him. On 21 June the foreign ministry sent a telegram to the legation in Budapest: In view of interest here desirable Jewish question followed utmost attention continuous special coverage including suggestions appropriate realisable humanitarian efforts and required relief efforts after war. Great interest in issue American legation here. Realising present staff insufficient for special task consider seconding to legation Raoul Wallenberg who with good connections knowledge of Hungary is well suited for the task. Any objections please wire by return. There were no objections, Minister Danielsson informed the foreign ministry on the 23rd. In fact the people at the legation had known for some time that Raoul was on his way. ‘At the moment it is pretty nasty down here,’ Per Anger wrote to Sven Salén, who had asked him to investigate ways of helping Lauer’s relatives. ‘New ordinances concerning the Jews appear daily and one ought not to entertain any illusions about the fate that awaits most of them. Have with the greatest satisfaction greeted the news that Raoul W. is on his way. But he ought to hurry up.’ Raoul had impressed Minister Johnson, who after lunching with him on 28 June sent a telegram to the head of the War Refugee Board, John W. Pehle: ‘We are very favourably impressed with Wallenberg’s ability to act intelligently and with discretion in carrying out any responsibilities the W[ar] R[efugee] B[oard] may delegate to him.’ A few days later Johnson told Cordell Hull that Raoul ‘was highly praised by Boheman’. ‘There is no doubt in my mind as to the sincerity of Wallenberg’s purpose because I have talked to him myself,’ he wrote in the telegram. ‘I was told by Wallenberg that he wanted to be able to help effectively and to save lives and that he was not interested in going to Budapest merely to write reports to be sent to the Foreign Office.’ Raoul did not want to ‘write reports’ but to ‘save lives’. It was thus not a matter of a normal diplomatic assignment. His attitude was unconventional and unbureaucratic and the negotiations with the foreign ministry are said to have required several days. The possibility for the War Refugee Board to act effectively and without red tape had of course been raised in discussions between Olsen and Raoul. This suited Raoul perfectly and it was in this spirit

Recruitment that, before his official appointment, he met with the assistant secretary of state for foreign affairs, Vilhelm Assarsson. The content of the conversation has been preserved in the form of a memorandum that Raoul put together before the meeting: 1) I acknowledge the permission given in our earlier conversation that I shall have freedom to negotiate, and that I shall not be exposed to criticism from the Swedish side because of bribes which I have handed out. 2) I take for granted that if I should have to travel home to give a report, I can do so without ado and the travel costs will be borne by the foreign ministry. 3) Because of the clear impossibility of obtaining money in Sweden may I suggest that a propaganda campaign be started in Swedish newspapers and may I ask if there is any objection to our proceeding with it. 4) I request to know what my rank will be at the legation. 5) I have been advised by experts at the American and British legations to call on several persons, a number of whom are in opposition to the current government, which I wish to inform you about. 6) Mr Böhm in the British legation has advised me in all circumstances to call on Prime Minister Stojaj [Döme Sztójay]. Is this all right? 7) How often can one reckon on courier services? 8) Right of asylum? 9) Audience. Vilmos Böhm, named under point six, was a Hungarian Social Democratic politician who lived as a refugee in Sweden. After World War I he had been minister of war in Béla Kun’s communist government (which lasted for three months in 1919), but in the 1920s he embraced social democracy. From 1942 to 1945 he worked at the Press Reading Bureau in the British legation in Stockholm with the task of reporting to the British Foreign Office on what was being written in the German and European press. It was Böhm who supplied Olsen with the basic data for the War Refugee Board’s operation in Hungary. At the end of June Raoul contacted Böhm to tell him about his assignment and to ask for advice before setting out. He stated quite openly that the Americans, ‘particularly Mr Olsen, had a finger in this pie’, and that both he and Lauer had read the report on the persecution of the Jews in Hungary that Böhm had put together. Points eight



The Hero of Budapest and nine, written by hand on the otherwise typed document, probably refer to Raoul’s or the legation’s power of granting asylum for persecuted individuals and the question of whether Raoul would be able to request an audience with the regent, Horthy, if necessary.

An American Programme Raoul’s claim that the Americans had a finger in the pie was no exaggeration. Admittedly he was travelling to Budapest as a Swedish diplomat, but the project bore an American stamp to a high degree. ‘Local businessman […] is now going in full diplomatic status and will devote his entire time to humanitarian efforts,’ Johnson reported in a telegram to Hull on 27 June. To the Americans Wallenberg was a businessman, nothing else. In a conversation with Böhm, moreover, he himself emphasised that he ‘was no politician and understood very little of politics’. It was a claim that, bearing in mind his passionate interest in current affairs, was untrue but was designed to underline his suitability for the assignment. Perhaps he suspected – rightly – that a political commitment could be seen as a disadvantage. Johnson also told his boss in Washington that Wallenberg ‘would set great store by fuller instructions from WRB regarding the fulfilment of this assignment’. It was thus from the War Refugee Board, not the Swedish foreign ministry, that Raoul hoped to receive directions. The fact that the mission was essentially American, not Swedish, is borne out by another telegram from Johnson to Hull, sent two days later. In this the minister stresses that the Swedish foreign ministry, by naming Raoul, ‘feels that it has cooperated fully in lending all possible facilities for the furtherance of an American program [my italics]’. The Swedish foreign ministry, Johnson continued, was not expected to equip Wallenberg with a concrete programme but instead to give him ‘rather general instructions’ which, however, will not be adequate to ‘deal promptly and effectively with situations as they develop in Hungary’. As it was Wallenberg’s understanding that in effect, [he] is carrying out a humanitarian mission on behalf of the War Refugee Board […] he would like full instructions as to the line of activities he is authorised to carry out and assurances of adequate financial support for those activities so that he will be in a position to develop fully all local possibilities.

Recruitment Raoul’s request for instructions from the American side was not kept secret from the Swedish foreign ministry, who on the contrary appear to have been keen to keep a low profile. He was after all to carry out assignments which went further than the official job description, which was to ‘follow developments in the Jewish question and report to Stockholm’. Boheman was also kept informed about the content of the action programme which was worked out during discussions between Raoul, Lauer, Olsen and Ehrenpreis. This is evident from a letter from Raoul to Boheman in which he wanted to assure himself that they interpreted his assignment in the same way: In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I am taking the liberty of confirming some of the things that were mentioned during our meetings. Thus it has been established that I have a certain freedom to act in keeping with the programme that was drawn up earlier by Professor Ehrenpreis, Mr Olsen, Dr Lauer and myself. Further, I have the right to use those funds I am bringing with me on behalf of those persons in ways that seem to me best calculated to lead to the desired result and which according to Mr Olsen and Professor Ehrenpreis have proven to be necessary on similar occasions. Payments will to a large extent be made by middlemen, so that my position as an official of the foreign ministry will not be compromised. […] It has been further agreed that I may end my involvement after two months, i.e. on 6 September, if I so wish. Beside his commitment to ‘report to Stockholm’, Raoul’s operation was thus guided by a programme that was formulated with the foreign ministry’s knowledge, but outside of its walls, by the War Refugee Board in consultation with the abovementioned persons. The interesting thing about the letter is that it confirms that Raoul in fact had two assignments, an official Swedish one and an unofficial one which was basically American and which allowed him to make payments via intermediaries. When Raoul wrote the letter to Boheman, on 6 July, he had still not received the desired instructions from the USA. They reached the foreign ministry the following day and, among other things, amounted to the following: Hungarian civil servants should be contacted and on promise of money or ‘favourable postwar consideration’ should be made to limit the persecution of the Jews. In the same way it should be possible to bribe skippers on the Danube, whose ferries and barges sailed empty in one direction, to smuggle refugees. Raoul was not allowed



The Hero of Budapest to act as a representative of the War Refugee Board but should point to President Roosevelt’s declaration of 24 March that ‘none who participate in this savagery shall go unpunished’. He should also convey that ‘helpful conduct now may result in more favourable consideration than actions heretofore might warrant’. The description of the assignment breached diplomatic practice by recommending the use of bribes and other unconventional methods. Raoul’s mission was also original, not to say unique, in the sense that a diplomat in the Swedish service was basically acting on behalf of a foreign power.4 In a personal letter from the head of the foreign ministry’s political department, Sven Grafström, who was strongly anti-Nazi, to Per Anger in Budapest, it is stressed that ‘an operation of such a special nature as that with which Mr Wallenberg has been entrusted is naturally extremely delicate’ and that the legation’s support is therefore of the utmost importance. Clearly tasks other than the writing of reports are being hinted at here. It is thus beyond doubt that Raoul’s real assignment had the full support of the foreign ministry. Foreign Minister Günther knew of the Swedish rescue mission through Ebba Bonde and, according to Lauer, Johnson visited Günther to discuss Raoul’s assignment. Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson was probably also in the know.

Raoul’s Motivation At the time Raoul was appointed secretary to the legation and representative of the War Refugee Board he was a moderately successful businessman and completely unknown to the general public. Yet he had several qualities that made him suitable for the assignment. There was a shortage of Swedes with knowledge of Hungary and on his visits to Budapest Raoul had built up a large network of contacts. He also spoke good German. For the Americans, moreover, it was of importance that Raoul had lived in the USA, had an American university degree and a good knowledge of both American society and the American mentality. After the ROTC course at Ann Arbor he was also an American reserve officer. There could thus be no doubt about Raoul’s pro-American stance. In the recruitment talks with Johnson and Olsen these factors doubtless played an important role. The characteristics that told against him within his own family – above all his extrovert disposition, his impulsiveness, his ‘eloquence’ – seem on the contrary to have won him admiration from the Americans’ side. After all, his assignment depended on negotiating with the enemy, persuading and outwitting them.

Recruitment In addition, Raoul possessed another quality that redounded to his advantage: he was a Wallenberg. The Wallenberg family had a unique position in Swedish society and Jacob and Marcus played important roles during the war as both businessmen and diplomats. Jacob handled business deals with Germany and Dodde those with Britain, in both cases to the benefit of Swedish interests. Jacob visited Germany no fewer than 17 times during the war. Through their contacts and knowledge of these countries the brothers could pass on important information to the foreign ministry, which in turn used them to convey views which they could not espouse officially. Jacob was furthermore the contact for the German opposition leader Carl Goerdeler, who was executed after the failed attempt on Hitler’s life in July 1944. Marcus in his turn played a central role in the secret negotiations about a separate peace which were carried on in 1943–4 between Finland and the Soviet Union. In other words, there were several external factors that favoured Raoul’s candidature. But what did he see in this assignment himself? Why was he so obviously eager to take it on? There are several explanations for this – apart from the obvious one, that he wanted to help persecuted human beings, among them Lauer’s relatives. One of the main explanations is without doubt that he was dissatisfied with his professional life. He had not found a job within the Wallenberg business sphere and working as foreign director of Central European hardly corresponded to his idea of a successful career – in keeping with those made by his father’s cousins Jacob and Marcus. Raoul was a Wallenberg and had ‘a need to show that he was not just anybody’, in Rolf af Klintberg’s words: ‘He had a feeling that it was demanded of him that he should be an able person.’ In particular, he wanted to live up to the expectations he felt from his mother’s side. The whole of Raoul’s upbringing had been aimed at making him a ‘competent citizen’. A sense of responsibility, ‘dutifulness’ and ‘loyalty’ were qualities that Gustaf Wallenberg had implanted in Raoul as typical Wallenberg virtues. When Raoul was given his assignment he is supposed to have said: ‘When a Wallenberg has been sent abroad in the service of the State it has always been his duty to do everything for his country that his name obliges him to.’ It sounds bombastic, but these may well have been his words, or near enough. They reflect the demands that Raoul had come to make on himself. The person who is speaking here is in fact Gustaf Wallenberg, who believed that a Wallenberg must always be ready to take responsibility, do his duty, serve his country – and thereby bring his family honour. One expression of this readiness was Raoul’s reaction to the British film Pimpernel Smith – a modern version of The Scarlet Pimpernel – which he



The Hero of Budapest saw together with his sister Nina in 1942 in a private screening arranged by the British legation. The film’s hero is an archaeology professor, Horatio Smith, who rescues victims of persecution in Nazi Germany. After the show Raoul is reported to have said, ‘I would like to do something like that myself.’5 Additional to these motives was Raoul’s deep interest in international politics. His sister Nina has described the passionate discussions about the world situation which took place each morning at the family’s breakfast table. Gustaf Wallenberg had brought Raoul up to be a citizen of the world and an internationalist. In his correspondence with his grandfather there is constant discussion of political and economic questions and in a letter to his mother in May 1933 he floats the idea of a Scandinavian free-trade zone, which is ‘one of the questions that has interested me most during those years I have spent abroad’. Raoul’s essay ‘South African impressions’, like his essays during his student years at Ann Arbor, bear witness to the breadth of his interests. Apart from an exercise in his specialist area (‘The use of “historic styles” in the architecture of the nineteenth century’) they are exclusively about international politics, social questions and the economy.6

‘A Wallenberg and Half Jewish’ One indication of Raoul’s interest in contemporary issues was that he read Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf not just once but twice – the second time in 1938, in the same autumn in which he made a trip to Berlin. Raoul’s impressions of the German capital and Hitler’s book are documented in a letter that he wrote to Ernst Behrend in Pennsylvania after returning home. Raoul was fascinated by the new German architecture, which reflected a striving for ‘bigness’, something that ‘has long been suppressed in Europe’, unlike in America. The Germans, he reported, are the first people in Europe to build on a really big scale, in a way that corresponds to the size of the country and the opportunities offered by mass production. Raoul was particularly impressed by the new architectonic projects in Berlin, sketched by Albert Speer: ‘I have studied the new plans for Berlin; they definitely bear the stamp of genius, no matter from what point of view one judges them.’ The letter also contains an analysis of Mein Kampf and ‘the colonial question’, that is, Hitler’s ideas about conquering the Slav lands in Eastern Europe, whose original population were to be deported to Siberia in order to make room for the more highly developed German race. According to Raoul, however, the conquest

Recruitment of foreign territories was less important to Hitler than ‘the Jewish question’, which was ‘of a much more fundamental and imminent nature’. According to Raoul, as long as Britain, France and Russia did not launch a pre-emptive attack on Germany there would therefore be no war in Europe. Strangely enough Raoul says nothing about Kristallnacht or the traces of it which he must have seen during his visit to Berlin: burned-out synagogues, plundered Jewish businesses, anti-Semitic slogans on the walls of buildings and shop windows. Kristallnacht took place on 9 November, three weeks before Raoul’s trip to Berlin, and was front-page news in the Swedish press. ‘The Jewish question’ is touched on only indirectly in the long letter to Behrend. Raoul had talked to an SS man in a restaurant: All those people are very fine fellows, big and strong and with an agile mind and, I think, with a particular emphasis on willpower. However, they are not the least sentimental nor are they unaware that some of the things they do are cruel to the individual. They say all these things that are now done have to be done in order to reach the National Goal and that the sufferings of the individual are very small compared to what the whole nation would have to suffer if the change were not made. The cruelties that Raoul talks about presumably refer to the treatment of the Jews. But neither in the letter to Behrend nor in a letter he wrote at the same time to Maj and Enzio von Plauen did he touch on this question. Was it for diplomatic reasons, because Behrend was German-born and von Plauen a German? However strange his silence is, there is no reason to interpret it as meaning that Raoul was unmoved by what he had seen on the spot and read in the newspapers. He had already heard about the persecution of the Jews during his stay in Haifa and it is inconceivable that he had not been affected by reports of their extermination. Nothing in his biography suggests that he was capable of such indifference. In fact there is a piece of testimony regarding Raoul’s feelings about what he saw in Berlin. It was at this time that he was seeing the actress Viveca Lindfors. She recalled that after an evening’s dancing he took her with him to his grandfather’s office. She thought he wanted to seduce her but instead he began to ‘talk intensely about the Jews and Germany and about the horrors he had apparently seen’. She remembered thinking: ‘He’s just telling me all these things because he wants to get sympathy so that I will end up in his arms.’ The truthfulness of Viveca Lindfors’s testimony has been questioned, but as they were seeing each



The Hero of Budapest other not only in 1937 (as she herself said) but also in 1938, ‘the horrors he had apparently seen’ may very well refer to his experiences in Berlin. That Raoul was concerned about the situation in Germany is shown by the fact that in that same autumn he asked Fevrell, the Swedish consul in Pretoria, to try to help a German engineer who was an opponent of Hitler to find work in South Africa. Raoul was one-sixteenth Jewish. Did he feel this himself? According to his sister Nina the family’s Jewish background was never talked about at home, ‘not because, I’m sure, Mother wished to hide it, but because our Jewish ancestor was so far back and none of his descendants had been brought up in the ways of the Jewish people’. It is true: the Benedicks family, which came to Sweden from Germany in 1793, immediately converted to Christianity and became integrated into Swedish society. Nina was not made aware of her Jewish heritage until the 1930s, when Maj Nisser was about to marry Enzio von Plauen and the Nazis researched her background, which ‘caused a lot of talk in the family’. With Raoul it was different. As we saw, during his military service in 1930 he talked proudly to Ingemar Hedenius about his Jewish heritage: ‘A person like me, who is both a Wallenberg and half Jewish, can never be defeated.’ Hedenius’s impression was that Raoul was exaggerating ‘somewhat’, which is true. However, during one of his meetings with Herschel Johnson Raoul also declared that he was half Jewish. The reason he chose to exaggerate his Jewishness in this case was no doubt that he wanted to emphasise that he was the right person to ‘help effectively and save lives’.

The Auschwitz Report and Gustaf V’s Telegram As we saw, it was only a few days after the German invasion of Hungary before the mass deportations of the country’s Jews got under way. Very soon the whole world got to know about them. One important Swedish source was Sweden’s minister plenipotentiary Ivan Danielsson who was constantly sending reports to the foreign ministry in Stockholm about the persecution of the Jews, which in mid May ‘began to assume unheard-of dimensions and ever more loathsome forms’. On 26 May he gave a detailed account of the new ordinances which were ‘designed to exclude the Jewish population from almost everything that is included in the natural rights of a member of society’. This document was delivered by Boheman to Herschel Johnson after their meeting on 9 June. Danielsson’s next long report is dated 24 June and is supplemented by four comprehensive attachments: an account of arrests and deportations of Hungary’s

Recruitment Jews drawn up by the Jewish Council in Budapest; the so-called Auschwitz Report, an account by two Slovakian Jews of conditions in that camp; the Jewish Council’s summary of this report; and a Hungarian Jewish woman’s story of how she managed to escape from Auschwitz. The first document contains detailed statistics: the names of villages and towns, the numbers of Hungarian Jews deported. Between 15 May and 10 June 335,000 Jews were deported, which means that 36 small towns in Hungary were made ‘judenrein’ (‘clean of Jews’) in less than a month. The information from the Auschwitz Report, including a description of the use of gas chambers, was also forwarded by Boheman to Herschel Johnson, with the comment that it was ‘so terrible that it is hard to believe and that there are no words to qualify its description’. At this point the deportations had not yet affected Budapest’s Jewish population of a quarter of a million. But it was only a question of time. ‘To avoid the attention that the deportation of a quarter of a million people in broad daylight would attract, it is said that they intend to round up Budapest’s Jews at night and to carry them off to internment and deportation respectively,’ Danielsson reported, adding: The removal of the capital’s Jews, which according to the above is intended to be completed within three weeks, means that the bulk of these unfortunate people are faced with a dreadful fate. It is thought that those who are lucky enough to be in possession of necessary work skills will be transported to German industrial plants where they have the prospect of being treated reasonably well. The others, however, children, weaker women or the elderly, will, it is said, be deported to the extermination camps in Auschwitz-Birkenau, near Katowice in Poland. According to plans a ghetto would be set up where the Jews would be assembled before being sent for ‘labour service’ in Germany or Poland. However, these plans were jettisoned and instead Budapest’s Jews were forced in June to move into ‘Jew houses’ around the city. The forced moves were supplemented by new restrictions: Jews could only stay outside the house for three hours a day, between two and five p.m., they could not receive visitors or hold conversations through the windows onto the street (!), they could only use the last coach in the trams, and so on. The forced moves were carried out on the orders of the undersecretary in the interior ministry, László Endre, a bestial anti-Semite who together with his



The Hero of Budapest departmental colleague László Baky led the efforts to rid Hungary of Jews. On 3 May an order was issued regarding the identification and registration of houses and apartments in which Jews were living. With the help of data from Hungary’s central statistical bureau the task was completed in a month. According to the propaganda press the result showed that the Jews, who made up a fifth of the city’s population, inhabited 47,978 rooms in 21,250 apartments while the remaining 80 per cent had to content themselves with 70,197 rooms in 32,224 apartments. The houses in which the Jews were to be concentrated were chosen according to different criteria: the number of Jews living in them (a house with about 50 per cent Jews was declared to be a ‘Jew house’), the location of the buildings and their condition together with the background and influence of the Christian tenants. In accordance with these criteria, 2,681 of nearly 36,000 apartment blocks were designated ‘Jew houses’, although after protests from Christian tenants the number was reduced to 1,991. However, the ‘Jew houses’ were not only inhabited by Jews. Remaining in them were around 12,000 Christians, very few of whom appreciated their new neighbours. Yet many took a hand in helping the Jews, such as by shopping and carrying out other errands for them during the curfew hours. The action of moving the Jews was initiated on 16 June and was concluded nine days later. Many had previously lived in large apartments but were now forced to squeeze themselves into a much smaller space. No family, irrespective of its size, was allowed more than two rooms. Beside or over the door of the house a yellow Star of David was set up, 30 centimetres in diameter against a 51-by-36-centimetre black background. The last day of the move, 24 June, was a Saturday. ‘Budapest looked like a medieval town at the time of the expulsion,’ writes Randolph L. Braham, the leading historian of Hungarian Jewry, ‘with thousands upon thousands of Jews in all parts of the city moving towards their assigned rooms in the designated Yellow Star houses, carrying their belongings in horse-drawn wagons, handcarts, wheelbarrows, or even on their backs.’ Instead of concentrating the Jews in one ghetto district the authorities thus chose to spread them out over the city. This was done for two reasons. One was that the part of the city where the ghetto was planned was inhabited by thousands of Christians whom the authorities did not wish to offend. The other, and more important, reason was that they were afraid the Allies would direct their bombing at other parts of the city if the Jews were allotted a separate district. Thanks to Danielsson’s reports the Swedish government was kept well informed about the persecution of the Jews in Hungary. The suggestion from Marcus

Recruitment Ehrenpreis – initiated by the chairman of the Swiss Aid Committee for the Jews in Hungary, Zwi Taubes – that an attempt should be made to get the king of Sweden to intervene with the Hungarian regent therefore met with a positive response. In the message, which was delivered to Miklós Horthy by Danielsson and Anger on 3 July, Gustaf V, ‘being aware of the [Hungarian government’s] exceptionally hard and severe measures against the Jewish population’, addressed himself to the regent with an appeal that he would ‘in the name of humanity adopt measures on behalf of those of this unfortunate race who can still be saved’. Horthy replied a few days later that he would do everything that ‘in present circumstances’ was in his power ‘in order that the principles of humanity and justice be respected’. On 7 July he ordered a halt to the deportations. It is unclear how relevant the king’s message was to the decision.7 He was not alone in raising his voice against the events in Hungary. On 25 June Pope Pius XII urged Horthy to ‘use all the influence you have to put a stop to the suffering and the torments that countless people are being subjected to simply on the grounds of their nationality or race’, and the following day President Roosevelt addressed himself to the Hungarians with the message that ‘Hungary’s fate will not be like any other civilised nation’s […] unless the deportations are stopped’. When there was no immediate answer Roosevelt underlined the seriousness of his message by ordering American bombers to inflict a powerful air raid on Budapest. The British foreign secretary Anthony Eden also expressed his disgust at the actions of the Hungarian government, even if not directly to Horthy but in the House of Commons. Protests came not only from abroad but also from the Protestant and Catholic Churches in Hungary. The criticism signified a major loss of prestige for the Hungarian regent, who by this stage had been privy to reports from Auschwitz and could no longer turn a blind eye to the facts. While the War Refugee Board, the American legation and the Swedish foreign ministry were busy putting together Raoul’s assignment, other measures were being taken to beef up the staff numbers at the legation in Budapest. The Hungarian Red Cross had, as we saw, asked for a representative of their Swedish sister organisation to come to Budapest. The funds had been gathered through an agreement with a European–American Jewish aid organisation. But there was a need for haste. ‘Much valuable time has already been wasted,’ Danielsson wrote to the foreign ministry on 25 June, and should a final answer not be forthcoming from either the Swedish or the Hungarian side before the end of the present month, the issue will be dropped from the agenda and the poor Jews, who with the



The Hero of Budapest gold from their blood relations could have been helped to cross into neutral countries and by degrees over to America, will be considered as definitely and unavoidably lost. The Hungarian government’s authorisation came through on 28 June and to gain time the choice of attaché fell on the abovementioned Valdemar Langlet, a 72-year-old Swedish lecturer at the University of Budapest and, since 1938, unpaid cultural attaché at the Swedish legation. Langlet himself, who was already working for the Red Cross, had suggested that Count Folke Bernadotte, the king’s grandson and vice president of the Swedish Red Cross, be sent down to Budapest. In the Budapest Holocaust Museum there is a rough draft in French in which the Jewish Council makes the same request of the Swedish king. But Count Bernadotte turned down the assignment on the grounds that he could not leave Sweden ‘because of the pending important work for the Red Cross’.8

Departure Once his appointment was confirmed Raoul was given access to the foreign ministry’s reports about the persecution of the Jews in Hungary. He asked Vilmos Böhm for a list of ‘Aryans in Hungary who were reliable anti-Nazis’ and whom he could contact. Among other names Böhm gave him those of a number of Hungarian Social Democrats – but also a list of Hungarian Nazis, whom Raoul could contact if necessary. As the news of Raoul’s appointment spread he was contacted by Hungarians in exile who supplied him with names of hundreds of fellow countrymen in need of help. One person who wrote to him was the well-known composer of film scores, Miklós Rózsa, who lived in Hollywood and wanted help to rescue his mother and sister. The bank director Erik Björkman also gave Raoul a list of friends and colleagues in distress. Given the sensitivity of Raoul’s assignment, he and Lauer drew up a list of codes to be used when they corresponded or talked on the telephone. In order that the code names should not arouse suspicion they all had a connection to their work, particularly in the field of groceries. The code names for Jews were ‘goose liver’, ‘pheasants’, ‘partridges’, but also ‘special metal’ (an echo of Raoul’s involvement in the firm Special Metal Union). ‘Bribery attempt’ was rephrased as ‘invitation to a fine lunch’. ‘Letter of protection’ was ‘medicine’ or ‘birdseed’. ‘Provisional passport’ – ‘remedy’ or ‘foodstuffs’. For the parties


9.1  Wallenberg’s diplomatic passport. involved code names were chosen that the Germans might be expected to swallow: the Americans were called ‘Larsson’, the Russians ‘Josephson’s cheese firm (ostfirma)’, Vilmos Böhm ‘Gustafsson’, Great Britain ‘Gustafsson’s boss’, the Swedish press ‘Andersson’, Swedish citizenship ‘rheumatism medicine’, the Nazis ‘Plauen & Co.’, Per Anger ‘Elena’, and so on. The Americans were called ‘Larsson’ because a Swedish import firm led by Lennart Larsson was active in Budapest. Raoul’s cousin Maj Nisser’s married name was von Plauen and Per Anger’s wife was called Elena. That these names came up in communications between Raoul and Lauer could therefore be seen as perfectly natural. The name for the Russians was particularly well chosen – Swedish ‘ost’ (‘cheese’) means ‘east’ in German. ‘Josephson’ may have been a covert reference to Stalin’s given name. As Raoul lacked experience of diplomatic work he was given some basic instructions by Sven Grafström, the head of the political department of the foreign ministry, who like Ehrenpreis seems to have realised that Raoul’s unconventional attitude to his work assignments could cause problems. He therefore chose to spell out what Raoul’s work would entail in a letter to Per Anger, who during Danielsson’s leave of absence was chargé d’affaires at the Budapest legation. He



The Hero of Budapest emphasised that Raoul would ‘of course be subordinate in every respect to the head of the legation, whom he will keep continually apprised of his actions’. During their discussions in Stockholm Grafström had ‘made this very clear to Mr Wallenberg’ and he was now underlining that ‘it is up to you as head of the legation to see to it that this happens’. If incidents with the authorities should occur, Grafström was counting on the head of legation to ‘let Herr Wallenberg have the requisite instructions’. Aware of the dangers that the assignment might involve Raoul bought a 9-millimetre Browning pistol and 200 bullets, and on 4 July he received permission to keep the weapon ‘for the purpose of self-protection’. ‘The revolver is just to give me courage,’ Raoul explained later to Per Anger. ‘I hope I’ll never have to use it.’ While preparations for his assignment in Budapest were under way, social life continued more or less as before with dinners, lunches and female company. However, Raoul’s relations with the opposite sex seem to have been just as cursory as ever. At 32 he was still a bachelor and without a steady relationship. Whether this was the result of his grandfather’s dire warnings or whether it had other causes is hard to say. However, he had many female friends, as is shown by his pocket diary, and in the winter and spring of 1944 he was seeing no fewer than three girls more or less simultaneously. On the last day in May he proposed to Jeanette von Heidenstam but was turned down. ‘I liked him very much and felt tremendously flattered by his proposal, but somehow he didn’t overwhelm me, otherwise I might have said yes.’ In fact Raoul proposed to so many girls that one gets the impression it was not too important who became his fiancée as long as someone was willing to try on the engagement ring that he had already had made. He never asked for Jeanette’s hand again, but they went on meeting. According to Raoul’s diary the last times they met were on 27 and 28 June, only a week before he was due to leave. He told Jeanette that he was going to Budapest on an assignment for the government but did not specify the nature of the assignment, saying only that it ‘might be very dangerous’. Before his departure Raoul called on Rabbi Ehrenpreis at the spa hotel in Saltsjöbaden, together with Lauer, Masur and Fritz Hollander (both representatives of the Jewish World Congress). Ehrenpreis gave him a letter of recommendation for Samu Stern, president of the Jewish Council in Budapest, and asked Raoul if he wanted his blessing. Raoul accepted with thanks and the rabbi, who had formerly been so sceptical, read a Hebrew prayer for success and blessed him.

Recruitment Jacob Wallenberg, who in his capacity as godfather felt a special responsibility for Raoul, contributed – uneasy as he was ‘that something could happen to him from the Nazi German side’ – with more concrete help. He contacted Walter Schellenberg, head of counter-espionage in the German security service, whom he knew well, and asked him to take steps to ‘protect RW from the Nazis’. In his last week in Stockholm Raoul saw a lot of his family. He lunched with Maj and Enzio von Platen and had dinner with Aunt Annie. He also of course saw his close family, but this is not noted in the pocket diary. (Nor is there any surviving record of how his parents viewed the Hungarian assignment.) On 1 July he met the former Hungarian press attaché Andor Gellért, on the evening of 2 July Koloman Lauer, and the following day Lauer gave a dinner for Raoul. According to Lauer, Iver Olsen, who was also present at the dinner, realised after a few hours’ conversation that ‘Raoul has nothing to learn, because his natural intelligence will solve even the most difficult problem’. On 4 July Raoul was supposed to have celebrated America’s Independence Day but instead he met with Norbert Masur. On the 6th he visited Olsen at his office together with Lauer, who complained that the Jewish organisations in Stockholm were sending Raoul off on his assignment without supplying him with money. Olsen then handed over 10,000 kronor to Raoul. That same day, Raoul wrote the letter quoted above to Boheman and in the evening there was a leaving dinner at his parents’ home for an intimate circle, among them Ullein-Reviczky and his wife. Raoul’s assignment was calculated to take two months, which meant that he had to clear his desk before leaving. One of his last tasks was to sign a business agreement with Eberhard Håkansson regarding the printing of a register of trade names and another of schools, which were to be put together by Håkansson and produced by Raoul, who owned a small printing works. The agreement is dated 7 July 1944. On the same day Koloman Lauer followed Raoul to the airport. If Raoul should fail to fulfil his assignment as planned, they had decided that he should send a coded telegram to Lauer, who would call on Sven Salén, who in turn would ask the foreign ministry to recall him. For a Swedish civil servant on an official mission, Raoul presented a rather strange sight. He was wearing a trench coat and an Anthony Eden hat, and was carrying two rucksacks: one on his back and one in his hand. The plane took off at 1.50 p.m., destination Berlin. Raoul was impatient to get under way. ‘Wallenberg went off in a hell of a hurry,’ Iver Olsen reported to John W. Pehle in Washington – ‘with no instructions and no funds for preliminary expenditures’.


Budapest On his arrival in Berlin Raoul was met at Tempelhof by his sister Nina and her husband Gunnar Lagergren, who as we saw worked as a secretary at the Swedish legation in the German capital. During the car trip from the airport Raoul told them about his assignment, his sister recalled, and said that in his rucksack he had a list of ‘prominent Jews, Social Democrats and other oppositionists in Budapest whom he was to contact’. Nina and her husband lived in a wing of the Caputh Palace some kilometres from Berlin. Raoul had not seen his sister and her husband for six months and after dinner they sat up talking till late. After they had gone to bed, towards midnight, the air-raid siren sounded – British bombers were flying over the city and they had to seek shelter. There was not much sleep that night. Sweden’s minister in Berlin, Arvid Richert, had booked a seat for Raoul on the train to Budapest two days later, on 9 July. It was done with the best of intentions: he had assumed that Raoul would want to spend an extra day in Berlin with his sister. But ‘Raoul was angry about this,’ Nina recalled, and said that ‘there was no time to waste’. After a lunch with Richert, therefore, he took the 5.21 p.m. train to Vienna on 8 July. It was full of German soldiers and as Raoul did not have a seat reservation he had to spend the whole journey in the corridor. From Vienna Raoul went straight to Budapest. According to his pocket diary, on 8 July he should have attended a wedding in Sweden, but the assignment in Hungary was more important and took priority. What Raoul did not know was that on the day that he left Stockholm Admiral Horthy had ordered the deportations of Jews to be stopped. The preconditions for his assignment had thus been fundamentally altered at a stroke. Raoul was met at the railway station in Budapest by Birgit Brulin, a clerk at the Swedish legation. A young Czech Jew, Tomas Kaufmann, who was also in the car, recalled:

Budapest On the way from the station the new secretary, Mr Wallenberg, asked me who I was and what I was doing at the legation. I told him the truth. Mr Wallenberg then suggested that I should help him with his mission. I could not imagine what that mission could be, but I agreed anyhow. The truth that Tomas Kaufmann told Raoul was that in 1942 he and his parents had fled to Budapest from occupied Czechoslovakia and the persecution of the Jews there. After the German occupation of Hungary his parents had been deported to Auschwitz. The last thing his father had said to Tomas was that he was to call at the Swiss or Swedish legation, where he could get help. He did indeed, and was appointed as a sort of factotum in the Swedish legation. ‘I slept at the bottom of the elevator shaft, washed cars, ran messages, went to the post office, did whatever was asked of me and was happy,’ he recalled. ‘I had somewhere to sleep, something to eat and I also had an Identity Card from the Hungarian Foreign Office which stated that I was a member of the Swedish legation!’ Right from the start, Raoul was thus given an insight into the situation of the Jews and a concrete example of the practical rescue work already being carried out by the Swedish authorities in Budapest. That it was a country at war was something moreover that he could quickly work out for himself. The Budapest that Raoul landed in had shortly before been exposed to massive air raids by Allied bombers, aimed at military, industrial and other strategic targets, among them the railway station he arrived at. The car took them to the Gellért, one of the most elegant hotels in Budapest, known for its spa and situated five minutes’ walk from the Swedish legation on the slopes of Gellért Hill. As soon as Raoul was installed he sent a telegram to Koloman Lauer: ‘Arrived safely. Until further notice at Gellért.’ The telegram was sent on 9 July at 6.46 p.m. According to Raoul’s diary he should have had lunch the following day with Ivan Danielsson, but the meeting did not come off as the minister was on holiday. The chargé d’affaires was Per Anger and Raoul met him on the evening of 11 July. When Raoul asked him for a situation report Anger answered that ‘the deportations had been brought to an end and that the major part of Budapest’s Jews had not yet been affected’, partly because of the Swedish king’s intervention with Horthy. However, Anger doubted that the Germans would agree to leave the capital’s Jews in peace.


10.1  Wallenberg’s friend, the Swedish trade attaché in Budapest, Per Anger.


The Jewish Council Hungary was formally ruled by a government of its own but all important decisions were taken in conjunction with the German occupying power. Germany’s representative in Hungary was Edmund Veesenmayer, who during the first years of the war had been stationed in Croatia, where he played a central role in the extermination of Croatian and Serbian Jews. After 19 March 1944 he was appointed his country’s minister in Hungary. As we saw, Hungary at the time of the German incursion had a large and in principle intact Jewish population and was thus the last obstacle to the Nazis’ ambition to make Europe judenrein. One of those responsible for the ‘final solution’ of the Jewish problem in Hungary was Veesenmayer himself, but the practical work was taken care of by SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Adolf Eichmann, who arrived in Budapest on 21 March, two days after the occupation. Eichmann was a notorious anti-Semite and one of the architects of the plans for the extermination of the Jews. In Budapest Eichmann formed a Sonderkommando (special command) consisting of some of Nazi Germany’s leading ‘Jewish experts’, with experience of deportations in, for example, Slovakia and Greece: Dieter Wisliceny, Hermann Krumey, Otto Hunsche and others. To assist them this steering group had a couple of hundred assistants all over Hungary. It did not take many hours after the incursion before Krumey and Wisliceny ordered the Jewish leaders in the Pest half of the capital to turn up for an information meeting the following day. Some of them were so alarmed that they came to the meeting along with their families and with their cases packed. However, Krumey assured them that no one would be arrested, no deportations would take place and the rights and property of the Jews would be respected. Certain restrictions would indeed be introduced but they would be lifted when the war was over. At the same time he made it clear that as of now new conditions were in place. All Jewish questions would be handled by the German authorities and Budapest’s Jewish Congregation would answer directly to the head of the Gestapo in Budapest, Alfred Trenker. No Jews were to move from their homes and Jewish newspapers would be subject to censorship by the Gestapo. In fact, these relatively mild measures were pure camouflage tactics. The aim was, as before, to make Hungary free of Jews, and there was no time to lose. The Soviet army was approaching from the east and the Germans were keen for the deportations to take place quickly and in an orderly fashion. With that aim in mind ‘Jewish Councils’ were set up consisting of individuals who enjoyed



The Hero of Budapest the trust of the Jewish community. The Auschwitz Report was still unknown but rumours about the persecutions that had affected Jews in the rest of Europe were enough to cause anxiety. The main task of the Councils was therefore to lull Hungarian Jews into a sense of security – what had happened in Poland and Germany would not happen in Hungary. As thanks for their cooperation the leaders of the Councils were promised exemption from the restrictions that would be affecting other Hungarian Jews. At the meeting on 20 March the assembled Jews were urged to set up Budapest’s Jewish Council by 12 o’clock the following day, which duly happened. Representatives of the capital’s financial and religious elite were elected to the board. Of the eight members, four were lawyers, one was a leading industrialist, one was a banker and one a rabbi, and all of them had leading functions within the Jewish community. The chairman of the Council was the businessman and banker Samu Stern and his closest associates were the lawyers Ernő Pető and Károly Wilhelm. All three were prominent ‘neologists’ – representatives of a reform-minded Judaism – and members of the board of Pest’s reform congregation. Stern was chairman, Pető vice chairman and Wilhelm guild-master. One week later similar Councils were set up all over the country. Three months later they were superfluous; by then the Hungarian province had been emptied of Jews. The only Jewish Council surviving at the time of Wallenberg’s arrival was the one in Budapest, whose Jewish population by and large had been spared from persecution. If the leaders of the Council had at first been misled by the Germans’ false promises, the reality – over 400,000 deported Jews – had changed their thinking by this time. It was a grieving congregation that Raoul met with when, during one of his first days in Budapest, he visited the Council in its premises at 12 Síp Street, in Budapest’s old Jewish quarter. One of the first people he bumped into was an old acquaintance, László Pető, whom he had met 15 years earlier when they were both studying French in Thonon-les-Bains.1 László was the son of one of the Jewish Council’s leaders, Ernő Pető. In the letter of introduction from Ehrenpreis, which Raoul handed over to Samu Stern, the rabbi asked Stern and the members of the Council to ‘receive Mr Wallenberg and give him all the information he requires’. Stern was asked to write down all the requests and suggestions the Council had and hand them to Wallenberg, who would forward them to Ehrenpreis via the Swedish foreign ministry. During this first visit Raoul also asked Stern and his colleagues to supply him with a report on the situation of the Jews in Hungary that he could send to Stockholm.


Memo Concerning the Persecution of Jews in Hungary Raoul’s ‘memo concerning the persecution of Jews in Hungary’, which was sent to the foreign ministry on 18 July, was accompanied by a list of names of Budapest Jews with a connection to Sweden and a report on the extermination camps which bore out the information in the Auschwitz Report. There also went by the same courier a letter to King Gustaf from the Jewish Council thanking him for his intervention on behalf of the Hungarian Jews. The letter contained a description of the difficult conditions the Jews were living under and their constant fear of further deportations. They also asked the king to inform the German and Hungarian governments that Sweden was prepared to evacuate Budapest’s Jews and that it could make vessels for evacuation available in the Romanian port of Constanta. As the authors of the letter (Stern, Pető and Wilhelm) feared ‘reprisals against Hungary’s surviving Jews’, Per Anger asked in a supplementary letter to the foreign ministry that ‘the bottom of page 2 with the stamp and the sender’s name be removed and burned as soon as His Majesty has studied the contents of the missive’. This did not happen; the letter survives intact in the foreign-ministry archives.2 The basis of Wallenberg’s memo was information not only from the Jewish Council but also from other individuals such as Miklós Krausz, Budapest representative of the Palestine-based organisation the Jewish Agency, whom he met on 13 July, and the member of parliament Miklós Kertész, one of the Social Democrats on Böhm’s list. Raoul met him two days later. Other informants were László Kelemen, Central European’s representative in Budapest, and Géza Soós, an employee of the Hungarian foreign ministry’s cultural department, whom Raoul met on 11 July at the home of Per Anger, Soós’s contact with the Swedish legation. It was Soós who at the beginning of May had had the Auschwitz Report translated into Hungarian and had seen to it that it reached the heads of Hungary’s Christian Churches as well as the Zionist leader Ottó Komoly and Horthy’s daughter-in-law. Later in the year he would come to lead a minor opposition group, the Hungarian Independence Movement, and in that connection he would have contacts with Swedish military intelligence.3 In the memo Wallenberg reported on the dreadful conditions in the transit camps in Hungary and the onward transportation of Jews to Poland and Germany. The memo also contains thoughts on the attitude of the Hungarians to the persecution of the Jews, which many were inclined to blame on the Germans.



The Hero of Budapest According to Wallenberg anti-Semitism in Hungary was deep-rooted. That the war was nearing its end was shown by the fact that some Hungarians, especially in leading industrial circles, were ‘manifesting a certain curiosity regarding the punishment awaiting those who have taken an active part in these criminal actions’. Furthermore, Wallenberg brings up the ‘escape possibilities’, which were extremely limited because of the obligation to wear the Star of David, the ban on going out, the lack of liquidity (Jews could only withdraw a small sum in cash from their bank accounts), the Christian population’s ‘lukewarm sympathy’ and the country’s geography – Hungary is flat. In Budapest there were probably between 20,000 and 50,000 Jews living in hiding with Christians and a number of baptisms had been conducted. The hope was that baptised Jews would eventually be excused from wearing the star.4 Of interest is Wallenberg’s reflection on the Jews’ own attitude to their fate: ‘The Jews of Budapest are completely apathetic and do virtually nothing

10.2  On 7 November 1943 Sweden played a football game against Hungary in Budapest. Among the spectators were the Hungarian regent Miklós Horthy (right), Sweden’s minister Ivan Danielsson and Per Anger and his wife (who took the picture). The game ended 7–2 in Sweden’s favour. Anger remembered that Horthy left without a word when it became clear that Hungary was losing.

Budapest to save themselves.’ It was a reflection he was not alone in making. In a conversation with Iver Olsen ‘Anger lamented very much the total lack of courage among the Hungarian Jews, since they could do so much to help themselves even when they knew it was only a matter of a short time before they would be killed.’ For Raoul, who had travelled to Budapest to save Jews, the realisation of their passivity presumably came as a shock. Perhaps it was based on the general impression of a city where Jews, without fighting back, accommodated themselves to infringements of their dignity and their civil rights, perhaps it was a perception that he acquired from colleagues at the legation and others he talked to. It is also possible that his form of words reflected his impression of the Jewish Council, whose passive stance was striking – and surprising, given that the Nazis’ policy of extermination was no secret to its leaders. The persecution of the Jews in Germany and Poland was after all known about long before the Auschwitz Report was published – the Jewish leaders in Hungary thus had knowledge of the ‘final solution’, something that the German and Polish Jews lacked when they were led to the gas chambers. Their passivity can best be explained by their perceived lack of any viable alternative to cooperating with the occupying force and its Hungarian henchmen – to win time, hoping that the war would soon be over. This was why they urged their countrymen to stay calm – instead of informing them about the Jewish policies of the Nazis in German-occupied countries. Moreover, those who received the information about the gas chambers were mostly inclined to doubt it: something like that could surely not befall the Hungarian Jews…

The Repatriation Action In a letter to his mother sent by the same courier post as the memo about the persecution of the Jews Raoul reported that he had been ‘incredibly busy and […] working day and night’. At the moment it seemed as if his ‘first venture within the framework of humanitarian work’ was going to be successful even if he hardly dared to believe it. This ‘first venture’ referred to the planned Swedish aid for Hungarian Jews with Swedish connections. On 13 July the Hungarian deputy foreign minister Mihály Arnóthy-Jungerth announced that the Hungarian government had decided to approve Sweden’s offer of a rescue action for the Jews in Hungary. The action, which mainly involved economic and material aid, would take place


10.3–4  The legation building is a big and beautiful art-nouveau house at 8 Gyopár Street in Buda, right above Hotel Gellért. The house was owned by Dezso˝ von Bayer-Krucsay, who was married to a Swedish woman and had served as the Swedish consul general before the diplomatic representation in Hungary was given the status of legation in 1940. They had four children, one of whom, Sixten, came to work close to Wallenberg. Since there was no room in the legation building for Wallenberg and his activities, he rented the villa next door, 1A Minerva Street (the picture on the opposite page). Only the narrow Pipács alley separated the two buildings. The house had 16 rooms and already accommodated the legation’s two young office assistants, Birgit Brulin and Margareta Bauer. The villa was owned by Mitzi Zwack (married name Molnár), who welcomed the Swedish government as her tenant since the house thereby came under Swedish diplomatic protection. The two Swedish office assistants occupied one apartment each on the second floor, whereas the owners were hiding in a little flat in the attic. They lived in total isolation, remembered Margareta Bauer, ‘sneaking out into the garden during the night silent as mice in order to breathe some air, otherwise they were crouching in a corner in the attic’. The same went for Mitzi Zwack’s brother, the liqueur manufacturer János Zwack, who was hiding in the cellar with his wife and three children. Mrs Vera Zwack was born von Wahl and the sister of Heinrich von Wahl, whom Wallenberg knew from Stockholm. That Wallenberg rented this villa and no other was thus hardly a coincidence; also, the location was perfect, just across the street from the legation.

Budapest under the auspices of the Red Cross. The government had also agreed that Hungarian Jews with a Swedish connection could be sent to Sweden – ‘repatriated’ was the verb used. A contributory cause of this positive development was said to be Gustaf V’s message to Horthy. The decision on repatriation, which had been agreed by Hitler on 10 July, was valid not only for Sweden but also for Switzerland, Palestine and other countries, to which 7,800 Jews would be allowed to emigrate. (In 1943, through cooperation between the Swiss legation and the Jewish Agency for Palestine, 4,000 Jews had been repatriated to Palestine, but this process had halted after the German occupation. Repatriation to Palestine was taken care of by Switzerland as the country was a British protectorate and Palestine was subject to a British mandate.) Underlying the decision was a query from the Swedish legation on 11 June



The Hero of Budapest about the possibility of initiating an action to save Jewish children, women and the elderly. At the same time they asked for permission to issue exit visas for 450 individuals with ‘close ties’ to Sweden. The background was that after the occupation the Germans had urged the neutral countries to bring their Jewish citizens home from Hungary, otherwise they would be treated like the Hungarian Jews, that is, deported. Sweden was now stretching this ‘offer’ to apply not only to Swedish citizens but also to persons with close ties to the country, which meant either family ties or long-standing or close business contacts. The Hungarian authorities’ response to this application was to demand lists of persons who might qualify. The lists, which were drawn up by the foreign ministry in Stockholm and the legation in Budapest, contained 649 individuals on 14 July. But the number was uncertain as it was feared that many had already been deported to Germany or Poland. Moreover, a week later the foreign ministry told the legation that the Jewish Congregation in Stockholm had declared their willingness to accept 200 Jewish children. This made Lauer ask Raoul to do ‘all that you can’ in order that his niece Susanna be entered on this list – as well as an 11-year-old boy living in Romania, Thomas Suranyi, and a six-year-old girl, Andrea Aszódi, whose parents had owned a fruit shop that had exported a great deal to Sweden before the war. ‘I’m sure I don’t need to underline that I am responsible for the three children’s livelihood,’ he added.

B Section The deportations had stopped but it was generally assumed that they would soon resume and would affect Budapest’s Jews. In his second memo to the foreign ministry, on 29 July, Wallenberg wrote that in order to ‘at every moment be able to take the precautions that the situation demands, preferably without asking for permission’, he had employed ‘about 20 mainly volunteer workers, the majority of Jewish origin, but not such as are obliged to wear a star’. This was a necessary measure as the legation’s permanent staff were ‘completely worn out’ when Raoul arrived. He had also installed three telephones, had thousands of forms ‘for different purposes’ run off, bought new office materials and borrowed half a dozen typewriters, chairs, and so on. Only a week later the staff of B section had grown to 40 people, organised into a reception section, registration section, cashier’s office, archives, correspondence section as well as transport and accommodation sections, each one, according to Wallenberg, ‘under separate, competent leadership’. The


10.5  Wallenberg with some of his closest co-workers. From left: Dezso˝ Donnenberg, Hugó Wohl, unidentified, Vilmos Forgács, Pál Hegedu˝s, Tibor Vandor and Ottó Fleischmann.

expansion led to his having to rent a further six rooms in a villa on the other side of the legation. The first group of employees consisted of businessmen and lawyers. They were originally contacts of the trade attaché Per Anger, had provisional Swedish passports and had accordingly been made Swedish citizens: Hugó Wohl, Pál Hegedűs, Vilmos Forgács, Ottó Fleischmann, István Engelmann, Imre Terner, Iván Székely and Georg von Pogány. The first four of these made up a particularly trusted inner group who went under the name of the ‘Council of Wise Men’. Hugó Wohl was the managing director of the radio factory Orion and at the end of the 1920s he had been involved in getting production of Hungarian radios under way. He has been described as taciturn, rational and ‘smart in the sense of having a talent for joining things up, an ability to understand and judge a situation quickly’. Vilmos Forgács was also a director of Orion who had lived in Stockholm in 1935–6 in connection with the setting up of their Swedish branch. The reason for his becoming such a close and loyal colleague of Wallenberg was his ‘enormous energy, thorough education, his language abilities and his social skills’. Pál Hegedűs was Wallenberg’s main adviser as regards contacts with the German and Hungarian authorities. He was born in 1905 to a Hungarian



The Hero of Budapest

10.6  Jews queuing outside the Glass House. Jewish family in Tačovo in Carpatho-Ukraine and studied law in Prague, where he achieved his doctorate and passed his advocate’s examinations. In May 1944 he left Czechoslovakia and took himself off to Budapest, where, on account of his higher education, he was regarded as a ‘privileged Jew’ and was exempted from the Jewish laws. Hegedűs did not take part in B section’s operational work but through his talent for diplomacy he was perhaps the most important member of the Council of Wise Men. Ottó Fleischmann was also a trained lawyer but had switched to being a psychoanalyst. He studied with Sigmund Freud and was active in Vienna before returning, after the Anschluss of 1938, to Hungary, where he had been born. According to witness accounts, Fleischmann exercised a particularly strong personal influence on Raoul.5 Countess Erzsébet Nákó, whom Raoul met during his very early days in Budapest and whom he may have known from earlier visits, functioned as a kind of secretary. However, she did not carry out normal secretarial functions but was more of a social-contact person. The office work was done by Mrs Friedl

Budapest Falk, who was a trained secretary but not a Swedish speaker, so that the letters Raoul dictated were in German – even those to his mother. While Raoul was renting space in houses which thereby came under Swedish protection, a similar action was taking place under Swiss supervision. On 24 July the glassmaker Arthúr Weisz put his office building at 29 Vadász Street, the socalled Glass House, at the disposal of the Swiss legation. Here, Miklós Krausz and his staff at the Jewish Agency found sanctuary under the protection of the Swiss legation. The plaque at the entrance revealed that the building housed ‘the Emigration Section of the Swiss Legation’. The driving force here was vice consul Carl (Charles) Lutz. In time, 3,000 Jews would be accommodated here, in insufferable conditions but under the Swiss flag. During his first weeks in Budapest Raoul stayed at the Hotel Gellért but then he found a place of his own – ‘a very pretty house on a hillside so that I can entertain in appropriate surroundings’, as he described the villa in a report to the foreign ministry. The house was at 9–11 Ostrom Street on Castle Hill in Buda, about 100 metres north of the city wall, and it belonged to the rich businessman Aurél Balázs, whose son ‘Relli’ worked as one of Wallenberg’s chauffeurs. ‘I have rented a very pretty eighteenth-century house with nice furniture, a wonderful little garden and a fabulous view, and from time to time I arrange dinners there in connection with my job,’ he told his mother in rather more poetic terms.

‘There Are Many to Help Here and Great Suffering’ Wallenberg’s first reports to the foreign ministry were for some reason not shared with the American legation in Stockholm, but with the Jewish Congregation and others. The Americans and the British received information about his activities through other routes – from Lauer or from Vilmos Böhm, who in turn got it from Lauer. Olsen and Lauer had a natural point of contact as they worked in the same building, but the lack of official information caused irritation among the Americans. Another source of irritation was the financing of Wallenberg’s activities. The uncertainties here were as big as his instructions were vague: the assignment was so unique, and so many parties were involved, that it was unclear how the funds were to be paid out, by whom and for what. So, for example, the dividing line between Raoul’s work and that of the Red Cross was muddled, especially at the beginning.



The Hero of Budapest The costs of the rescue action would be disputed by the War Refugee Board, which in its turn received money from Jewish organisations, individual American Jews and the American government. At the same time it was underlined that money earmarked for rescue work was not to be used to cover administrative costs at the Swedish legation. A certain amount of funding also came from or via Lauer, but that was mostly earmarked money. The uncertainty around financing led to Wallenberg being short of money at the beginning. On 18 July he wrote to Lauer that ‘there is a severe shortage of funds for payment and it is therefore hard to get hold of pengö [Hungarian currency]’. On 23 July Raoul asked Lauer over the telephone to forward this to Iver Olsen, which he did the following day. But nothing happened and in his next letter to Lauer Raoul explained that he could not wait for formal approval of his aid plans before the money was paid out: I can’t keep on phoning about this because the foreign ministry want everything to go through them. I beg you therefore to see to it that a payment is made and that I am informed. I will see to the rest. But it all depends on the thing being done quickly. There are many to help here and great suffering. The money will in general go to particular individuals, the Red Cross, Churches and private persons who have shown themselves capable of helping Jews.6 On 5 August Olsen finally transferred 50,000 kronor to the legation in Budapest, ‘for the rescue of Jews in Hungary’. Strangely enough he declared that he did not know if the money would be spent by the Red Cross or Wallenberg. This uncertainty may partly explain the delay in the payouts: the War Refugee Board was unsure how the rescue action was looking and how the funds were to be used. When Per Anger met Olsen during a visit to Stockholm in mid August the latter assured him ‘that there would be no problem in continually putting funds at the disposal of the activities that Wallenberg had just begun’. Yet the hard times continued as far as the financing of Raoul’s work was concerned. The Americans wanted further assurances that the funds were not being spent on administration. Olsen was also complaining that he was not getting any reports from Wallenberg. Moreover, there was some displeasure that the distribution of money was to take place by a private route, via Lauer, and not via the foreign ministry. All this made Lauer feel ‘very tired of the whole thing’. He therefore wrote a sharply worded letter to Olsen on 23 August. He underlined that ‘Mr Wallenberg is working very hard, often 16 to 17 hours’, that it was ‘a physical


10.7  Some of the members of the Swedish legation in Budapest. From right: Minister Ivan Danielsson, Dénes von Mezey, Margareta Bauer, the Red Cross delegate Valdemar Langlet, Per Anger. On the far left: Béla Galantay, fiancé of Birgit Brulin (sitting). impossibility to write reports to several persons under these circumstances’ and that it was not his fault that the foreign ministry was not forwarding his reports. The money Raoul was asking for would only be used for different rescue actions, nothing else, Lauer assured him, concluding his letter by posing a question of confidence: If you have no confidence in Mr Wallenberg, it certainly would be better you told me this, so that he could finish his work at Budapest and return. Please understand, dear [Mr Olsen], that Mr Wallenberg not only gives his time and efforts to bring relief to the sufferers, but also under certain circumstances risks his life. I myself feel a certain moral obligation with regard to Mr Wallen­ berg, and therefore I am very anxious that Mr Wallenberg shall not go on with his work at Budapest unless he is assured of your confidence and help. The result of this exchange of views was, partly, that Raoul’s reports from September onwards were forwarded to the American and British embassies,



The Hero of Budapest partly that on 28 August Lauer opened a special account in the Enskilda Bank in Raoul’s name. The sums that went via this account were, however, not particularly large, having been estimated at around 250,000 kronor, which corresponds to 5 million today (£500,000). The really big contributions to the Wallenberg operation came direct from American Jewish organisations, above all from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (known as ‘Joint’) and were paid into an account that Wallenberg controlled in Switzerland. According to one source it came to $2.5 million, around $50 million in today’s values.

Provisional Passports and Other Protective Documents Since mid June Hungarian Jews with close links to Sweden had been able to acquire ‘provisional passports’ – the kind of temporary passport issued to a Swedish citizen who has lost his ordinary one. Such passports were recognised, after some hesitation, by the Hungarian National Central Alien Control Office (KEOKH), very much thanks to the excellent contacts of the legation’s Hungarian clerk Dénes von Mezey. In order for the owner of the passport to be recognised as a Swedish subject KEOKH demanded a special certificate from the legation, which was duly produced. The Control Office in its turn then issued another certificate which freed the person in question from the obligation to wear the Star of David and from other Jewish regulations. The first provisional passport was issued to Hugó Wohl, managing director of Orion, which as we saw had a branch in Sweden. ‘I will never forget how he came to my home, late evening, one day, just a few days after the Germans’ arrival, and hiding his star with his briefcase,’ Per Anger recalled. ‘And he said: “Now you have to help me, you absolutely have to help me.”’ It was then that Anger had the idea of issuing him with a provisional passport. The second passport was issued to Vilmos Forgács, who was the firm’s technical director. Thanks to these provisional passports both Wohl and Forgács and their family members were saved from deportation. But the regulations governing the issue of provisional passports were very restrictive and by 24 July only 91 individuals had acquired Swedish citizenship by that route. Besides the provisional passports the legation issued other documents, especially protective letters and passport certificates which showed that the holder was included on a so-called collective passport for entry to Sweden (this applied

Budapest to persons on the repatriation list). Passport certificates were simple documents, a paper with a stamp, while protective letters bore the minister’s signature. They certified that the holder had ties to Sweden but did not have the same weight as the provisional passports and did not release the holder from the obligation to wear the Star of David. Rather, they were ‘a kind of mental brake fluid’ intended to ‘in some degree calm the panic feelings of those being persecuted’, as a document from the foreign ministry put it. The rumours that ‘Swedish Jews’ were to be allowed to leave Hungary led to other Jews than those who had been entered on the foreign ministry’s list also turning to the Swedish legation to ask for protection. They had not dared to venture out on the streets earlier as they risked being arrested on the spot, but after the deportations ended the pressure eased off. Although it was forbidden, many Jews tore off their yellow stars and moved freely around the city and each day the queues snaking in front of the Swedish legation’s B section in Minerva Street grew longer. There were about 600 applicants each day. They started queuing at dawn, some defied the prohibition on going out by bribing the concierge, others mobilised their Christian friends, those who could afford it had their legal representatives speak for them, others again sent their applications by post.

Protective Passports According to Wallenberg’s report to the foreign ministry on 6 August, by this stage around 4,000 applications for protective letters had reached B section. The onslaught meant that the issue of protective documents was brought to a head. As we saw, the protective letter did not exempt the holder from the Jewish laws and was thus not a perfect document, and provisional passports were issued on a very restrictive basis. On Wallenberg’s initiative the legation therefore drew up a new document which was recognised by the Hungarian authorities. It was called a ‘protective passport’ (in German ‘Schutzpass’) and certified that the holder was to travel to Sweden ‘within the framework of the repatriation approved by the Swedish foreign ministry’ and was entered in a collective passport. Until then the person in question and his dwelling place were ‘under the protection of the Royal Swedish Legation in Budapest’ (underlined in the passport). The protective passport was one-way, valid only for ‘the repatriation trip’ to Sweden. The Swiss legation had also been issuing protective papers since 1942, but they were simpler documents. The Swedish protective passports were numbered, included a photo and were signed by the Swedish minister. They also had a


10.8  Protective passport issued to Béla Zwack, who together with his brother János was the owner of Zwack’s liqueur factory. The passport was signed by Minister Danielsson and carries Wallenberg’s initials (lower-left-hand corner).

Budapest professional typographical design and were decorated with Sweden’s national coat of arms, the Three Crowns. The passports were produced with great care by the Jewish-owned printing firm Antiqua. The design is usually credited to Wallenberg, who had an aesthetic education and was a skilled draughtsman. But the passports were produced in such a hurry that the national symbol was mis-drawn. Instead of two crowns above and one crown below it had one crown above and two crowns below. Per Anger recalled: ‘Nobody noticed and nobody thought of it and just as we had printed all the passports and everyone was gone, I discovered that we had put the coat of arms quite wrong.’ However impressively the protective passport was designed, it lacked support in international law, according to which a state can only issue passports to its own citizens. In this case the owner of the passport was being made a Swedish citizen although he or she was also a citizen of Hungary. As dual citizenship was not recognised the person in question had to be released from their Hungarian citizenship in order to be exempt from the Jewish laws. The issue was solved in roughly the same way as in the question of the provisional passports: the Swedish legation issued a certificate explaining that the holder of the protective passport was to be regarded as a Swedish subject and entitled to be exempt from the Jewish laws. Subsequently he or she was recognised as a Swedish citizen and was obliged to report once a week to the National Central Alien Control Office. The fact that the protective passports were recognised by the Hungarian authorities despite being invalid from a legal standpoint was, according to Pál Hegedűs, due to Wallenberg, a result of his negotiations with Gyula Perlaky, a ministerial adviser in the interior ministry with responsibility for the Hungarian concentration camps. Anyone wishing a protective passport had to be able to demonstrate close family ties or many years of business dealings with Sweden, exactly as in the case of the provisional passports. Others who were entitled to apply were, for example, theatre agents, patent lawyers, advocates, artists and cultural figures, as well as Jews who were holders of the chivalric Order of Vitéz,7 but only if they could prove that they had made important contributions with a connection to Sweden. One person who came into that category was Albert Szent-Györgyi, who in 1937 received the Nobel Prize for the discovery of Vitamin C and who moreover was an active anti-Nazi. Szent-Györgyi even hid for a time in the Swedish legation. The applications were initially handled by a six-man panel consisting of ‘Swedish Jews’, among others Hegedűs, Fleischmann, Forgács and von Pogány. The panel was led by Wallenberg, who signed the applications, after which



The Hero of Budapest Danielsson counter-signed them. The number of panels increased four- or fivefold in time with the increase in workload and each was restricted to three people. Given the nature of the requests (family circumstances or business connections) it was mostly well-to-do people who were entitled to apply for a protective passport. This was of course to some degree ‘undemocratic’, but it was not possible to save everyone and those Jews who were lucky enough to have close contacts with Sweden could hardly be criticised for wanting to save themselves and their families. Protective passports, as we saw, were produced very quickly. In Wallenberg’s report of 6 August the talk is still of protective letters, but in his subsequent memo of 15 August he enclosed an example of the new document. The first passports were issued at around this date. One of the first went to Erwin Korányi, whose father had worked for a Swedish steel firm. His passport is dated 18 August. As the whole family was supplied with protective passports, Korányi’s young wife, Alice, could leave the concentration camp in Kistarcsa, and her brother György the forced-labour camp near the Austrian border, as Swedish citizens. If interest in Swedish protective documents had been great before, the news of the new passports led to the legation being literally stormed. When Per Anger returned from his visit to Stockholm on 29 August he found that Wallenberg had opened up his head office in the legation itself: ‘Thousands of Jews were jostling one another in the street outside, in the garden and in the rooms of the legation to request a protective passport.’

A Swedish Camp The decision about the repatriation of ‘Swedish Jews’ had been taken by the Hungarian government and the German government had given its consent. But that consent was conditional: firstly, the Hungarians had to promise to ‘transport the remaining Jews abroad as “manpower”’, as Wallenberg put it in his report to the foreign ministry on 29 July. After the Auschwitz Report, everyone knew what ‘manpower’ meant, as the quotation marks around the word also show. The repatriation of ‘Swedish Jews’ was therefore to take place at the cost of resuming the deportations. The Swedes’ suspicions that the Germans, in Anger’s words, ‘sooner or later would sabotage the plan they once accepted regarding the Jews’ leaving for Sweden’ were thus borne out. Although the deportations had formally ceased on 7 July the situation was far from stable. Even after that date there were small-scale deportations. For example,

Budapest by deceiving the Jewish Council and the Hungarian authorities Eichmann succeeded in deporting around 3,000 Jews from camps in Kistarcsa (30 kilometres from Budapest) and Sárvár (in western Hungary) on 19 and 24 July respectively. All of this made it reasonable to suppose that full-scale deportations would resume as soon as the political situation allowed.8 Wallenberg was convinced that the Germans would never allow repatriation to Sweden. According to him it was also not ‘in Swedish interests to accept too large a number of Jews’. He therefore suggested that an attempt be made to help the Jews on the spot by interning them in a ‘camp’ under the protection of the Swedish legation. Wallenberg’s partner in the negotiations was Lieutenant Colonel László Ferenczy, who had been responsible for the practicalities involved in the deportations and ghettoisation of Jews in the countryside. After the changed situation in foreign and domestic politics, however, he had switched horses and now presented himself as a friend of the Jews, blaming his earlier activities on the Germans. His calculation was that thereby he would get off more lightly after the war. Ferenczy asked Wallenberg to provide him with a list of Jews entitled to move into the camp. Also at the meeting was Alexander Kasser, first secretary at the Swedish Red Cross in Budapest, and his wife Elisabeth, who acted as interpreter since the negotiations were conducted in Hungarian. To prevent Wallenberg, who was already irritated, from losing his temper altogether, Mrs Kasser chose not to translate all the abusive remarks that Ferenczy came out with. The meeting was a success, the 649 protégés9 of the Swedes were allotted three houses and Alexander Kasser succeeded in having several houses placed under the protection of the Red Cross. When they left the building, Elisabeth Kasser recalled, they could not confine their joy but ‘put our arms around each other and did a sort of Indian dance in the street’. The camp consisted of several houses on Pozsonyi Road on the Pest side, north of the Margaret Bridge, where many Jews already lived. Later, several nearby houses would also be incorporated into a ‘Swedish assembly camp’ with about 100 inhabitants in each house. However, the proposal attracted opposition in Jewish circles as it presupposed that those who were living in the apartments would move out to leave room for the ‘Swedish Jews’. Although the Hungarian authorities did all they could to postpone the resumption of the deportations, a date was finally set – 25 August. The Jewish Council turned to the neutral countries and to the Vatican to ask for help. This led to Ivan Danielsson, the papal nuncio Angelo Rotta and the Swiss, Portuguese and Spanish chargés d’affaires handing over a note to the Hungarian government



The Hero of Budapest on 21 August in which they protested vehemently against ‘this act, which from the very outset is unjust and in its execution an inhumane process [since] it is absolutely impermissible that people should be sent to their deaths because of their racial origins and to be persecuted for that fact’. During those dramatic days Wallenberg displayed a frenetic activity. His pocket diary shows that on 20 August he visited the nuncio’s secretary Gennaro Verolino, presumably in connection with the protest note. The following day he met representatives of the Jewish Council together with the delegate of the International Red Cross in Hungary, Friedrich Born. And on 24 August, the day before the planned resumption of the deportations, he called on the interior minister, Jaross, as well as Ferenczy and Nándor Batizfalvy, a police captain in the National Central Alien Control Office whom Raoul would have close and fruitful contacts with in future. The resumption of the deportations was synchronised with the internment of foreign Jews, which was to commence on 23 August and be completed on the 26th. The 3,500 Jews with Swedish and other foreign citizenship were thus given 72 hours in which to leave. But the action was called off and no new date confirmed. The fact that it did not come off was due to ‘the changes in the general situation’, as Wallenberg put it in a report to Iver Olsen. Under pressure from the advance of the Soviet army the pro-German government of Marshal Antonescu in Romania collapsed and the country entered the war on the Allied side. This meant the German army losing 380,000 soldiers. As early as three o’clock the following morning, eager to assure himself of the Hungarians’ continuing support in the war, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler ordered the Budapest SS chief Otto Winkelmann to halt further deportations from Hungary. That same day, 24 August, Adolf Eichmann left Budapest and the following day, the day on which the deportations should have recommenced, Veesenmayer received official notification from the Hungarian government that they had been cancelled. Adolf Eichmann left Budapest but remained in Hungary. He took up his abode in the castle of Velem on the Austrian border, with his Hungarian collaborator László Endre, waiting for better times.

Wallenberg’s Many Assignments Wallenberg travelled to Budapest as a Swedish diplomat on an American assignment, but the instructions that Secretary of State Hull sent to Johnson on 7 July

Budapest did not reach him before his departure, if they reached him at all. During the next few months the American State Department issued a number of new instructions to Olsen which implied Wallenberg’s collaboration. So, for example, Hull urged Olsen on 10 July to use ‘all channels available […] including Wallenberg’ to gather ‘precise information concerning location of Hungarian detention centres for Jews’ and also about Auschwitz. Wallenberg’s official task was to report on the persecution of the Jews and to try to save as many lives as possible. Besides this he had two assignments of a more private nature, one of which could be seen as a part of the general aid action: to locate and save Koloman Lauer’s relatives and friends in Hungary, as well as relations and friends of other Hungarian Jews living in Sweden and in other countries. The second assignment, also from Lauer, was not only unofficial but in conflict with Wallenberg’s promise to the foreign ministry to abstain from business dealings during his time in Budapest. It was to look after Central European’s interests in Hungary, not least with a view to the postwar period. Although Lauer was pressing Raoul to do this, the latter does not seem to have devoted that much time or attention to the issue and on 18 August he formally withdrew from the board of the firm, in keeping with his promise to the foreign ministry. Koloman Lauer’s relatives had already been seized in April. No information about their subsequent fates had been received, which encouraged him to hope that they might still be alive. Besides, Lauer and his wife had special reasons to believe that their efforts would prove successful. Mrs Lauer had an important contact in Hungary and one of the letters of introduction that Raoul had with him at his departure was addressed to this person: My dear Peter, Legation Secretary Raoul Wallenberg was kind enough to take with him these trifles (a packet of tea and a box of cigarettes) as a token of my gratitude for your once coming to my aid. The gentleman in question belongs to one of the best Swedish families, they are all leading bankers and diplomats. He himself is very keen on sailing. He has not yet seen Lake Balaton. As I know that you too practise this sport, take him to see Lake Balaton when you have time. How are you, Peter? Do you have children by your second marriage? I have got a very good man, thank God, but I think I deserve him after all the bad things I have experienced.10



The Hero of Budapest In what context ‘Peter’ had been of assistance to Mrs Lauer is unknown, but when she now turned to him again it was about an issue of life and death. Raoul was therefore asked to visit the addressee as soon as possible. ‘I regard it as quite possible,’ Koloman Lauer wrote in his instructions to Raoul, ‘that in the next few days you can make an approach to him and see to it that a travel permit is issued to my wife’s parents and the little child. Money is no object.’11 The letter’s addressee was thus someone who could be expected to supply Lauer’s wife’s Jewish relatives with a foreign passport. He had that power. ‘Peter’ was none other than Peter Hein (or Péter Hain, in the Hungarian spelling), who after the German occupation had been appointed head of the Hungarian security police and was the Gestapo’s henchman in Budapest. Maria Lauer and Péter Hain had obviously once been friends. Given Hain’s position and reputation, however, it must surely have been repellent now to have to turn to him for help, all the more so if payment was required. But the prevailing situation did not allow for delicacy either as regards people or means. What Mrs Lauer possibly did not know was that at this juncture Hain did not have the same power as previously since he had been dismissed from his post on 21 June. He is in Raoul’s address book but there is no note of a meeting with him in Raoul’s pocket diary. Perhaps they met nevertheless – the letter had to be handed over after all, and even if Hain was no longer head of the security police, he still had a fair degree of influence. But for Maria Lauer’s parents it was all too late. Not even Péter Hain would have been able to help here. Raoul did everything in his power to obtain information about their fates. Veesenmayer and Theodor Grell, the specialist in ‘Jewish questions’ at the German legation, were called on, as well as individual civil servants in the foreign and interior ministries. But results were discouraging. On 15 July Raoul phoned Lauer to tell him that his wife’s parents had been taken away ‘to an unknown place’. That was a euphemism. Raoul knew they had been taken abroad, and therefore to their certain deaths, but he didn’t have the heart to tell his business partner. In his first letter to his mother, however, he went straight to the heart of the matter. He asked her to invite Mr and Mrs Lauer to her home and went on: ‘I have been forced to confirm that his in-laws and clearly also a small child in the family are already dead, i.e. they have been transported abroad from Kecskemét, where they will not live for very long.’ Maria Lauer’s brother and sister-in-law were probably also dead. But Koloman Lauer’s sister and brother-in-law and their daughter were still alive. They were interned in a camp in Columbus Street in Budapest, where the Germans had erected barracks in the yard of Wechselmann’s Institute for the Blind. The camp

Budapest was seen as privileged and secure as it was protected by SS guards. It was ‘a good camp and those who live there don’t have too rough a time of it’, according to Raoul, who had succeeded in obtaining Swedish provisional passports for the whole family. ‘It has taken a lot of negotiations for me to get permission for this, because it was impossible before for reasons of principle to grant it.’ In a letter to the Swedish foreign ministry Lauer asked that his sister’s family be allowed to come to Sweden and to ‘stay here at least for as long as the war lasts’. This did not happen; instead, the Mihálys, mother and daughter, were hidden by the nuns in the convent of the Grey Sisters.

Under Strong Pressure Koloman Lauer was a born businessman: inventive, energetic, pushy – characteristics that are reflected in his letters to Wallenberg, which overflowed with enquiries, commissions and injunctions to such a degree that it must have been not only laborious but also emotionally trying. It was in fact not only his own relatives that he was asking Raoul to look for and help. One had to be located, another supplied with food, a third with money, a fourth with Swedish protective documents. Raoul did all he could to fulfil Lauer’s wishes. Raoul had only been in Budapest for a few days when he received a memo from Lauer in which he was asked ‘to note that payments to Mr Schwartz and Mr Reichwald as well as to my relatives are to be made immediately after your arrival, as they are all penniless’. However, Raoul was not to pay out too much at once, ‘so that the money isn’t taken off them’. Bruno Reichwald was a Swedish citizen living in Stockholm, his five relatives in Hungary had received Swedish protective letters but one of them was in a concentration camp. Further, on the bank director Erik Björkman’s behalf Raoul was to call on a director by the name of Braun von Belatini to find out whether Hungarians living in Sweden could send money to their relatives in Hungary. And via a Dr Georg he was to try to get a million pengö to a Herr Pilch to be distributed among his Polish–Jewish fellow countrymen. Lauer also asked Raoul to get in touch with the Swedish general consulate in Bratislava to enquire about Samu Engel and his wife, parents of a Mrs Schröder. Examples of similar requests and enquiries on Lauer’s part could be multiplied – the letters are full of them. Bearing in mind Raoul’s workload and the prevailing circumstances, the pressure Lauer was exerting on Raoul reflects a certain insensitivity. But the situation was desperate and Lauer was heavily



The Hero of Budapest burdened himself, as a result of both uncertainty about his relatives and the pressure he was under in Sweden. ‘So many people have rung and asked for your address in Budapest, and you must be angry at getting so many telegrams from Sweden,’ he told Raoul at the end of August. ‘As you know, it’s all to do with people worrying about their relatives.’ Lauer had therefore sometimes refused to give out Raoul’s address and had even denied that they were in contact, which had given rise to dissatisfaction and made them many enemies.

‘Wallenberg Is Working Like Hell’ ‘I have spent perhaps the most interesting 3–4 weeks of my life here,’ Raoul wrote to his mother on 6 August, four weeks after his arrival in Budapest – ‘to be sure one sees around one a tragedy of unimaginable dimensions but the days and nights are so filled with work that one only occasionally manages to react.’ Two days earlier he had had his 32nd birthday. My birthday was really comical to the extent that I only discovered the date by chance in the afternoon and mentioned it to my very efficient secretary, Countess Nákó, and two hours later my table was very handsomely fitted out with a dispatch case, an almanac, inkwell, etc., alongside a bottle of champagne and flowers. In the course of a few weeks Wallenberg’s life had changed fundamentally. From an existence as an obscure businessman he had fetched up in the crucible of an international crisis. He had been entrusted with an assignment which carried with it a great amount of responsibility and which released his inborn energy and thirst for activity. After years of professional frustration he found himself in a leadership position. He soon became known in Budapest, not least among the Jews, for whom he stood out like a light in a protracted darkness. ‘The very fact that the Swiss and Swedish legations have received Jews, listened to them and registered them has encouraged those who had been inclined to help,’ Wallenberg reported to the foreign ministry. This was sufficient to blow life into their ‘at present paralysed instinct for self-preservation’. At the same time there is no doubt that the meetings and discussions with ministers and other highly placed persons in the German and Hungarian power apparatuses strengthened his own self-esteem. However highly Raoul valued his early days in Budapest, not everyone was

Budapest equally enthusiastic, especially not on the home front. ‘I get the impression indirectly that the Foreign Office is somewhat uneasy about Wallenberg’s activities in Budapest, and perhaps feel that he has jumped in with too big a splash,’ Iver Olsen wrote to his boss John W. Pehle on 10 August. In the corridors of the foreign ministry Raoul’s actions were obviously seen as rather too shady and adventuresome. The fears that had been expressed from the start about Raoul’s suitability seemed to have been confirmed. Seen through the ministry’s eyes, the scepticism was natural: Raoul was not a career diplomat and was unused to the role. At the same time as he was a proven good negotiator, he was also ‘unconventional, peculiarly ingenious and unafraid, something of a go-getter’, in Per Anger’s words. That his actions could be seen as unprofessional is borne out by the warning that Lauer, his main sponsor, felt called upon to direct to him: ‘So be very careful before you throw yourself into your assignments, for a diplomat’s word is not the same as a merchant’s word.’ The background to Lauer’s exhortation was the low opinion that Raoul’s other Swedish clients had of his activity. According to Lauer both Norbert Masur and Rabbi Ehrenpreis questioned Raoul’s chances of helping Jews on the spot in Hungary. The only proper course would be to transport them to Sweden – everything else seemed to them ‘obviously meaningless’. No encouragement would come from these quarters: ‘You will clearly get no thanks for your work here,’ Lauer wrote to him, adding that he completely shared Anger’s (critical) view of ‘these people’. If people at the Swedish foreign ministry were, according to Olsen, ‘uneasy’ about Raoul’s activities, he himself was of another opinion. The foreign ministry would naturally prefer to ‘approach the Jewish problem in the finest traditions of European diplomacy, which wouldn’t help much’, he noted acidly. Even if there was much to be said in favour of a kind of quiet diplomacy in a situation like this, Olsen expressed his support for Wallenberg: ‘In any case, I feel that Wallenberg is working like hell and doing some good, which is the measure.’ Olsen’s positive verdict was possibly a result of his meeting with Per Anger, who spoke very well of his colleague: ‘I had lunch with the first secretary of the Swedish legation in Budapest, who is here for a short while. He is a fine chap and had many interesting comments to make. He said Wallenberg is working very hard and doing everything possible.’ With all due respect to the foreign ministry’s scepticism, it was because of an American assignment that Wallenberg found himself in Budapest. And the mission of the War Refugee Board was to try to save as many human lives as possible – if necessary, by setting aside accepted diplomatic rules.


Blood for Goods During the seven weeks that elapsed between Admiral Horthy’s decision to halt the deportations and Himmler’s telegram to Winkelmann with the same message, the regent became more and more convinced that Germany was facing a military defeat. To fight on Germany’s side till the bloody end and, moreover, to be the scene of that end was not a tempting prospect for Hungary. Horthy therefore decided to replace Sztójay with a prime minister who was less compromised in the eyes of the Allies and who could negotiate a separate peace.1 As early as 8 July, the day after the deportations had ceased, Horthy asked General Géza Lakatos to form a new government. However, Lakatos declined, arguing that the Germans would never recognise it. He was right. A week later when Horthy – despite Lakatos’s refusal – presented the names of the ministers in the new government to Veesenmayer the latter warned him that Hitler would regard the rejigging of the government as a betrayal on Hungary’s part and declared that the only people who would gain from it were the Bolsheviks. Horthy backed down and wrote a soothing letter to Hitler which was delivered on 21 July. This was the day after the attempt on the Führer’s life and he was in no mood for compromise. Hungary was threatened with destruction by Jews, Bolsheviks and intellectuals, he replied, and as leader in the struggle against Bolshevism, he, Hitler, had the right to intervene in Hungary’s internal affairs. Horthy had played his cards in an unprofessional way and was politically damaged. The main losers were the Jews. Veesenmayer and Eichmann exploited the regent’s weakened position to try to make Sztójay resume the deportations, which the prime minister, however, refused to do without Horthy’s permission. Horthy for his part pursued delaying tactics that drove Eichmann to desperation. The regent promised, waited, did nothing – all in order to gain time, in the hope that the course of the war would turn in Hungary’s favour. A decisive turn of events was Romania’s defection on 23 August. As we saw, this led to

Blood for Goods the deportations being stopped and Eichmann leaving Budapest. It also led to General Lakatos reconsidering his earlier decision. On 29 August he was sworn in as prime minister.

Labour Service The advent of the new government meant some relief for the Jews, but to begin with, the situation was neither stable nor unequivocally positive. For example, the ban on going outside was tightened and patrols were sent out with the task of confiscating valuables in apartments belonging to Jews who had been forced to move into houses marked by a star. On the other hand, hundreds of Jews who enjoyed the protection of the Swedish legation were released from internment camps. At the same time, more thoroughgoing changes were being planned. There was an enormous need for a labour force that could help clear up after the Allies’ bombing raids and until now Jews could not be used for this purpose as they were not allowed to leave their homes. After the arrival of the Lakatos government the press began to report on the unacceptable conditions under which thousands of Jews were living, in the absence of both work and income – at the same time as the country was suffering a major lack of workers. From 29 September, therefore, all able-bodied Jews between 14 and 70, irrespective of sex, were to be taken out on so-called ‘labour service’. On this issue, in other words, the interests of the government coincided paradoxically with those of the Jews. ‘These Jews are very ill-equipped in all respects. Among other things, the problem of finding accommodation will probably be insoluble. The authorities who are dealing with these problems seem however to be animated by a great deal of goodwill,’ Wallenberg reported on the day when the new rules came into force. An expression of this goodwill was that at the beginning of September Wallenberg, who had good contacts in the ministry of war, succeeded in setting up a special brigade for Swedish Jews with protective passports. A camp was established in the synagogue at 55 Aréna Street. The company, which was under the command of a Christian lieutenant, Pál Prokop, had initially 14 Jewish sergeants and warrant officers who, because of their decorations for bravery in World War I, had the right to wear armbands in the Hungarian colours of red, white and green. (Otherwise, Jews in the labour service had yellow armbands, and baptised Jews white ones.) Members of the company reported for duty every morning and were allowed to go home at dinner time. If they worked at all, the



The Hero of Budapest work was done within the bounds of the city, and they were not required to wear the Star of David. The Swedish company developed later into an international brigade for Jews with protective documents from other neutral countries too.

The Legation Is Strengthened Besides Danielsson, Anger and Wallenberg, the staff of the Swedish legation included the clerk Dénes von Mezey, a Swedish-speaking Hungarian, as well as the assistants Margareta Bauer and Birgit Brulin. But the workload went on growing, and one of the reasons behind Per Anger’s trip to Stockholm was to try to get more people down to Budapest. The result was that at the end of August the staff was increased by three people: the attaché Lars Berg, a 25-year-old law graduate who had previously worked in the B section of the legation in Berlin; his equally young colleague Göte Carlsson, a clerk; and Asta Nilsson, who was over 70, worked for the Red Cross and had worked in Hungary before. Berg’s task was to look after the section that dealt with protecting-power assignments. At this time Sweden was the protecting power for seven countries involved in the war, including the Soviet Union, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. This section was called B section while Wallenberg’s humanitarian department was renamed C section. After a while yet another person was attached to the legation: consul Yngve Ekmark, director of the Swedish Match Company in Zagreb, who had moved to Budapest. Ekmark’s job was to take care of purchases, storage and distribution of foodstuffs for the needs of the legation, Wallenberg and the Red Cross. ‘The numbers of those seeking help are unbelievable,’ Raoul wrote in his report to the foreign ministry on 12 September. ‘Thousands of applications are being received and checked’ and the staff had often been forced to work 24 hours at a stretch. Because of the rush of applicants, part of the department’s administration was moved to a ten-room villa at 8A Tigris Street, which belonged to the opera singer Margit Szilvássy; the reception, however, remained at Minerva Street. Sometime later a legal department was also opened at 1 Jókai Street in Pest. The Lakatos government awakened hopes that the situation for Hungary’s Jews would stabilise. On 12 September Wallenberg informed Iver Olsen that ‘the deportations have definitely stopped’. The protective-passport action could therefore be cancelled. The end date was fixed for 17 September. In the meantime, however, protective passports continued to be issued as there was fear of pogroms when the Germans withdrew from Budapest. According to Danielsson, by 12 September – in

Blood for Goods one month – around 5,000 protective passports had been issued, of which 2,000 had been delivered. Altogether 9,000 people had requested a passport. Wallenberg’s goal had been ‘to try to help all Jews’, he wrote to Olsen, but this could only be achieved ‘by helping a whole group of Jews to get rid of their stars’. The idea was that those who were no longer forced to wear the star would in turn help their ‘fellow sufferers’. Wallenberg and the legation had deliberately avoided ‘a large-scale humanitarian effort’ as ‘the issuing of passports has hitherto been of more help to the Jews in Budapest than the distribution of money.’ Thus barely a quarter of the 10,000 kronor which had initially been made available for the rescue action had been given out, but now that the passport initiative was almost finished a humanitarian effort would be set in motion with distribution of food and money. During the second half of September the work of distributing food and other material help did in fact intensify. In his report on 29 September Wallenberg stated that 500,000 pengö had gone to the Jewish Council for feeding and clothing, 35,000 pengö to the Jewish children’s home in Vilma Királynő Street (which had been bombed), 30,000 to ‘applicants without any means’ and 200,000 for the purchase of food (to be used on the arrival of the Soviet army, when the food situation was expected to become critical). The War Refugee Board was also directly involved in the work of obtaining food. When the legation informed Olsen that they had an opportunity to buy food at an advantageous price for the Red Cross and the Jewish Council’s people’s kitchen, he immediately sent 200,000 kronor (4 million kronor, or £400,000, today).

Raoul’s Future (V) For Wallenberg the new political situation meant that in principle he could regard his assignment as completed. According to the agreement with the foreign ministry, moreover, he was entitled to return after two months, that is, at the beginning of September. Per Anger recalls that around that time Raoul began to prepare for his journey home: ‘What else could he do in Budapest, when the people had been saved from deportation, they had got this Swedish visa and all that?’ What Anger did not know was that there was another reason that Raoul wanted to go home. At the same time as the pressure was easing off in Budapest, there was increasing pressure from Lauer, who was looking after Raoul’s affairs



The Hero of Budapest in his absence. Difficulties had arisen with Raoul’s printing firm and the agreement with Eberhard Håkansson (see page 153), who was demanding money from Raoul. But the firm was in a bad way financially, lawyers had become involved and there was talk of recovery of debts. Lauer wrote to Raoul on this subject on a number of occasions, asking him to come to Stockholm ‘in order to discuss certain matters on the spot’. However, there was also another, more positive reason why Koloman Lauer wanted Wallenberg to finish his work in Budapest and come home. He had a new job lined up for his younger partner, in the Salén-owned Banana Company. As we saw, both Lauer and Raoul had close contacts with Sven Salén, who was part owner of the Central European and had played an important part in Raoul’s Hungarian assignment. ‘I am very happy about my long-planned move to the Banana Company,’ Raoul wrote to Lauer, in a form of words revealing that the idea of attaching him to that firm, Sweden’s biggest importer of bananas, was not a new one. During the autumn Lauer was temporarily to take over the running of the company as Salén would be staying in the USA for three months. As he would be continuing to look after Central European he was keen for Raoul to come home and relieve him. ‘Telegraph immediately when you intend to finish the mission,’ he urged Raoul on 9 September. ‘Coming home soon as possible probably two weeks,’ Raoul replied two days later. Another reason for going home was that Raoul did not want to lose contact with Jacob Wallenberg. On repeated occasions he expressed his anxiety that Jacob might be ‘annoyed’ that he was staying so long in Budapest and that he could therefore forfeit the chance ‘to continue with the work that has been commenced at the Enskilda Bank’. He therefore asked Lauer to contact his father’s cousin to enquire what would happen with the Huvudsta project if he did not come home soon. Lauer contacted Jacob Wallenberg and passed on Raoul’s question. According to Lauer it was ‘very desirable with regard to Raoul’s own life that he should come here as soon as possible and resume his work in the firm’. As soon as the Russians took over Budapest, he wrote, Raoul could ‘only get to Sweden through Russia, and that journey is arduous and all the formalities will take a very long time.’ As Lauer felt ‘a certain moral responsibility’ for Raoul’s assignment he therefore asked Jacob Wallenberg to talk to the foreign ministry about the matter. Jacob Wallenberg replied that ‘there is no urgency’ about the Huvudsta project. He had also talked to the foreign ministry, which ‘promised to write to Raoul and ascertain how he sees his work himself and also the time of his eventual return journey’.

Blood for Goods Although Raoul had the right and the opportunity to travel home he chose to remain in Budapest. After only a few weeks in the city he had expressed the opinion that the rescue mission should ‘continue on the largest possible scale’ and that ‘it would be altogether wrong to believe that Sweden’s role would be concluded in respect of possibilities of bringing aid to the Jews as soon as the action of repatriation was finished’. The repatriation did not happen, and according to Valdemar Langlet perhaps the most important reason for Wallenberg’s decision to remain in Budapest was the German authorities’ instruction that no repatriation of Swedish protégés was to be allowed unless the deportations of the remaining Jews were resumed. The wisdom of this decision would be borne out during the coming weeks.

Desirable Documents During September the Allied bombing raids on Budapest intensified and the work of the legation was made more difficult because of the daily air-raid warnings and because ‘a large part of the auxiliary staff’ had been ‘bombed out of their homes’. Yet at the end of the month Raoul reported that the final winding up of the department would take place as soon as the thousands of applicants for a protective passport still to be processed had been dealt with. By that time the Hungarian government had stated that the number of protective passports was to be restricted to 4,500. Of these, 2,700 had now been prepared and delivered. When Per Anger returned to Budapest from Stockholm on 29 August he was met by thousands of people jostling each other outside the legation building. The crush was inevitable as Wallenberg’s office was in the neighbouring house. Administratively, however, his department was wholly independent of the ordinary legation. Minister Danielsson never set foot in 11.1  Sweden’s envoy to Hungary, Ivan Danielsson.



The Hero of Budapest

11.2  The queue of people waiting to get into Wallenberg’s office at Minerva Street was several hundred metres long and stretched down to the Danube. Wallenberg’s office in Minerva Street, although the house was just across the street, probably so as not to compromise his position as head of the legation. He also avoided all contact with Wallenberg’s closest colleagues. Their practical work took the form that after the end of the working day, often late in the evening, Wallenberg would go over to the legation with a pile of passports which he would ask Danielsson to sign.2

Blood for Goods According to Anger, the minister signed one passport after the other ‘without comment’. This impressed Anger as Ivan Danielsson, born in 1880, was a diplomat of the old school and had strong views on Wallenberg’s way of carrying out his work. This was not because he was opposed to the rescue action. As can be seen from his reports to the foreign ministry, Danielsson was deeply upset by the persecution of the Jews and wholeheartedly supported the policy of the Swedish government. His objections were of a formal nature. He was afraid that Wallenberg’s measures, which seriously contravened the rules of diplomacy, would lead to the Nazis taking measures against the Swedish legation. His objections had to do with Wallenberg’s ‘more and more dubious appointments and production of protective documentation’ which according to Lars Berg was done ‘contrary to Danielsson’s orders’. The minister’s fears were shared by Berg and Per Anger, who were worried that Wallenberg’s action would grow to such an extent that it would overwhelm the staff of the legation. One of his harshest critics was the office assistant Margareta Bauer (in a letter to her friend, the young diplomat Lennart Petri): ‘Wallenberg clearly lacks all judgement and we at the legation are in despair and it is a great puzzle to us why the minister does nothing to improve the situation.’ Wallenberg for his part maintained that the large workload required a large organisation. However, he took the criticism to heart. When he rented the house in Tigris Street it was to lessen the pressure on the legation building. The large-scale production of protective papers not only risked depriving the documents of their value, but also led to corruption. A letter from the other office assistant, Birgit Brulin, to Lennart Larsson junior, who had just left Budapest and returned to Stockholm, gives a snapshot of the situation at the legation in mid September: When you went home it was pure child’s play compared to what it is now. The queues outside the gate are no shorter and buying and selling are going on to a much greater degree than before. There are now 120 Jews employed there to cope with the work and the corruption and protection rackets and black marketeering going on there cannot be described in words. […] Your good friend Berg, who seems to be a fine man, has already protested bitterly about the whole business and does not understand how such things can happen in a Swedish legation. Although Raoul issued more stringent instructions to the staff working on Jewish affairs, the problems of corruption did not cease. ‘It has emerged that several



The Hero of Budapest persons who were not employed in the department, e.g. some unscrupulous lawyers, have taken advantage of the precarious situation of the Jewish population and exacted large fees to handle the application for a protective passport,’ he reported to the foreign ministry on 29 September. ‘They have claimed to have connections among the staff. Whenever possible, these outsiders have been reported to the police.’ 11.3  The generous issuing of protective There is absolutely nothing to passports inspired the Budapest newspaper suggest that Wallenberg himself was Pesti Posta to print this cartoon: ‘Why don’t mixed up in this activity – quite the you wear the yellow star?’ – ‘Have you never reverse. As early as 15 August, in seen a Swedish citizen before, constable?’ his memo to the foreign ministry, he stressed the danger that passports might be issued to ‘individuals whose activities have not been of importance to Sweden’ as this ‘has proved to set an extremely awkward precedent’. An employee of Wallenberg’s department has testified how extremely thorough Wallenberg was in ensuring that the handling of protective passports was done correctly. The issuing of passports took place with the agreement of the Germans, and SS men paid regular visits to Wallenberg in Minerva Street to check that the number issued tallied with the official list.3 Apart from bribery, another way to get one’s hands on a protective passport seems to have been to get the hard-pressed Minister Danielsson to sign more passports than were entered in the list and then to sell them. According to Lars Berg 1,000 kronor was ‘a low price’ for a protective passport. Another method was forgery. One such case was detected at the end of September and was mentioned in the Hungarian press. According to Wallenberg a murderer who had already been punished, with no connection to the legation, had made 40 protective passports, ‘extremely poorly copied’ and had then sold them.

Closing the Section and the Accounts By the end of September everything was set for the winding up of the ‘Jewish Section’. The work was made more difficult because of the bombing raids but

Blood for Goods the staff was gradually reduced. On 27 September Wallenberg announced that 40 of the 100 employees were to finish within the next ten days. In Wallenberg’s pocket diary for 20 September one can read the words ‘closing of the books’. Time to sum up, in other words. So how did the books look at the end of September when new applications for protective passports were no longer being received and Raoul was planning to return to Stockholm? In his report to the foreign ministry, under the heading ‘Results achieved’, he wrote: The entire staff and their families, around 300 individuals, have been exempted from having to wear the Star of David and from forced labour. Those in possession of Swedish protective passports presently in the Labour Service will be recalled to Budapest from their respective labour battalions as of tomorrow morning. It is likely however that some will not be found or will be unable to find transportation. Credit for the general release of interned people is largely due to the section. Contact with the official who ordered their release has been constantly cultivated by the section. The total number of individuals exempted from having to wear the Star of David as a result of the section’s efforts is today about 1,100 out of the agreed total of 4,500. Two weeks later Raoul wrote a similar report to Iver Olsen: When I look back on the three months I have spent here I can only say that it has been a most interesting experience, and, I believe, not without result. When I arrived the situation of the Jews was truly bad. The course of events militarily and a natural psychological reaction among the Hungarians has ensured that much has changed. We in the Swedish legation have perhaps only been a tool to convert this external pressure into action at the various levels of government. I have taken a rather strong line in these questions even if I have naturally been forced to contain myself within the framework appropriate to me as a neutral. […] Believe me, Mr Olsen, your contribution to the Hungarian Jews has done an enormous amount of good. I think they have every reason to thank you for having initiated the Swedish action on behalf of the Jews in the way you did, in such a unique way.



The Hero of Budapest The formal closing of the accounts of the ‘Royal Swedish Legation’s humanitarian section’, dated 14 October, shows that of 1,055,043 pengö spent, 15,968 had gone on entertainment, 77,850 to helping individuals, 585,000 to institutions, 300,000 on food, 61,230 to administration, and the rest, small amounts, on sundries. There remained in the cashier’s hands 263,474 pengö of unused funds.

Influential Dinner Guests Wallenberg had a natural social talent and had a huge network of contacts in Budapest, a network that included both friend and foe. Naturally enough his closest and most binding connections were with Jewish organisations, especially the Jewish Council and Jewish Agency, represented by Miklós Krausz. Similarly, he was in constant contact with representatives of the other neutral states, in particular Switzerland and Vatican City, and likewise with the representatives of the Red Cross in Hungary, Valdemar and Nina Langlet, and the representative of the International Red Cross, Friedrich Born. He also met leading Social Democrats, whose names he had received from Vilmos Böhm. Another contact was Captain Zoltán Mikó, head of the Hungarian National Guard (KISKA), but who was secretly organising special units tasked with helping persecuted Jews and members of the opposition. On several occasions Wallenberg also met the regent’s son, Miklós Horthy junior, who was opposed to Hungary’s pro-German policy. In 1943 he founded an agency for the repatriation of Hungarians living abroad which in fact busied itself with trying to find ways in which Hungary could withdraw from the war. It was therefore known as the ‘Defection Bureau’. As we saw, Raoul knew Horthy junior from his business trips. Wallenberg cultivated contacts not only with his allies but also with representatives of the other side. This was in fact a prerequisite for the success of his rescue mission. He regularly met both civil servants in the foreign and interior ministries and representatives of the German occupying power, both civil and military, as well as Gestapo officials. ‘A considerable part of the expenses till now has consisted in giving dinners and lunches for various influential officials, particularly the officers responsible for the Jewish question,’ Raoul wrote to Iver Olsen in his first report on how funds from the War Refugee Board were being used. Even if the negotiations were often ‘exceptionally dramatic’ he found them entertaining, he told his mother. The phrase hints that the confrontations satisfied the theatrical side of his personality.

Blood for Goods

11.4  The villa that Wallenberg rented at 9–11 Ostrom Street. ‘Giving dinners and lunches for various influential officials’ was in fact a smart move. Wallenberg, as we have seen, was a moderate user of alcohol himself, but he knew, in Lars Berg’s words, ‘how much easier it is to bring a difficult transaction to a successful end after an abundance of good food and precious wines’. Raoul was in his proper element here. He was a brilliant, cunning negotiator who did not give up until he had got what he wanted. He often entertained in the villa he rented in Ostrom Street, but many of the meetings took place in restaurants. When Lars Berg arrived in Budapest he was struck by the fact that the city, despite the bombing and blackouts, still had a noticeably vital restaurant and social life. One evening he attended the premiere of a Selma Lagerlöf play and another time he saw a Swedish motion picture. Rationing was certainly in force, but ‘as long as you were not a German, nobody asked for coupons’. Apart from Danielsson, who was of retirement age, the staff of the legation were young, between 25 and 30, and they were often out having fun. Anything could be bought for the appropriate currency: Russian caviar, American cigarettes, French cognac. Budapest’s finest restaurants were doing a roaring trade



The Hero of Budapest although the Gypsy music was not infrequently interrupted by air-raid sirens that drove the guests down into shelters. ‘The bombs came in series, and it was gruesome to hear how the explosions were coming closer and closer to the place you were in,’ Berg recalled. When they were really close, both floor and ceiling shook and the plaster started to fall off the walls. Then your house was hit. An explosion deafened you, everybody threw himself heedlessly onto the floor. […] Finally came the relief of the ‘all clear’ signal. The Gypsy violins sang again, the food was warmed up in the kitchens and the bottles were emptied.

German Trade Policy ‘I am enjoying myself very much here and am very busy,’ Raoul wrote to his mother on 29 September. There had been lots of air raids and they had been forced to sit for several hours in the shelter, but the past week had been quiet. ‘Despite that,’ he continued, ‘life goes on.’ A few days earlier he had invited ‘a very interesting bigwig […] namely, Himmler’s representative’. But the meeting had not come off, a ‘work commitment’ having forced the bigwig to make his excuses at the last minute. The man whom Raoul had invited to dinner was SS-Standartenführer (Colonel) Kurt Becher, ‘a very nice person who, in his own words, will shoot himself sometime soon’. According to Wallenberg’s pocket diary the dinner had been planned for seven o’clock on the evening of 26 September. As Raoul wrote in the letter to his mother, Kurt Becher was Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler’s representative in Hungary. He had arrived in Budapest in March 1944 as the head of the ‘Riding and Transport Board’ of the SS Economic Department with the task of obtaining 20,000 horses, but instead he soon came to play a central role in a different kind of trade – involving Jews. Although the ultimate goal of the Nazis was to exterminate all Jews, it happened that a few were allowed to emigrate, often for large sums of money. One example of this trade was the takeover of the Manfréd Weiss Works, Hungary’s largest industrial concern, consisting of about 50 firms with a total of 40,000 employees. It was owned by four Jewish families who were related through marriage: Weiss, Chorin, Kornfeld and Mauthner, who also controlled one of Hungary’s biggest banks, the Commerzbank.

Blood for Goods As Hungary was still officially regarded as a sovereign nation, the Germans could not, as in other occupied countries, just confiscate a concern so vital to the German war effort, comprising as it did, among other things, a large steel mill. Accordingly they tried instead to get their way by means of ‘negotiations’. These were led by Kurt Becher. After being softened up by beating and other humiliating procedures, the head of the group of companies, Ferenc Chorin, accepted the Germans’ offer, the gist of which was that 45 family members would be granted a safe conduct out of Hungary in exchange for a majority of shares in their business. The owners of the Manfréd Weiss Group acted under enormous pressure – the negotiations were being conducted while the deportations of Hungarian Jews to the gas chambers were at their height. According to the agreement, which was signed on 17 May, the Germans would run the business for 25 years, after which it would be returned to the owners. In a secret part of the deal, the latter were promised $600,000 and 250,000 Reichsmarks in cash. In addition they would be allowed to take some valuables with them when they left Hungary. Although the agreement met with opposition from both the Hungarian government – which did not want to see a national resource disappear in this way – and from the German foreign ministry, behind whose backs it had been entered into – it finally achieved legal status. After several delays, at the end of June the members of the owners’ families were able to leave Hungary. Most of them travelled to Portugal, some to Switzerland. Five family members were detained for a time in Vienna as guarantees that those who had already reached freedom would not publicise the agreement. Of the promised cash compensation of $600,000, only a third was paid out. The agreement represented a major victory for the SS and Himmler in the ongoing power struggle with Ribbentrop and the German foreign ministry. It was also a personal triumph for Becher, who had shown himself to be such a skilful broker that Himmler assigned him to another set of negotiations that was being conducted simultaneously – that one, too, a variation on the theme of ‘blood for goods’, but on a significantly larger scale. Shortly after the Germans marched in, the illegal ‘Zionist Aid and Rescue Committee in Budapest’ (known as ‘Va’ada’) initiated negotiations with the occupying power about the possibility of ransoming Jewish lives. The committee had been active in Budapest since January 1943 and was led by Rezső Kasztner and Joel Brand, the former a journalist, the latter a businessman. (It was not the first time that a bargain of this kind took place: in March 1942 25,000 Slovakian Jews had been saved from deportation for a sum of $50,000.)



The Hero of Budapest While these negotiations were in progress, even more far-reaching business plans were being devised. At a meeting with Joel Brand at the end of April, Adolf Eichmann presented a proposal that Germany would be willing to release a million Jews in return for 10,000 trucks along with soap, tea, coffee and other commodities. The trucks were to be new and to come with trailers. Anticipating the Allies’ distaste at the thought of selling war materiel to the enemy Eichmann gave assurances that the trucks would only be used on the Eastern Front, against the Soviet army. The implication was that the defeat of world communism would be in the interests of the Western Allies. As the Germans could not talk directly to the Allies, Eichmann ordered Brand to go to a neutral country to negotiate there with the leaders of ‘World Jewry’.4 On 19 May Brand arrived in Istanbul, where he established contact with representatives of the Jewish Agency and the American and British counterespionage services. However, they soon began to suspect that the aim of the German proposal was to sow division among the Allies. For their part, the Turkish authorities were convinced that Brand was a Gestapo agent. He was therefore expelled from the country. When he crossed the border into Syria on 31 May he was arrested by the British and taken to Cairo. Brand had not travelled to Istanbul alone, but in company with Andor Gross, a minder whom Eichmann had supplied him with. Gross had his own, secret assignment that Brand was unaware of, namely to explore the possibility of a separate peace with the Western powers. The ‘Jews for trucks’ proposal was a ruse, a way of establishing contact with the Allies. In July the plan leaked out to the British press, who described the offer as ‘monstrous’. It was also officially rejected by the American and British governments, who were keen not to damage the relationship with their ally the Soviet Union, against whom the trucks were intended to be used. The Soviet leadership were therefore informed of the plan. While Joel Brand was in Turkey and Egypt, negotiations were continuing in Budapest between Eichmann and Kasztner. They led to an agreement that a group of Jews would be allowed to leave Hungary. On 10 June 388 Jews from the ghetto in Kolozsvár were taken to Budapest where they were interned in the camp in Columbus Street where Koloman Lauer’s sister and her family would later be kept in custody. After further negotiations the quota was increased to 1,000 Jews, later to 1,300 and finally to 1,700. The price was set at $1,000 per person, which in total meant close on $2 million, money that Va’ada did not have. In order to finance the action and also to include less-well-off individuals, 150 places on what would come to be called the ‘Kasztner train’ were sold to rich Jews. As Jewish bank accounts were frozen, the payment took the form of jewellery,

Blood for Goods gold, precious stones and other valuables. They were delivered to the SS in three suitcases on 20 June. One of those who took delivery was Kurt Becher. On 30 June the train, with 35 carriages, left Budapest with 1,684 people on board. It was supposed to go to a neutral country but stopped in Bergen-Belsen, north of Hanover, where the ‘emigrants’ were interned in a specially set up transit camp. Among the eight sub-departments of the camp four – ‘Sternlager’ (‘Star Camp’), ‘Neutralenlager’ (‘Neutrals’ Camp’), ‘Sonderlager’ (‘Special Camp’) and ‘Ungarnlager’ (‘Hungary Camp’) – were reserved for ‘prominent prisoners’ and ‘exchange Jews’. On 21 August, two days before Himmler put a stop to the deportations of Budapest’s Jews, 318 of the 1,684 Jews from the ‘Kasztner train’ were allowed to leave Bergen-Belsen and travel to Switzerland. It was a goodwill gesture by the Germans, who had an interest in continuing to discuss the ransoming of Jews. On the same day negotiations on this topic were set in motion between Kurt Becher and Saly Mayer, the Swiss representative of the aid organisation Joint, which had large financial resources and was one of the major financial backers of the Wallenberg action. The story of the negotiations between Nazi Germany and Joint and Kurt Becher’s role in them is too extensive and complicated to relate here. What is interesting in this context is Wallenberg’s contacts with Becher. The phrase used by Raoul, that Becher ‘in his own words’ was thinking of shooting himself, suggests that it may have been the Standartenführer himself who was the source of the information – in which case they may have been acquainted earlier. Becher’s significance for Wallenberg’s work in Budapest is signalled by the occurrence of another name in Wallenberg’s pocket diary, Vilmos Billitz, whom he met at least seven times in the autumn of 1944. The first meeting took place on 21 November in the presence of the Gestapo or at their headquarters: ‘Billitz with Gestapo’. As Wallenberg probably did not note all his meetings in his diary it is entirely possible that they actually saw each other more frequently. Vilmos Billitz was the manager of the Manfréd Weiss Group’s Aviation and Engine Factory. Becher had got to know him during the negotiations about the Manfréd Weiss Works in which Billitz had acted as a sort of mediator. Billitz was a Jew but had converted to Catholicism. Through his way of handling the negotiations he had won Becher’s trust and he became the latter’s confidant in Jewish questions. It was thus no coincidence that he took part along with Becher and Kasztner in the negotiations with Joint in Switzerland in the autumn of 1944.5 Wallenberg’s first meeting with Billitz may have taken place on an American initiative. In a telegram to Iver Olsen on 3 August the State Department reported



The Hero of Budapest that the owners of the Manfréd Weiss Group with their families had arrived in Switzerland and forwarded a piece of news from the American legation in Bern, that ‘one Wilhelm Bielitz, [who] organised the departure of these persons’ was now trying to get to Switzerland. (Wilhelm Bielitz is the German form of the name Vilmos Billitz.) The news was intended for Raoul: ‘Wallenberg may find it advantageous to contact him.’6 It is unclear when the first contacts between Wallenberg and Billitz took place, but that they intensified at the end of September is apparent from Wallenberg’s pocket diary. It was also Billitz who arranged the contact with Becher, who later stated that he met Raoul on two or three occasions.7 But not on 26 September, when, as we saw, he was prevented from doing so. The ‘official matter’ that forced him to cancel the meeting may possibly have been connected with the negotiations going on at this time between Becher and Joint. The very day on which he should have been having dinner with Wallenberg actually saw the first breakthrough in these conversations: Saly Mayer telegraphed from Switzerland to say that he was willing to open a Swiss bank account that would be at Becher’s disposal for the purchase of goods. In return, Joint demanded that the deportations of Slovakian and Hungarian Jews stop and the remaining passengers on the Kasztner train be allowed to travel to Switzerland (which they were, on 7 December). A possible reason that Becher turned down the invitation to dinner with Raoul is thus that on that same day he simply had other things to think about. The offer represented a real opening for negotiation – two days later Kasztner travelled to Switzerland for his third meeting with Mayer. Raoul was of course well briefed on Becher’s activities, through the War Refugee Board, Billitz and other contacts inside the Manfréd Weiss Group. It is reasonable to believe that the negotiations about the ‘Kasztner train’ inspired Raoul to try to find a similar solution to the question of the repatriation of the Jews with Swedish protective passports and that it was this issue that he wanted to discuss with Becher when he invited him to dinner. Since the Germans refused to give the ‘Swedish Jews’ transit visas, they were still stuck in Budapest, prevented from leaving Hungary.

Exchange Jews If, earlier in September, Wallenberg had talked about coming home in a few weeks’ time, by the end of the month he was more pessimistic about the possibility

Blood for Goods of winding up his work in such a short time. ‘At least, I’m going to try to go home via Germany and hope it won’t take so long as if the trip had gone via Moscow–Haifa [sic],’ he wrote to his mother on 29 September. In a letter to Lauer he explained that his work in Budapest was ‘wished for and necessary’ as long as the Soviet army’s entry was delayed. But he would try to come home ‘a few days before the Russians come in’. The idea of leaving Budapest just a few days before the Russians marched in was repeated in Raoul’s next letter to Lauer, written two weeks later. To go earlier would not do as things might happen ‘where I would rather be present’. When Lauer received Raoul’s letter he had ‘a dramatic conversation with him on the telephone’ in which he asked him to come home. But Lauer’s entreaties and arguments were answered with the words: ‘I cannot leave thousands of people without help.’ One reason his work was not so easy to wind up, Raoul wrote to Lauer, was that ‘important new tasks have cropped up which cannot be avoided as they fall within the parameters of the prescribed [rescue] action’. These tasks included the business of releasing the holders of protective passports from labour service, and to this end a new section had to be set up. Moreover, after a request from Danielsson, Wallenberg had received a ‘donation’ of 150,000 kronor from ‘Shipowner Olsen’, that is, the War Refugee Board, to be ‘paid out to various secret accounts owned by private persons and firms here’. The money was transferred from the Enskilda Bank to the Schweizerischer Bankverein in Bern on 14 October. Further, Raoul had set up a letting agency so that ‘Jews who did not have to wear a star any more’ could move in to ‘Christian’ or ‘Aryan’ houses, as it was dangerous for them to stay on in houses marked with a star. There were already ten people working in this agency, among them a couple of bank directors from the Commerzbank and some ‘society ladies’, as well as Sixten von Bayer-Krucsay, whose family owned the building that housed the Swedish legation. Another important task ‘within the parameters of the prescribed action’ concerned the Hungarian Jews who at the beginning of July had been deported to Austria as part of Eichmann’s agreement with Va’ada and Kasztner. For a sum of $100 a head, 15,000 Jews were to be sent for labour service in the Strasshof camp and other places around Vienna. Instead of ending up in Auschwitz and being gassed, they would, in Eichmann’s words, ‘be put on ice’. The agreement had significant advantages for the Nazis, partly because they could show their goodwill (the negotiations about ‘trucks for Jews’ were in full swing), and partly because they gained access to a much-needed labour force. The official



The Hero of Budapest name for these Jews was not ‘Transportjude’ (as for example on deportation to Auschwitz) but ‘Tauschjude’ (‘exchange Jew’) or ‘Jointjude’, which indicated that they were intended to form part of an eventual exchange. The prisoners were used for different tasks, from clearing up after a bombing raid to industrial and farming work.8 Responsibility for the Hungarian Jews in Austria rested with Obersturm­bann­ führer Hermann Krumey, who had his headquarters in Vienna. The treatment of the Jews was supervised not only by Va’ada but also by the International Red Cross and the Swedish Red Cross representatives in Vienna, the Langlets. This meant that they were guaranteed a certain amount of protection from abuse. ‘While the Hungarian Jews in and around Strasshof were deprived of much, including their liberty, they were definitely among the lucky ones,’ according to one Hungarian historian. ‘They were in relative safety, while the remainder of the provincial Jews were being concentrated and deported.’9 However, during the autumn the situation deteriorated for the Jews in labour service in Austria. They had arrived in midsummer and lacked warm clothes and the few thin garments they owned (and worked in) were by this time completely threadbare. Many of them had no shoes. Via the Red Cross the Swedish legation in Budapest was well informed of the situation. ‘The food consists of thin soups, potatoes, surrogate coffee and insufficient bread. They are living in unheated, partially bomb-damaged barracks,’ Danielsson reported to the foreign ministry at the beginning of October. According to Wallenberg, it was ‘inevitable […] that we address the matter in all seriousness’. He therefore drove in one of his cars, a Studebaker, to an internment camp on the Austrian border. ‘The commandant refused to receive me at first,’ he told his mother, ‘then he allotted me five minutes, and finally, after negotiating for four hours, I managed to have 80 people released the very same day and sent to Budapest. It was a very moving sight to see these people.’ Sometime later Wallenberg sent Yngve Ekmark to Vienna to try to negotiate directly with Krumey. Whether or not the meeting took place is unknown. The Red Cross supplied the deportees with jackets, underclothes and shoes, and after a request from the Jewish Council Wallenberg asked the Swedish foreign ministry to send cast-off clothes and paper vests from Sweden, and he asked Lauer to help with advice about the technicalities of dispatching them. Although he was aware that ‘the thing is un-doable, we still have to make the effort’. As far as is known, no deliveries were ever made from Sweden. These were the official reasons that Wallenberg advanced for postponing his homecoming. Another reason for his decision may have been an instruction from

Blood for Goods American Secretary of State Hull to Olsen on 2 October which named individuals in Hungary and Slovakia who were contact men for ‘the Swiss representative of the organisation that Wolbe represents in Stockholm’. Schlomo Wolbe was a German Jew who spent the war years in Stockholm, where he worked for the USA-based International Rescue Committee (which in the first instance strove to help refugees from Nazi Germany). ‘Please request Wallenberg, if possible, to ascertain whether they have any programmes which he can facilitate,’ Hull wrote. ‘If they need funds for any projects which give any reasonable promise of success, you may, in your discretion, make these funds available to them.’ Wallenberg immediately asked for $100,000 from the International Rescue Committee, ‘via Switzerland’. At the end of September or the beginning of October there were changes in the political situation in Hungary which may also have contributed to Wallenberg’s decision to remain in Budapest. Dissatisfied with the Lakatos regime, the Germans tried to insert Ferenc Szálasi, leader of the Hungarian far right, and other Nazi-sympathisers into the government. One important reason was that they wanted to resume the persecution of the Jews, Danielsson reported to the foreign ministry on 3 October: ‘They say that 4–5 October will be critical days.’ On the same day that Raoul, in his letter to Lauer, described the ‘important new tasks’ that had made him postpone his homecoming, he also wrote to his mother – ‘in great haste’ as the courier post was about to leave in a few minutes: ‘I just want to tell you that up to now everything has been fine here. We have no shortages of food or anything else. And lately we haven’t had any air raids.’ But there were lots of German soldiers on the streets, he told her, as well as many refugees. There was great uncertainty about what the arrival of the Russians would mean. Raoul’s feeling was that it could be difficult to leave Budapest as the situation was unlikely to improve before the Russian occupation and he had to stay behind with his section. If he could not get away in time he would try to get to Sweden via the Soviet Union. ‘I suppose,’ his letter concludes, ‘that a journey like that will be very long.’


The Death Marches When Ivan Danielsson reported to the foreign ministry that 4 and 5 October were being spoken of as ‘critical days’, he was factually correct but wrong about the timing. The critical days occurred ten days later. Ever since Admiral Horthy had decided to stop the deportations, and, later, sack Prime Minister Sztójay, the Germans had followed internal political developments in Hungary with great suspicion. It was increasingly clear that the Hungarian government’s goal was to detach the country from the war and conclude a separate peace with the Allies. The reason Hitler still tolerated Horthy and allowed him to remain in office was his value as a symbol of a sovereign Hungary. His presence also gave legitimacy to the work of the government. At the same time, however, talks were ongoing between Veesenmayer and representatives of the extreme right in the country, the Arrow Cross Party, about the setting up of a new government under the leadership of the party’s chairman Ferenc Szálasi. Horthy’s first attempt to reach an agreement about a separate peace was made at the beginning of September. The attempt failed as the Germans supplied the Hungarian army with the reinforcements that Horthy had been asking for in return for not putting his plans into action. But the regent’s design of negotiating a separate peace meant an intensification of the domestic situation, where right-wing extremists opposed the anti-Nazi forces which were growing in strength as the Soviet army were approaching Budapest. When Horthy gradually realised that the Western Allies had no intention of either invading Eastern Europe from the Balkans or dropping units of parachutists into Hungary, he decided to negotiate an armistice with the Soviet Union as well. The surrender to the Allies was planned in close cooperation with Horthy junior and his wife as well as with a number of high-ranking military officers.

The Death Marches It was supposed to have happened on 18 October but was moved forward three days because of the Arrow Cross’s plans for a coup d’état. The Germans had not been sitting idly by during the growing crisis. In mid September Hitler had given SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny – who had led the mission to release Benito Mussolini in Gran Sasso the year before – the task of preventing Horthy from putting his plans into action. The task included among other things neutralising Horthy junior. On the morning of 15 October the latter was due to meet Yugoslav partisans, representatives of Tito, at the home of Félix Bornemisza, the manager of the Hungarian Danube Shipping Company and director of Hungary’s free ports. Instead, both he and Bornemisza were arrested and sent to the concentration camp of Mauthausen, where they spent the following seven months. Despite the arrest of his son, Horthy announced his decision that same day to accept the armistice terms set by the Soviet army. At one p.m. the proclamation was read out on Hungarian Radio. The regent explained that Hungary had been dragged into the war because of its geographical situation and under German pressure, that the war was now lost and that the Third Reich was facing inevitable defeat. He also totted up the crimes that Germany had committed against Hungary, among them the stationing of German troops against his will and the excesses that the Gestapo and the SS had committed after the occupation. He also criticised Germany for having helped the Arrow Cross Party to prepare a coup d’état and urged the Hungarian troops to be loyal and to follow his orders. As for the Jewish question, he said that the Gestapo had dealt with it in the same way in which they had dealt with other issues and ‘used well-known methods that conflict with the cornerstones of humanity’. The change of date from 18 to 15 October foiled the Arrow Cross Party’s plans for a coup but meant at the same time that troops who were loyal to Horthy were taken in their beds. The proclamation came as a surprise and led to general confusion. After years of anti-communist propaganda the regent suddenly declared that the country was to capitulate to the Soviet army. Yet several Jews tore off their yellow stars and those who had been taken out for labour service threw down their spades. But the joy was short-lived. In the afternoon there was a radio message from the chief of the army exhorting the troops to continue the struggle on the Germans’ side. The broadcasting station had been occupied by the Arrow Cross, with German help. Horthy had played for high stakes and lost. The Arrow Cross were enabled to take over. On 16 October the regent was forced to sign two documents. One of them annulled his proclamation and supported the army chief’s exhortation



The Hero of Budapest to carry on the fight; the other gave Ferenc Szálasi the task of constructing a new government. The following day, Horthy and his closest family were sent into exile at Schloss Hirschberg in Bavaria.

The Coup and the Swedish Legation On 15 October most members of the Swedish legation found themselves at Budapest’s Eastern Station. Faced with the prospect of a Soviet occupation, it had been decided to send as many Swedish women and children as possible back home. Even if in this case it was a question of ‘real’ Swedish citizens, transport had not been easy to arrange. Their journey was to go through Germany and the Germans were unwilling to make the railways available for civilian traffic as they were needed for military transports. The legation had therefore booked a railway carriage in advance for the Swedish group. Just as the train was about to go, Horthy’s message about the armistice was read out over a loudspeaker. Confusion ensued. Some German officers tried to squeeze into the Swedish carriage but were stopped by Per Anger, Lars Berg and Göte Carlsson, who were escorting the passengers. But they too were at a loss. Was it appropriate to send Swedish citizens off through Germany in this situation, especially if the carriage was part of a train transporting German troops? A German officer explained to Anger that he would bear the responsibility if anything happened. Danielsson, who had been at the station earlier, had been summoned to Buda Castle to be told about the armistice, so that Anger had to take the decision. He decided to allow the group to travel. The last thing they heard before the train rolled out of the station on its way to Vienna was the conductor’s words: ‘Don’t forget to hunker down when they shoot at the train. When we stop for an air raid you must leave the train immediately and throw yourselves on the ground.’ After several days’ journey, the group reached Sweden safe and sound. Margareta Bauer and Birgit Brulin were part of the group at the station, but not Wallenberg. There is a note in his pocket diary that on 15 October, which was a Sunday, he was to meet Berber Smit, a young Dutchwoman he had been seeing. It is uncertain whether or not the meeting took place as Raoul was suddenly busy with other, more important concerns. On 14 October soldiers from the Albrecht barracks took the law into their own hands and locked members of the International Labour Company in the synagogue in Aréna Street. Also pushed in beside them were Jews who had fled

The Death Marches from their units after the Soviet army’s breakthrough or who had deserted their labour service and had been caught in raids. Altogether, on the evening before the coup, there were around 300 people locked in the synagogue, guarded by soldiers with fixed bayonets. According to László Ernster, a young medical student who was part of the Swedish labour company, Wallenberg turned up in the synagogue, ‘calm and collected but pale’. He gave the young Arrow Cross men a telling-off and urged his protégés to stay in the synagogue and on no account to show themselves on the streets. The following day, the day of the coup, Raoul and his colleagues were busy negotiating with the ministry of defence to try to get the holders of Swedish passports out of the synagogue. When word finally came, Wallenberg left the legation and along with Vilmos Forgács, Pál Hegedűs and Kázmér Kállay (the former prime minister’s nephew, who worked for Wallenberg) he went to the synagogue, where according to Gábor Forgács, Vilmos’s son and one of those locked in, pure anarchy had now broken out. With the help of Lieutenant Prokop they were able to free the ‘Swedish Jews’. When Wallenberg returned to Minerva Street the legation building was sealed off by a German detachment armed with machine guns. However, he managed to reach his office and make a few phone calls. The result was that next morning 20 of his closest Jewish co-workers were able to move in with Professor Nékám in Rezeda Street, where they hid for two weeks.1

Nationalism and Asemitism The new prime minister, Ferenc Szálasi, was a retired army officer who in 1935 had founded the ‘Party of National Will’, whose ideological basis was Hungarian nationalism and revanchism. The party was banned and two years later Szálasi created a new party, the ‘Hungarian National Socialist Party’. After spending some time in prison, in 1940 he became national leader of the Arrow Cross Party, who after the previous year’s election had become the second biggest party in parliament. As with other parties that Szálasi had been involved in, the Arrow Cross movement built on the idea of a geographically restored and ethnically pure Hungary, where no Jews would be allowed to disturb the idyll. In other words, there was much that united the Arrow Cross ideology and the Nazi dream of the Third Reich. Szálasi’s solution to the Jewish question, however, differed from the Nazi one. He wished Hungary to become judenrein but not primarily through physical



The Hero of Budapest

12.1  Ferenc Szálasi entering Buda Castle to form a government on 16 October 1944. extermination. Szálasi’s ideology was asemitism. His recipe for the solution to the Jewish problem was that after the war all Jews should leave Hungary ‘for a place decided by international agreement’. They should first be put to work and then be deported, preferably to Palestine. Paradoxically enough, Szálasi’s ‘asemitic’ solution to the Jewish question thereby partly coincided with that of the Zionist movement. However, the way to the Promised Land in Szálasi’s plan was strewn with significantly more thorns than the one advocated by Miklós Krausz and the Jewish Agency. Already by 16 October the star houses were sealed up for a ‘census’ and the occupants were forbidden to leave them for a good week. Nor was anyone allowed to enter the houses, neither doctors, midwives nor coffin-bearers, and no deliveries of food were allowed in. The members of the Jewish Council did not even dare to go to their office in Síp Street, although the Jewish congregation was under the protection of the Gestapo. In the weeks before the coup Szálasi had secretly recruited thousands of new members to the Arrow Cross Party. Several of them were elderly men or soldiers who had been wounded in the war, but many were uneducated young boys, teenagers, from Budapest’s slum areas. Irrespective of age, they had all been reared on a diet of raw anti-Semitism. They were provided with armbands and automatic weapons and as soon as the Szálasi coup was a fait accompli

The Death Marches they initiated a terror that was so bloody and uncontrolled that even German SS officers protested to the Hungarian authorities. During the first night of the coup pure pogroms took place. People were dragged from their star-marked houses or their labour companies and shot in the streets or on the quays by the Danube and thrown into the river. In a little village west of Budapest a whole labour company consisting of 160 doctors, engineers and other highly educated professionals was slaughtered. ‘During the first night of the putsch, several individual arrests were made and there were several pogrom acts, in the course of which some 100–200 persons are estimated to have been killed,’2 Wallenberg wrote on 22 October in his report to the foreign ministry, continuing: Several Jewish houses were also emptied by Arrow Cross troops and the occupants taken away to detention centres. These have largely been allowed to return, but a couple of hundred appear to be still missing. […] In some instances, people with protective passports have been attacked by armed bandits and their protective passports torn up. […] The events of the 17th [an obvious error by Wallenberg] were disastrous for the section. We lost the entire staff plus a car which had been placed at our disposal free of charge, as well as some keys to locked rooms, cupboards, etc. I spent the whole of the first day in streets filled with bandits, on a lady’s bicycle, trying to straighten everything out. Day two was spent moving staff members in imminent danger by car to safer hiding places and hauling food to them in a sack. Today only about ten staff members are missing, while some 30 have not yet come to work. The rather improbable bicycle ride through Budapest’s streets to ‘encourage and give fresh heart to his Jewish colleagues’ was for Per Anger an example of Wallenberg’s masterly ability to ‘improvise and think up solutions and to get on top of the new difficulties that were constantly arising’.3

Baron and Baroness Kemény Two days after the coup Eichmann returned to Budapest, which meant that his Sonderkommando once again took control of the fate of Hungary’s Jews. The following day the new interior minister Gábor Vajna explained the government’s Jewish policy on the radio. One of the points was that no distinction should be



The Hero of Budapest made any longer between ‘ordinary Jews’ and those who were under foreign protection. ‘Let not a single person of the Jewish race believe that with the help of foreigners he can circumvent the lawful measures of the Hungarian State.’ Danielsson reported to the foreign ministry that same day that Swedish passport documents were no longer recognised. In its reply the foreign ministry urged Danielsson ‘to remind those concerned of the king’s appeal on behalf of Hungary’s Jews’ and ‘to underline that you take it for granted that those Jews who have received Swedish protective passports will be spared’. It was stressed at the same time that Sweden had no plans to recognise the new Hungarian regime. The question of diplomatic recognition would come to play an important role in negotiations between the Swedish legation and the Hungarian authorities in the following months. Another point in the new government’s programme concerned labour duty. After the fortunes of war turned against the Germans the upper age limit for the call-up to labour service had been raised. In April 1943 it had been 37, in April 1944, 48. Through an agreement between Vajna and Eichmann, from 21 October onwards able-bodied Jewish men between 16 and 60 and women between 18 and 40 were recruited to dig trenches and erect fortifications around Budapest. By 26 October 25,000 men and 10,000 women had been taken out for labour service. Moreover, Eichmann demanded that Hungarian Jews be ‘loaned’ to Germany ‘to replace the worn-out Russian and other prisoners of war’ in German factories. During the first days after the coup the Swedish and other neutral countries’ legations went into overdrive to try to defend the status of those people under their protection. Carl Lutz and Angelo Rotta called on representatives of the Hungarian government and the latter was assured by Szálasi that the Jews would neither be deported nor exterminated but ‘would be made to work for Hungary’. On the Swedish side the negotiations were carried out by Wallenberg, who in the first week after the coup had two meetings with the new foreign minister about the Swedish protégés. According to what Danielsson reported to the Swedish foreign ministry, there was a possibility that their protected status would be respected. Everything depended on whether or not Sweden was planning to recognise the new regime. The fact that Danielsson left it to Wallenberg to contact the Hungarian foreign ministry may have been a deliberate snub to the new Hungarian leadership. In the Swedish foreign ministry, however, there was some displeasure that it had not been the minister himself who had made the Swedish government’s position clear and he was urged to do this ‘immediately and in person’. But there may

The Death Marches have been yet another motive for letting Wallenberg handle the negotiations, namely that he was acquainted with the new foreign minister, Baron Gábor Kemény, and his wife Erzsébet. Wallenberg used to sum up his dealings with Hungarian and German officials in notes which he delivered to his interlocutors the same day, so-called ‘verbal notes’. His first conversation with Kemény ought therefore to have taken place on 20 October, when he confirmed in a verbal note Kemény’s pledge that the new Hungarian government intended to respect agreements previously entered into. But so far this was just a verbal promise. A second meeting between Wallenberg and Kemény on 22 October resulted in a written agreement to the effect that employees of the Swedish legation and their family members would also in future be free from the obligation to wear a star and live in a star-marked house. Those who had been selected for labour service before 15 October were to assemble in the Swedish labour company in Aréna Street while those who had not been called up before that date did not need to perform any labour service at all. Jews with protective passports who had been taken out for labour service after 15 October were to be allowed to return home. On the same day two further notes were sent to the Hungarian foreign ministry, one about police protection for the legation’s legal section at 1 Jókai Street and one confirming the agreement about the Swedish legation’s right to issue 4,500 protective passports. In the following days the legation bombarded Kemény with notes, which were almost certainly drawn up by Wallenberg. On 26 October alone there were six. The notes were about everything from the protection of the legation’s buildings and the Jews’ ration cards to the recall of protégés who had been taken away despite the agreement that had been entered into. Sometimes attention was drawn to the fate of a single human being – for example, 81-year-old Imre Vajda, who despite his age was dragged off to dig trenches. On one occasion there were protests that Arrow Cross men had forced their way into one of the Swedish Red Cross’s premises and thereby breached extraterritorial rights. When Jews’ ration cards were confiscated Wallenberg provided the Swedish protégés with certificates that could be used as ID papers instead (anyone without a ration card risked being arrested and deported). When the government announced that only holders of regular passports would be regarded as foreign citizens, Wallenberg had certificates drawn up that gave protective passports the same status as regular ones. Due to lack of time the certificates carried a facsimile of his signature. The protest notes received a positive response from the foreign minister, who had personal reasons for keeping in with the Swedish authorities. Sweden was the protecting power for Hungary






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1 Hotel Gellért, where Wallenberg stayed during his first weeks in Budapest. 2 The Swedish legation at 8 Gyopár Street (nowadays 3A–B Minerva Street). 3 The house that Wallenberg rented at 1A Minerva Street (nowadays 5 Minerva Street). 4 Wallenberg’s flat at 9–11 Ostrom Street. 5 Wallenberg’s flat at 3 Dezső Street. 6 15 Úri Street, hiding-place for the Swedish legation. 7 The Papal Nunciature (4–5 Dísz tér) where the members of the legation were hiding on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 1944. 8 Count Eszterházy’s palace (the Swiss legation) at 7–9 Tárnok Street, where Ivan Danielsson, Margareta Bauer, Yngve Ekmark and Asta Nilsson were hiding after leaving the Nunciature. The house does not exist any more. 9 The Castle with Horthy’s residence.

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THE PEST SIDE 1 The International Ghetto, where the Swedish and Swiss protégés were concentrated (see map on p.226). 2 2–4 Üllői Road, Wallenberg’s main office from November 1944. 3 The Glass House with the Swiss legation at 29 Vadász Street. 4 The Hazai Bank at 6 Harmincad Street where Wallenberg and his co-workers were lodging during the final stage of the war. Nowadays the British Embassy. 5 The Closed Ghetto. 6 The Great Synagogue in Dohány Street. 7 16 Benczúr Street with the T Section of the Red Cross. Here Wallenberg made contact with the Soviet Army on 13th January. Nowadays the Austrian Embassy. 8 The Szechényi Bath in the City Park, in whose basement the first talks between SMERSH and Wallenberg were held. 9 The Józsefváros Railway Station.




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The Hero of Budapest in Romania, where several members of Kemény’s family had stayed on after the country broke with Germany. Wallenberg saw the foreign minister’s wife almost as often as he saw the minister himself. The baroness was Austrian, born a von Fuchs in Merano in the Italian Tyrol and she had moved to Budapest on her marriage in 1942. Her husband was high in the Arrow Cross Party and a convinced anti-Semite but she became upset herself at the way in which the Jews were treated. What she could do was to try to influence her husband, which she did in fact do – to the degree that the Arrow Cross Party drew the baron’s attention to the unsuitability of her behaviour. Wallenberg visited Kemény not only at the ministry but also in the couple’s home. During these conversations he found a use for his acknowledged negotiating skills. According to the baroness, it was typical of Wallenberg that he ‘nagged until he got something’ – a characteristic that, according to her, he shared with the papal nuncio Rotta. ‘He visited my husband every day until he got what he wanted.’ Per Anger, who met Kemény together with Raoul on several occasions, remembered that Raoul used to flatter the foreign minister that he was ‘one of the outstanding foreign ministers of modern times’ and that he could perhaps become the new regime’s first ambassador to Sweden, which was about to recognise it. But flattery was only one part of Wallenberg’s negotiating technique. If that didn’t work he tried other forms of manipulation, such as underlining that the war would soon be over and that it would be sensible to cooperate with the winning side. The visits and the nagging had the desired effect. The baroness wrote to Raoul to tell him her husband had promised that the decree that the government respected previous agreements was to be read out on the radio, which Wallenberg had demanded. On the night of the 29th and morning of 30 October a proclamation went out on Hungarian Radio to the effect that those who had passports, protective passports, collective passports, emigration or work papers issued by neutral legations could not be required to perform either military or labour duty. ‘This great success for the neutral countries was wholly Raoul’s doing,’ according to Pál Hegedűs, who witnessed events at close quarters. ‘In return Raoul had, among other things, to give the baroness three protective passports for people in her protection and also, funnily enough, a kilo of meat,’ he recalled. On another occasion he saw to it that she received a dressing gown. It is unclear when Raoul and the Keménys first met. According to one source they became acquainted shortly after the Szálasi coup at Károly Müller’s publishing firm, where the baroness was employed. Müller was a Jew but as Jews

The Death Marches were forbidden to engage in business he had been forced to hand over the firm, which was formally owned by the journalist and lawyer Áron Gábor. He was a non-Jew and the firm bore his name. According to Gábor, who in addition had also nominally taken over a Jewish-owned cereals firm, 100 protective passports were handed out at the publisher’s, which after the Szálasi coup functioned as a secret headquarters for Wallenberg’s activities. Gábor himself took an active part in the handling of protective passports and six weeks after the coup he was forced to flee Budapest. There will be a reason to return to the question of his fate. It is not credible that, after only a few days’ acquaintanceship, Wallenberg could have won the baroness’s trust to the extent of persuading her to influence her husband for his ends. They had presumably met earlier – after all, they moved in the same social circles. There is a note in Wallenberg’s pocket diary on 2 August about a meeting at the Hotel Gellért with ‘Ers[z]ebet and K.’ This presumably refers to the Keménys. The fact that he names the baroness with her given name suggests that they knew each other. In any case, there is a lot that points to Raoul having already been acquainted with the Keménys when he called on the foreign minister for the first time. According to what Kemény later stated, he had ‘almost friendly relations with Wallenberg’. However, that statement was made after the war and was aimed at presenting himself in a positive light.4 On the other hand, there is no question that a mutual trust existed between Wallenberg and the baroness. ‘It’s true that there was a kind of sympathy there, between them […] she admired the way he worked,’ Per Anger recalled. The foreign minister’s wife was young and pretty and it has been hinted that the relationship between herself and Wallenberg was more than friendly. But this inference lacks both credibility and foundation. At this time, moreover, she was heavily pregnant. On 29 November she left Budapest – according to Hegedűs she was forced to leave because of her involvement in Wallenberg’s rescue mission. At her departure Wallenberg called on her with a bouquet of flowers, but that was an expression of politeness and gratitude, nothing more. ‘I was a really good friend of the foreign minister’s wife. Unfortunately she has gone to Merano,’ Raoul wrote to his mother in wording which no doubt accurately defines the temperature of their relationship.

Visit to Stockholm? According to what Baroness Kemény declared much later, Wallenberg during a conversation with the Soviet Union’s minister in Stockholm, Alexandra Kollontay,



The Hero of Budapest extracted a guarantee that nothing would happen to her and her children when the Soviet army came to Budapest. This detail has led to speculation that, at some point during his stay in Budapest, Raoul visited Stockholm where he met Kollontay (that the conversation would have taken place over the telephone seems less likely). That Wallenberg planned on several occasions to travel to Stockholm emerges from his letters to Lauer. The idea of a short visit had in fact occurred to Raoul after only a week or so in Budapest. On 18 July he wrote to Lauer that he would try to come home ‘very soon to deliver my report’. The report was on the Jewish question. An important reason that he wanted to report in Stockholm and not on the telephone was that telephone conversations were tapped and sometimes even cut short by the German censorship. Wallenberg’s plans to come home were reported immediately to the American and British legations and on 25 July Herschel Johnson informed the American State Department that Wallenberg ‘reports that he expects to be back in Stockholm for a few days at the end of the month’. Boheman, on the other hand, had not been informed and was surprised to learn the news from the British. The fact that the Swedish undersecretary of state for foreign affairs did not know that Wallenberg was expected home was probably down to an oversight – there was after all no reason not to keep him informed – but at the same time it goes to show that Raoul did not see the Swedish foreign ministry as his main employer. On 29 July the British legation reported to the Foreign Office that on his imminent visit Wallenberg ‘would certainly be ready to let us have any information […] required’. Wallenberg did not get away in July – probably because the Germans refused him a transit visa.5 As we saw before, Wallenberg later, in September, planned to wind up his work in Budapest and go home for good. He said as much to Lauer, who in turn informed the British legation. ‘Wallenberg will be back at the end of the week,’ one reads in a British document of 16 September. But Wallenberg’s Stockholm trip did not come off in September either; on this occasion, as we saw, because he chose to stay on in Budapest although his section in the legation was to be wound up. Stamped in Wallenberg’s diplomatic passport is a German transit visa dated 13 October and valid until the 29th of the same month. The interesting thing is that Wallenberg’s pocket diary is empty between 17 and 23 October, which makes it theoretically possible that he visited Sweden at some time during this period. A more likely explanation is that his diary is empty because he planned to be in Stockholm on those days – but did not get away because of

The Death Marches the events of 15 October. What we know is that he was in Budapest on 16 and 24 October – according to his pocket diary. But we also know that he was active on the days after the coup and that he met Kemény on the 20th and 22nd – the same day on which he also sent a report to the foreign ministry. This considerably reduces the time frame during which Wallenberg would have been able to visit Stockholm. In favour of the theory of a visit to Stockholm, apart from Baroness Kemény’s statement about the alleged conversation with Kollontay, is the fact that Marcus (‘Dodde’) Wallenberg on one occasion (almost 40 years later) maintained that the last time he met Raoul was ‘during World War II when he happened to be visiting Stockholm in the middle of his mission in Budapest’. Against the theory that such a visit took place is the fact that it is not named or even hinted at by any of Wallenberg’s colleagues in the legation or any of his family in Stockholm. It should be noted, however, that while Wallenberg touches on his trip home several times in letters to Lauer, he does not say a word about it in the letters to his mother. This could in its turn be because the trip was associated with some sort of activity that had to be kept secret at all costs. Was he involved in something that we do not know about? Was the contact with Kollontay made via Marcus Wallenberg, who knew her well since the negotiations about a separate peace between the Soviet Union and Finland? It has been hinted that Raoul may have had an assignment on behalf of the American intelligence service OSS, whose head in Stockholm was his employer at the War Refugee Board, Iver Olsen. Although no proof of this has been found, we cannot exclude the possibility. In any case, for reasons of time the trip must have been made by plane, via Berlin. Whatever the truth about Wallenberg’s trip to Stockholm, it is remarkable that his pocket diary, which otherwise is so full of notes, is empty for the whole seven days following the October coup. If he had planned to be in Stockholm on a secret mission, that explains things. Another possible explanation for the gaps in the diary could be that Wallenberg knew about the imminent surrender and wanted to keep those days free in view of the unpredictable outcome of events. After all, Horthy was originally supposed to have made his speech on 18 October, not the 15th. This is a less likely explanation, even if there is reason to suppose that Wallenberg was better informed than many others about the regent’s intentions. Not only in his capacity as diplomat but because he had close contacts with the person who was removed along with Horthy junior on 15 October.



The Hero of Budapest The name Félix Bornemisza crops up four times in Wallenberg’s pocket diary, and his telephone number is found in his address book. Although other traces of their contact are absent it is not hard to guess what these consisted of. Bornemisza was, as we saw, the director of Hungary’s free ports. In this capacity he was of interest to Wallenberg, who had been informed by the War Refugee Board that ‘ships and barges going down the Danube are generally empty and may afford a means of escape for a limited number of refugees in the guise of seamen or otherwise’ and that ‘skippers can be approached on [a] financial basis’. We may assume that one of Wallenberg’s and Bornemisza’s topics of conversation was therefore the smuggling of refugees.6 The four meetings with Bornemisza took place at the same time as the planned but never implemented internment of the Swedish protégés in July–August. Another possible topic of conversation was of a more commercial nature. In 1939 Hungary’s free ports had founded a shipping firm intended to link the Danube to South America, and Bornemisza had ordered three ships which among other things would carry locomotives to South America and return with cargoes of coffee. (Bornemisza’s close relationship with Horthy junior can partly be explained by the fact that from 1939 to 1942 the latter was the Hungarian minister in Brazil, and afterwards was the chairman of the Hungarian River and Maritime Transport Company Ltd.) The ships were to be owned by a company named the Csepel Hungarian– Swedish Shipping Company Ltd. Because of the war, plans were postponed and only one ship, Hungaria, was built (in 1947) before the country became communist. How the Swedish-ownership picture looked is unclear, but one inevitably comes to think of the Salén shipping firm, whose banana boats had long been plying the route from Europe to South America – and of Sven Salén’s ward Koloman Lauer, who was a specialist in the transit business and who in his application for Swedish citizenship presented ambitious plans for trade with South America after the war. In this context it is interesting to note that Raoul, in his (rejected) application for a cabinet passport, declared that he wished to travel to Argentina to buy foodstuffs for Central European. Bornemisza also had business dealings with the Wallenberg family, but what they consisted of is unknown. However contacts with Bornemisza were arranged and whatever purpose they had, Raoul was kept well informed by him about the political situation in Hungary. It therefore is reasonable to believe that he knew when Horthy was about to deliver his surrender speech.

The Death Marches

‘A Tragedy on an Immense Scale’ On 22 October, the same day on which Raoul sent off his report to the Swedish foreign ministry on the situation of the Jews in Hungary, he wrote to his mother: Today you are only getting these few lines written in haste. I can reassure you that everything is fine with me. The times are extraordinarily dramatic and exciting. But we are working and struggling through, and that’s the main thing. Right now I am sitting by candlelight trying to get the diplomatic pouch off. There is a power cut – as if the almighty mess here wasn’t enough. If you could only see me now. People are standing and jostling around me, all with such pressing questions that I don’t know who to answer and give advice to first. It is clear that the difficulties made Raoul feel stimulated. His choice of words is reminiscent of those he used in an earlier letter to his mother, when he said he had experienced the most interesting time of his life despite the ‘tragedy on an immense scale’ that was unfolding around him. At the same time there are many witnesses to the despondency he was capable of feeling when things went against him. In the prevailing circumstances it was easy to swing between elation and depression. The Red Cross delegate Márton Vörös recalls a visit to Wallenberg, who looked at him without saying a word. ‘It was a tired and very sorrowful man who stood before me. I noticed that he had not even taken the time to shave and this emphasised his paleness all the more.’ When he met Wallenberg later it was after a successful rescue mission and the sorrowful facial expression had been blown away. ‘It is characteristic of his personality that he tended to be pessimistic, but the smallest turn for the better or a relatively minor result immediately motivated him and he became an enthusiastic fighter again.’ The last week in October offered many opportunities for both fighting spirit and despondency. On 31 October Wallenberg and Carl Lutz were called to a meeting at the Hungarian foreign ministry in the presence of László Ferenczy, who was still dealing with Jewish questions but who, after the October coup, had thrown off his pro-Jewish mask. Here they learned that Jews issued with Swedish protective passports or Swiss Palestine certificates were ‘at the disposal of the legations in question’ and could be repatriated. They should therefore ‘be separated and concentrated in Budapest or its surroundings until their



The Hero of Budapest departure’. In other words, Szálasi had climbed down with regard to Jews under neutral protection. A period of respite was appointed. The separation and concentration was to take place by 15 November at the latest, after which the Hungarian government ‘regrets that it must treat all Jewish persons, resident in Hungary, in a uniform manner’. The foreign ministry promised to approve exit permits and the German legation in Budapest had ‘promised the provision of appropriate German transit visas’. One desideratum – or rather condition – was that the Swedish and Swiss governments recognise the Hungarian regime. The melody was a variation on an old theme. Earlier, repatriation had been dependent on the resumption of the deportations and it was the Germans who made that demand. Now the demand was for diplomatic recognition, and it was being put forward by the Hungarian government. In the last week in October things quickly came to a head. As soon as it became clear that the Hungarian government was prepared to release Jews from the neutral states, the British Foreign Office instructed the British legation in Stockholm to ask the Swedish government to put pressure on the German authorities for a transit visa. If the Germans, with a reference to the overloading of their railways, refused, did the Swedish government mind if Great Britain investigated whether Switzerland could take ‘some or if necessary all of them as a temporary measure’? The Swedish government did not mind, and instructed Minister Danielsson to take up the question with his Swiss colleague. On 8 November the latter informed the Hungarian government that there were plans to send off an initial train with Jews on 15 November and another one a week later. If transport problems arose the Swedish government would ask the Swiss to let the Jews stay in Switzerland until these had been solved. It was an impudent move, a test of the seriousness of the Hungarian offer – which (as the Swedes of course suspected) was largely designed to extract a diplomatic recognition. When the Swedish legation in Berlin made enquiries to Adolf von Thadden, who was dealing with Jewish issues in the German foreign ministry, he declared that he was ‘completely ignorant of the fact that the new Hungarian government had given permission for persons belonging to the category in question to travel from Hungary to Sweden’. Instead, anti-Jewish policies were stepped up. On 3 November a decree was promulgated to the effect that all remaining Jewish assets were to be confiscated, ‘for the benefit of the State’. The next day the Arrow Cross rounded Jews up in Budapest’s central synagogue in Dohány Street to send them off for labour service. Wallenberg rushed to the spot and, with the help of his lists, called out

The Death Marches Jews with Swedish protective documents. In this way he was able to free several hundred individuals who that same night, under cover of darkness, were taken back to their houses by police escort. Not even Wallenberg’s closest colleagues avoided reprisals. On 8 November his chauffeur Vilmos Langfelder was arrested. Sándor Ardai from the Jewish resistance movement, who drove Raoul to the headquarters of the Arrow Cross Party where Langfelder was kept, was amazed that he succeeded in extracting Langfelder from there and ‘started to understand the extraordinary power that was in Wallenberg’. At this juncture Wallenberg was working round the clock, both in the field and at his desk. During the first half of November he wrote no fewer than 20 notes to the Hungarian foreign ministry.7

Hegyeshalom On 8 November, the day that the Swedish legation handed in its note about the Swiss transport alternative, the first of the so-called ‘death marches’ was launched from Budapest to the Austrian border. They were the result of an agreement between the Szálasi government and the Germans that 25,000 able-bodied Jews would be ‘loaned out’ for labour service in Germany for six months. Before the ‘loan Jews’ were sent off to Germany, they were interned for several days in an old brickworks on the Buda side. The biggest assembly point was the brickworks in the district of Óbuda (Old Buda). Conditions were disgusting. The internees were given no food and were robbed of the few assets they had left: clothes, blankets, anything of value. ‘Once we were all in, there was hardly room on the floor for everybody to sit,’ recalled Susan Tabor, a young girl who was interned in Óbuda along with her mother. ‘There was no light, no water, no food, no doctors, no first aid, no sanitary facilities, no one was allowed outside. Armed Nazis walked around stepping on people, abusing them, cursing and shooting. We were beaten.’ Those who did not get a place in the brick barns (which had a roof but no walls) had to sleep outside. Here, too, Wallenberg came to the rescue. Early each morning he himself or other employees of the legation travelled out to the brick barns to free Jewish protégés, a rescue mission that the Swiss and the Red Cross also took part in. Among those saved were Susan Tabor and her mother. Suddenly at one end of the building we saw people in civilian clothes with a loudspeaker and flashlights – and there was Raoul Wallenberg.



The Hero of Budapest We just stared at him, not even realising that he was talking to us, not even comprehending what he was saying. He was telling us that he demanded that those with Schutzpasses should be allowed to return to Budapest. He further informed us that medical doctors and nurses had volunteered to come in, to take care of the sick and wounded; he demanded that outhouses be provided. The Tabors, mother and daughter, managed to flee under cover of darkness and the holders of protective passports were allowed, thanks to Wallenberg’s intervention, to return to Budapest. The others were sent away to Hegyeshalom, the border post between Hungary and Austria. Because of the lack of means of transport they were forced to cover the 240-kilometre-long stretch on foot. Winter had already set in and the conditions were dreadful. Women, children and old men were driven in endless procession on foot through dirt and deep snow towards the border in the same state they had been taken in during the raids or on the streets. Girls with high heels, often without coats, children without shoes and old men without hats were driven by Hungarian farm boys with whips and weapons like tens of thousands of sacrifices to their deaths. After a day or so in Hegyeshalom the Jews were transported on towards Germany by train. The march took 7–8 days. At best the marchers were given a dish of watery soup per day to eat. Those who fell ill or were incapable were left to die or were shot. The roads and the ditches were lined with corpses. ‘Ever since they started arranging these death marches the weather has been cold and rainy,’ Wallenberg reported. The people have been sleeping under shelter and out in the open. Most of them have only managed to eat and drink 3–4 times. […] On the border they were taken over by the SS-Sonderkommando Eichmann with kicks and blows and were taken for hard labour in the border fortresses. On 16 November Danielsson reported that the Swedish legation ‘through secret interventions and with support from Honvéd officers [officers in the

The Death Marches regular Hungarian army], who provided vehicular transport, have contributed to the freeing from labour service and deportations of around 15,000 Jews’. (Tensions between Honvéd and the Arrow Cross were great and it was not uncommon for the legation to receive help from army officers.) The following day the head of the Swedish legation and the nuncio Rotta delivered a note to Szálasi in which they protested at the inhuman treatment of the Jews, including those who were under foreign protection.8 Danielsson also informed Szálasi about the rumours that Wallenberg and he himself would be the targets of an attempted assassination. The leader of the Arrow Cross said he did not believe the rumours but if such plans existed he would deal with the instigators in ‘the severest way possible’. Conditions on the ‘death marches’ were so shocking that even some Germans reacted, among them General der Waffen-SS Hans Jüttner and Rudolf Höss, the former commandant of Auschwitz, now responsible for the deployment of Jewish manpower in the lower-Danube region. They protested to Winkelmann and on 17 November, the same day on which the neutral states delivered their protest notes, the marches stopped. The respite did not last long, however. Only four days later, on 21 November, a new march was started on Eichmann’s orders. The next day a meeting took place in Wallenberg’s office in the presence of, among others, Miklós Krausz and Dr Körner, representing the Swiss and Portuguese legations respectively. Police Captain Nándor Batizfalvy read out a report on the conditions prevailing on the marches. So far 7,500 Jews had crossed the border into Austria, 2,000 had been handed over to the Germans the day before and 13,000 were still marching. Ten thousand Jews had disappeared on the way, some had managed to flee, others had died or been shot. On arriving at Hegyeshalom they were handed over in groups to SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Wisliceny, with their total numbers given but not their names. Batizfalvy had managed to arrange some improvements, such as for example that the marchers were given better quarters for the night. The suggestion to send Jews with protective documents back to Budapest was quashed by Ferenczy, who, however, agreed to the neutral legations’ sending two delegates each to Hegyeshalom.9 The Swiss diplomats went off as early as the night of 22 November and were there by morning. Wallenberg left in company with Anger and some of his Jewish employees, among them the highly trusted Béla Elek, on the evening of the 23rd. They travelled in three private cars and were escorted by three large lorries with food and medicines. They also had a field kitchen with them. Also



The Hero of Budapest on the trip were a doctor, nurses and nuns. As always when Wallenberg turned out he had with him his rucksack, which contained the essentials of life. One of the members of the expedition on 23 November gave the following description: Our first stop was Gönyű, where according to confidential reports the so-called death ships were anchored. Two barges were full of sick people, suspected cases of dysentery in their hundreds. The barges were guarded by policemen so that it was impossible to visit them. Wallenberg and Legation Secretary Anger, who was with him, finally managed by handing out rum and cigarettes to get the policemen’s permission to leave medicines and food for the mortally ill people. At one o’clock in the morning, in pouring rain and with pocket torches as their only source of light, the unloading began. Wallenberg joined in himself and carried sacks and tins of food. After this the car journey continued towards Hegyeshalom. The handover of the Jews to the Germans began at dawn. The Arrow Cross representatives on the spot appeared threatening and refused to allow the protégés to return to Budapest, but ‘as a result of Wallenberg’s firm and determined stand’ the policemen ‘created no difficulty at the selection’. One of those who were on the march was the 14-year-old Zvi Eres, who remembered how he, his mother, his aunt and a girl were saved by the Swedish delegation: As we approached Hegyeshalom, at the end of the march, we saw two men standing by the side of the road. One of them, wearing a long leather coat and a fur hat, told us he was from the Swedish legation and asked if we had Swedish passports. If we hadn’t, he said, perhaps they had been taken from us or torn up by the Arrow Cross men. We were on our last legs, but alert enough to take the hint, and we said, yes, that was exactly what had happened, though in fact none of us had ever had a Swedish Schutzpass. He put our names down on a list and we walked on. At the station later we saw Wallenberg and some of his assistants, among them – as I learned only later – some members of the Zionist youth movement, posing as Red Cross officials, and representatives of the papal nuncio. A group of Hungarian officers and Germans in SS uniform were there, too. Wallenberg was brandishing his list, obviously demanding that

The Death Marches everybody on it should be allowed to go. Voices were raised and they were shouting at each other in German. It was too far away for me to hear exactly what was being said, but clearly there was a tremendous argument going on. Zvi Eres and his family were thus made Swedish protégés on the spot, although they had no connection with Sweden. It was a bluff that Wallenberg often used: to persuade the Germans or the Hungarian policemen that the Jews in question were Swedish protégés but that for various reasons they had lost the documents proving it. When he turned out he always had with him signed and stamped protective documents and a portable typewriter which he used to fill in the names of the protégés. If he had no protective passports he issued so-called Vorpässe, which certified that the holder was entered on a list of those who were to receive a protective passport. On this occasion Wallenberg and Anger succeeded in ‘identifying’ around 400 Swedish protégés before returning in the afternoon to Budapest, where according to his pocket diary Wallenberg was due to meet Vilmos Billitz that same day. They left behind Béla Elek, who was given the job of arranging transport home for the protégés. Foodstuffs were handed over to the military command and medicines to those Jews who were to be sent on to Germany. The most sinister sight a human being can see is what I saw in the border town of Hegyeshalom on the road to Vienna, when in company with Wallenberg I looked on as thousands of Jews, endless columns of human rags, were forcibly pushed over the border by Germans and Arrow Cross men towards a certain death. This was how Anger summed up his experiences of the death march. He continued: ‘Wallenberg stood on this spot and saved many Jews, both such as had protective passports and others.’ Of the 400 protégés, 250 were forbidden to leave Hegyeshalom at all while 153 were stopped on the way back. After a Swedish protest note, however, they were released and allowed to continue to Budapest. In order to prevent the continued deportation of Swedish protégés, checkpoints were set up on Wallenberg’s initiative at the exits from Budapest and at the border station in Hegyeshalom. During the next few days several expeditions were made along the march route without Wallenberg. The expeditions were instead led by Béla Elek who had considerable assistance from Vilmos Apor, the



The Hero of Budapest Catholic bishop of Győr, who gave shelter to several of the Jews with protective passports while they waited for transport home. Thanks to these expeditions several hundred more Jews could be taken back to Budapest. As Wallenberg feared that those who had been brought back from Hegyeshalom would be deported again, he suggested spreading the rumour that typhus had broken out in the group and that it therefore had to be isolated. The 22-year-old Barna Yaron, who had fled from a labour company, expressed his willingness to let himself be injected with a liquid that caused typhus-like symptoms. ‘I was young and strong in those days, and considered myself something of a daredevil,’ he recalled, ‘but I can tell you I was really scared.’ Wallenberg was prepared to go a very long way in defending his protégés and he often adopted drastic and unconventional methods. The idea of a typhus outbreak, however, testified to a certain lack of judgement. Pál Névi, manager of the Swedish Hospital (of which more in the next chapter), also advised against deliberately provoking symptoms of the condition in a real person, as doing so risked causing an actual epidemic. Instead they chose to spread a rumour about dysentery, which sounded convincing as several of the Jews had gone down with that condition during the march.

Ghettoisation A few days after the first marches started out for Hegyeshalom a radical change took place in the lives of the Jews under Swedish protection. As they had not been able to leave the country before 15 November, which the authorities had demanded (but simultaneously tried to thwart), they were driven into a ghetto. ‘4,500 Swedish and circa 12,500 other Jews moved into special protected houses today to await departure,’ Minister Danielsson reported to the foreign ministry on 12 November. In order that the movement of almost 20,000 Jews with foreign-protected status could be carried through they were given the right to move around freely in the city during the following three days. By 16 November the action was completed, at least as regards the Swedish protégés. The Jews were allowed to take with them 80 kilos of baggage per person – 30 kilos of hand baggage and 50 kilos as registered baggage – ‘necessary personal belongings which correspond to their social position but only three pairs of shoes, three dresses or suits and sufficient underclothes, blankets, foodstuff and other utensils’. They were not allowed to take valuables (gold, jewels, shares) and luxury goods (furs, artworks) with them. The plan to move the Jews was similar to the one that was planned in August but was then stopped, among other reasons, because several members of the Jewish Council had protested about less privileged Jews being forced to move from their apartments to make room for those who were under foreign protection. This time, however, there was no room for discussion. The apartment blocks that were chosen for what came to be called the Foreign or the International Ghetto were the same ones that had been considered in August: the Szent István (St Stephen) district north of the Margaret Bridge. It was a part of the city populated by well-to-do people, among them many Jews: doctors, lawyers, businessmen. The area was relatively new and the buildings a mix of elegant Jugendstil, 1930s functionalism and art deco. The ghettoisation

The Hero of Budapest of the area aroused indignation and wrath among those – Jews as well as Christians – who were forced to leave their apartments to make room. The evacuated Jews themselves were placed in star-marked houses around the city, where they were easy prey for beating, plundering and deportation. Christians were evacuated to apartments that the ghettoised Jews were forced to leave. The Swiss legation was allotted 72 houses, the Swedish legation, 32, of which one was reserved for Dutch and Argentinian protégés as Sweden was the protecting power for these countries. The houses in the Foreign Ghetto had previously accommodated 3,969 people. Now, four times as many were going to squeeze into the apartments. The official figure was 15,598. In fact it was many more, as the number of Swedish protective passports at this juncture amounted to between 7,000 and 8,000, perhaps more. The inflation in Swiss protective documents was even greater – they were produced on a conveyor belt – genuine ones as much as false. In the end there would be about 40,000 people living in the Foreign Ghetto. ‘Overcrowding in the houses was extreme and the sanitary conditions were beneath contempt,’ one reads in a Swedish report. ‘Sickness and distress were often prevalent.’ ‘People are standing in staircases and in cellars – there is nowhere to lie down,’ Dagens Nyheter reported. ‘People have to rest in shifts.’



E Qu


t. aS



Pa nn


Tát ra S


rga ret B

PPo zoszos nonyi yR i So ta.d





Ph oen ix ( Wa llen ber g) S tr.







1 6 Tátra Street, Wallenberg’s ghetto office. 2 14–16 Tátra Street, the Swedish hospital. 3 The Arrow Cross HQs on 2 Szent István Ring.

Vác i




nt I

stv á



13.1  The marked houses were under Swedish protection, most of the others under Swiss.

Ghettoisation The increase in the number of protective passports meant that it was not only Jews with a link to Sweden who possessed them. By this juncture Wallenberg’s strict attitude to the issuing of passports had been relaxed. So, for example, employees at the Swedish legation were given the opportunity to apply for protective passports for up to 20 relatives. The increase, which was not sanctioned by the Hungarian authorities, was made possible because the passports were registered in different lists without consecutive numbering. Wallenberg ‘manipulated these numbers in his registers, so when the Nazis came to check them they would always find that there were never more than 4,500,’ Anger recalled. ‘It was a gigantic bluff.’ Towards New Year the Arrow Cross government, under pressure from the neutral states, would come to recognise around 38,000 Swedish, Swiss and other protective documents. That was the official figure. The real number at that time went up to about 100,000 – but by then it was no longer a question of creative bookkeeping but of pure falsification, mostly of Swiss protective letters and protective letters from the Red Cross but also of Swedish protective passports. According to Bronisław Teicholz, a Polish Jew who led an opposition group in Budapest, Wallenberg, given the terrible situation, had sanctioned the forgeries on condition that the passports were not sold but given out gratis. Wallenberg’s confidant Hegedűs has said that Wallenberg was well aware of ‘the mass forgery’, mostly of Swiss protective letters, but that he ‘had no objection, as he believed that the liberation would come more quickly than it in fact did’. Individuals without a connection to Sweden were encouraged to use Swedish telephone directories and quite simply feign kinship to people they found there. When the authorities discovered the deception the directories were removed from the main post office, but the legation had its own set. ‘For those people who did not have [a relative in Sweden] and could not think up such a person, I had been supplied with telephone directories of Stockholm and other Swedish towns where they could find for themselves a fictitious relative,’ recalled Tomas Kaufmann. Mr Wallenberg gave me those directories with instructions on how to use them. He was certain I would be able to distinguish between a real Jew and an agent provocateur and added that I should be circumspect. Should problems arise, the telephone directories were to be dropped down the elevator shaft, which was beside the main entrance.1 Gabriella Kassius recalled that Wallenberg advised looking for individuals in Lidingö, where he himself was born and where ‘there are lots of fine people’.2 As



The Hero of Budapest family ties had to be verified the Hungarian Jews then telegraphed to their fictitious relatives asking them to confirm the kinship. Koloman Lauer has described how he received a telegram from Wallenberg in which he was urged to confirm his relationship to people he had never heard of. Remarkably enough, almost none of those Swedes who were contacted from Budapest to do this refused.3 In each house a ‘house commandant’ was appointed with the task of listening to the occupants’ complaints and requests. He was also to see to it that the legation’s regulations were obeyed and to report any disappearances. Each day he was to describe on a special form what had happened. In every fourth house there was a ‘house controller’ whose job it was in turn to visit the house commandants and draw up daily reports about each dwelling. The inhabitants of the Foreign Ghetto had the right to stay out for about an hour a day, otherwise they had to stay indoors. The restrictions on their freedom of movement meant that the legation staff were forced to run some of the protégés’ private errands for them, which was not easy but could be done thanks to efficient organisation.

The Swedish Hospital Poverty and cramped living conditions led to diseases running rampant in the ghetto. Because of the ban on going outside, an attempt was made to place a general practitioner in each house, and if possible also a specialist doctor. But of course it was not possible to cater for all needs. The legation and the Red Cross were already running a hospital in another part of Budapest, but when the Swedish protégés were concentrated into one place a hospital was required at closer quarters. The house that was chosen was at 14–16 Tátra Street, in the middle of the ghetto, an ordinary residential house. As the first floor was inhabited by Swiss protégés, six apartments on the second floor were cleared and converted into a hospital. The senior physician was Dr Lipót Schischa. The doctors had a room in one of the smaller apartments, the nurses lived in another. Ten specialist doctors worked full-time in the hospital, sometimes more. Furniture and medical equipment were fetched from private apartments and other hospitals. Bed linen was made out of second-hand blankets and curtains. The demands were huge and the hospital opened on 2 December, after only five days’ preparation. Later, a fever hospital also opened a few blocks away, at 29 Wahrmann Street.

13.2  The hospital of the Swedish legation and the Red Cross.


The Hero of Budapest The hospital in Tátra Street had 11 rooms and 50 beds which after only a few days were being shared by 100 patients: people who had returned from Hegyeshalom with injured feet and legs swollen to twice their normal size; pregnant women, people ill with tuberculosis and dysentery, diabetics. Their needs were such that a large hospital would have found it difficult to meet them under normal conditions. Nevertheless, impressive work was carried out here. The operating room was so well equipped that even brain surgery could be performed. As an example of the scope of the enterprise, on one and the same day four amputations were carried out, one back operation and between 10 and 12 other procedures to remove grenade splinters as well as four chest operations to remove bullets. Three broken bones and one skull injury were also taken care of. The fact that the hospital could function so well against all the odds was due to the dedication of the staff, but also to Wallenberg’s ability to raise the self-confidence of his fellow workers. ‘He was able to motivate them so that in the shortest possible time, as if by magic, they were able to procure equipment, medicines and food which seemed totally impossible under the prevailing conditions,’ according to a report by some of his closest colleagues, who in their turn ‘tried to adapt to Wallenberg’s incredible tempo and capacity. At his urging they performed tasks previously deemed impossible.’ In the report several examples are given of Wallenberg’s exceptional talent for solving apparently insoluble problems and obtaining medicine and equipment that in principle was not obtainable. He had extensive financial resources at his disposal and medicines were bought for $100,000. Towards the end of the year, when the electricity stopped working, he managed to get hold of miners’ lamps for the surgeons and 100 kilos of liquid paraffin, which was used to make candles.

Food Supply In November and December the food situation in Budapest worsened day by day, not only for the Jews, of course, but for all the city’s citizens. But for the Jews, who on account of the ban on going outside found it difficult to get supplies themselves, the situation became precarious. A good 1,500 of the poorest were fed every day for free with breakfast, lunch and supper in a communal kitchen. ‘The food shortage in Budapest is very great,’ Raoul told his mother. ‘But we acquired a fine stockpile for ourselves in good time.’ In fact Wallenberg and Yngve Ekmark had already begun buying food in October. They had three stockpiles in Pest and three in Buda. Smaller quantities were hidden in nunneries,

Ghettoisation hospitals and other premises. The biggest one was in Stühmer’s chocolate factory at 8 Szentkirályi Street. Wallenberg had known the owners for a long time, through the Central European, and they put their large cold-storage room at the legation’s disposal. ‘As they started to install the ghetto […] the officer, the logistical specialist became noticeable in him,’ recalled one of Wallenberg’s young messenger boys, Jonny (János) Moser. ‘And he started from the beginning to deliver food into the ghetto. […] We had in our departments those canned peas, dried mushroom, fish and bacon. He bought everything he could.’ Wallenberg also saw to it that the foodstuffs were equally divided between the protected houses and that the Jews under Swedish protection received the same provisions as the staff of the legation. If Wallenberg had not been so far-sighted the Jews under Swedish protection would have died of hunger in the ghetto, was the conclusion of a report.

13.3  ‘The house commandants were permitted to use the protégés fit for work to distribute foodstuffs to and within the houses.’ (Commentary on the picture from a report to the Swedish foreign ministry.)



The Hero of Budapest They bought in huge quantities: more than 300 metric tonnes of fat and bacon; 3 wagons of canned meat; 15 wagons of tomato paste; salted beans; crackers; milk powder; jam; sugar; salt; rum and other spirits; dried and tinned vegetable powders. They stored candles, kerosene, etc. According to their calculations they stored enough food so that 6–700 people could be fed for 3 months […]. They also stored a large quantity of flour, also distributed. A large part of the humanitarian department’s budget went in fact on the purchase of foodstuffs. In this work of provisioning the Swedes were greatly helped by Andor Balog, whose father owned a large canning factory. As a supplier to the Hungarian army Balog was exempt from the Jewish laws and could move around freely in Budapest in his own car (a DKW which Wallenberg occasionally used). Apart from supplying provisions to the legation and the Foreign Ghetto, therefore, Balog provided Wallenberg with information on what was going on in the city.

13.4  ‘As long as there is no permission to establish collective kitchens in the houses, the feeding takes place from a common kitchen.’ (Commentary on the picture from a report to the Swedish foreign ministry.)

Ghettoisation For his mission in general Wallenberg was strongly dependent on functioning communications and means of transport. As many Hungarians, in order to avoid having their cars confiscated, put them at the disposal of the legation, access to motor transport was good. Wallenberg used several chauffeurs.4 ‘The car that Teddy drove belonged to a professor of medicine who in this way tried to save his car,’ recalled the wife of one of the chauffeurs, Tivadar (Teddy) Jobbágy. ‘Every day the chauffeurs were given assignments in different directions: 13.5  Vilmos Langfelder. go and fetch someone, drive someone, deliver a message or a parcel. They were on the go the whole day, they had the right to move around freely during air-raid alarms, the road was always open for them.’ For reasons of security the cars were fitted with different ID plates and registration numbers so that they could identify themselves as required: to the Arrow Cross men they were ‘courier cars’, to the Nazis ‘diplomatic cars’, etc. The best thing would have been to have number plates that changed automatically, Wallenberg joked. From November onwards it was mostly Vilmos Langfelder who sat behind the wheel. He was the same age as Wallenberg, came from a well-off family that owned a machine factory and lived on the elegant Andrássy Boulevard in Budapest. He himself was a qualified engineer. Langfelder was presumably taken on at the legation because he knew German and could drive. His protective passport is one of the first, dated 20 August. In time a close and confidential relationship developed between Wallenberg and the taciturn Langfelder.

The Central Ghetto Only a few days after the move into the International Ghetto was completed, Interior Minister Vajna issued an order that the traditional Jewish quarter in the VIIth district (Erzsébetváros) was to be converted into a ghetto for ‘normal’ Jews, the so-called Central Ghetto. All Jews lacking protective documents were to move in there before 2 December. There were already 162 star-marked houses



The Hero of Budapest within the designated area but there were also 12,000 Christians living there, who now had to move out – thereby suffering the same fate as the Jews who were evacuated from the International Ghetto when the Jews under Swedish protection moved in. The Jews who moved into the ghetto were therefore forced with immediate effect to free up 6,000 apartments outside the area for the Christians who now had to move out. As soon as the Christians had moved out, the area was barricaded off with a high wooden wall, exactly like the ghetto in Warsaw. As had been done there, the wall was erected with Jewish money and Jewish labour. It was ready by 10 December. The ghetto had four entrances – N.B. entrances: once in the ghetto you were not allowed to leave it – which were guarded by armed Arrow Cross men and regular police. To begin with around 55,000 people lived there in 4,513 apartments. For the Central Ghetto’s needs too, the Jewish Council relied on Wallenberg’s support and resources and asked for 500,000 pengö per day to buy foodstuffs as the Jews were as good as destitute. To this end 450,000 Swiss francs was required, a sum that Danielsson asked the foreign ministry to pay into Wallenberg’s special account in Zurich; the matter was ‘of the utmost urgency on account of the daily increasing shortage of food’. ‘This government is so hostile towards the Jews and their children that they look for all kinds of opportunities to complicate our work with new regulations,’ Asta Nilsson, who was responsible for the Red Cross’s work with children, reported to her superiors in Stockholm at the beginning of December. After the deportation or murder of their parents, many Jewish children were living in children’s homes that were under the protection of the Red Cross. The authorities now wanted to pack them off to the ghetto too, something that, according to Nilsson, would amount to abandoning the children to the mercy of the Arrow Cross men. Despite delaying tactics and protests, however, neither the Red Cross, the Jewish Council nor the neutral countries could prevent 6,000 children from being moved into the ghetto by the end of December. By that point the ghetto had close to 70,000 inhabitants. The increase in numbers was partly due to the fact that Jews who had been hiding around the city were driven into the ghetto, but many also moved in voluntarily because of the ever-worsening supply situation. Conditions in the ghetto were wretched but a bare minimum of foodstuffs was still to be found. When the Red Army arrived it could also be an advantage to be in the ghetto as other parts of the city would undoubtedly be subjected to bombardment.5 Paradoxically enough, it was significantly more dangerous to live in the Foreign than in the Central Ghetto. Firstly, the Szent István district was easier

Ghettoisation to get to as it was not sealed off; secondly, the Jews there were better off and were therefore attractive targets for the Arrow Cross gangs. The party’s local headquarters moreover was at 2 Szent István Ring, wall to wall with the first Jewish safe house at Pozsonyi Road, where the ghetto area began. Two other party offices were located in the ghetto. When the Arrow Cross eventually discovered that several thousand fewer Jews than expected had moved into the Central Ghetto they realised that many had instead made their way to the Foreign one, especially to the Swiss houses. These were therefore searched both in official ‘censuses’ and in unlawful encroachments, and those who could not show valid documents were taken away. The victims were often snatched on the street, during the short periods when they were allowed to go out. ‘The Arrow Cross drag large numbers into their places and torture and torment them, only to take them away to the deportation centres,’ Wallenberg reported to the foreign ministry. In the period from 29 November to 12 December, 212 individuals disappeared from the Swedish houses. Of these, only one was found again. Those who were not deported were dragged to the Danube quay, which ran parallel to the Foreign Ghetto. There they were shot and dumped in the river. In addition, 40 employees of the Swedish legation were taken away and beaten but they seem to have been allowed to return home later. One reason that those under Swedish protection came off better was the bribes in the form of money, spirits and protective passports that Wallenberg gave the Arrow Cross men who were assigned the task of conducting the ‘censuses’.

‘Quick Decisions, Lightning-Fast Action’ After the October coup the issuing of protective passports remained at Minerva Street while the operational activity moved to the Pest side, where the legation rented the office of the Hungarian–Dutch Insurance Company at 2–4 Üllői Road. Sweden was Holland’s protecting power and during the war, when the company was idle, it was administered by Lolle Smit, father of the Berber Smit whom Wallenberg was dating. Smit was the head of the Dutch electronics company Philips in Hungary and was a secret agent for the Allied intelligence services. The office was large, 7–800 square metres; there were 30 rooms, several bathrooms and toilets as well as two large kitchens. The reason the legation chose to locate its new office in Pest side was that this part of the city would be liberated first by the Soviet army, which was approaching from the east. The office on Üllői Road was ready to be occupied on 4 November. Initially


13.6  The organisational structure of the Wallenberg rescue action. The addresses of the houses under Swedish protection are given beneath the line.

Ghettoisation about 100 employees worked and lived here with their families, about 200 people altogether. Later the number grew to 340 employees with their families, a total of around 700. The building had two entrances, which were guarded by policemen ordered there by the ministry of the interior. The workers and their family members were given passes and others were only admitted with a written permit. During the daytime the office space was used as a workplace; at night, they slept there, on mattresses and in sleeping bags, on the floor or on the desks. Wallenberg had his office on the first floor and he sometimes spent the night there too. Üllői Road was only one of several buildings that housed legation staff. Wallenberg’s ambition was to move as many as possible of the legation’s employees and their families to houses that enjoyed Swedish protection. Several were placed in 3A Klotild Street, in the large apartment that András Tasnádi-Nagy, the speaker of the national assembly, had abandoned when he fled the country; others in Révay Street, Személynök Street and Rózsa Street. Although the work in Wallenberg’s humanitarian department took place under sometimes chaotic conditions, especially after 15 October, it is striking with what painstaking precision everything was documented and registered. This is as true of the issuing of protective passes as of the inventorying of food stores, registering of co-workers and employees, and so on. Precision was necessary as the authorities pounced on every shortcoming or error, but it also seems to have been a prerequisite for Wallenberg to work effectively. ‘I can actually only work when everything is in order,’ he explained to his secretary Mrs Falk, who summed up his leadership qualities as follows: ‘Quick decisions, lightning-fast action, razor-sharp thinking and an admirably steadfast capacity for work.’ Even if Wallenberg was not alone in working out the model for the organisation, he was the boss and as such responsible for its functioning. The administration of the legation’s work was yet another confirmation of his organisational skills. As is clear from the illustration on the facing page, Wallenberg stood at the top of the hierarchy. The management sat in Üllői Road and consisted of Hugó Wohl, Vilmos Forgács and Pál Hegedűs. Three branch offices worked under the management section, all of them on the Pest side of the city. One was inside the International Ghetto, two in other parts of the city. The reason for this decentralisation was mainly security concerns. On the other hand, the telephone lines connecting the offices were operational 24 hours a day. Outside the ghetto at 16 Arany János Street was an office where ration cards were cashed in and the staff’s accommodation issues were dealt with. In the larger branch at 1 Jókai Street was the ‘client reception’, the legal section, the food



The Hero of Budapest section, the dispatch section, the technical department (apartment repairs among other things), the section for heating, bookkeeping and the central pay office. Last of all to be established was the branch at 6 Tátra Street, in the middle of the Foreign Ghetto. With this office, Wallenberg wanted to assure himself of a tight and organised contact with his protégés. The management consisted of Elemér Milkó, Rezső Müller and Ödön Gergely. This unit had administrative functions and consisted of four ‘distribution bureaux’. One was involved with food deliveries to its own kitchen and the kitchens of the safe houses. The finance bureau handled the administration of the storehouses, the collection of ration cards and control of food deliveries as well as cashier’s, staff and delivery errands. The social bureau was responsible for the hospital, children’s homes, old people’s homes, workshops and material support, and so on. The fourth bureau, finally, dealt with housing questions. Under this heading came among other things the house ‘commandants’ and ‘controllers’ together with a special section called the ‘Schützling Protokoll’. This section had been set up at the end of October and it worked closely with the house commandants and house controllers. Its activities were not confined to the ghetto but encompassed all matters to do with persons under Swedish protection. The task of the Schützling Protokoll was to register and report assaults on Jews with protective passports and other breaches of agreements entered into between the Swedish and Hungarian authorities. With the help of these reports Wallenberg could then intervene with the responsible authorities. The Swiss also set up a similar group. ‘Members of this section must be on duty day and night,’ read the instructions to employees of the Schützling Protokoll. ‘There will be no rest day. If someone comes to grief, he cannot expect much help. If he carries out good work, he should not count on much thanks.’ The Schützling Protokoll did indeed work round the clock. About 30 people were attached to the section, which was led by István Engelmann and Iván Székely. Engelmann was the representative of the Baltic Fur Company (Norbert Masur’s firm) in Hungary and spoke Swedish; Székely was the heir to a chain of Hungarian chemist’s shops. Wallenberg probably knew them both from earlier visits to Budapest. Members were chosen partly for their appearance: they were not to look too Jewish. There were also two non-Jews here – a retired captain of police and an infantry captain who was engaged to a Jewish woman.6 The Schützling Protokoll was not only concerned with compiling reports; staff members were also sent out on rescue missions dressed in SS or Arrow Cross


13.7  Wallenberg’s calling card with the inscription ‘Hineinlassen! ’ (‘Admit!’) in his own handwriting. It was used by one of his co-workers in order to be admitted to places controlled by the Germans or the Arrow Cross. uniforms. Székely, who had a pronounced Aryan appearance and spoke High German, is said to have been able to talk down any German whomsoever. ‘He lived like an heir to the throne waiting for his great inheritance and there were therefore many who did not like him,’ recalled Gábor Forgács. You could like him or not, but the fact is that with great courage he made his way into [the Arrow Cross headquarters in] the Radetzky Barracks, Gestapo headquarters at the Hotel Majestic, the Arrow Cross Party building on Szent István Ring and saw to it that those he had come to liberate were indeed liberated. Another member, János Beér, obtained permission with Wallenberg’s help to pay visits to the Central Ghetto at set times. During the course of December he managed to have about 70 individuals who could show that they possessed a protective passport moved to the Foreign Ghetto. Working close to Beér was András Szentgyörgyi, a young journalist whose speciality was turning up in Arrow Cross offices and in other contexts in different disguises – as an officer, an Arrow Cross man, a Catholic priest. With the help of bribes he and Beér



The Hero of Budapest succeeded in freeing many Jews with protective passes who had been seized by the Arrow Cross, often simply for the purpose of extortion.

Death in the Danube The actions of the Schützling Protokoll were often successful but just as often in vain. A report describes how Wallenberg personally saw to it that a family called Sebestyén were released by Péter Hain’s political police, who had arrested them on a trifling charge. (After the October coup Hain had recovered his job as chief of the Hungarian Gestapo.) On the way home from prison they were seized by Arrow Cross men who held them captive for more than a week before they were taken to the Chain Bridge, where they were shot. Mrs Sebestyén was pulled out of the water, severely injured, and survived. The remaining members of the family were swept away by the river. In the months after the putsch the quays on the Danube developed into popular places for mass executions. In a city with mortuaries filled to capacity, the waters of the river offered a practical alternative to burial. It has been calculated that after the coup the Arrow Cross murdered on average 50–60 Jews a day, many of them on the banks of the Danube. Many of the murderers were street urchins, some of them only teenagers. But the most notorious of them was not a teenager but the priest András Kun, who went around with a revolver and a cross dangling from the belt of his monk’s cassock. He personally executed 500 individuals, enthusiastically calling on the name of Christ. Another feared member of the Arrow Cross was a 23-year-old woman, Mrs Vilmos Salzer, known for her sadism. The executions on the Danube were often conducted in such a way that the victims were tied together in threes. Then the one in the middle was shot, so that he or she pulled the others with him or her on falling or being pushed into the water. The synergies were obvious: as the victims were bound together it was difficult to get ashore and shooting one out of three meant saving lead. Since the executions usually took place at night and the executioners were often drunk, the bullets sometimes missed their mark and the victims could be saved or could save themselves by swimming ashore. ‘I shall never forget our friend Wallenberg’s intensive work to help these people,’ Asta Nilsson recalled. ‘One day he came and showed me a sleeping bag which he had ordered and said: ‘I’m going to get into this down on the quay by the Danube and I’m going to see with my own eyes what they are doing with people.’ Asta Nilsson told him the sleeping bag was too thin and he should get

Ghettoisation one that was thicker, with felt in it, otherwise he would freeze to death. The winter of 1944–5 was unusually cold. It is unknown whether or not Wallenberg made good his plans to spend the night on the Danube quay, but it seems unlikely. It would simply have been too dangerous for him. That he was often there, however, and that he saved several people from death is documented. On some occasions he simply picked out victims where they stood and waited to be shot with the argument that they were under Swedish protection. One person who avoided death by the Danube in this way was Alice Korányi, who had been one of the first recipients of a protective passport earlier in the year, and who was thus saved by Wallenberg for the second time in a few months. Other cases were more dramatic. One of the legation’s protégés and coworkers, Agnes Mandl, remembered how Wallenberg once asked her and some other good swimmers to come with him to the quay. It was just before Christmas, it was a cold winter, the Danube was covered with ice floes and she was wearing winter clothes and gloves. They positioned themselves on the shore a little way from the Arrow Cross men. When the shots rang out she and three men jumped into the water with a rope round their waists and pulled as many people ashore as they could. According to Mandl, in one night about 50 individuals were rescued, then they were too frozen to continue. Wallenberg was waiting with doctors and nurses in Red Cross vehicles on the quay.

Józsefváros The last big march to Hegyeshalom set out on 21 November. But this did not mean that the transportation of ‘loan Jews’ was over. In the days following Wallenberg’s and Anger’s intervention in Hegyeshalom it was decided that 17,000 able-bodied Jews would be transported to Austria and handed over to the Germans. According to a secret order the International Labour Company was also included in the decision. This time the deportations were to take place not on foot, but by train. The train left from Józsefváros station, a goods depot in the southeast of Budapest, from where the Jews were to be dispatched in sealed freight cars. Wallenberg managed to persuade Ferenczy that he and two members of the Swedish legation staff should be allowed to check that no Swedish protégés were included in the transports. Those who could show a protective or a provisional passport were to be taken back to the safe houses in the Foreign Ghetto.



The Hero of Budapest

13.8  Józsefváros station on 28 November. The photo was taken by Tamás Veres with a hidden camera. The person in a black hat with his arms behind his back is usually considered to be Wallenberg. One of the people present, Walter Heller (with a moustache, visible between ‘Wallenberg’ and the officer to his left), however, claims that Wallenberg is the person in the background, between the officer and the man in a pale hat. He remembers Wallenberg standing to the right of him all the time.

At four a.m. on 28 November members of the Swedish work brigade were taken to the railway station. János Beér was one of those who drove with Wallenberg in his burgundy Studebaker to try to free the Swedish protégés. He recalled: A small group from the legation was already there when we arrived. They had books with the detailed data of Schutzpass holders and a line was formed in front of a desk by people who either had their Schutzpasses with them or were claiming that it had been taken from them. Their personal data had to be compared with the legation’s record before they could be released into the custody of Wallenberg. […] By late afternoon more than 100 men whose credentials were accepted were selected. Wallenberg arranged for them to be escorted by police to one of the safe Swedish protected houses. When we got back into his car it occurred to him that the people he rescued had not eaten all day and, instead of calling it a day and


13.9  ‘Swedish Jews’ on their way back to the ghetto after having been liberated by Wallenberg. One of them was Walter Heller, facing the camera.

going back to the legation, he asked his driver to head for the safe house to make sure that the group of men would be met with food, hot soup, when they arrived. Tamás Veres, whose father was Horthy’s personal photographer, had become acquainted with Wallenberg a few days after the October coup and was immediately taken on as photographer at the legation. His main task was to take pictures for the protective passports, but that morning Wallenberg had asked him to come to Józsefváros station to document the deportation.7 By uttering a few words in broken Swedish Veres managed to get through the barrier. When Wallenberg caught sight of him he asked him in a whisper to take as many photographs as possible. Veres recalled: Pictures? Here? If I were caught, I’d be on that train myself, legation or no legation. I climbed into the backseat of [Wallenberg’s] car and took out my pocketknife. I cut a small slit in my scarf and positioned the camera inside it. I got out and walked through the train yard as calmly as possible, snapping pictures.



The Hero of Budapest Wallenberg had his black ledger out. ‘All my people get in line here!’ he called. ‘All you need to do is show me your Schutzpass!’ He approached the line of ‘passengers’. ‘You, yes, I have your name here. Where is your paper?’ The startled man emptied his pockets, looking for a paper he never had. He pulled out a letter. ‘Fine. Next!’ Wallenberg had pulled hundreds of men out of line when he sensed the Nazis losing patience. ‘Now back to Budapest, all of you!’ he said. Checking who had Swedish protected status was done with the help of a black ledger, with the names of the individuals in question, which Wallenberg always had with him on his rescue actions. In order also to save Jews who lacked protective documents he bluffed shamelessly and simply called out common Jewish names. When those who reacted to the names were asked to show their papers they plucked forth whatever they had – tax receipts, customs declarations, vaccination certificates – whereupon Wallenberg declared that these were Swedish protective documents. As the SS men did not know Hungarian they often swallowed the bluff. On this particular morning he succeeded in taking 411 Jews back from the Józsefváros station to the Foreign Ghetto. Of these, 283 were genuinely under Swedish protection. When Wallenberg, Veres and Beér returned the following morning things went less well, as the SS man on duty accused Raoul of having freed Jews with false documents the day before. Tamás Veres managed, however, to extricate his cousin from the line and get him in among the Swedish protégés: It was then I saw my chance. I walked around the train, inches from the armed guards. On the other side, the side away from the station, I climbed onto the already filled car. The train hadn’t been padlocked from the side. I jumped, pushing all my weight onto the bolt that held the door shut. The spring clicked. The long door slid back in its tracks. The men inside, who a moment ago had stood prisoners in the darkness, now blinked in the November sky. ‘Move, quickly!’ I said. Men started jumping off the back of the train, running to the line where Wallenberg continued to give out passes. As I struggled to climb onto a second train car, Wallenberg clearly saw that his time was up. ‘All of you released by the Hungarian government, back into town! March!’

13.10  During his expeditions Wallenberg and his collaborators always had with them a black ledger – called ‘The Book of Life’ – containing the names of all Swedish protégés.


The Hero of Budapest At the same time, a Hungarian police officer saw what I was doing. He pointed his revolver at me. ‘You! Stop what you’re doing!’ Raoul and his driver got into their Studebaker, and they drove around to my side of the train. Raoul opened the door and leaned out. ‘Tom! Jump!’ I didn’t have a moment to think. I made the longest jump of my life.8 Per Anger also turned out at the Józsefváros station. With the help of Police Captain Batizfalvy he was able on a later occasion to save 150 Jews from deportation. Of these, only two were genuine holders of a protective passport. The 500–600 Jews that Wallenberg and Anger succeeded in saving, however, were only a fraction of the almost 17,000 who were deported the following week.

Dollars for Protected Jews The creation of the International Ghetto was, as we saw, connected to the repatriation of the protected Jews, who were to live there ‘while waiting to depart’. If the foreign Jews did not leave the country they would be treated like other Jews, that is, they would be forced to wear the Star of David and accept labour service (which in the worst-case scenario meant deportation). The question of repatriation was in turn connected to the neutral states’ recognition of the Szálasi regime. After the coup of 15 October the Swedish government had with immediate effect expelled the person whom Szálasi had appointed chargé d’affaires in Stockholm, the assistant military attaché László Vöczköndy, and there were no plans to accept a new representative of the Hungarian regime. Vöczköndy was now assistant foreign minister in Szálasi’s government and for understandable reasons hostile towards Sweden. By this time the Spanish government, in order to facilitate the Spanish rescue action, had hinted (but not confirmed) that they would be prepared to recognise the Szálasi regime and Ivan Danielsson tried to persuade the Swedish foreign ministry to do something similar. But Stockholm refused point-blank. ‘There can be no question of receiving a representative of Szálasi here,’ was the answer from the foreign ministry, with the rider: ‘For the time being however you should not convey this, but try to postpone the issue.’ To this, Danielsson retorted that ‘the Szálasi party hastens to use the respite to liquidate ruthlessly Budapest’s remaining Jews’. Foreign Minister Kemény had said that if Sweden did not recognise the regime then ‘after the end of the respite all Jews under

Ghettoisation Swedish protection will be drowned in the Danube.’ But the Swedish foreign ministry did not give way and instead encouraged Danielsson to continue with his delaying tactics, in hopes that the war would soon be over. According to Lars Berg, it was Wallenberg who was pressing Danielsson on the question of recognition. Per Anger too was highly critical of the foreign ministry’s ‘inflexible policy, whereby not only the existence of the legation but above all the lives of our protégés were put at risk’. Berg on the other hand welcomed the fact that Szálasi’s ‘bandit regime’ would never be recognised by Sweden. However one views the matter, there is no doubt that Sweden’s hardline position exposed not only Sweden’s Jewish protégés but also the staff of the legation to significant danger. At the same time efforts were continuing to get at least a small number of protected Jews off to Sweden. On 15 November, the day on which the time limit for the repatriation action expired, the legation in Budapest reported to the Swedish foreign ministry that ‘a small transport of 150 Jews could perhaps be got under way immediately’. Their visas were said to be ready, but ‘a misunderstanding seems to have arisen in Berlin with regard to some small formality’ and ‘the situation for further transports is expected to be troublesome.’ It was decided that Wallenberg should go on the first train as the representative of the Swedish government. The lack of means of transport and the German authorities’ unwillingness were not the only obstacles. Several of the Jews on the repatriation lists had been taken out on labour service and were hard to find and to set free (‘demobilise’, as it was termed). On 26 November, however, 215 individuals obtained German visas and the planning went ahead despite the fact that the German security service had not given its permission. The intention was that the journey would proceed via Vienna, Berlin and Denmark. The first stage would be in third-class carriages from Budapest to Vienna. As no extra trains could be added for the journey through Germany, that stretch had to be completed in carriages that were joined up to ordinary trains, one per day. On 2 December Wallenberg telegraphed to the Swedish Red Cross and asked for ‘attendants and security’ for the Swedish protégés. But the Red Cross could not oblige at such short notice. The fact that the Jews were granted transit visas was the result of Wallenberg’s secret negotiations with Kurt Becher and Rezső Kasztner, with whom, according to a foreign-ministry document, he was ‘in constant contact’. As the holders of Swedish protective passports risked being put on the same footing as other Jews as soon as the time for leaving the country ran out, Wallenberg decided to



The Hero of Budapest approach Kurt Becher. The first contact was made by Wallenberg’s co-workers, who explained that Wallenberg wished to meet Becher to discuss a financial arrangement. The meeting was arranged with the help of Vilmos Billitz. Wallenberg offered to pay 1,000 Swiss francs for each Jew who was allowed to travel to Sweden. The money, which came from Joint, would be deposited in Switzerland. Becher accepted the proposal and asked Joint to guarantee the sum, which was duly done (just as in the case of the Kasztner train). The guarantee was supposed to be for a million dollars but it was pruned down to 400,000 Swiss francs as the first transport would only include 400 people. According to Kasztner’s colleague Andreas Biss, the guarantee from Joint was in fact a precondition for the arrangement. During the negotiations with the Germans during the year, Joint had successfully cultivated the myth that they represented ‘World Jewry’ and therefore comprised an obvious negotiating partner on these issues. The fact that the German authorities respected the Swedish protective passports and the Swiss Palestine certificates was, according to Biss, also the result of Joint’s pledges.9 However, in this case Joint’s guarantees proved to be insufficient. The repatriation did not come off – the reason being that the security service in Berlin never gave its permission. According to Friedrich Born the German government had in fact ‘never seriously intended to permit the transit of the Jewish emigrants’. Despite the fact that the Swedish protégés did not get away, Wallenberg was able to maintain in discussions with the Arrow Cross authorities that the missing transport was the result of German delaying tactics and was not the fault of the Swedish State, which had done everything to make the repatriation happen. ‘So in this way the negotiation [with Becher] had a certain importance seen from the standpoint of the Swedish rescue mission,’ Biss concluded.

‘The Nansen Plan’ In the midst of the desperate and long-drawn-out struggle for the physical survival of the Hungarian Jews, Wallenberg took time to think about and plan for their lives after the war. This was something that formed part of the assignment from the foreign ministry, according to which he was to come up with suggestions for ‘required relief efforts after war’. During a meeting with Rezső Müller on 6 November Wallenberg revealed a secret: that his actual employer was not the Swedish foreign ministry but the War Refugee Board and that it was American money that was financing his work. He

Ghettoisation also explained that this money could be used after the war and asked Müller to think about what a rescue plan for the victims of the war might look like. One source of inspiration was possibly the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who was responsible for refugee issues in the League of Nations after World War I and best known for the so-called ‘Nansen passports’, identity papers which were issued to stateless refugees. Like the Swedish rescue worker Elsa Brändström, ‘the Angel of Siberia’, Nansen enjoyed enormous international authority and was a great role model for young people of Wallenberg’s generation. Only a few days later Müller presented a first draft of a postwar organisation which was discussed with the handful of people who had been initiated into Wallenberg’s plan – Hugó Wohl, Vilmos Forgács, Andor Balog and Pál Hegedűs. The discussions went on for the whole of November and by the end of the month they decided to find a location where they could continue their work free of disturbance. Wallenberg had good contacts with the management of the Hazai Bank (Homeland Bank) at 6 Harmincad Street, a building with a shelter, bank vault, safe and lots of telephones. The legation rented the whole of the third floor and was allowed to use one of the corridors in the cellar as a shelter. In return the bank was given the right to hoist a Swedish flag, which protected it from the Germans and the Arrow Cross. ‘Wallenberg […] had very serious plans for the rebuilding of Hungary in connection with which he intended to requisition our bank,’ recalled the bank director Ferenc Benes: ‘The plan was that after the siege the Swedes would also have the first floor and half of the shelter.’ In consultation with the Jewish Council Wallenberg’s group drew up questionnaires, 200,000 copies of which were printed and sent out to the inhabitants of the ghettos and to different Jewish organisations. The questionnaires were designed like regular census forms and were to be the basis for an estimate of perceived needs. Neither those who filled them in nor those who analysed them knew their real purpose. The reason for the secretiveness was Wallenberg’s fear that the Germans or the Arrow Cross would sabotage his plans if they found out about them. The aid action was originally intended to include Jews who had been affected by the war. ‘After the Russian occupation, when in any case I will not be able to come home, I plan to start a partnership for the retrieval of Jewish assets,’ Wallenberg wrote to Koloman Lauer at the beginning of December. Gradually his ambitions grew to encompass all Hungarians who had suffered during the war. The aim was to repatriate individuals who had been deported or had fled from hardships, to place them in work and to help them with accommodation and finance.



The Hero of Budapest The idea was that the implementation of the plan be guaranteed by the Hungarian state. If this did not happen, it would be implemented privately. The starting capital would be 200,000 Swedish kronor (around 4 million in today’s values, or £400,000). Of this, Wallenberg would contribute 100,000 kronor from his American funds, while the remaining 100,000 kronor would be lent out interest-free by the initiators of the plan, as follows: Wallenberg 30 per cent, Müller 30 per cent and the remaining 40 per cent Hugó Wohl, Vilmos Forgács, Andor Balog and Pál Hegedűs. Considering the scope of the help needed Wallenberg preferred the first alternative. The document that has been preserved, however, proceeds from the second solution. In an undated appeal to the people of Hungary he refers to the trust that thousands of people have shown him during his rescue mission. Now he and his colleagues want to create a private organisation that will work quickly and effectively to alleviate the suffering of the Hungarian people. It is to be called ‘The Wallenberg Institute for Aid and Reconstruction’. The work is to take place quickly, ‘as private actions and private management dictate’; national or international help is only to be made use of in so far as it does not lead to delays. The work was comprehensive: searching for and reuniting family members who had disappeared, especially children; legal help for war wounded; the resumption of business connections; help with provision of food; the creation of work opportunities; the alleviation of housing shortages; the collection and distribution of household goods; repatriation and emigration (with a special Jewish department); the care of orphaned children; the preservation of cultural values; help with doctors; the combating of epidemics; medical aid; a planning and building section for society and industries, and so on. What it came down to was ‘cooperative self-help’; anyone who joined the organisation was entitled to a share in the profits but was also expected to be morally and financially interested in the common effort: ‘Everyone will help to get it going. I myself am making my own resources available only as a loan, just as a beginning. We do not underestimate the difficulties that must be overcome. But we have learned to get the better of severe difficulties quickly.’ The name, ‘The Wallenberg Institute for Aid and Reconstruction’, had been suggested by Raoul’s colleagues, and there is every reason to believe that he felt enormous pride that an institution of this dignity should bear his name. He, who for years had done everything to win his family’s recognition as a professional, but had not succeeded, would now show that he was worthy of his surname, that he was a true Wallenberg. Just as Knut and Alice Wallenberg had a research

Ghettoisation foundation named after them, there would be an aid and reconstruction institute in his name. Perhaps the thought even filled him with a feeling of revenge.

Raoul’s Future (VI) Wallenberg wrote his ninth report to the Swedish foreign ministry on 22 October. The next one did not appear until 8 December. November was a hectic month for Wallenberg and the legation, and during the six weeks that elapsed between the reports, private letters were also few. Most of Wallenberg’s contacts were with Lauer. The letters from the latter were, as before, full of assignments and requests. It is as if he still did not fully realise what inhuman conditions Raoul was working under. A five-page letter from Lauer on 15 November (of which only the last page has survived) is full of reproaches, even if presented in jocular form: Since you became a diplomat, you have completely forgotten what is customary in the business world, and I foresee that we will have a lot to do and I will be bawling you out – and so will Mrs Marcus [Lauer’s secretary], who in the meantime has learned to do that – before we have broken you of your diplomatic habits. Why don’t you reply to poor bank director Björkman, who is a very nice man? He is keen to find out about the Denes family and the Freiberger family, who received protective passports on 24 and 25 August respectively […]. Please pay them 2,000 pengö and telegraph me when everything is done. Apart from Central European, Lauer was looking after the Banana Company, in Salén’s absence, and Svenska Globus, a tinned-goods firm that had been founded in 1938 by Heinrich von Wahl and which, like its Hungarian parent firm, was part of the Manfréd Weiss Group. The responsibility was costing him his sleep. During the autumn he had negotiated with the Soviet trade representatives in Stockholm and sent Raoul copies of the correspondence. ‘If you can’t get away in time, you must travel via Russia, Moscow, and it would be good if you could carry out some investigations there.’ He did not rule out travelling to Moscow himself while Raoul was there, but ‘cannot make any definite promises, as the formalities present certain difficulties’. Meanwhile, he had ordered 1,000 kilos of Russian caviar for Christmas.10 Lauer’s biggest and most important undertaking concerned the Banana



The Hero of Budapest Company. ‘The first bananas – about 20 tons – have reached Sweden and have caused great excitement, as, according to the decision of the Food Commission, they may only be distributed to hospitals and children’s homes,’ Lauer wrote on 24 November, adding: ‘But we have the prospect of obtaining a licence for a further 100 tons which can be sold in the shops.’ Lauer sent some bananas to Maj von Dardel as a Christmas present from Raoul, as well as a turkey and a little ‘cocomalt’ (a powder which was mixed with milk to make a drink). According to Lauer, they would sell bananas for 8–12 million kronor a year when the war was over. Moreover, southern fruits from California and Central European’s own products would be sold by the Banana Company, as well as ‘Kellogg’s items and other products in the food line from America’. Lauer therefore asked Raoul to try to find a ‘good tinned-fruit man’ in Budapest. They would also need ‘a man for bakery items, like preserved pears and melons, candied peel, apple sauce and other kinds of preserves’. In one of Lauer’s letters there is talk of ‘your consignment of bacon from South America’, which suggests that Wallenberg was involved in commercial activity, although he had promised the foreign ministry that he would refrain from anything of the kind during his stay in Hungary.11 This incidentally was something that had been suspected on the British side when Raoul set out. On 3 July the British legation reported to the Foreign Office that Wallenberg ‘has the reputation of being an intelligent, efficient and “rather smart” businessman’ and that it looked as if ‘Wallenberg’s firm will be able to profit by it [the journey to Budapest] to facilitate their business with the Hungarians’. To judge from the correspondence, however, it was Lauer who was the driving force behind these business ventures while Wallenberg was most interested in his future prospects. The opportunity to work for the Banana Company, and to make significant profits in the future, was no doubt tempting – and at the same time the problems that Raoul was struggling with were of a completely different nature to the ones that were costing Lauer his sleep. And however interested he was in a post with Sven Salén, he was keen to keep in with Jacob Wallenberg. In a letter of 8 November, just like two months earlier, he urged Lauer to enquire of his father’s cousin ‘what will happen to my position in Huvudsta when I am away so long’ and asked for a quick reply. Lauer passed on Raoul’s question orally to Jacob Wallenberg, who replied that Raoul’s presence at the building project was not ‘absolutely necessary’. Moreover, Lauer telegraphed to Raoul, someone had brought Jacob together with a renowned Swedish architect – a piece of information that Raoul would no doubt rather have done without. Two weeks later Jacob Wallenberg framed

Ghettoisation his reply in print: ‘Regarding the question of Raoul Wallenberg and Huvudsta, I can inform you that it will remain open until further notice.’ The wording suggests no great enthusiasm for the involvement of his cousin’s child in the project.

Enjoying the Fight From the end of November events accelerated in a dramatic way. On 29 November the Swedish legation asked the Hungarian foreign ministry for a postponement of the repatriation until 31 January 1945, for practical reasons.12 On 1 December the legation sent a verbal note to the Hungarian foreign ministry about the problem of transport for the Jews who were to be sent to Sweden. At the same time it was pointed out that ‘a number of violent offences have been carried out once more against the staff of the Royal [Swedish] Legation as well as against holders of protective passports’. The note also mentioned that the number of protective passports had been increased to 7,500 in view of the threats that now existed to the security of the Jews. The same day a verbal note was sent to Foreign Minister Kemény for permission to issue protective passports to 50 Italian citizens of Jewish origin. On 2 December the removal of Jews into the Central Ghetto was completed. The same day raids were mounted on the Swedish safe houses and 40 protégés were taken away. On 3 December the Arrow Cross stormed the camp at Columbus Street, which was under the protection of the Red Cross. On 4 December Wallenberg met Ferenczy and Lájos Stöckler in the Jewish Council. On 5 December he agreed with the Arrow Cross leader József Gera that Swedish protégés on labour duty should be allowed to return to their living quarters each evening. The same day Danielsson wrote to the Swedish foreign ministry: ‘There is a danger that at the last minute they intend to storm the Jewish houses that are under the protection of this legation and the Red Cross. There are now about 15,000 Jews under the protection of the Swedish legation and the Red Cross.’ On 7 December Wallenberg met with László Bartha, the lieutenant colonel responsible for the onward transport of the Jews from Hegyeshalom to Germany. At the beginning of December he negotiated with Aurél and Tivadar Dessewffy about buying medicines from their factory. His workload was so great and events were so dramatic that Wallenberg was forced to reprioritise his efforts. Earlier, he had been able to devote time to trying to support individuals whom Koloman Lauer and others had on their private lists. Several of them had also obtained a position at the legation. But on 8 December he explained to Lauer that because of ‘the radical events’ that


13.11  One of the pictures of Wallenberg taken in the office on Üllo˝i Road.

Ghettoisation had taken place in the last few days he was so overwhelmed with work that he could no longer concern himself with the fate of individuals. It was now very dangerous to move around in the city, ‘bandits are roaming the streets, beating, shooting and torturing people.’ Despite all the difficulties and setbacks Wallenberg found the work ‘incredibly interesting’. Directly after the mention of bandits roaming around in the city he wrote: ‘On the whole we are in good spirits, however, and enjoying the fight.’ He used exactly the same words in the letter to his mother that went by courier post the same day. We recognise the psychological pattern: the greater the challenge, the more joy Raoul found in his work. He had been hoping to come home for Christmas, he wrote to his mother, but that would not happen. He therefore asked Nina’s husband Gunnar to help with renting out his apartment in Stockholm. The Soviet army was approaching Budapest, the rumble of the Russian artillery could be heard night and day and he hoped that ‘the peace so longed for is no longer so far away’. But there was no point in making any plans and he didn’t know when he would be coming home: I have a feeling that it will be difficult to leave after the [Soviet] occupation, so I think I will get to Stockholm only around Easter. But all this is music of the future. No one knows what the occupation will be like. At any rate, I will try to return home as soon as possible. Two newly taken photos were enclosed in the letter. ‘You see me there at my desk surrounded by my co-workers and employees.’ (See illustrations on opposite page and on page 165.) It ends with a handwritten P.S. in Swedish: ‘In any event I will probably stay quite a long time here.’


Open Terror ‘I suspect I will not have the means to write to you any more,’ Wallenberg wrote to Koloman Lauer in his letter of 8 December. Such was to be the case. The letters to his mother and Lauer were the last he wrote from Budapest. The reason why the postal service – and the courier post – stopped was that Budapest was on the way to becoming encircled. On 9 December the Red Army broke through the German defensive lines and began a major offensive by the Danube just to the north of Budapest. From now on one could only leave the city in a westerly direction, and then only in so far as the railway lines and roads were not being bombed. On the same day Szálasi fled to the city of Sopron in western Hungary with large sections of his government. By this time the Swedish rescue mission had attracted attention in Sweden too. In Dagens Nyheter on 11 November one could read that the legation in Budapest had prevented the deportation of ‘the more than 300,000 remaining Hungarian Jews’: ‘The contribution that the Swedes and their king have made for the Jewish people will always have a place in our people’s history,’ emphasised the Jewish Agency’s Salomon Adler-Rudel, who was on a visit to Stockholm. What Adler-Rudel was referring to with his exaggerated figure was not what had been actually achieved for the Swedish protégés but the restraining effect that the Swedes – as well as representatives of other neutral states – had on the German and Hungarian authorities through their very presence in Budapest. Wallenberg’s employers also showed their appreciation. On 30 October Herschel Johnson, who was well-informed about the work of the Swedish rescue mission, asked his secretary of state to give ‘official recognition of Wallenberg’s efforts’ through the War Refugee Board. The recognition came a week later, however, not from the War Refugee Board but from the State Department itself. In the letter, which was addressed to the Swedish foreign ministry, the government of the USA expressed its ‘sincere appreciation […] for the Swedish government’s

Open Terror humanitarian activities and for the ingenuity and courage which Mr Wallenberg has shown in rendering assistance to persecuted Jews’. The letter does not seem to have been forwarded to the Swedish legation in Budapest, which had been Herschel Johnson’s intention when he asked his boss to express the appreciation of the American government. The same goes for another letter which Johnson forwarded on 30 December to the Swedish foreign ministry. The letter, which was written on 6 (!) December, was from John W. Pehle, head of the War Refugee Board, and was addressed direct to Wallenberg. ‘I will be very grateful if you can effect the delivery of this letter to Mr Wallenberg when it is practicable to do so,’ Johnson wrote in his follow-up letter. Pehle’s letter went: My dear Mr Wallenberg, Through the American minister in Stockholm and Mr Iver Olsen the War Refugee Board has [been] kept closely informed of the difficult and important work you have been doing to alleviate the situation of the Jewish people in Hungary. We have followed with keen interest the reports of the steps which you have taken to accomplish your mission and the personal devotion which you have given to saving and protecting the innocent victims of Nazi persecution. I think that no one who has participated in this great task can escape some feeling of frustration in that, because of circumstances beyond our control, our efforts have not met with complete success. On the other hand, there have been measurable achievements in the face of the obstacles which had to be encountered, and it is our conviction that you have made a very great personal contribution to the success which has been realised in these endeavours. On behalf of the War Refugee Board I wish to express to you our very deep appreciation for your splendid cooperation and for the vigour and ingenuity which you have brought to our common humanitarian undertaking. Yours truly,  J.W. Pehle It is an open question why it took so long before Johnson forwarded Pehle’s letter to the foreign ministry. On 30 December, in any case, it was no longer possible to deliver it to Wallenberg as all contact with the Budapest legation had been broken off. The only greeting that seems to have reached Budapest is the



The Hero of Budapest short formal telegram that Sweden’s foreign minister Christian Günther sent on 12 December to Ivan Danielsson: ‘Being conscious of the particularly difficult and trying circumstances under which you and your colleagues are carrying out your work, which is so important for our country and your thousands of protégés, I send all of you my warm regards in hopes of continued successful work.’ Pehle’s letter would have signified welcome and much-needed encouragement for Wallenberg, who needed all the moral support he could get. As things would turn out, he would never come to know that it had even been written.

Wallenbergus Sanctus There was one greeting, however, that reached Wallenberg, and it probably pleased him more than the official ones he never saw. It was Der Schutzpass in der Kunstgeschichte (The Protective Passport in the History of Art), a humorous typed survey in German with fictitious examples from art history. It was presented in a single copy in the form of a Christmas present to Wallenberg from his young colleagues in the legation. The ‘publisher’ was ‘Schutzpassverlag’ and the publisher’s colophon was RW, Raoul Wallenberg’s initials. The illustrations show how the ‘protective passport’ has been depicted in painting from the Neolithic up to the twentieth century. The second-to-last one shows people queueing for a protective passport outside Wallenberg’s ‘Jewish Section’ in Minerva Street. The author of the ingenious art-historical explanations was László Sulner. The bibliography, which is entirely made up, has as its last entry: ‘R. Wallenberg: A Humanitarian Assignment in the Land of the Savages’, dated Stockholm 1946 (!). As the bombs rained down over this land of savages humour was the cement that held Wallenberg and his colleagues together and helped them to tough it out. ‘The book’ began with a ‘Christmas elegy for protective passports’ in German and in hexameters written by the young Péter Sugár, a specialist in German literature – a homage to Wallenberg who, in a Biblical metaphor, is said to have taken those in need of protection on board his ship, made up of a folded protective passport. ‘At the beginning of December 1944, in the depths of hell, we – a handful of young people in Budapest – decided to give immortal expression to the gratitude we felt to that man to whom we were bound with loyal affection,’ recalled one of the editors, Gábor Forgács. ‘When we began work on our gift the guns were already booming in the outskirts of Budapest and the bombs were raining down

Open Terror on our unhappy capital,’ but ‘thanks to the whim of a happy fate we had the good fortune to find ourselves out of danger.’ Forgács’s comments were framed 60 years after the book’s appearance but the elevated paean of praise was no afterthought. One of the watercolours in the book is called ‘St George and the protective passport’ and represents a painted church window from the fourteenth century. For Forgács and his contemporaries – colleagues at the legation and others who were saved from annihilation – Wallenberg was a St George. Another watercolour is a pastiche of a Byzantine mosaic and depicts him encircled by employees of the legation. Wallenberg, wearing his Anthony Eden hat, is crowned with a halo bearing the inscription Wallenbergus Sanctus, Saint Wallenberg. The background to this apotheosis is as simple as it is splendid: he had taken them on board his legation boat and saved them from disaster. (See No. VI in the colour illustrations.) The present pleased Wallenberg all the more because it was an artwork. In this unartistic time the aesthete in him had long been living on starvation rations. From Elisabeth and Alexander Kasser he received a Christmas present of a little statue of Pallas Athena, the goddess of wisdom. They had bought it on their honeymoon trip to Greece and it had a stamp of authenticity from a museum in Athens. Raoul was very touched, Elisabeth Kasser recalled, and became lost in thought. ‘Thank you,’ he said, ‘I have missed art.’

Dinner with Eichmann ‘I represent the legation almost single-handed at government institutions,’ Raoul wrote proudly in his last letter to his mother. ‘So far I have been about 10 × to the foreign minister’s, 2 × to the deputy head of the government, 2 × to the interior minister’s, 1 × to the minister of food, 1 × to the finance minister’s, etc.’ Behind the successful work, which was praised by the American government, lay not least Wallenberg’s talent for negotiation, his gift of persuasion and his personal charm, qualities that were very useful in contacts with the enemy side. Alongside Hungarian and German top officials Wallenberg, as we have seen, also met leading Arrow Cross men, Nazis and representatives of the Gestapo. Some of these contacts are noted in his pocket diary, but not all. Of Wallenberg’s meeting with Adolf Eichmann, for example, there is no record. Eichmann and Wallenberg were each other’s deadly enemies and absolute polar opposites. The one was fanatical in his ambition to exterminate Jews, the



The Hero of Budapest other equally fanatical in his efforts to stop this from happening. If there was someone who frustrated Eichmann’s plans to make Budapest judenrein it was Wallenberg, who, according to one piece of testimony during Eichmann’s trial in 1961 was ‘perhaps the man who had the greatest influence in Budapest’. This was why Eichmann accepted a dinner invitation from Wallenberg. They may possibly have met earlier, at Hegyeshalom and elsewhere, but this is uncertain. In any case, Eichmann’s telephone numbers are noted down in Wallenberg’s address book. As we saw earlier, Wallenberg used to arrange dinners in the villa in Ostrom Street and it was there that Eichmann was invited. On that day, however, stressed as he was, Wallenberg had forgotten that he was to have dinner guests. To crown it all the servants had the evening off. Eichmann, in civilian dress, arrived at the villa with his entourage at about the same time as Wallenberg, who on becoming aware of the faux pas offered his guests a drink and phoned Lars Berg to ask him to help get him out of this fix. Berg lived with the legation clerk Göte Carlsson in a villa belonging to a Jewish family who had fled Budapest and left both the house and the servants under Swedish protection.

14.1  Wallenberg’s address book with Eichmann’s telephone numbers. The first one is possibly his home number whereas the other two are for his headquarters on Schwab Hill.

Open Terror Berg and Carlsson asked the cook to prepare a dinner and Wallenberg explained to his guests that the supper would be hosted by another Swedish diplomat. ‘Thanks to our excellent cook, the dinner was a success, and I am sure that Eichmann never even suspected that Wallenberg had forgotten all about it,’ Berg recalled. One reason that the change of dinner table was effected so painlessly was that the villa where Berg and Carlsson were living was round the corner from Wallenberg’s dwelling, on Hunfalvy Street. The following day, Wallenberg’s forgetfulness and Berg’s helpful intervention were the object of general mirth among the legation staff.1 Berg’s and Carlsson’s accounts of the dinner and the discussions coincide in the essentials and there are details which confirm the authenticity of the conversations – for example, Eichmann’s remarks about horses. He was a passionate horseman and often rode in his spare time, for instance at László Endre’s castle.2 As Wallenberg ‘for once did not have any difficult situation to be dealt with’, according to Berg, he embarked, ‘quite coolly, on a discussion about the Nazi doctrine and the coming development of the war’. Carlsson remembered that the discussions were uncompromising: In the room we were sitting in the windows were facing east. We extinguished the lamps in the room and went over to the windows and opened the curtains. The result was startling, through the windows we saw how the whole horizon eastwards was coloured red by the muzzle flashes from thousands of guns. Wallenberg used this as an argument against Eichmann. He pointed out how near the Russians were to Budapest. His intention was to try to make Eichmann abstain from killing the remaining Jews too, bearing in mind that the war would soon be over anyway. It was obvious that Eichmann realised that the game was up for Germany. There was no fanaticism left in him, if he had ever had any. During the evening he argued with intellectual elegance and irony. He was also ironic about himself. It was a kind of dancingon-your-own-grave affair. According to Berg, Wallenberg criticised Nazism ‘in fearless, clear and logical terms’ and ‘predicted all Nazis’ speedy and complete destruction’. To this Eichmann answered that he was aware that his ‘pleasant life will soon be over’ but that he would continue to serve Hitler to the end. Despite Carlsson’s testimony to Eichmann’s lack of fanaticism, he threatened Wallenberg that he would



The Hero of Budapest ‘do his uttermost to oppose him’ and declared that Wallenberg’s diplomatic passport would not protect him if he (Eichmann) found it necessary to sweep him out of his way. ‘After having said that, Eichmann got up from his chair in order to leave,’ Berg recalled. ‘He did not seem at all angry. With the unfailing politeness of a well-brought-up German officer, he said goodbye, thanking us for a charming evening.’ The exact time of the meeting with Eichmann is unknown. From oral testimonies we know that it took place in December, probably at the beginning of the month3 – in any case before 15 December, when Danielsson sent the following telegram to the foreign ministry in Stockholm: The head of the local SS command for the solution of the Jewish question, General [sic] Eichmann, has informed a [word unclear, perhaps Red Cross employee] that he means to shoot the Jew dog Wallenberg. His deputy [SS-Hauptsturmführer Theodor] Dannecker4 has made similar comments with the clear intention of alarming the legation. Query whether representations should be made in Berlin hinting at Germany’s guilt regarding atrocities against Swedish protégés. According to what is reported from other SS sources here, Himmler does not want such atrocities and has said moreover that he sets great store by Swedish–German links. A Jewish legation official and three family members of officials have been shot so far. The message contained in the telegram corresponds well with Eichmann’s threat, expressed during the dinner, to sweep Wallenberg out of his way if necessary. It may seem remarkable that the Obersturmbannführer should have threatened the representative of a neutral state in this way, but the situation was extreme, Eichmann found himself under tremendous pressure and the legation, as we saw, had already been exposed to threats, after which the legation staff had learned how to use weapons. On one occasion Wallenberg’s car had been crashed into by a heavy German lorry. Wallenberg was not in it, but when he protested at the obvious assassination attempt Eichmann is said to have replied: ‘I shall try again.’ According to one source Dannecker was behind the ‘accident’. Danielsson’s telegram led to Arvid Richert delivering a protest in Berlin on 17 December to the German foreign ministry. According to Richert, the deputy head of the political division Otto von Erdmannsdorf reminded him of the proverb ‘dogs that bark do not bite’, but promised to telegraph the German legation in Budapest for an explanation. That same day the managing director

Open Terror of the Swedish Match Company, Alvar Möller, visited Walter Schellenberg, who in his turn ‘briefed Heinrich Himmler by telegram about the affair’. It was a smart move: Himmler was trying to establish contact with the Allies for a separate peace and did not relish any roadblocks along the way. As we saw, Jacob Wallenberg had asked Schellenberg to protect Raoul ‘from the Nazis’, but whether the intervention took place on his initiative or not is unknown. The German legation in Budapest did not dispute that the remarks about the ‘Jew dog’ Wallenberg ‘could have been uttered’ but, like von Erdmannsdorf, they thought that ‘if so, they were obviously not to be taken seriously’. (In fact the term ‘the Jew dog’ was not Eichmann’s own invention but an insult that was often used of Wallenberg.5) They must also, it was claimed, be seen against the background of the general criticism of the Swedish Budapest legation’s ‘Jewish bureau’, and especially of Wallenberg, who ‘in a quite unprecedented manner has intervened on behalf of the Hungarian Jews who were ordered to labour service on the border’ and who has tried ‘by completely illegal means to withdraw these Jews from their lawful work duties by handing out protective passports to them’. Alongside the documented dinner date between Wallenberg and Eichmann there are indications that they met on other, earlier occasions. Tomas Kaufmann tells us that Wallenberg once said to him that he was going to receive ‘a highly placed visitor’ at Minerva Street and asked him to stay away. The visitor came the following evening – a Wednesday in October, according to Kaufmann, who maintains that it was Adolf Eichmann. ‘A car came. It was SS, with darkened windows. Then another one came, probably a Mercedes.’ High-ranking officers got out of the Mercedes, Eichmann and another man. With them were two adjutants. They stayed until late in the evening and obviously drank a fair amount as, according to Kaufmann, loud voices and laughter were heard from inside the building. Another piece of information about meetings between Wallenberg and Eichmann comes from a literary – or rather semi-documentary – story by Elisabeth Szél, wife of Györgyi Szél, who was employed as a chauffeur at the Swedish legation. The documentary value of such an account is obviously debatable, but there are details in it which make it impossible to discard out of hand. One of the meetings is supposed to have taken place in the popular nightclub Arizona in Nagymező Street, which we know Wallenberg frequented. They discussed the sheltering of Jews with Swedish protective passports and Wallenberg offered $200,000 for 40 houses, which Eichmann turned down, pointing out that the Americans had once offered $2 million for Slovakian Jews. The price is said



The Hero of Budapest to have finally been settled at $800,000. If the information is correct, the discussion may have been about the transfer of Swedish protégés which was planned for the end of August but never came off. In any event, the meeting must have taken place before 23 August, when Eichmann left Budapest. According to Szél, the next meeting between Eichmann and Wallenberg took place at Gestapo headquarters after the Szálasi coup, when Eichmann returned to the city. During this discussion Eichmann mentioned, among other things, that he knew about Jacob Wallenberg’s contacts with Goerdeler, one of the men behind the assassination attempt on Hitler in the summer of 1944. Likewise, he said he knew that Raoul’s mission was financed by ‘Roosevelt’s dirty dollars’. Szél also reports a discussion about repatriation of Swedish protégés in which Eichmann promised Wallenberg train transport for 745,000 Swiss francs. The amount is incorrect, but we do know that Wallenberg tried to buy such transport (see previous chapter). Szél’s account is, as we said, ‘semi-documentary’, but some of the information she presents was not generally known when her book was published in 1961, which means that she must have got them from well-informed sources. Her description of Eichmann’s capriciousness, the mood swings from rage to ingratiating friendliness, also correspond to the picture of Eichmann that others have painted.

Constantly on the Move Before the putsch Wallenberg’s work had in principle been carried out from his desk, but after 15 October it began to take quite different forms. The resumed deportations and ghettoisation meant that he was now constantly on the go. If it was not dancing attendance on ministries and other authorities it was turning out at the railway stations, Arrow Cross offices, assembly points, hospitals, and so on. His employees remembered that their boss ran in and out of the office between his different errands and rescue missions. He was extremely stressed the whole time. He had spirits and cigarettes in the car and his pockets were full of pengö and other currencies with which to offer bribes – or to bribe his own way out of difficult situations. His former elegance had been replaced by a sometimes quite unkempt appearance, and he often came into work unshaven, sweaty and red-eyed – it was obvious that he had not had enough sleep. Sometimes he fell asleep, worn out, as soon as he sat down on a chair.6 Wallenberg ‘was constantly on the move, he was an absolutely superlative person,’ according to Kázmér Kállay. ‘He became obsessed with this,’ according to Agnes Mandl, he ‘liked what he was doing’.

Open Terror

14.2  Wallenberg in his office on Üllo˝i Road on 26 November 1944. There were many apart from Wallenberg who took part in the work to help Budapest’s Jews, but what marked him out was his personal engagement and physical presence in places where life was in the balance. Wallenberg ‘laid great store by taking care of his own protégés […] and intervened personally in each individual case’, recalled Jonny Moser. This distinguished him from the representatives of both Switzerland and the Holy See, who seldom or never turned up on the spot. According to Per Anger, the Arrow Cross men feared Wallenberg ‘because of his personality and strong appearance all the time’. Agnes Mandl describes Wallenberg as a tender-hearted person who could sit down with a child in his arms and start to sing. This is a social side of Raoul which we recognise. At the same time he was something of a Jekyll and Hyde. According to Per Anger he could be ‘very correct, a cold organiser and negotiator, and so on’; but he was also ‘a very good actor’ and ‘when he spoke to the Germans he’d use their language and yelled at them.’ Gabriella Kassius recalled how one day the double doors of Wallenberg’s study in Minerva Street were thrown open and two SS officers came rushing out while Wallenberg shouted



The Hero of Budapest ‘Raus!’ (‘Get out!’) after them. Inside the study stood an incandescent legation secretary clutching the desk, his face bright red.7 The secret of Wallenberg’s successful rescue missions was the self-confidence he radiated, according to Kázmér Kállay, who tells how Wallenberg once freed five Jews from the Arrow Cross headquarters in Tigris Street: ‘We have five men here, Swedish citizens, you’d better release them immediately or we shall break off diplomatic ties!’ The individuals were released. Such personal appearances were legion, and according to Kállay no more remarkable than smoking a cigarette. ‘These were not serious cases, and by the next day you forgot about it.’ However, there were plenty of ‘serious cases’, many of which ended badly. The Schützling Protokoll tells of one attack after another. On 8 December ten young girls from the protected house at 15–17 Pozsonyi Road were selected to do forced labour. But it was merely a pretext. Instead they were taken to a railway station where they were raped. On 10 December the Arrow Cross men broke into the Isteni Szeretet-Leányai monastery and carried off 27 people. The Schützling Protokoll representative András Szentgyörgyi went to the Arrow Cross headquarters and handed in a list of names of those who had been taken away who were Swedish protégés. There he was told that they had already been released. Later it came out that all 27 had been executed on the quay by the Danube. At roughly the same time the Arrow Cross forced their way into three other monasteries that were under the protection of the Red Cross. From one children’s home, 39 children were taken and never seen again. On 11 December the legation on Üllői Road was visited by someone who said that in Kelenföld station in west Budapest he had seen a large number of train carriages filled with people who were to be deported. The carriages had stood on the Kelenföld–Budaörs line for several days without the people inside receiving any food. The following day Wallenberg sent an employee there who reported that among the Jews on the train were individuals who had already been deported once to Hegyeshalom but who had been brought back. That same evening he went to Budaörs himself with Péter Sugár. They discovered that 50 train carriages were stuck in the station as train connections to the west had been cut off. They had food with them but because of the dark were unable to do anything. Next morning Wallenberg and Sugár went again to Budaörs, this time with András Szentgyörgyi. The two men later reported: Wallenberg talked to the SS officer. At his request the people were let out of the carriages and food parcels from the International Red

Open Terror Cross made available thanks to the intervention of the legation were distributed. The officer finally told Wallenberg in a quite friendly manner that unfortunately he could not set free those who had protective passports as he had no authority to do so. On 13 December Wallenberg was at the station again, in company with Sugár, Béla Elek and Police Captain Batizfalvy. The report runs as follows: Batizfalvy tried again to persuade the SS officer to have the Swedish protégés released. All he achieved was a promise that he would ask his superiors for instructions. It appears that for the time being they would not be transported any further and the legation would send a new consignment of food again. It appeared hopeless, however, to have those with protected passports released. As usual in such cases Wallenberg composed a note to the Hungarian foreign ministry: The Royal [Swedish] Legation is informed that a train is standing on the Kelenföld–Budaörs line. It contains several thousand Jewish persons and has been standing on that line for a number of days under the supervision of the German authorities. Among the individuals there are also several holders of Swedish protective passports. The German commandant of the train has informed the Royal Legation that they should approach the headquarters of the German security police, 2–4 Tárogáto Road, as holders of protective passports can be set free only on orders from this authority. On the basis of the abovementioned situation, the Royal Legation asks the Royal Hungarian foreign ministry kindly to take the necessary steps so that the required instructions may be issued to the German commandant as soon as possible. Nothing helped. On 19 December the train left Budapest and went to Komárom, an assembly camp halfway to the Austrian border.8 The defeat was only one of many during those days. The attempts by Wallenberg and Sugár to free four holders of protective passports who were in a transit prison also failed, and all 600 internees were taken on foot to Komárom.



The Hero of Budapest

Terror against the Red Cross The hardening atmosphere led to problems too for the Swedish Red Cross, whose work had long been a thorn in the flesh of the Hungarian authorities on account of the enormous number of protective letters (false and genuine) which were in circulation and the amount of houses that had been supplied with protective plaques. The criticism was not unjustified. If Wallenberg operated with unconventional methods this was even more true of Valdemar Langlet, whose activities provoked irritation and criticism from the Swedish legation and foreign ministry too – as well as from his employer in Stockholm, the Central Organisation of the Red Cross. Valdemar Langlet was a good-hearted and well-meaning person who with his wife Nina carried out a colossal rescue mission in Budapest. But according to Per Anger he was not so good at dealing with the purely practical questions. Moreover, relations between Langlet and his colleague Asta Nilsson were strained. On several occasions the foreign ministry urged Langlet to coordinate his work with the legation, but without success. ‘In more important questions the legation has mostly been confronted with a fait accompli on L.’s part and thereby, so as not to damage the case, been forced afterwards to accept his well-meant but often poorly thought-through arrangements,’ Ivan Danielsson complained to the foreign ministry. ‘He has found it difficult to keep his activities within reasonable limits.’ On 14 December the Swedish Red Cross were forbidden to work in Hungary. The official explanation was that protective letters had been issued to ‘Aryan Hungarians’, that foodstuffs had been hoarded and that their activities in general had been directed at helping Jews. If the Swedish Red Cross wished to continue with their aid work they would have to subordinate themselves to their Hungarian sister organisation. Already on 3 December the Arrow Cross had stormed the camp in Columbus Street, which was under the protection of the Red Cross, and immediately after the government’s decision to forbid the Red Cross’s activities they forced their way into two Red Cross houses in Eszterházy Street and took the staff away. Hugó Wohl remembered that at two in the morning he got a phone message ‘that there was trouble at the Swedish Red Cross’. He immediately told Wallenberg: He appeared within half an hour with his driver, Vilmos Langfelder, a decent, loyal man, an engineer, who for many weeks had been a reliable collaborator in the difficult rescue work. I went with him to Eszterházy Street. On Wallenberg’s orders the

Open Terror driver and I stayed in the car. The driver was to look after the car, he said, and the witness was to follow the course of events, so that we knew of everything. He went in by himself. When he came back he told what he had achieved and instructed Langfelder to move the car aside so we could see if the Arrow Cross men would keep their promise. The promises were kept, the protégés were taken back. ‘The scoundrels kept their word, said Wallenberg, when we parted at six in the morning and he went off to bed in his rooms in Dezső Street or in Ostrom Street – he lived alternately in these two apartments so that they wouldn’t be able to find him so easily.’ However, the records, food and medicine supplies of the Red Cross were confiscated and their offices sealed.

Extraterritoriality Is Violated Wallenberg’s struggle was carried on in the face of increasing headwinds, not only because of the general lawlessness but also because of Sweden’s continued reluctance to recognise the Szálasi regime. According to what a Hungarian foreign-ministry official told Danielsson privately, the intervention against the Red Cross was in fact only ‘the start of the liquidation of the Swedish mission’. Since a large number of Jews had been living illegally in the Swedish-protected houses the ‘Swedish Jews’ would be moved to Komárom, where, however, there was no possibility of accommodating them. The reason for the measures against the Swedish mission were partly ‘the shameful treatment’ of Hungarian diplomats in Stockholm, partly the Swedish press’s ‘repeated claims that Szálasi was mad’. On 10 November Danielsson was summoned by Foreign Minister Kemény, who expressed his astonishment that the Swedish government had not yet recognised the Hungarian regime. Danielsson continued to try to influence the Swedish foreign ministry towards recognition but in Stockholm their position was as inflexible as before. If the question of breaking off diplomatic relations came up, Danielsson was to call attention to the fact that Sweden, in its capacity of protective power, represented Hungary’s interests in 11 countries. The liquidation of the Swedish rescue mission, which the Hungarian foreignministry official had been threatening, was not slow in coming. On 18 December the Arrow Cross confiscated the contents of the legation’s biggest food depot at 8 Szentkirályi Street (Stühmer’s chocolate factory) on the pretext that the goods were to be delivered to the Red Cross. Although Wallenberg negotiated for hours



The Hero of Budapest with the plunderers, all the food was taken away, which was a major blow for the inhabitants of the ghetto. The following day two Arrow Cross men forced their way into the protected house at 16 Révay Street, where employees of the Swedish legation lived, and stole their valuables from them. A few days later there were further attacks on houses with Swedish protected status. On 22 December when Sweden protested against ‘violations of the extraterritorial, property and protective rights of His Majesty’s Legation’ and threatened to bring the legation staff home from Budapest within six days, the Hungarian authorities replied ‘evasively’.9 The question is whether the violations of extraterritorial rights could have been avoided if Sweden had handled the recognition issue differently. As we saw, Danielsson as well as Anger and Wallenberg recommended a more flexible posture than that advocated by the foreign ministry. They pointed to the example of Spain, whose chargé d’affaires Sanz-Briz sent ‘enthusiastic but empty declarations’ to the Hungarian foreign ministry, where in their eagerness to win diplomatic recognition they chose not to call the bluff. In the same way that Sweden gave protection to Jews with links to Sweden, Spain for some years past had committed itself to protecting Sephardic Jews in Nazioccupied countries. A Spanish repatriation mission similar to the Swedish one and involving around 2,000 individuals was also prepared, but that too failed to get off the ground. At the end of November, when Sanz-Briz left Budapest, his duties were taken over by Giorgio Perlasca, a former Italian Fascist who had changed sides and who had been interned during an official assignment in Budapest because of his opposition to the Germans. He managed to escape and sought refuge in the Spanish legation, where he was employed and put in charge of Jewish questions. In order to allow him to remain in Budapest when Sanz-Briz went home, Perlasca was made a Spanish citizen and Giorgio was changed to Jorge. During the two months that he worked in the legation the number of Spanish protégés grew from a few hundred to around 5,000. Wallenberg collaborated with Perlasca, a kindred spirit who, like himself, would stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

The Principles of the Swedish Humanitarian Action On 22 December a memo summing up the achievements of the Swedish rescue mission was delivered to the Hungarian foreign ministry. It is unsigned but

Open Terror there can be no doubt that the author was Wallenberg. Evidence of this can be found not least in the references to Elsa Brändström, of whom he was a great admirer and whom his mother and sister had met during their visit to the USA in 1938.10 Her activities during World War I are held up in the memo as an example of Sweden’s tradition of humanitarian aid achievements. The memo deals with the difficulties that the Swedish rescue mission in Hungary had encountered, especially regarding repatriation of Swedish protégés. Another point touches on the task of the protective power. Sweden represented Hungary’s interests abroad but the Hungarian government did not respect the diplomatic immunity of the Swedish legation in Budapest. Meanwhile, the persecution of the Jews continued. The marches to Hegyeshalom caused unparalleled suffering and conditions in the ghetto grew worse all the time. The situation in the ghetto is deteriorating day by day. […] not hundreds but thousands are lying sick in cold, unheated rooms without mattresses, bedclothes or covers, without medical help and with extremely poor food rations, based on an official allotment that constitutes a quarter of what is regarded as the normal amount of food. Jewish individuals are continually being shot on the banks of the Danube without court procedures, even without a declaration of martial law. Against this background the legation ‘insisted’ that the Hungarian government stop the removal of children from the Jewish children’s homes to the Central Ghetto and asked for permission to issue more protective passports. None of these requests were fulfilled. It is a remarkable document, long and well argued, composed in an extreme situation, to the accompaniment of grenade fire and exploding bombs. It was a final attempt, by ‘setting the general Swedish humanitarian action in a larger context’, to force the Hungarian regime to make concessions without recognising it. A naive attempt – but typical of Wallenberg, who refused to give up.

The Noose Is Pulled Tight On the same day that the memo was delivered the Swedish Red Cross children’s home at 29 Szent István Ring was stormed and the children and staff were taken



The Hero of Budapest away, probably to the Central Ghetto. Also on that day a house in the Foreign Ghetto was raided and 41 people were taken to the Hungarian Gestapo headquarters on Schwab Hill. These actions provoked intense activity from the neutral countries, especially Sweden. At eight o’clock on the morning of 23 December Wallenberg, Anger, Danielsson and Rotta, as well as representatives of Switzerland, Spain and Portugal, gathered at the nunciature to draw up a protest note. Towards two o’clock Wallenberg went off to the headquarters of the Hungarian Gestapo to talk to Péter Hain. He was received by the latter’s deputy László Koltay, to whom, according to the member of the Schützling Protokoll who was also present, he made ‘a particularly harrowing and emotional speech’. When Hain himself came in he explained that no children had been taken away, that it was all lies. Afterwards Wallenberg returned to the nunciature, where he fetched Per Anger. They went together to the foreign ministry where Anger handed in the protest note that had been drawn up in the morning to Deputy Foreign Minister Vöczköndy. In the note it was stated that ‘justice and conscience forbid hostile acts against children, even in war’. The note was the last that the neutral countries drew up for the Szálasi regime. It had the consequence that three days later ‘further disturbances’ of the children’s homes were forbidden. However, by then the removal of people to the Central Ghetto was already completed. Vöczköndy in turn urged the legation, in view of the military situation, to leave Budapest the same evening for evacuation to western Hungary, where the Hungarian government was in residence and where the remaining staff of the foreign ministry were now about to move. And there was need for haste: within a few days the Red Army would throw a ring round Budapest and all escape routes would be cut off. By this time there were only three legations left in Budapest with full diplomatic representation: those of Turkey, the Vatican and Sweden. The Swiss, Portuguese and Spanish legations were represented at a lower diplomatic level and the German, Slovakian, Croatian and Italian diplomatic missions had been evacuated. When Anger explained that it was practicably impossible for the Swedish legation to leave Budapest at such short notice Vöczköndy reminded him that the Swedish government had given him one hour to leave the Hungarian legation in Stockholm. If the legation refused, he hinted, there would be recourse to violence. After the meeting with Vöczköndy Wallenberg went to call on Carl Lutz at the Swiss legation. After three hours’ conversation he declared: ‘It looks as if it’s all over. Now they are preparing to take action against diplomats too.’ Then he went to the Swedish legation, where he and Anger urged their colleagues to

Open Terror stay away from the building for the next 24 hours and preferably not to spend the night in their apartments. At 9.08 p.m. Anger, in Danielsson’s name, sent a coded telegram to the foreign ministry in Stockholm in which he gave an account of the conversation with Vöczköndy. It was the Swedish legation’s last contact with the outside world.


Guest or Captive? That Vöczköndy was serious when he threatened to use violence soon became clear. The next day Wallenberg and the other members of the legation were to meet at half past ten for a Christmas breakfast at Minerva Street. Asta Nilsson and some other Swedes who were still in Budapest were also invited. Margareta Bauer had baked gingerbread biscuits and laid the table in the upper hall, which was adorned with Christmas decorations and spruce twigs. At four o’clock the celebrations were supposed to be continued at the house of Lars Berg and Göte Carlsson, who had even managed to get hold of a Christmas tree. There was to be neither Christmas breakfast nor Christmas supper. Around six in the morning drunken Arrow Cross members broke into the house and forced Bauer and Asta Nilsson, who was spending the night there, to follow them to the Finnish legation, situated a few houses down on Gyopár Street. After the Finnish minister had left the building in October the house was under Swedish protection and housed Lars Berg’s B section. ‘There were at least 100 drunken Arrow Cross people in the rooms, drinking and eating, and those who weren’t were busy breaking up the remaining trunks,’ remembered Margareta Bauer. ‘Everything was a mess and it looked like a bomb had already paid a visit.’ After a few hours Bauer and Nilsson were taken to the Arrow Cross headquarters at Margaret Bridge, some two kilometres away. Here they were forced to stand waiting in the open in the barrack square, notwithstanding the cold. After that they were taken to the Central Ghetto. At five o’clock in the evening they were freed by Friedrich Born from the International Red Cross who took them to the Swiss legation. There they were given a Christmas present to share: ‘an aviator’s trunk’, which American pilots received when they landed on Hungarian territory: tobacco, cigarettes, a pair of pyjamas, two books, underwear and a shirt. ‘We were blessed,’ remembered Bauer. ‘Spent the night there,’ she recorded in her diary, ‘cannonballs and shells raining.’

Guest or Captive? The other Christmas host, Lars Berg, was roused from his bed early in the morning by a telephone call from the messenger at the B section who reported that the Finnish legation had been occupied by the Arrow Cross. He rushed there together with Göte Carlsson, who decided to wait outside. When Berg did not return he ran to the Swedish legation building where several of the Jewish employees were staying. Carlsson managed to escape in the confusion but Ottó Fleischmann and 30 other protégés were taken to the Central Ghetto, just like Bauer and Nilsson. The Arrow Cross leader explained to Berg that he had been ordered to collect the male members of the legation and transport them to Szombathely in western Hungary. Berg pretended that he was willing to be evacuated but instead fled and contacted the commander of the German garrison that had been left to defend Budapest. Arguing that the German legation was protected by Sweden after the personnel had left Budapest, he succeeded in procuring a document stating that he in turn was under German protection. Wallenberg escaped being caught since he was on the Pest side and had been informed early in the morning about the events at Gyopár and Minerva Streets. The days before Christmas he lodged in a flat at Imre Madách Street belonging to the writer Magda Gábor (sister of the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor), where Hegedűs and his family were also staying. Later on Christmas Eve he met with Per Anger in the Manfréd Weiss office, where Berg also turned up. Anger had been warned on telephone by Margareta Bauer and, like Berg, spent the day trying to make Hungarian and German authorities intervene. Danielsson and von Mezey had sought protection at the Swiss legation where Bauer and Nilsson arrived in the evening. The personnel at Üllői Road, whom Wallenberg had urged to seek other places to stay, had had difficulties finding secure lodgings and came back again in the evening. Ottó Fleischmann was freed from the ghetto on Christmas day and the other protégés the next day. Berg and Anger spent the night of Christmas Day in a little house at 15 Úri Street on Castle Hill that Countess Nákó shared with her half-sister, who was married to Count von Berg. The house was a ‘Swedish house’ and served as a depository for the legation’s official documents, which Wallenberg had had moved here from Üllői Road, where it was considered unsafe to keep them. In a large cabinet were kept accountancy documents, receipts, copies of Wallenberg’s correspondence and other papers. The occupants of the house ran up a Swedish flag and a sign, in rough-and-ready Swedish, stating that it was under Swedish protection.



The Hero of Budapest On the morning of Christmas Day Göte Carlsson, Margareta Bauer and Asta Nilsson also came to Úri Street. Yngve Ekmark arrived later in the day. Some of the Swedish diplomats – including Wallenberg – later met for a Christmas lunch at the Kassers’ flat. ‘Nearly all of the guests showed up, although several of them had escaped a close call at the hands of the Arrow Cross the day before,’ according to Elisabeth Kasser, who also remembered that the lunch guests were ‘full of hope’ and ‘talked about what they planned to do after the war.’ During a crisis meeting held on the 26th it was agreed that Göte Carlsson and Per Anger should stay in hiding at Úri Street. The Arrow Cross’s special bugbears, Wallenberg and Langlet, were to continue to assist their protégés on the Pest side. Berg with his German documents could move around freely and was assigned to take care of the legation, which was liberated the same day. Danielsson, Ekmark, Bauer and Nilsson were to stay at the Swiss legation, which was located only a few blocks from the Swedish hiding place; in the middle of November the Swiss, whose main chancellery was on the Pest side, had opened a branch in Buda in view of the approaching Soviet occupation. It was located in a wing of Count Eszterházy’s palace at Tárnok Street.1 ‘Stayed w. minister, Ekmark, Dénes [von Mezey] in two small rooms at Swiss leg.,’ Margareta Bauer recorded in her diary on 25 December. ‘Got a cipher to solve in order to get in a better mood; amusing.’ On the 26th they moved into the palace’s main building where they were to stay for six weeks.2 Danielsson was accompanied by a female acquaintance, Christine Vlachos, who was equipped with a certificate attesting that she was employed at the legation’s repatriation department and supposedly a Greek princess. After the attack on the legation buildings Wallenberg secured protection for the Swedish safe houses from the Hungarian police, but the number of guards put at his disposal proved to be insufficient. As a security measure he therefore moved his closest collaborators to the Hazai Bank at Harmincad Street. All in all, about 50 people stayed on the premises, both Swedish protégés and bank employees. The nights were spent in the vault.

An Arrow Cross Member Comes to the Rescue From Christmas Eve onwards, all means of communication between Stockholm and Budapest ceased to function – telegrams and diplomatic pouches could not be sent any more and the telephone lines were down. The foreign ministry’s only remaining opportunity to get information was to go through the German

Guest or Captive? authorities. After a Swedish request, on 28 December, the German foreign ministry asked the country’s military authorities in Budapest to try to find out what had happened to the members of the Swedish legation. The answer, received the following day by telephone, stated that Danielsson was hiding ‘in a secret place in Budapest and Legation Secretary Wallenberg has placed himself under the protection of German troops.’ The next day more detailed information followed: Danielsson was said to be staying at the nunciature, just like (probably) Per Anger, Lars Berg and Margareta Bauer. About Wallenberg there was no further news. The information was scanty but contained one interesting fact, namely that Wallenberg had placed himself under German protection, which probably means that he had been equipped with the same kind of document as Lars Berg. In the prevailing chaos the position of a Swedish diplomat was no guarantee of sufficient protection. The additional security provided by the German document would come in useful during the following weeks when survival depended on a combination of contacts, presence of mind – and luck. Ottó Fleischmann and the other Swedish protégés had been saved by a 28-year-­­­old Hungarian employed as a typewriter mechanic at the legation. The blond-haired Károly Szabó was not only a non-Jew but had very Aryan looks and he made a commanding impression on Arrow Cross men as well as on Germans: decked out in a Tyrolean hat and a long black leather coat he looked like a German or Hungarian police officer. In addition he was equipped with various identity papers which enabled him to move freely and appear in different guises. The person who had provided him with the documents was Pál Szalai, whom he had known since they were boy scouts. Szalai, who had worked as a salesman in a firm making wickerwork baskets, was a high-ranking Arrow Cross member and the party’s representative in the police.3 Szalai had gradually come to be appalled by the persecution of Jews and had secretly turned against the regime. Now he wished to talk to Wallenberg, who was reluctant to meet him. When told that the Swedish protégés had been liberated from the Central Ghetto with the help of Szalai and Szabó, however, he agreed to see them. Late in the evening of 26 December Szalai was picked up by Fleischmann and Szabó at the Town Hall, where he had his office, and they went to the Swedish legation. Szalai recalled: I said from the outset that Wallenberg should not negotiate with me like an official person, but regard me as a friend and a companion who was willing to help. I advised him that at present various legal



The Hero of Budapest and illegal Arrow Cross units were raging in Budapest, without being selective in their methods. All our lives were in danger from that moment on, and as events changed every minute we had to maintain permanent contact. We agreed that my friend Károly Szabó would stay with me at the air-raid shelter of the Town Hall and would act as our liaison officer. According to Fleischmann, Szalai explained that he strongly condemned the methods of the Arrow Cross Party and that he had used his position to help people in need even before he got in touch with the Swedish legation.4 For Wallenberg Szalai became indispensable. Szalai in turn was impressed by the fact that Wallenberg was the only representative of the neutral powers who did not make a difference between protected and non-protected Jews but was equally anxious to help both. So, for example, Wallenberg asked Szalai to try to arrange for the number of permits to leave the Central Ghetto to be increased. So far ten individuals had had such permits, but the food situation was deteriorating every day and Wallenberg wanted more people to have the right to leave the ghetto in order to bring in food and water. Szalai signed 100 such permits without being formally entitled to do so. Wallenberg also asked Szalai to follow him to the Central Ghetto in order to see for himself what the situation looked like. They went there on 30 December. ‘When the gates of the ghetto opened, I felt as though I had entered the Middle Ages,’ Szalai remembered. The daily ration consisted of a bowl of soup and a thin slice of bread, corresponding to 900 calories or a quarter of the daily requirement. All inhabitants of Budapest suffered from the rationing, but while the Jews were locked up in the ghetto, non-Jews had other ways of procuring provisions. According to an agreement with the city authorities the Swedish legation was allowed to deliver food to the Central Ghetto, but only after the other needy were given their rations; Wallenberg promised to set up soup kitchens around the city. 15.1  Pál Szalai.

Guest or Captive?

The Terror Intensifies Around New Year the supply situation in Budapest became disastrous and the infrastructure was on the verge of breaking down completely. On 28 December the gas supplies stopped, on the 30th the electricity ceased to function, on 3 January there was no more water. On the Pest side one could still fetch water in the wells next to the parliament building and on Margaret Island, in Buda from the medical wells close to Gellért Hill and from the wells in houses that had any. When there was no more water in the pipes the toilets ceased to function, and a terrible stench spread. The refuse covering the streets and the parks was only collected half a year later. The attacks against the houses under the protection of the neutral powers and the Red Cross were intensified as soon as the Hungarian government left Budapest. In spite of protests from the neutrals on 23 December two children’s homes protected by the Swedish legation and the International Red Cross were attacked on the morning of Christmas Eve. The Schützling Protokoll reported the same day: The people at Munkácsy Street were made to line up ready for departure. On the second floor two sick ladies (aged between 70 and 80) were shot at once. In room No. 8 on the second floor, in the sick rooms, they shot two children aged three years. In front of the sick room another child of one and a half years was shot and his corpse thrown into the sick room with the two other children. The nurse, who was trying to collect the children with their belongings on their back, was also shot in the corridor a few metres from the sick room. A 13-year-old boy who limped and therefore was delayed in joining the column was taken back to the house by an Arrow Cross soldier and shot in one of the corridors. All six corpses were left lying at the site. Some days later, on 28 December, a gang of Arrow Cross people and SS men attacked a Jewish hospital and killed 28 young men. During the following days several Swedish safe houses were attacked. All in all, about 100 people were taken away and killed on the shores of the Danube. On the night between 30 and 31 December, 48B Légrády Károly Street was attacked – it was to be requisitioned for the SS. The 44 protégés were shot. The report of the Schützling Protokoll read as follows:



The Hero of Budapest They selected some people from those living on the ground and first floors and took them away. Among them were the Stern family (Sándor Stern, his wife and children, Erzsébet and Ernő). This family was related to the chief rabbi of Venice and lived in the house as Italian protected Jews. Those removed from the house were taken to the Danube and murdered. Ernő Stern managed to escape with his sister after they witnessed their parents’ execution. To their misfortune they returned to their old flat. The next day, i.e. during the night beginning 1 January, the Arrow Cross returned and took away all the inhabitants who still survived, 37 persons, among them again Ernő and Erzsébet Stern. Seven managed to escape, including Ernő Stern; his sister however was shot. The terror affected not only the Swedish protégés. According to the Schützling Protokoll, during the attack on 39 Légrády Károly Street, 25 Swiss protégés who had sought refuge there were shot. On New Year’s Eve the Swiss Glass House at Vadász Street was occupied by about 50 Arrow Cross members who suspected that they were hiding food there. Eight hundred Jews who were staying in the house were forced out onto the street for ‘relocation’, but thanks to the intervention of Szalai a tragedy was avoided. The attack on the Glass House showed that not even the diplomats were safe any more. On 29 December the Swiss chargé d’affaires Harald Feller was robbed and beaten by Father Kun and forced to pull down his trousers to show that he was not circumcised. According to what he later told Danielsson, he had, ‘half unconscious’, heard the Arrow Cross people say that ‘he would be killed and that the same fate would befall the Swedish minister’. After having threatened retaliation against the Hungarian legation in Bern, however, Feller was released. The terror culminated on New Year’s Eve when two key figures in the Jewishrescue action disappeared. Ottó Komoly, member of the Jewish Council and leader of Budapest’s Zionists, was arrested at the Ritz Hotel, where he was hiding, and was killed the same day. That was a severe blow to Wallenberg, who was working closely with Komoly. A person he was even closer to was Péter Sugár, only 24 years old, member of the Schützling Protokoll and one of the authors of the Schutzpass book. On New Year’s Eve he went to his parents’ house where he was seized and taken away together with his father. When a few days later Wallenberg learned about this he first went to the Town Hall and then to the headquarters of the Arrow Cross Party to try find out what had happened to Sugár. Károly Szabó

Guest or Captive? also made enquiries but to no avail. Sugár was never seen again. In all probability, he was sentenced to death by the Arrow Cross Party tribunal and killed. Budapest was now a lawless city and Wallenberg was permanently armed. In order to escape the fate of Komoly and Sugár he changed addresses all the time. For a few nights he slept in the vault of the Hazai Bank and on New Year’s Eve he and Hugó Wohl moved to Count Gyula Károlyi’s palace at Reviczky Street which the legation rented. However, the Arrow Cross were not the only security threat: the battle between the Soviet army and the forces defending Budapest was intensifying day by day and bombs and shells were falling on the city. On the same day that Wallenberg and Wohl moved into the palace it was hit by a bomb and they had to move again. A few days later, on 2 January, a bomb hit the Hazai Bank, many employees were injured and one of Wallenberg’s drivers, Tivadar Jobbágy, died from his injuries. Wallenberg was now permanently on the move. Having learned a lesson from the death marches he took care always to wear practical clothes and boots – an example that he asked his collaborators to follow. Thanks to Miksa Boschán, a Swedish protégé and the owner of a shoe factory, he had secured large stockpiles of boots. Although Wallenberg was now a hunted animal, he no longer had to fear Adolf Eichmann. The SS commander had been recalled on Christmas Eve and managed to slink out of Budapest before the ring around the city was finally closed on 27 December.

‘Wbg Very Depressed’ The violence in Budapest hit not only the Jews. The Arrow Cross Party was dissolving, being torn apart by internal struggles. Party members arrested and shot opponents within their own ranks. At the same time the Soviet grip on Budapest tightened. Therefore, the German military command demanded that instead of fighting one another the Arrow Cross Party should engage in the defence of the city. On 1 January the lawyer Ernő Vajna, a distant relative of Interior Minister Gábor Vajna, flew in from western Hungary. Vajna’s main task was to manage the defence of the city, but since he was the leading government representative in Budapest he was the one that Wallenberg had to deal with in matters pertaining to the Jews. On 23 December, the same day that Vöczköndy urged the Swedish legation to leave Budapest, Interior Minister Vajna from his place of evacuation issued a


15.2  The Hazai Bank after it was bombed on 2 January 1945.

Guest or Captive? decree to the effect that the protected Jews should be moved from the International to the Central Ghetto by 31 December at the latest. The time limit was not met, but as soon as Ernő Vajna arrived in Budapest the plan was activated. The decision to evacuate the International Ghetto left Wallenberg in despair. ‘Wbg very depressed,’ Margareta Bauer noted in her diary on 2 January: ‘35,000 Jews brought to the Central Ghetto.’ The information is not accurate: the order was issued on 2 January, but the transfer was effected a few days later. This, however, Bauer could not know, isolated as she was in her hiding place on the Buda side. Szalai recommended Wallenberg to move his protégés to the Central Ghetto since security was better there but met with the objection that the supply situation would then become disastrous. On 3 January Wallenberg composed an official letter to the German military commander in Budapest, General Karl Pfeffer-Wildenbruch, explaining that within three days the Central Ghetto would be starving. Therefore, Wallenberg wrote, the plan to move in an additional 35,000 people from the International Ghetto must ‘from a humanitarian viewpoint be regarded as bestial and insane’. He consequently asked the general for a ‘radical intervention’. Even if the general had wanted to, it would probably have been difficult to intervene in a matter that was mainly a concern for the Hungarian authorities. These, in turn, were determined to execute Vajna’s order and cut off the tele­ phone lines at Wallenberg’s Tátra Street office. Therefore all communication had to be effected by messengers. At two o’clock in the morning of 4 January a handwritten message arrived from Wallenberg, who was hiding in the Hazai Bank. It was addressed to the office manager Elemér Milkó and read: 1) A change in orders unfortunately not possible. 2) Ask the policemen not to remove more than the right number of Swedes during the first transfer. 3) During the night the small food supplies should be distributed among the houses* and in the houses among the inhabitants. People should not make paper parcels but instead wrap the things in pieces of clothing. 4) In the International Ghetto all should be told that the legation cannot give protection any more and that the closed ghetto will be walled in. The safe houses will probably be occupied by various refugees. There will be instructions as to how many things one may bring along but everybody should be prepared to take as much as possible.



The Hero of Budapest * If this is impossible the distribution should be prepared at 6 Tátra Street, so that the house portions are ready. Good luck!  R. Wallenberg As the Jews from the International Ghetto moved to the closed one, the Swedish legation lost its jurisdiction over them and they were no longer protected. This was the terrifying message that Wallenberg had to convey, after having failed to persuade the German military command to intervene. The Swedish action of protecting Jews that had been going on since August was over. On the same morning the inhabitants of the safe houses were informed that they would be moved to the Central Ghetto and that the legation could no longer give them protection. They were asked to pack the food that was distributed, necessary underwear and extra footwear in rucksacks or bundles that could be carried on the back during long walks. Things that could not be taken along should be marked and left behind. The evacuation started later the same day. Four Swedish safe houses on the side of Pozsonyi Road with even numbers were emptied and the inhabitants, having first been robbed of their belongings, were forced to proceed to the Central Ghetto on foot. For the third time in seven months the Budapest Jews were marching through the city, hungry, threadbare, humiliated. Wallenberg was not the only one to be depressed. A few hours after receiving his message Elemér Milkó gave himself, his wife and his two children morphine injections in an attempt to commit collective suicide. But the dose was too weak and they all survived. However, three days later Milkó died of a heart attack, probably as a result of the suicide attempt.

Restoration of the Protective Status The houses on Pozsonyi Road with odd numbers were to be emptied on 5 January, but the order was revoked. The decision was a result of an intervention from Wallenberg and the businessman Peter Zürcher, whom Carl Lutz had asked to take care of the Swiss protective matters since Lutz himself could not leave Buda. As on so many other occasions before, the active role was played by Wallenberg who went to see both Ernő Vajna and Imre Nidosi, one of the Arrow Cross leaders. After negotiations he managed to obtain a postponement of the evacuation for 24 and then 48 hours for both Swedish and Swiss refugees. During the meeting

15.3  Lars Berg in front of the Swedish legation on Minerva Street. One day Arrow Cross men burst into the neighbouring villa – ‘Wallenberg’s house’ – in spite of the fact that it was under Swedish protection. The Zwack family and some other people were hiding in the cellar. ‘There was no doubt in my mind but that we were all going to die,’ remembered Péter Zwack. ‘I had been given a huge bar of chocolate as my ration to last me the rest of the war […] and I started to eat the whole thing right there. I thought it was the last bar of chocolate I’d ever see. […] The Arrow Cross were starting to herd us towards the door when Lájos, Mitzi’s son, asked if he could go and get his shoes. He was in his stockinged feet. For some reason they agreed to let him go and get some shoes and while we were waiting, Kálmán [a Hungarian officer who had deserted and was hiding in the house] managed to sneak out and run next door to the Swedish legation. Lars Berg came rushing in. He was a huge man […] and was brandishing a pistol. He shouted: “This house belongs to the Swedish government. These people are under our protection. This is a diplomatic incident.”’ After which the Arrow Cross released their captives and left the villa.


The Hero of Budapest with Vajna on 5 January an agreement was reached to the effect that the hospital at Tátra Street would stay in the International Ghetto, that the 3,700 protégés who had not yet been evacuated were allowed to stay, that the authorities were prohibited from interfering with food deliveries and that the extraterritorial rights were to be respected as before. What Wallenberg accomplished from the negotiations with Vajna was thus no less than the restoration of the status of the Swedish protective mission. Wallenberg in turn promised that the legation would make an inventory of the storerooms and during the next few days deliver to the police foodstuffs that were not necessary for the support of the ghetto. That the legation was to handle the inventory of the food supplies was a triumph – the alternative would have been a forced inventory. The Swedish protégés were thus allowed to stay in the International Ghetto in exchange for food. Wallenberg’s take was an ingenious variation on the theme ‘blood for goods’. Although the evacuation was stopped the negotiation was no victory, only a respite. Vajna was not particularly familiar with the Jewish question and therefore under the strong influence of Erich Csiky, secretary in the interior ministry and a rabid Arrow Cross man. And the Arrow Cross Party was unflinching in its conviction that the Jewish question must have ‘a radical solution’. Wallenberg was under strong pressure, and on 7 January he visited Vajna again in the vault of the Town Hall, this time in the company of Giorgio Perlasca and Zürcher. Perlasca, who went in first, recalled: After an argument lasting more than two hours – during which I threatened Vajna with retribution from Spain – he agreed that Spanish protected Jews could stay in their houses. I left quite exhausted. I notified Wallenberg and Zürcher, who were waiting outside, of the results whereupon they went in and similarly succeeded in achieving the retention of their protégés in the International district. Nobody appeared on behalf of the Portuguese and Papal protective Jews, so they were moved into the closed ghetto. At about the same time Danielsson forwarded to Wallenberg an anonymous warning that the latter ‘ran a very great risk unless he stopped his actions’. Wallenberg let the minister know that he had received so many warnings to that effect that he could not take any notice of them. One such warning was conveyed by Harald Feller, who had heard from a contact at the foreign ministry that Erich Csiky had plans to invite Wallenberg to his office and have him shot

Guest or Captive? there. Another warning came from one Alexander Mogan who worked for a special section within the police, the National Control. One day at the beginning of January he showed Hegedűs an order he had received to kill him and Wallenberg. It was supposed to have been carried out with a Soviet gun and in such a way that no suspicions fell on the Hungarian authorities. Mogan had heard of Wallenberg’s plans for postwar Hungary and had come to warn him. He explained that he was not looking for any benefits but did it because it was possible that others had received the same order and that Raoul’s life might be in danger even if he himself refused to execute it. Even though Wallenberg said he could not take notice of all the threats directed against him, when he met Perlasca at the Town Hall he asked him if he could move to the Spanish legation. The reason he gave was that he was being persecuted. Perlasca ‘immediately granted his request’. Wallenberg said that he would come in the afternoon, as soon as he had fetched his belongings, but he never showed up.

The Legation Houses Raided Meanwhile, the violations of the extraterritorial rights continued. At dawn on 8 January the Swedish safe house at 1 Jókai Street was attacked. The house accommodated the legation chancellery and many employees, some of them quite rich, lived here with their families. The house was guarded by police, but this night they were not on duty. The janitor, who was a supporter of the Arrow Cross and an informer, let the Arrow Cross people in. Twenty people or so managed to hide, but 266 were taken to the Arrow Cross headquarters at Városház Street where they were beaten and robbed. Some of them were held for six days before they were released. One of them was Márton Gosztonyi, who later reported: They had already taken our valuables in the corridor. All this activity did not proceed smoothly but was accompanied by blows from their fists and rifle butts. They put us in two rooms on the fourth floor […] squashed like herrings, in an area of about five square metres. […] The crowd of unfortunates in these two rooms was molested every five minutes either by the Arrow Cross or by the other brigands wearing SS uniforms. They were firing their weapons in the air and threatened to shoot people dead on the spot if they found any hidden valuables during the next search.



The Hero of Budapest Old people and mothers with children – about 80 people – were moved to the Central Ghetto. Those fit for work were taken away to dig trenches, clear up the debris on the streets or chop wood. About 180 people were shot by the Danube. Two people committed suicide by jumping out of the window. When, after his release on 13 January, Gosztonyi went to the Hazai Bank to give an account of what had happened Wallenberg was not there and no one knew where he was. On the evening of the day that the house at Jókai Street was emptied of its residents, the legation building at Üllői Road was also attacked. About 150 people were taken to the Arrow Cross headquarters at 41 Ferenc Ring. There they were beaten and robbed of their valuables. The final destination was the waters of the Danube, but it was cold and the Arrow Cross people could not agree on who should do the job. Wallenberg was not to be found but at midnight an armed police force led by Károly Szabó and Pál Szalai arrived. The Swedish protégés were released and taken back to Üllői Road. Thereafter, the policemen who had been guarding the house were replaced by policemen ordered there by Szalai and it was never attacked again. But two days later it was hit by a bomb and Wallenberg’s office was reduced to ruins.

The Last Battle If the Arrow Cross attack on Üllői Road ended without bloodshed, the loss of human life at Jókai Street was Wallenberg’s biggest single defeat. The Arrow Cross had forced themselves into one of ‘his’ houses, which amounted to a personal insult. From now on his own life was under immediate threat and he spent much of his time in the vault of the Hazai Bank. On 10 January he sent a letter from there to Vajna, urging him to find out what had happened to two employees of the Swedish legation, and the following day he asked Police Captain Zoltán Tarpataky, responsible for law and order in the International Ghetto, if the unit guarding Harmincad Street could be kept on there since they knew the premises and the legation staff. These two letters were Wallenberg’s last known written contact with the Arrow Cross authorities. On 10 January, when battles were already being fought in the eastern part of Pest, Wallenberg went over to Buda to see Per Anger, who urged him to halt his activities and stay on the Buda side, but Wallenberg did not want to listen and explained, according to Anger, that ‘he did not want people afterwards to

Guest or Captive? say that he had not done all that he could.’ At the request of Danielsson, they instead paid a visit to the Hungarian military commander, General Hindy. ‘During the trip bombs were raining around us,’ Anger remembered. ‘All the time we had to stop the car, as the road was blocked by dead people, horses, fallen trees and blown-up houses. But Raoul never hesitated. I asked him if he was scared. “I admit it feels eerie at times,” he said, “but to me there’s no other choice.”’5 The aim of the visit was to secure continued protection for the members of the legation and the Jews in the Swedish safe houses. Hindy refused and referred them to the foreign ministry, which, however, was no longer operative as only a few subordinate officials were left in Budapest. Anger remembered that during the talks Hindy suddenly let fly at Wallenberg, accusing him of hiding the journalist and member of the resistance, Gyula Dessewffy, at the legation, which the latter energetically denied. (Later it turned out that Dessewffy had indeed been hiding in one of the tower rooms of the legation for two weeks, without either Wallenberg or Anger knowing about it.) This was the last time Anger saw Wallenberg. The same day Wallenberg summoned Károly Szabó to the Hazai Bank. He wanted him to investigate the possibility of getting in touch with representatives of the Soviet army. The idea was not new. Between Christmas and New Year Wallenberg, Harald Feller, Peter Zürcher, Miklós Krausz and Károly Wilhelm had met at the Swiss legation to discuss how Wallenberg and Feller could cross the lines in order to inform the Russians about the disastrous situation in the city and to try to persuade them to speed up the offensive. However, after Feller was seized and beaten on 29 December, the idea of a joint action was abandoned. Instead Wallenberg decided to try to cross the lines himself. He wanted to establish contact with the commander of the Soviet army’s 2nd Ukrainian Front, Marshal Rodion Malinovsky, who was supposed to be in Debrecen, about 200 kilometres east of Budapest.

The Studebaker Wallenberg made no secret of his plans to cross the front lines. To John C. Dickinson, who worked as an accountant at Wallenberg’s section of the legation, he explained that he wanted to drive to Sweden through Soviet or Sovietoccupied territories and that he thought he would ‘be received well by the Russians’.6 He took 400 litres from the legation’s supply of petrol and talked optimistically of being home in about three weeks. On the night of 10 January



The Hero of Budapest Wallenberg and Langfelder packed their Studebaker ‘for a long trip’ in a garage in Muzéum Street. The idea was, according to an eyewitness, ‘that he should go to Debrecen as soon as possible, and from there to Stockholm to make his report’.7 That Debrecen was only the first stage on the journey has been confirmed by Langfelder, according to whom Wallenberg hoped that ‘the Russians would allow him to go back to Sweden’.8 The Studebaker was filled with provisions for the long journey, but with other, more durable goods as well: the petrol tank was stuffed with a large amount of gold and jewellery belonging to individuals who wished to save their valuables from being pillaged. Just like other neutral legations, the Swedish legation kept a large number of deposits not only from Jews but also from other Hungarians and from foreign individuals and firms. ‘In the autumn of 1944 innumerable requests were made to put at the disposal of the legation various items like castles, houses, cars, food supplies, etc.,’ Lars Berg wrote in a report to the Swedish foreign ministry. ‘The aim was obviously to try to save property that would otherwise have disappeared into German and Russian hands.’ In the prevailing situation Wallenberg – or the owners of the deposits – seems to have come to the conclusion that the legation building was no longer a safe place and therefore chose to try to smuggle the valuables to Sweden. That Wallenberg had with him large sums of money and a significant amount of gold and valuables when he crossed the lines has been confirmed by several people. Vilmos Langfelder himself talked about ‘a considerable sum’. According to a representative of the Swedish Match Company in Budapest, Mr Jamnik, Wallenberg had with him a bag containing ‘an appreciable sum in dollar banknotes and many pieces of jewellery’ when he moved from Buda to Pest on 5 or 6 January. Lájos Bajusz, who worked as Wallenberg’s bodyguard from 26 December, stated that Wallenberg ‘took a terrible lot of valuables with him, 15 to 20 kilos of gold jewellery, and several hundred thousand pengö as well as hard currency’.

Benczúr Street On 11 January Károly Szabó returned to the Hazai Bank to fetch Wallenberg. From there they drove to 70 Váci Street where a few Swedish protégés were lodging. Wallenberg made a note of their needs, said farewell to Szabó and explained that he would move from the bank since he no longer felt safe there. He asked Szabó to do what he could for the protégés with the help of Szalai. Later the

Guest or Captive? same day Wallenberg said goodbye to his closest collaborators, Hugó Wohl and Gábor Forgács, who remembered his last words: ‘Meine Herren! Können wir noch etwas tun?’ (‘Gentlemen! Is there anything else we can do?’) They agreed that nothing more could be done and Wallenberg left. After that Wallenberg and Langfelder drove to 16 Benczúr Street. The house, which accommodated a Red Cross branch, was located in a part of Pest that would soon be taken by the Soviet army with which Wallenberg wanted to make contact as soon as possible. He was also a hunted man who wished to get away from the parts of the city that were still controlled by the Arrow Cross and the Germans. The big house belonged to Captain László Ocskay, who let a part of it to the transport section of the International Red Cross, the T section. Here a Jewish work brigade collecting clothes was located. The brigade, led by György Wilhelm, son of Károly Wilhelm of the Jewish Council, was made up of about 30 young men with non-Jewish appearances who, dressed in aviator caps with Red Cross emblems and French Red Cross armlets, carried out transports for the Red Cross. As soon as Wallenberg arrived at Benczúr Street he set up a Swedish legation office in two of the rooms. However, since fierce fighting was going on in the surrounding area he and the employees of the T section spent most of their time in the kitchen, which was located in the basement.9 On 12 January Wallenberg went to the office at Üllői Road where for the last time he signed a few Schutzpasses. When asked to prolong the provisional passports that expired on 15 January he explained that as far as he understood it would not be necessary. When leaving, he looked at the devastation and said: ‘It is a historic moment. I signed Schutzpasses in the ruins of Stalingrad.’ The same day Wallenberg visited Pál Szalai in the vault in the Town Hall. The same request to do everything for the protégés that he had directed to Szabó he now directed to him. He also asked Szalai to look him up after the liberation at Üllői Road from where they would make a journey to meet Marshal Malinovsky. ‘Afterwards, as soon as possible, I shall take you both [Szalai and Szabó] to Sweden and introduce you to the Swedish king.’ In the afternoon Wallenberg went to the Swiss legation to fetch documents and money – around 200,000 pengö – that he kept there. To Miklós Krausz he repeated what he had said to Szalai – that he was going to try to get to Malinovsky’s headquarters in Debrecen where a provisional Hungarian government had been formed on 21 December. Since Sweden protected the interests of the Soviet Union in Hungary he hoped that he would received well and that his request for the liberation of the ghetto would be met. If not, he feared that



The Hero of Budapest the Arrow Cross and the Germans would try to kill the inhabitants at the last moment. Krausz appealed to Wallenberg not to cross the Soviet lines. In the morning of 13 January the first Soviet soldiers were spotted on the opposite side of Benczúr Street and by midday they entered Captain Ocskay’s house. Some of them were drunk, they used their bayonets to open the tins and used the piano as a privy. Wallenberg was so upset that Andor Veres, one of the members of the T section, said he did not recognise him. He asked to see a higher officer and later in the day an officer reported who, according to another Red Cross employee, Béla Révai, greeted Wallenberg with ‘the greatest politeness’. The officer in question was Colonel Ya. Dmitrienko, the head of the political section of the 151st Rifle Division. He was described by Veres as ‘a very nice person’.10 Wallenberg explained that he was a Swedish diplomat and showed his identity papers, one of which is said to have shown that he was the charge d’affaires in the parts of Hungary liberated by the Soviet army.11 That Wallenberg was greeted with courtesy came as no surprise. In a tele­ gram of 2 January the general staff of the Soviet army had instructed Marshals Malinovsky and Tolbukhin, commanders of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts, that the Swedish legation should be given protection when encountered. The telegram was a result of a letter from the Swedish minister in Moscow, Staffan Söderblom, to the Soviet deputy foreign commissar, Vladimir Dekanozov, in

15.4  16 Benczúr Street now accommodates the Austrian embassy.

Guest or Captive? which the latter was asked to instruct the Soviet troops to assist the members of the Swedish legation who were hiding in the city. All members including Asta Nilsson were mentioned by name. Wallenberg explained to Dmitrienko that he was eager to get in touch with the Soviet military command but there seem to have been some communication difficulties. He succeeded, however, in having two Soviet guards detailed to protect the house. In the evening a little supper was arranged in the kitchen and Dmitrienko and Wallenberg gave speeches. Wallenberg’s speech was said to be ‘conventional’. At eight o’clock the following morning Dmitrienko sent a ciphered report to the head of the political section of the 7th Guards Army. The report said that Wallenberg and his driver were ‘in a house at 16 Benczúr Street taken by us’ while the other members of the legation were staying in Buda. ‘The fate of these people is unknown,’ he reported, adding: ‘Raoul Wallenberg and the chauffeur are accommodated and under protection.’ According to the colonel, Wallenberg claimed that the legation ‘is defending the interests of Jewish persons in the Central Ghetto and in the so-called Foreign Ghetto’. He had also handed over a text in German saying that ‘he is on territory taken by us, all other legation members plus Asta Nilsson on [non]-taken territory’. He asked that the text be telegraphed to Stockholm. On a separate paper someone has written: ‘May not be released anywhere until further notice. Telegr[am] not to be given to anyone.’ The same morning Wallenberg and Langfelder left Benczúr Street in the company of Colonel Dmitrienko. The immediate course of events is shrouded in darkness. Strangely enough, none of the people present at Benczúr Street remembers whether they left on foot or by car. The car in which Wallenberg had arrived at Benczúr Street had a broken carburettor and was parked in the yard of one of the neighbouring houses. But the two-door coupé Studebaker Champion, 1941 model, was parked in a Hungarian government garage on Andrássy Boulevard, parallel to Benczúr Street. This is where Wallenberg now seems to have gone, which is not so strange considering the cargo in the petrol tank. According to the chief of staff of the 581st Infantry Regiment, Ivan Golub, Wallenberg and Langfelder had gone to the garage in order to ‘set off by car in the direction of the advancing Soviet forces’. But the garage had just been taken by Soviet soldiers and Wallenberg and Langfelder were caught by scouts armed with sub-machine guns. When they refused to leave the car the soldiers aimed their weapons at them and they gave in. (According to another witness the incident took place when they had already left the garage.) After this they were taken to the regimental headquarters.



The Hero of Budapest The information provided by Golub indicates that Wallenberg had decided to set off for Debrecen on his own, frustrated perhaps by the evidently unsuccessful talks with Colonel Dmitrienko. His decision was yet another example of the daring which had in other situations helped to save lives. This time, however, it was fraught with momentous consequences. The staff of the 581st Infantry Regiment was located in the basement of the famous Szechényi baths in the Budapest City Park and was at the moment under heavy fire from the Germans. Golub remembers that Wallenberg was dressed in a black suit and Langfelder in a dark-brown leather jacket. According to the head of the political section of the regiment, Chapovsky, they had been instructed by the 151st Rifle Division to treat Wallenberg ‘humanely’. They should ‘not enter into long conversations with him but show respect for his immunity’ and ‘help him to reach more senior officers’. Another officer, Makhrovsky, was ordered to see to it that Wallenberg was given back what had been confiscated from him when he was seized. In return Wallenberg presented the officer with a case of Hungarian cigarettes. Because of Golub’s deficient knowledge of languages an interpreter was called in – Colonel Yakov Valakh, who remembered that Wallenberg was ‘animated’ when he found out that Valakh spoke German. ‘My first encounter with Wallenberg was about helping him and his driver to get in touch with higher command, with the commander of the 2nd Ukrainian Front, General Malinovsky,’ remembered Golub. ‘Through him he wished to get in touch with Moscow or come to Moscow.’ Wallenberg showed documents in German – perhaps his reconstruction plan for Hungary, perhaps documentation pertaining to his rescue action. According to Valakh, Wallenberg had tried the day before to get in touch with the Soviet military command, ‘but the officer [Dmitrienko] and the soldiers he turned to obviously did not understand him.’ From the regimental headquarters Wallenberg and Langfelder were fetched by a captain from the Soviet military counter-espionage organisation ‘SMERSH’ – an abbreviation of the Russian for ‘death to the spies’ – to the staff of the 151st Rifle Division. SMERSH units accompanied all Soviet troops, their main task being to trace spies, war criminals and others who could be of interest for the collection of intelligence. In Hungary alone about 100,000 people went through SMERSH controls. When asked by Makhrovsky what would happen to Wallenberg, the captain answered that he did not know but that he would be sent to Moscow. At the divisional staff Wallenberg had the opportunity to talk to several higher officers, among them the head of the SMERSH section of the division.12 He described ‘in detail his mission in Hungary, how he had

Guest or Captive? managed to save thousands of Jews, condemned by the Nazis to total physical extermination’ and showed the exact location of the ghetto on a city plan. The conversation with Wallenberg ‘lasted for a long time’, remembered Valakh: We asked him many times why he did not leave Budapest when the front was approaching, why he risked his own life in this way. Every time we got the same answer: he did his duty. Wallenberg spoke to us with concern about how, when the fighting in Budapest began, he could no longer carry on his mission to help the captives in the ghetto. That’s why he was so anxious to get in touch with the military command to discuss what could be done now, how one could save these doomed people. According to Valakh, Wallenberg had with him ‘a voluminous briefcase’ which he said contained ‘important documents’ that he ‘was willing to hand over to the Soviet military command’. It should be noted that both Golub and Valakh were Jews, a fact that should have made them adopt a positive view of Wallenberg and his mission. At 11.30 in the evening of the same day a Gennady Kupriyanov of the 7th Guards Army composed a cipher telegram based on Dmitrienko’s report to the commander of the 30th Rifle Corps and the chief of staff of the 2nd Ukrainian Front, Zakharov. It was sent at 1.20 a.m. and deciphered at 2.30 a.m. on the night of 15 January. In the telegram, marked ‘of particular importance’, Zakharov was ordered to accompany Wallenberg ‘immediately’ to Major General Afonin, commander of the 18th Rifle Corps. He was also requested to see to it that Wallenberg’s security was guaranteed and that the transfer from the 151st Rifle Division was effected ‘in a convenient manner’. At the same time Wallenberg was not to be allowed any contact with the outside world. On the telegram there is a handwritten note: – Seized 13.1.45 at Benczúr Street (came over himself). – The other legation members are in the western part. – Refused to move behind the front since the responsibility for c.7,000 Swedish citizens in the eastern part of the city rests with him. The information that Wallenberg had crossed the lines voluntarily is in accordance with intentions that he had voiced on several occasions. According to Per Anger he had, ‘some days before 15 January’, let Danielsson know that ‘he



The Hero of Budapest could no longer be of any use and that therefore he planned to cross the Russian lines’. The minister had answered that ‘if he viewed his position as untenable he should go over to the Russian side’. Wallenberg had thus ‘gone over’ with the minister’s consent. The ban on communication with the outside world was no extraordinary measure. The same restrictions were applied to Danielsson and Anger when they were taken into Soviet custody a month later. The talks dragged on and Wallenberg and Langfelder spent the night at the division staff, located in a large flat at Erzsébet Királyné (Queen Elizabeth) Road. According to one source they slept in different rooms and were not allowed to talk to each other; according to Valakh, they shared a room but ‘barely slept at all, either of them’. Nor did they want any food – ‘they just had tea together with us,’ remembered Valakh. According to Langfelder, however, the room was guarded by Soviet soldiers and they were not given anything to eat. The next morning, 15 January, four officers from the 7th Guards Army arrived in two American Willys jeeps to fetch Wallenberg and Langfelder. Wallenberg was told that he had been granted permission to travel to ‘the front commando, as he wished’. Before leaving, the officers admonished Valakh and the others not to talk to anyone about Wallenberg. ‘Raoul Wallenberg bid us a warm farewell,’ Valakh recalled. Langfelder and Wallenberg were not allowed to go together but were placed in different jeeps. According to the telegram from Kupriyanov, Wallenberg was to be taken to Afonin’s 18th Rifle Corps. Whether or not he ever arrived there we do not know. What we do know is that he was taken to the 30th Rifle Corps, whose staff was located in a suburb of Budapest. Here Wallenberg is said to have asked the interpreter Anatoly Sinichov questions which the latter refused to answer, fearing trouble from his superiors if the answers turned out to be ‘wrong’. Another interpreter was therefore summoned, an intelligence officer by the name of Mikhail Danilash. He remembered Wallenberg as ‘a man in a dark suit, dark-haired, thin’, and Langfelder as ‘a stocky man in a black leather jacket’. The conversation was conducted in two languages, Wallenberg spoke German with Langfelder, who translated into Hungarian and then back to German. Just like during the conversation with Sinichov Wallenberg kept asking questions: How did it come about that the Red Army could advance so fast – was it by its own strength or because the Germans were weak? How was the attitude of the Red Army towards the civilian population and prisoners of war on occupied territory? Were there persecutions of religious groups, of Jews, and so on? No wonder the first interpreter became nervous… During the one-and-a-half-hour long conversation Wallenberg repeated

Guest or Captive? his wish to meet Marshal Malinovsky and asked Danilash to convey this to his superiors. ‘Wallenberg spoke in a self-assured and challenging manner,’ according to Danilash, who also remembered two young Russian girls peeping through the glass door leading to the kitchen. ‘They have been detached to do my cooking,’ was Wallenberg’s commentary. Another question occupying Wallenberg during the talks with Danilash was the confiscated Studebaker which he was very anxious to retrieve. ‘I have made all possible attempts to get it back, but instead of my own car I have been given one taken as a war trophy, and that’s something I do not and never will accept,’ he explained. ‘I demand my car back and will not bargain.’ Considering the contents of the petrol tank Wallenberg’s concern was justified. What he did not know was that the car had been requisitioned by a Captain Bush, chief of battalion, who in order to impress a woman officer had driven the car so fast that it overturned in a bend. According to Golub the car was returned to Wallenberg, but only after it had been repaired at the 151st Rifle Division.13 How and under which circumstances Wallenberg got the Studebaker – which was a loan from György Wilhelm – back is unknown. And what happened to the gold and jewellery? Did Wallenberg somehow manage to get the valuables out of the petrol tank? Were they still there when the car was returned? And was it ever returned, as Golub claimed? We do not have the answers to these questions. What we do know is that after the talk with Danilash Wallenberg again visited the Swiss legation. There he met with Miklós Krausz, telling him that he had given the Russians two briefcases and that he had come to fetch a third one. He said it contained documents but Krausz was convinced that it also contained valuables belonging to his protégés. ‘I think Wallenberg meant that he couldn’t save the money and the valuables unless he took them to a safe place,’ was Krausz’s view. The visit to the Swiss legation shows that Wallenberg enjoyed some freedom to move around in Pest, something that he must have regarded as a recognition of his diplomatic status. However, he was escorted everywhere by Soviet officers and, although he was treated well, felt ‘as if he were in protective custody’ because of the constant surveillance. The reason that he could move so freely and was allowed to visit places connected with his mission was probably that SMERSH wanted to check the accuracy of the information he provided. On 16 January, the same day that Wallenberg visited Krausz, Dekanozov sent a note to the Swedish envoy in Moscow, Söderblom, notifying him that Wallenberg had been found in Budapest and that ‘measures to protect R. Wallenberg and his property have been taken by the Soviet military authorities’. The information



The Hero of Budapest was based on Colonel Dmitrienko’s report of 14 January. On 17 January the note was forwarded by Söderblom to the Swedish foreign ministry which, in turn, immediately informed Raoul’s mother.

Soviet Distrust As we have seen, Wallenberg had nourished the idea of contacting the Hungarian provisional government in Debrecen for several weeks, ever since the Arrow Cross attack on the Swedish legation. Shortly before crossing the Soviet lines he received information convincing him that his presence in Debrecen was more needed than he could have imagined. Áron Gábor, the nominal owner of Károly Müller’s publishing house, had at the beginning of December fled to Debrecen where he contacted General Béla Miklós Dálnoki, prime minister of the newly formed interim government. With his assistance and with the support of the Soviet marshal Kliment Voroshilov, head of the Allied Control Commission in Hungary, Gábor was appointed general secretary of the reorganised Hungarian Red Cross. With the collaboration with Wallenberg fresh in his memory he decided to contact the latter in Budapest. Since the Hungarians thought that the Soviet command respected Wallenberg’s work they asked the Russians to forward a letter to him. The answer, however, was a flat refusal, since ‘the Swedish Red Cross and particularly Wallenberg’s organisation was a pure spy organisation’. In spite of the rejection, Gábor wrote a letter in which he described the ravages of the Soviet army in the liberated part of Hungary: thefts, rapes and the spreading of venereal diseases. He also reported about grave violations of the Geneva Convention’s rules for the treatment of prisoners of war. Wallenberg was urged to turn to the Swedish king and to the Pope in order to make them exert pressure on Stalin. Gábor also asked Wallenberg to try to deliver medicine and other necessities to the Red Cross in the part of Hungary controlled by the Russians. He begged him to come to Debrecen as soon as possible in order to persuade the Soviet command to respect the activities of the Hungarian Red Cross – which they did not. The plea was signed by Gábor and another person known to Wallenberg.14 The letter was sent to Budapest with the prime minister’s secretary, István Tarnay, who delivered it to Wallenberg personally around 13 January. Wallenberg promised to convey Gábor’s wishes to Stockholm and asked Tarnay to tell Gábor that he would come to Debrecen as soon as he possibly could.

Guest or Captive?

Liberation of the Ghettos While Wallenberg was in Soviet protective custody the fight for the survival of the ghetto inhabitants continued. The leadership of the administration of the International Ghetto had after Milkó’s death been taken over by Rezső Müller, who together with his colleague Ödön Gergely did what he could to defend the interests of the protégés. The ghetto was guarded by 25 policemen who on 12 January were ordered to report to the Arrow Cross headquarters at the Szent István Ring in order to take part in the fight against the Soviet forces. Müller and Gergely urged them not to leave. All stayed except three. Those who chose to stay were rewarded in the form of Swedish Schutzpasses. On 15 January both the Germans and the Arrow Cross had left the ghetto and Müller contacted representatives of the Soviet army to ask them to stop firing. At six o’clock the next morning the International Ghetto was liberated by Soviet soldiers. At the same time 300 protégés were liberated at Üllői Road, where fierce battles between Soviet and German forces had been fought. As early as a few hours after the liberation Wallenberg showed up in the ghetto. The head of the Swedish hospital, Aladár Feigl, saw him at about ten o’clock talking to two Soviet officers. He went up to him and asked him to come over to the hospital. Wallenberg, who ‘seemed somewhat irritated’, answered that it was not possible but that he would try to come the next day. When Pál Névi, the hospital’s manager, tried to follow Wallenberg he was ‘chased away by the Russians’. On the day that the ghetto was liberated Hugó Wohl, sitting in the vault of the Hazai Bank, composed a report about the history of the Swedish rescue mission. According to his computations Schutzpasses had been issued to 8,000 people, of whom, during the last few weeks, 2,000 had been moved to the Central Ghetto. ‘The so-called Swedish protected Jews, and even more so those who were not protected, have been stricken by poverty. They have been subjected mentally, physically and financially to the most horrific privations. One of our most challenging tasks will be to reinstate these people in normal everyday life.’ The same went for the inhabitants of the Central Ghetto, which at the beginning of January was subjected to repeated looting and killing sprees by the Arrow Cross and the SS. Although Ernő Vajna had ordered, after protests from the Jewish Council, that only persons equipped with special permits be allowed to enter the ghetto, on one occasion 43 people were killed. In answer to this Pál Szalai on 12 January sent 100 policemen to patrol the streets together with 15 specially selected Arrow Cross men. Szalai also assumed personal responsibility for maintaining order.



The Hero of Budapest Soon rumours were spread that the SS and the Arrow Cross were planning to annihilate the ghetto before the Soviet army marched in. According to some, the massacre was to be effected through a German air raid, according to others by SS and Arrow Cross forces which would execute the inhabitants on the spot. Szalai, who was kept informed by the Jewish Council, paid a visit to Vajna to try to persuade him to stop the action. Vajna said that he was conscious of the plans but that there was nothing he could do. Szalai then turned to General Gerhard Schmidhuber, commander of the 13th Tank Division, who like Vajna was residing in the vault of the Town Hall. ‘I warned him, on Szabó’s advice, that according to Wallenberg’s statement, unless he prevents this vile criminal act, he will be held responsible and accountable not as a soldier but as a murderer,’ Szalai remembered. According to Szalai, Schmidhuber was influenced by the argument, had several of those responsible seized, summoned Vajna and Police Commissioner Kubissy and ordered them to stop the plans. It cannot be proved that it was the threat pronounced in Wallenberg’s name that made Schmidhuber act. But the very fact that Szalai chose to lean on Wallenberg’s authority testifies to the position that the Swedish diplomat enjoyed and to the effect that his words were expected to have. The ghetto was liberated by the Soviet army two days later, at dawn on 18 January. ‘In the last analysis,’ writes Randolph Braham, chronicler of the Hungarian holocaust, ‘the rapid advance of the Soviet forces was the major factor in the liberation of the ghetto and the Jews in the rest of the capital.’ The liberation was a fact. So was the extermination of one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe. At the beginning of the war some 250,000 Jews were living in Budapest. During the war years the city’s Jewish population was diminished by 100,000 people, 85,000 of them after the German occupation in March 1944. All in all 570,000 of Hungary’s 825,000 Jews fell victim to the Holocaust, 437,000 of them in the course of less than two months in the spring of 1944.

Last Visit to the International Ghetto According to one source Wallenberg spent the night of 16 and 17 January at Benczúr Street with Colonel Dmitrienko, according to another they arrived there in the morning to fetch suitcases and other things needed for the journey to Debrecen. Among other things Wallenberg retrieved a briefcase with money that he had left with György Wilhelm. ‘He said,’ remembered Wilhelm, ‘that he

Guest or Captive? did not know whether he was the Russians’ guest or their captive,’ but he was ‘in a confident mood and made some humorous remarks about his situation’. From Benczúr Street Wallenberg went to the liberated International Ghetto. He was dressed in a grey tweed sports suit. He was accompanied by György Gergely, who was in charge of five Red Cross houses in the ghetto, and by László Pető, who had come to the T section early in the morning to meet his friends. The car put at their disposal by the Russians was driven by Langfelder. The back seat was filled with suitcases, Raoul’s sleeping bag and some rucksacks. The little blue car was escorted by Colonel Dmitrienko and two Uzbek soldiers bearing the same surname, Yuldashov, on a motorcycle with a sidecar.15 According to Pető Wallenberg was ‘in an excellent mood’ during the trip. He told Pető that he had received permission from the Soviet city commandant Chernyshov to go to Debrecen, that he had been treated well by the Russians and even been given a servant. The aim of Wallenberg’s visit to the ghetto was to say farewell to his colleagues and to make some practical arrangements before the journey. In the office at 6 Tátra Street he met Rezső Müller and Ödön Gergely. Mátyás Bicskei, a Jew with Swedish protective papers living in the house, remembered Wallenberg entering the office on the first floor in the company of an officer who looked ‘jovial and kind’. He carried a soft briefcase. He told Müller and Gergely that he was on his way to Debrecen. He said he did not know when he would be back but that it probably would not be before eight days, at the earliest. For the needs of the protégés he left 100,000 pengö with the office’s treasurer Jenő Bíró. He also reminded them that he had deposited jewels and other valuables in a secret safe in the Hazai Bank without a receipt. According to Gergely, Wallenberg’s briefcase contained new 1,000 pengö banknotes to a total of several millions.16 ‘These are assigned to me. I am not sure whether they are for my protection or for guarding me,’ Wallenberg said to Pető, alluding to the Soviet escort, and repeated what he had said before to György Wilhelm: ‘I am not sure whether I am a guest or a captive.’ According to Rezső Müller, Wallenberg whispered the same words in his ear but with a more ominous ring: ‘I have to go, whether as their guest or their captive I don’t know. I have to go with these two gentlemen.’ The conversation with the office employees lasted for about 15 minutes. Wallenberg then went over to the Swedish hospital a few blocks away. There he bumped into György Libik, son-in-law of Nobel Prize laureate Albert SzentGyörgyi and Anger’s chauffeur. ‘I am going to meet the Russians. I have money with me and will try to help the Jews,’ he told him. At the hospital he met Pál Névi and enquired about the conditions there. He also took with him some



The Hero of Budapest provisions for the journey. On leaving, he slipped on the icy pavement. At that moment three old Jews still wearing the yellow star emerged from a house. ‘I’m glad that my mission has not been entirely unsuccessful,’ he said and went on with Névi to the Dunapark Café at Pozsonyi Road where he got into his car. In spite of Wallenberg’s uncertainty as to whether he was the Russians’ guest or their captive there is little to indicate the latter. ‘He did not behave like someone who seriously thought he was a captive,’ remembered Pető. ‘It was probably his characteristic mocking, humorous way of talking.’ The attending officer did not watch over him and he could move freely. If he had wanted to escape he could no doubt have done so since he knew the surroundings well, as opposed to his escort. ‘Besides, he asked me to accompany him to Debrecen,’ Pető says. ‘A “captive” would surely not have asked that, and Wallenberg would never have got a friend into such a situation in which he would have to “accompany him into captivity”.’ On the way from the ghetto Wallenberg’s car collided with a military truck transporting Soviet soldiers. A row started. The fault was Langfelder’s and the soldiers wanted to seize him. But Colonel Dmitrienko explained that he was a diplomat and they were allowed to carry on. The car was damaged, especially one of the wings, and Wallenberg is supposed to have said: ‘How can I carry on for 200 kilometres in this car?’ László Pető and György Gergely were accompanying Wallenberg since they wished to follow him to Debrecen. But when Langfelder told them that Buda would soon be liberated Pető changed his mind as he was anxious to see his parents who were hiding there. He therefore left the car close to his home. As to Gergely, he had agreed with the Red Cross delegate Hans Weyermann that if he first got in touch with the Russians, he would try to make them recognise the Red Cross organisations on Soviet-occupied territory. However, Wallenberg rejected Gergely’s proposal with the argument that he had no permission to accompany him. When he left the car his place in the back seat was taken by one of the escorting Soviet military. After this, they went on to the City Park, where one of Wallenberg’s drivers spotted them. When Langfelder was asked where they were going he answered: Debrecen. This is the last certain testimony about Wallenberg and Langfelder in Budapest.

Moscow Debrecen is located in eastern Hungary, not far from the Romanian border. The aim of Wallenberg’s visit to Marshal Malinovsky was to secure protection for the Swedish safe houses1 and to present his rescue plan for postwar Hungary. It did not go as planned, however. When, on 20 January, his co-worker László Sulner was negotiating with representatives of the Soviet authorities about an employee of the Swedish legation who had been seized, he was told that Wallenberg never reached Malinovsky’s headquarters but had most likely been arrested. According to another source, at about the same date Wallenberg sent a message to Pál Szalai from a convent at Szent Domonkos Street to the effect that he ‘had problems’; in the prevailing chaos, however, there was nothing that Szalai could do about it. What had happened was that on the same day on which Wallenberg visited the International Ghetto, the following arrest warrant was issued in Moscow: Raoul Wallenberg found at Benczúr Street in the eastern part of Budapest shall be arrested and brought to Moscow. Corresponding instructions have been given to the counter-espionage organisation SMERSH. Ensure necessary means for the realisation of this operation. Report the time for the transport to Moscow and the name of the responsible attendant. The warrant was signed by Deputy Defence Commissar Nikolai Bulganin and addressed to Marshal Malinovsky with a copy to the head of SMERSH, Viktor Abakumov. It was put into effect two days later, on 19 January. Wallenberg’s message to Szalai that he was having problems was thus no overstatement. Vilmos Langfelder was arrested at the same time as Wallenberg.


The Hero of Budapest After the arrest of Wallenberg, the first regular interrogations with him could be held. On 22 January, the 2nd Ukrainian Front SMERSH unit turned out a report containing a list of the addresses of the foreign legations in Budapest.2 The list was said to be based on information from a representative of Slovakia and from ‘the arrested secretary of the Swedish legation Wallenberg’. It contained addresses of eight offices belonging to the legation and the number of protégés staying in each house. After Wallenberg’s arrest, the ‘belongings’ under Soviet protection were of course confiscated. What did they consist of? We know that he carried with him documents pertaining to the activities of the Swedish legation in Budapest; his plan for the reconstruction of Hungary after the war; photographs of atrocities committed by the Nazis and the Arrow Cross Party. We also know that he had with him money in various currencies as well as gold and valuables. According to the representative of the Swedish Match Company, Jamnik, it was ‘commonly known’ that Wallenberg had valuables in the car. And Wallenberg’s bodyguard Bajusz thought that it was ‘fatal for him’ that he spent so many days preparing his journey: ‘In these four or five days, so many people could have learned about his mission, so many people could observe him, the many Arrow Cross people, and those who were his enemies.’3 In fact, quite a few people seem to have known about Wallenberg’s plans and his valuable load, which testifies to a considerable naivety and carelessness on his part. If this knowledge was, at the beginning, restricted to a relatively small group of people, two years later it became everyone’s property. In the July 1947 issue of Reader’s Digest one could read that ‘Raoul was taken into custody for attempting to conceal large amounts of gems, banknotes and other Jewish property from the Russians’. The information was said to come from ‘Hungarian newspapermen’. How the confiscation took place is impossible to know, but it is mentioned by several sources. Although the information is not of course reliable in detail, it is valuable as an indication that a confiscation did in fact occur. According to one source, after his arrest Wallenberg was taken to a basement in Újpest in northern Budapest in a Soviet armoured car or tank. When his car was brought there the next day ‘documents and quite a few valuables (jewellery etc.) were found.’ Another source states that Wallenberg, when asked if he had any valuables with him, denied it and pointed to his wristwatch as the only item in that category. Through a spy in Wallenberg’s intimate circle, however, the Soviet security services knew about the valuables and sequestered them. So someone had reported on him. As opposed to the confiscated money, which was taken to

Moscow Moscow and registered, there is no account of what happened to the gold and valuables. In all probability they were simply stolen by soldiers and officers on the spot. Gold and jewels were a more attractive loot than foreign currencies which a Soviet citizen could not handle without significant risks and which moreover lost their value once they crossed the border to the Soviet Union.4 Just like the information about the seizure of the money and the valuables, reports about Wallenberg’s fate after 17 January are scarce and partly contradictory. Surviving testimonies contain trustworthy pieces of information as well as less credible ones. What we do know is that Wallenberg in all probability did not make it to Debrecen and that he was arrested on 19 January. According to one witness, he and Langfelder were subsequently interned in a former police headquarters at 26 Vig Street in Budapest’s VIIth district. József Marton claims that he shared a cell there with a Hungarian Jew named ‘Vilmos Landler’, who told him he worked as a driver and interpreter to a Swedish diplomat interned in the same place. It is difficult to imagine that ‘Vilmos Landler’ was any other than Vilmos Langfelder. Marton had no personal contact with the Swede but through the cell window sometimes saw him taking walks in the company of a Soviet officer ‘with whom he seemed to be having a conversation’. ‘Landler’ was, according to Marton, ‘in very good spirits and not at all pessimistic as to his prospects of being set free’. He ‘trusted wholeheartedly in Wallenberg’s influence and was convinced that the latter would not fail him, since they had worked so closely together’. According to Marton, Wallenberg seemed to ‘enjoy a different treatment’ from the other prisoners and he got the impression that he was held in ‘protective custody’ so that the Germans could not get at him. The very fact that a Swede was kept prisoner, however, surprised both Marton and other detainees. After the internment at Vig Street Wallenberg may have been taken to Gödöllő, a town situated about 30 kilometres northeast of Budapest. Here a Soviet POW camp was located in a high school. A witness who arrived at the camp around 20 January states that he met a Swede who showed him his diplomatic passport. The Swede was dressed in a black suit, remembers Jerzy Trau. The camp at Gödöllő was no prison, and the detainees could move freely around the grounds and had no assigned places to sleep; one slept where there was room. On several occasions Trau slept beside the man who might have been Wallenberg. Red Cross worker Alexander Kasser also heard rumours in February that there was ‘even a diplomat’ being held in the Gödöllő camp. Another piece of information about the fate of Wallenberg and Langfelder after 17 January comes from Langfelder himself. According to him, they were


16.1  The Lubyanka’s ‘inner prison’, formerly the Russia Hotel.

Moscow taken to ‘a Soviet Russian military base in a village where they were treated in a friendly manner’. However, when they wanted to return to Budapest, ‘they were detained and treated as prisoners.’ What we do know is that on 25 January Wallenberg was sent to Moscow – this is evident from a telegram to Bulganin from Colonel General Zakharov, chief of staff of the 2nd Ukrainian Front. The telegram mentions only Wallenberg, but Langfelder also travelled to Moscow. It is possible, however, that they were kept apart during the journey. Wallenberg was guarded by a Captain Zenkov and four soldiers. It took almost two weeks, which means that stops were made on the way. The first stage was presumably covered by truck or bus because of the bad train communications. Other prisoners of war have related how they were transported to the Romanian border in trucks. It is reasonable to believe that Wallenberg and Langfelder were at some stage interned to await further transportation. From the Romanian border the journey continued by train. About that part of the journey we know only that at the station in Iaşi Wallenberg was allowed to leave the train and visit a restaurant called ‘Luther’. Iaşi is one of the largest cities in Romania and for a few years during World War I it served as the country’s capital. It is also known as the place of one of the worst pogroms during World War II when on one day in June 1941 more than 13,000 Jews were killed by Romanian civilians, police and military. The town was located a few kilometres from the border with the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic and only about 200 kilometres from Odessa, which indicates that the journey to Moscow may have continued via the Black Sea port. During the journey, Wallenberg is said to have written ‘some memoranda’ or, alternatively, begun pondering ‘a thriller with espionage motives’, for which he wrote a synopsis and a name index. On arrival in Moscow on 6 February, he was interned in the Lubyanka prison. So was Langfelder. Before that, they are supposed to have been shown the Moscow metro and brought to the prison on foot. If this piece of information is correct, Wallenberg and Langfelder were not treated as normal prisoners. Which they were not – they were to regard themselves as taken into ‘protective custody’, it was explained to them.5

A Legation Astray On 17 January the Soviet army launched its final attack on Budapest. At 7.25 in the evening the German commander Pfeffer-Wildenbruch was allowed to retreat



The Hero of Budapest

16.2  The Chain Bridge after being blown up by German troops. to the Buda side. Only two of the bridges were still standing, the Elizabeth and the Chain. The evacuation went on the whole night and not only by the military – many civilians also fled from the Soviet forces. At seven o’clock the following morning the bridges were blown up and the connections between the city’s two parts severed. From now on, the Danube could only be crossed by boat – or, a few days later, when the river froze, on foot. Buda was still controlled by the Germans but under heavy fire from the Pest side. The Soviet army was advancing from the west as well and closing in on Buda. This meant that the German army was encircled. After hard battles Buda was taken by the Russians on 11 February. A few days later a German attempt to break out of the encirclement led to thousands of German soldiers being massacred in an ambush. During these days the members of the Swedish legation were still hiding in different places in Buda, as they had since the attack on the legation on Christmas Eve. Per Anger and Yngve Ekmark with Countess von Berg in Úri Street, Minister Danielsson, Göte Carlsson, Margareta Bauer and Asta Nilsson in Count Eszterházy’s palace. The only person who could move more or less freely was Lars Berg, who was equipped with German protective papers. Per Anger remembered that they survived thanks to a small stock of tinned food;

Moscow otherwise, the daily ration consisted of a watery soup. One day a horse that had dropped dead outside the front door contributed to the menu: We were not slow to join the swarm of people who hurried from all directions, brandishing knives and other instruments, to get themselves a piece of horsemeat. It was a macabre sight. Old and young, women in furs and poor labourers, all crowded eagerly around the cadaver of the horse, attempting to chop off the largest piece they could. The bomb attacks gradually became so intense that Anger and the others had to move down to the basement, which was a part of the galleries under Castle Hill dug out by the Ottomans. ‘Separation into womens’ quarters and men’s quarters was out of the question,’ remembered Anger. ‘We lived like cavemen with one problem overshadowing all others – survival.’ After having tried in vain, together with the Swiss and the papal nuncio, to persuade the German military command to capitulate, Anger decided to try to make it to Rose Hill, which was closer to the Soviet lines and where the Swiss and the Swedes had prepared evacuation houses for their legations. Together with Ekmark he managed to get there. The walk, which would normally have taken half a hour, took half a day because of overturned cars and bomb craters that had to be negotiated. Anger recalled that they had to throw themselves to the ground again and again in order to avoid being shot down by Soviet fighters sweeping over the city at low altitude. The house in Sarolta Street proved to be habitable, but Anger sent word to Danielsson that it would be best for him and the Swiss to put off the evacuation. However, Göte Carlsson joined them a few days later. On 30 January, the Soviet army occupied the area and soldiers showed up at the building. After Anger had given their officer his watch, the Russians left and guards were posted at the front door. The next day he, Carlsson and Ekmark were taken at their own request to General Pavlov’s headquarters in the village of Soroksár, south of Budapest. There they were first lodged in a barracks crowded with Soviet soldiers, but after protests they were given their own house. They had managed to hide and bring along the legation’s cipher machine which they now smashed with an axe. During the following weeks they accompanied the general’s staff as they moved behind the front, ending up, in mid February, in the village of Dunavecse, 50 kilometres south of Budapest. Stockholm had had no contact with the legation since 23 December and knew nothing about its fate. ‘Very worried legation’s fate,’ the foreign ministry telegraphed to the Swedish legation in Moscow on 9 February. In fact, the



The Hero of Budapest members of the legation were in the same state of uncertainty as to the fate of one another. While Danielsson, Bauer and Nilsson were still staying in Count Eszterházy’s palace, and Anger, Carlsson and Ekmark in Rose Hill, Berg and von Mezey were guarding the legation in Gyopár Street, where, thanks to Ekmark’s efforts, the supply situation was quite good. When, on 11 February, Berg saw Soviet soldiers rushing up Castle Hill, he understood that they would soon show up at the legation and hastened to put up big signs on the doors: ROYAL SWEDISH LEGATION. REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SOVIET UNION IN HUNGARY. The signs had been prepared long since but were kept in a secret place so the Arrow Cross would not discover them during their unannounced visits to the legation. In the afternoon the first Soviet soldiers knocked at the door. Berg had hoped that ‘the eagerly awaited hour of liberation had come’. But he turned out to be wrong, because ‘the German persecution of the Jews and the encroachment of the Nyilas [Arrow Cross Party], yes, even the horrors of the siege, were going to fade away like innocent fairy tales in comparison with the dramas of terror the city now was going to experience’. The Soviet soldiers had been granted 48 hours of ‘free ravaging’ after the occupation of Buda, which led to looting and rape on an unprecedented scale. Ten per cent of Budapest’s population are said to have been raped, young as well as old, mainly women, of course, but men also. Péter Zwack, whose family was hiding in Minerva Street, remembered that most of the soldiers came from Central Asia and that their arms were covered with wristwatches up to the armpits: They would come into the houses and take the women away saying that they needed them to peel potatoes. We saved my mother by putting her in bed and covering her with blankets and then sitting on top of her. The soldiers just drank a bottle of her eau de cologne and went away. The legation itself was also hit by the ‘free ravaging’. The looting, which went on for three days, was later described in almost identical terms by Berg and von Mezey in reports to the foreign ministry. To begin with, the Soviet soldiers behaved ‘rather innocuously’, remembered von Mezey, but as soon as they discovered the minister’s wine cellar, containing c. 1,000 bottles, among them 150 bottles of cognac and other brands of hard liquor, the 100-strong unit became more or less intoxicated.

Moscow The soldiers were running around with bottles of cognac in their hands, looking for booty. Protests were futile; they answered that war is war. […] To begin with, the Russians were looking for gold, jewellery and spirits. The following days their interest turned to clothes and rugs, etc. The most desirable objects were wristwatches and lighters. Around seven o’clock in the afternoon the officers gathered in the attachés’ room to have supper. […] The meal […] soon turned into an uncontrollable drinking bout. Towards the end of the party officers and privates who had been arriving were found in a hopelessly drunken state at and even under the table. They even went so far as to foul both floors and beds. […] The minister’s […] cabinet was used as a toilet. […] Even a case with table silver belonging to the former Soviet legation, with a clear inscription on it and with every piece engraved with a hammer and a sickle, was opened and looted. Just as Wallenberg had been deprived of his Studebaker, all the legation’s eight cars were confiscated. Most of them were unusable after the bombardments and had to be removed by horses. When Berg and von Mezey protested against the confiscations, the officers showed a document giving them the right to confiscate all cars they could find. The legation’s supply of food was also looted. The pillage was completed on 13 February when three big safes were smashed open with the help of axes, crowbars and sledgehammers. ‘Within two hours all three safes were broken open like sardine tins,’ von Mezey recalled. Shares and other papers were left untouched, but ‘gold, currencies, jewellery and precious stones belonging partly to the legation, to the legation staff, partly constituting deposits from Dutch, Iranian, Argentine, Romanian and other citizens, whose interests in Hungary were represented by the legation’ were confiscated. According to von Mezey, one of the maids – his sister – was raped. Lars Berg left the legation after the initial pillaging on 13 February. His request for protection of the legation was rejected by a Soviet military command with the argument that they could not know who he was since they had ‘already come across thousands of “Swedes” with Swedish identity papers of all sorts’. He was therefore directed to the city commandant General Chernyshov in Pest. Berg managed to cross the Danube on a ferry and get to the Red Cross headquarters at Üllői Road. The Langlets were not there, having gone to Debrecen to discuss with the provisional government how the work of the Red Cross could be continued. In the absence of Danielsson and others, Swedish interests were represented by a Russian émigré, Mikhail Kutuzov-Tolstoy, head of the legation’s



The Hero of Budapest hospital for Soviet prisoners of war and charged by the city commandant to manage a bureau with the task of looking after the interests of foreigners in Budapest – more about him in the chapter ‘Liquidation’. Berg met Chernyshov but the conversation led nowhere. The general claimed he could not be held responsible for what happened on the Buda side. Considering the fact that so many of the members of the legation were still missing, Berg dared not return to Gyopár Street but decided to open a branch office in the Red Cross headquarters. In Wallenberg’s absence the work of the humanitarian section had been resumed under the leadership of Ottó Fleischmann, assisted as before by Forgács, Wohl and Hegedűs. They had rather substantial sums of money at their disposal. However, from the legation’s perspective continued rescue action for the Jews could not be justified since the Arrow Cross regime was overthrown and the Germans had fled. The section was therefore closed. In connection with the liquidation Berg, in the presence of Hegedűs and one of the directors of the Hazai Bank, opened a parcel that had been deposited there by Wallenberg and had not been discovered by the Russians when they looted the vaults. It turned out to contain 870,000 pengö in banknotes, Raoul’s engagement ring (with a big diamond), a copper plate and the Schutzpass book that he had received as a Christmas gift from his employees. Since Berg did not know whom the money belonged to, he gave it to the new administrative director of the Swedish Red Cross, the lawyer László Josefovits. The ring, the plate and the book he took care of himself for the time being. The legation’s relations with the Soviet city commandant were complicated. Its activities were not prohibited but several of the legation’s staff members, including Kutuzov-Tolstoy, were interrogated. The legation was accused of espionage, of making out false documents and issuing protective passports to non-Jews. According to Berg, the Soviet military authorities showed ‘great aversion’ to the legation, and the fact that Sweden represented the Soviet Union in Hungary met with ‘no gratitude or recognition whatever’. On the contrary, the Swedish legation was accused of not having ‘sufficiently looked after the interests of the Soviet Union’. Berg and Wallenberg in particular were painted as German spies. Berg was twice summoned to interrogations. ‘During these interrogations they were constantly trying to extort evidence especially against Raoul, that he was behind the legation’s supposed espionage.’ In a letter to Raoul’s mother some months later Berg explained that the accusations were ‘grotesque’, considering ‘all the difficulties that the legation had experienced with the German and Hungarian Nazis’.

Moscow Behind the suspicions lay the number of Swedish protective papers, authentic and false, that were circulating. ‘Swiss’ and ‘Swedish’ Jews had also adorned their houses with Swiss and Swedish flags and signs, which is supposed to have made Marshal Malinovsky wonder whether he had arrived in Sweden or Switzerland rather than in Hungary… According to Berg, the inflation of protective documents meant that ‘the Swedish name fell into disrepute, that Swedish documents in general were declared false or invalid and that any intervention for real Swedish interests was made impossible’. As a result, Berg published an announcement in the Budapest press to the effect that all Swedish passport documents issued before 1 February 1945 were invalid. While Berg was establishing the legation’s branch office in Pest, Minister Danielsson was still in Buda. As soon as the German capitulation became known, a sign similar to the one Berg had nailed to the doors of Gyopár Street was attached to the façade of Count Eszterházy’s bombed-out palace. ‘Minister Danielsson was a little nervous, to say the least, when this announcement became a fact,’ recalls Margareta Bauer, who remembered the comic scene that took place at the first encounter with the representatives of the victorious Soviet army: He had lost one of his shoes in the darkness of the labyrinth [under the palace] and could not find it. We were all standing around the minister, solemn and filled with the seriousness of the moment. When there was a knock at the door, we thought that some high-ranking Soviet officers would present themselves, that there would be handshakes and that various formalities would be got out of the way. But no. Instead a horde of, to put it mildly, tipsy Russian soldiers poured in. The minister, in his stocking foot, was standing on a heap of rubble, remains of a bomb that had struck a hole in the ceiling of the arch leading from the street to the backyard, formerly the entrance for horses and carriages. On the floor next to the heap of rubble, which was quite big, stood our newly employed interpreter, a Polish Jew residing in Hungary. […] He was a short, stocky man with small and energetic gestures. One of my really funny memories is the sight of Margel standing on the stone floor, looking up at the minister on the heap of rubble, and the minister standing to strict attention as always, awaiting the solemn moment when the high-ranking Russian officers would present themselves. Flop… Just the mob. They were looking for wine, women, pistols, Germans, and watches.



The Hero of Budapest Everything went quite peacefully – after the soldiers got their wine they disappeared. A few days later, on 17 February, Bauer, by order of Danielsson, went to the legation building at Gyopár Street to see what was going on there. When she arrived she found that the devastation was total. Berg had left for Pest but von Mezey was still there. Bauer’s first measure was to destroy ‘remaining cipher documents, political and trade-policy dossiers, lists and other documents pertaining to the Jews, stamps, etc.’ A few days later, the Soviet guard declared that he had received orders to search for ‘important documents’, which led to the breaking up of the trunks in the cellar where the firewood was kept and to ‘the fraternal distribution between the servants and the Russian guard of articles of clothing, new boots, linens, small and big silver objects, etc.’ The following week a new bout of pillaging took place and the remaining trunks (18 pieces) were taken away in three trucks. An even more thoroughgoing search was carried out on one of the first days of March, when a large amount of valuables that had been stolen by the concierge were found in the ventilator in the boiler room: Swiss francs, dollars and pengö notes, jewellery, including 78 diamonds, four gold watches, five diamond rings, gold bracelets as well as napoleons. Everything was confiscated by the Russians against a receipt that was given to Bauer, who on several occasions was questioned about ‘the legation’s activities in general, the Jew action, the issuing of protective papers to Hungarian non-Jews, the work of the minister, and so on’. On 20 or 21 February Ivan Danielsson was collected from Count Eszterházy’s palace by Soviet military authorities. ‘Now they have come for me,’ Bauer recalled the minister’s words. ‘I don’t know whether I’m a captive or if they are taking me under their protection.’ We recognise the words! As a matter of fact it was at Anger’s request that the Russians had come for Danielsson, who was taken by truck to Dunavecse where Anger, Carlsson and Ekmark were already lodging. The same day von Mezey was taken there as well. ‘A golden cage,’ was Danielsson’s description of the little village where he and the other members of the legation had been sent. Bauer chose to stay in the legation building. ‘That the chief of the legation and probably the other gentleman have been taken away may be a way of bringing them into safety, since even as a neutral diplomat one is not assured of protection neither in one’s home nor in the street,’ Lars Berg wrote to the Swedish minister in Bucharest, Patrik Reuterswärd. He continued: ‘It may however be a measure of a serious political nature, which eventually may lead to the legation being sent home forcibly.’ It is in the light of this general chaos that Wallenberg’s disappearance must be viewed: during these winter months no one knew anything about anything with certainty.

Moscow By the middle of March the prisoners in the golden cage were told that they were to be sent home via Romania and the Soviet Union. Berg was right, the legation was to be evacuated forcibly. After negotiations the members of the legation were allowed to go to Budapest, escorted by Soviet soldiers, to fetch some belongings from the legation building – as well as their colleagues at Üllői Road. ‘It was a dismal Budapest that met our eyes,’ Anger remembered. During our ride through the city not a single whole structure was to be seen. Most of the Buda side lay in ruins, and everywhere the Russians had pressed the civilian population into working to clear the rubble. The Russian engineers had built a wooden bridge over the Danube where the old Margaret Bridge had stood and decorated it with huge portraits of Stalin and Molotov. When they arrived at the Red Cross headquarters they found Lars Berg there, as well as Margareta Bauer, Asta Nilsson and the Langlets. Nobody knew where Wallenberg was. In the first days of February, Valdemar Langlet had reported to the Swedish foreign ministry that the latter had been ‘unavailable’ since 16 January, when he was said to have been ‘on his way from the city to a destination unknown even to his co-workers’. By the end of March, the information provided by Langlet was more precise but also more ominous: Wallenberg was ‘last seen here on the 17 or 18.1 by one of his employees, to whom he said that he was about to be taken away in a Russian automobile, whether as a guest or as a captive he did not know’. In the same letter Langlet allowed himself to speculate about Wallenberg’s fate: There is no evidence that he might have been killed during that journey, but on the other hand none of the Soviet authorities with whom I have been in touch seem to have any knowledge of such a journey, so it is quite possible that in reality he has fallen into the hands of armed Arrow Cross squads, in which case the worst is to be feared. The members of the legation spent the night at Üllői Road. Early next morning, on 15 March, they were taken on a truck bed to Dunavecse, from where five days later they set out on their journey to Sweden. Included in the delegation were – apart from the legation staff – Béla Fény, a Hungarian businessman with Swedish citizenship, with his wife and two children, a Mrs Burde and Margel,



The Hero of Budapest the Polish interpreter. The Langlets chose to stay in Budapest since Valdemar was still suffering from the after-effects of pneumonia. They followed a few months later.

The Lubyanka When the members of the legation started their journey home, Raoul Wallenberg had already been in Moscow for five weeks. The registration card from the Lubyanka prison states that he was a prisoner of war and that he ‘arrived 6/2 1945 from Budapest counter-espionage at disp[osal] SMERSH chief directorate’. His profession is given as ‘dipl[omatic] overs[eer]’ or possibly ‘dipl[omatic] ob[server]’ – an unusual designation suggesting that the authorities were unsure of the prisoner’s professional status. ‘Classification of the crime’ is not indicated. The Lubyanka prison in central Moscow is a pre-trial jail, that is, a jail where one is held awaiting trial, not one where one serves one’s sentence. VIP prisoners were usually taken here. Before the Revolution in 1917 the building belonged to the insurance company Russia but after nationalisation the following year it was turned into the headquarters of the secret police, the Cheka. It is in fact a complex of buildings with a courtyard where a hotel belonging to the company was located. This was remade into a prison (the ‘inner prison’) with 115 cells and room for up to 500 inmates. Since the building used to be a hotel the cells were characterised by a certain degree of comfort – they had central heating, parquet floor and regular beds. The exercise yard was located on the roof but the view was blocked by high walls. In the basement there were rooms specially equipped for torture and executions. The prison became infamous during the political purges of the 1930s. A person who was imprisoned there at about the same time as Wallenberg recalls: ‘Lubyanka’s inner prison had parquet floors in the cells and clean linen – and also a torture chamber […]. There were cells where the radiators were made red hot and the prisoners suffered heat strokes, or, on the contrary, the temperature was lowered to zero.’ The cell walls were hollow, which meant that the prisoners could not use the ‘prison telegraph’, that is, knocking. Also, they did not know where in the prison they were since the cells were numbered randomly. The Lubyanka was thus perfectly arranged to keep the prisoners isolated from one another. When they arrived in Lubyanka, Wallenberg and Langfelder were separated. An unusually ironic fate would have it that Raoul was put in the same cell as a German officer by the name of Gustav Richter. They were more or less the same


16.3  The interior of the Lubyanka prison. The stairs and the handrails show that it was once a hotel. age – Richter was one year younger – but that was almost the only thing uniting them. The German also had a higher education – a law qualification – but he was a Nazi and an SS man (Hauptsturmführer, which corresponds to the grade of captain). In spite of his youth he had served since 1941 as a police attaché with the German legation in Bucharest where he was an ‘advisor for Jewish questions’. That was the title given to those responsible for the extermination of Jews in countries that were allied with Germany but were sovereign states and therefore had to be handled with a certain diplomatic finesse. Richter was directly subordinate to Adolf Eichmann and reported to the ‘Jewish section’ within the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA). His main task was to make Romania judenrein. The goal was to be achieved by ghettoisation and subsequent deportations to the death camp Belzec in southwestern Poland.6 In order to facilitate the action, Richter established, by order of Eichmann, a Jewish



The Hero of Budapest council – just as Eichmann himself would later do in Hungary. In the summer of 1942 Richter obtained permission from the Romanian authorities to start the deportations, which, however, never took place; like Horthy two years later the Romanian government gave in to domestic and foreign pressure. When the pro-German government of Marshal Antonescu was toppled on 23 August, the members of the German legation were handed over to the Soviet forces – among them Gustav Richter, who after a short internment in Bucharest was taken to Moscow where on 7 September he was put in the Lefortovo prison. Just over a week later he was moved to the Lubyanka, where he was placed in cell No. 121. The cell already had an inmate, an Austrian prisoner of war, Lieutenant Otto Scheuer, a radio specialist who had been captured after the battle of Stalingrad in 1943. Richter was thus in every respect Wallenberg’s antithesis. Simplifying matters somewhat, one could say that he was Romania’s Eichmann – with the difference that his annihilation plan was never implemented. He was released in 1955, when Germany and the Soviet Union exchanged prisoners of war. Six years later, the preparations for a trial against him began and in 1981 he was sentenced to four years in prison, a sentence, however, that he did not have to serve since he had spent 11 years in Soviet captivity. After being released Richter gave several witness statements about the three weeks he spent with Wallenberg in cell No. 121, and he also gave interviews to the press.7 There are no traces of ideological tensions in his reports, for obvious reasons: considering his background Richter had every reason to present his relations with Wallenberg as good. Perhaps in fact they were; notwithstanding that he and Wallenberg were ideological adversaries they were united by a common enemy and had better try to get on with each other. There is of course the possibility that Wallenberg was not aware of Richter’s past, which the latter had no reason to account for. However, that possibility must be regarded as slight. When Wallenberg arrived at Lubyanka, his ‘thriller’ was confiscated. The tins he had with him were also taken away, but he was allowed to keep the contents. ‘Wallenberg was,’ Richter recalled, ‘in a very good mood despite the long and adventurous journey and he had a ravenous appetite.’ Richter and Scheuer received officer’s rations whereas Wallenberg only got a private’s ration. For Wallenberg, who ‘obviously had a period of starvation behind him’, that was insufficient and Richter and Scheuer shared their food with him. The same went for tobacco. Private Wallenberg only got pipe tobacco whereas the two officers got cigarettes – 25 every second day.

Moscow The first interrogation with Wallenberg took place two days after his arrival at Lubyanka. It was conducted at night, between 1.15 and 4.35 a.m., which was common. The interrogator was Yakov Sverchuk from the 1st Section (responsible for interrogations of prisoners of war) of the 4th department of SMERSH’s 3rd Chief Directorate – according to Richter, ‘a blond officer with Scandinavian looks’ who every now and then visited Wallenberg’s, Richter’s and Scheuer’s cell ‘in order to sort things out’. ‘You are known to us. You belong to a wealthy Swedish capitalist family,’ Sverchuk is supposed to have told Wallenberg during the interrogation, accusing him of espionage. After this accusation Wallenberg feared they would not understand that the confiscated synopsis was an outline for a thriller but would use it as evidence against him. Richter remembered that after the interrogation Wallenberg referred to Sverchuk as ‘an awful man’. The minutes of the interrogation have not been preserved. Another thing that worried Wallenberg was the reaction of his family when they found out that he was in prison. ‘He was,’ recalled Richter, ‘very concerned about his reputation.’ Richter comforted him, saying that it was no shame but could ‘almost be regarded as an honour to be in a Soviet prison’. Otherwise Raoul talked very little about his family, ‘but mentioned his mother and aunt’ – probably Aunt Nita, to whom he was attached. Sometime in February Wallenberg wrote a letter in German to the prison director where he protested against his arrest and the way he was being treated. In his capacity as a Swedish citizen he insisted that he be allowed to contact the Swedish legation in Moscow. He also complained about the food and demanded improvement. (According to Richter, Wallenberg was otherwise not particularly preoccupied with ‘the material side’.) The letter was originally written ‘in very sharp terms’ but was softened after Richter suggested that ‘a more objective letter would have a much greater effect’. Wallenberg never received an answer to his letter, at least not while he was in the same cell as Richter. But that was not to be expected; Soviet prison wardens were not in the habit of corresponding with their inmates. Despite his fear of accusations of espionage, Raoul was always ‘in a very good mood’ and exercised by walking back and forth in his cell. He used to sing British and American songs. ‘We were able to joke a lot together,’ according to Richter, who remembered that Wallenberg was ‘very funny’ and never showed ‘any signs of being broken’. The cellmates exchanged addresses so that the first to be released could inform the family of the others. On the piece of paper that Raoul gave Richter he indicated the foreign ministry in Stockholm as his address. It was later confiscated during a body search.



The Hero of Budapest According to Richter the treatment in prison was ‘not in itself bad’: they were allowed to take a walk in the exercise yard 20 minutes a day and a bath every tenth day. Time was spent with chess and games of dominoes and ‘long, lecture-like talks’. Wallenberg lectured about Sweden and Swedish history and Richter about Romania (quietly about his own role there, one may suppose). Scheuer, who had been a prisoner of war in Russia already during World War I, helped Raoul to brush up his Russian which he had not used since high school. By borrowing books in Russian from the prison library he got additional language training. Wallenberg and Richter spent three weeks together, until 1 March, when the latter was transferred to another cell. They were never to see each other again. Vilmos Langfelder shared cell No. 123 with Jan Loyda, a turner, and the German legation counsellor in Bucharest, Willy Roedel. Loyda was a Czech who had moved to Germany and become a German citizen. He had served as an interpreter in a wire-tapping unit (Horch-Kompanie). According to Loyda, Langfelder was convinced that he and Wallenberg had been arrested by mistake and would soon be allowed to negotiate with the Soviet authorities. Langfelder’s behaviour was so ‘extremely refined and correct’ that Loyda got the impression that he too was a diplomat. According to Loyda Langfelder had a big toilet bag containing, among other things, needles and threads – items that were usually confiscated.8 Langfelder was interrogated for the first time the night after Wallenberg, on 9 February. The minutes of that interrogation have not been preserved either. After six weeks in cell No. 123, Langfelder was moved on 18 March from the Lubyanka to Lefortovo, which is also a Moscow pre-trial jail, where he was put in cell No. 105. His place in cell No. 123 in the Lubyanka was taken by Wallenberg. Loyda remembered that Raoul regarded his arrest as ‘an inexplicable mistake’ and that, like Langfelder, he was convinced that ‘it would be settled and the planned negotiations would start’. Wallenberg was a ‘very kind, friendly and helpful’ person who exercised every day and sang Swedish folk tunes. As a pastime Wallenberg was drawing sketches for a victory monument in honour of the Red Army (!). He and Loyda were also engaging in pedagogical exercises. Just like Scheuer, Loyda taught Raoul Russian while the latter gave Loyda English lessons. Loyda remembered that he wrote down English words with burned matches on a piece of paper which he affixed under the cell stool with glue made from bread. Jan Loyda was only interrogated once during the two months he shared the cell with Wallenberg. The interrogation concerned his own activities but when the interrogator asked who his cellmates were Wallenberg’s name

Moscow came up. When Loyda answered, ‘The German diplomat Roedel and the Swedish diplomat Wallenberg,’ the interrogator said: ‘Wallenberg is not a diplomat but a Swede who helped rich Jews in Hungary.’9 Loyda conveyed these words to Wallenberg, ‘so that he would have a better idea about his position vis-à-vis the Soviet authorities’. He did not remember Wallenberg’s reaction, however. Wallenberg was also interrogated only once during this period, on 28 April. This time the interrogation took place in the daytime, between 3.35 and five p.m. The interrogator, Kuzmishin, was the same one who had interrogated Langfelder on 9 February. According to Loyda, Wallenberg stated during the interrogation that ‘the Russians had no reason to keep him incarcerated’ since he ‘had worked for the Russians in Budapest’. This, however, Kuzmishin would not believe, stating that Wallenberg was ‘a rich Swedish capitalist, and what would such a person do for the Russians?’ It is interesting to note that during the four months spent by Wallenberg in the Lubyanka prison he was interrogated only twice, whereas during the same period Richter was interrogated no fewer than 21 times, on some occasions three times a day.10

A Soviet Diversionary Manoeuvre Outside the walls of the Lubyanka – and the Kremlin – nobody knew the whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg – neither the Swedish foreign ministry nor his family. The foreign ministry had only Dekanozov’s note of 16 January to go by, according to which Wallenberg had been taken into Soviet custody. A month later, on 17 February, the ministry instructed Staffan Söderblom in Moscow to express to the Soviet Commissariat for Foreign Affairs his worries about the fate of the Budapest legation. He was also asked to hand over a greeting to be forwarded to Raoul. ‘Receive the sincere gratitude of the foreign ministry. Your family sends you their warmest greetings. All necessary instructions will be given as soon as Minister Danielsson has been found.’ It goes without saying that the greeting was never forwarded. That Wallenberg was probably no longer in Budapest the foreign ministry learned on 2 March, when they received two telegrams from the Swedish envoy in Romania, Patrik Reuterswärd. According to one of them, the members of the Budapest legation apart from Wallenberg were staying at the nunciature. (This was not correct, but the important thing was that the staff were safe, and the



The Hero of Budapest nunciature was next door to Count Eszterházy’s palace.) In the other telegram Reuterswärd passed on the information that ‘Wallenberg in Pest 17 January had intention leave by car destination unknown’. In the prevailing chaos it could of course not be excluded that Wallenberg – as suggested by Langlet – was no longer alive but had been killed or had otherwise died. This theory was presented on 8 March by a Hungarian radio station, Kossuth Radio: ‘One of the leaders of the Red Cross work in Budapest […] was Raoul Wallenberg who disappeared without trace on 17 January. All signs indicate that he was killed by Gestapo agents.’ The information was said to be based on an interview with Valdemar Langlet for the Soviet-controlled radio station. It is true that Langlet gave such an interview, but there is no proof that he discussed Wallenberg’s fate in it. The message was in all probability a Soviet attempt to persuade Sweden to stop asking questions about Wallenberg. It did not succeed. Just over a week later, because of ‘the contradictory rumours about the members of the Budapest legation’ circulating in Stockholm, the foreign ministry instructed Söderblom to ‘energetically demand information about the whereabouts of Danielsson, Anger and Wallenberg’.

Alexandra Kollontay Just as the foreign ministry was trying, via the Moscow legation, to find out what had happened to the members of the Budapest legation, in Stockholm private initiatives were being taken to discover Raoul Wallenberg’s fate. In the middle of February his mother paid a visit to Alexandra Kollontay. The Soviet envoy was a well-known and popular person who, as we have seen, had worked closely with Marcus Wallenberg junior during the armistice negotiations between Finland and the Soviet Union. During her illnesses she often convalesced at a hotel belonging to the Wallenberg family. By this time she had been envoy to Sweden for 15 years and was the doyenne of the diplomatic corps. Maj von Dardel had also met her before. ‘We were sitting around a writing desk for a few minutes,’ she recalled. ‘I posed the question about my son. Unfortunately, I did not write down exactly the ensuing conversation. But the most important thing was that Madame Kollontay said Raoul was in the Soviet Union and that he was being well treated.’ At about the same time the envoy asked the wife of Sweden’s foreign minister, Ingrid Günther, to come and see her. During this meeting she said that ‘Raoul Wallenberg is alive in Russia and that it would be

Moscow better if the Swedish government did not make a fuss about it’. Mrs Günther was also reassured that Wallenberg was ‘treated well’. The information coming from the Soviet envoy was sensational since so far it had not been known that Raoul was in the Soviet Union. The request ‘not to make a fuss’ – if that is how the words fell – was a hint that the Soviet side would prefer the matter to be solved with the help of quiet diplomacy. It could also mean that Wallenberg was in the hands of SMERSH and that therefore the question was of an especially delicate nature. In any case, it is less probable that Kollontay’s message was of her own making. Diplomats seldom convey their own messages, least of all Soviet diplomats and least of all in the Stalin years. The envoy’s message was meant for Mrs Günther’s husband, the foreign minister Christian Günther, who was notified immediately. But Raoul’s family was not informed until three years later, in a letter from Ingrid Günther to Raoul’s sister Nina. And only six years later did the meeting become common knowledge, through a newspaper article. In her letter to Raoul’s sister Mrs Günther wrote that ‘Christian did his best to conform to [Kollontay’s request]’. So much so that he did not even convey the sensational message that Wallenberg was alive in the Soviet Union to his colleagues in the foreign ministry! Commenting on Kollontay’s message in 1951, when it became publicly known, Günther said: ‘I absolutely believe that the Soviet envoy was acting in good faith when she passed on the information. We both knew her well. […] But, of course, it is quite another matter whether Wallenberg was in fact in the Soviet Union at the time.’11

Not a Bad Word about the Russians! The Budapest mission’s journey home went via Romania, by bus and train alternately. In Bucharest they were put up at the Hôtel Athéné Palace where incidentally many Hungarian Jews who had fled Budapest were staying. In the Romanian capital they were able for the first time since Christmas to communicate with Stockholm where the hope of ever seeing the members of the legation alive again had almost vanished. After some time in Bucharest they travelled on 4 April to Odessa where they stayed three days before continuing to Moscow. There they arrived in the morning of 13 April. Minister Söderblom ‘displayed a tangible nervousness when we arrived’, Per Anger recalled, and admonished the members of the legation ‘not to say a bad word about the Russians’ when they arrived in Sweden. The stay



The Hero of Budapest was very short, only eight hours. ‘The minister invited us for lunch and then we went sightseeing to Red Square and saw the Kremlin from various sides but did not go inside,’ recalled Margareta Bauer. Söderblom interviewed the members of the legation and held separate talks with Danielsson, who told him about the pillage of the Swedish legation. Concerning Wallenberg Danielsson seems to have expressed the view that he might have been killed, possibly in connection with a robbery – there will be cause to return to Danielsson’s theories in a later chapter. The Budapest Swedes wondered if their colleagues in Moscow had heard anything from or about Wallenberg, recalled Ingemar Hägglöf, first secretary at the Moscow legation. ‘His absence and fate worried them more than anything else. They told us much that was then unknown about his activities in Hungary, about the conditions there under the German regime and what happened when the Russian troops occupied Budapest.’ Söderblom and Danielsson also paid a visit to Mikhail Vetrov, head of the Scandinavian section of the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. During the five-minute-long conversation Vetrov explained that the Swedish legation had been evacuated from Budapest for security reasons since Hungary was a war zone. According to Vetrov’s notes from the talk Wallenberg’s name was not mentioned once. During the stay in Moscow the Swedish Budapest legation was never more than a kilometre from Wallenberg’s cell in the Lubyanka prison, often closer than that. At 7.45 the same evening they continued their journey to Stockholm, via Leningrad and Turku.

Stockholm Even before the Budapest legation started on their journey from Hungary, the main Stockholm Daily, Dagens Nyheter, carried an article with the title ‘Swedish Heroism in Hungary’. It was based on information from a Hungarian who had reached Stockholm after ‘an adventurous journey through Germany’ and who ‘is short of words when he wants to express his gratitude for the sacrifice, the indefatigability and the heroism shown by the whole Swedish legation in Budapest and Swedish individuals in Budapest when the persecutions were at their worst’. The Hungarian apostrophised both Langlet and Wallenberg, but the emphasis was on Wallenberg and his activities. ‘Nothing was impossible for Wallenberg,’ he said. ‘During the days of turmoil his life was threatened

Moscow in anonymous letters, stones were thrown at his car, they tried in all possible ways to prevent him from visiting his protégés, armed gangsters were sent to persecute him, but nothing could make him give in.’ Apart from this article, no other information about Raoul Wallenberg was available when the Budapest legation arrived in Stockholm on the M/S Arcturus in the early hours of 18 April 1945. The day before, the undersecretary of state Vilhelm Assarsson had wired Maj von Dardel to tell her that her son would not be among the passengers. When the ship arrived she was there anyway, in the hope that in spite of everything Raoul would be on board. He was not. The only sign she got from him was the items that Lars Berg had found in the vault of the Hazai Bank: the copper plate, the engagement ring and the Schutzpass book. ‘I gave her the package,’ remembered Berg. ‘She was in tears, tears of the deepest sorrow.’


A Diplomatic Failure A few hours after the Budapest legation’s arrival in Stockholm a press conference was held at the foreign ministry. Danielsson and Anger talked about the legation’s, and not least Wallenberg’s, activities in Budapest, the Arrow Cross attack on Christmas Eve, and so on. Not a word was said about the Soviet looting in February. Anger finished his presentation by saying: ‘Then the Russians arrived and now we are here.’ Söderblom’s admonition was still ringing in his ears! The pillage was of course reported to the foreign ministry immediately, but it became commonly known only a month later when two newspapers published the story. The reportage in the Stockholm daily Svenska Dagbladet the following day had the headline ‘Budapest Legation Lived in Basement’ and the subheading ‘Legation Secretary Disappeared’. It was illustrated with a photo of the legation members at Stockholm harbour and the photo of Raoul which had adorned the article about the outdoor swimming pool in 1935. The joy at their homecoming was, one reads, not ‘unclouded’ as Legation Secretary Raoul Wallenberg, ‘the Swedish diplomat who won the admiration of the whole of Budapest for his brave work for the rescue of the Jews’, was not on board. The article describes Wallenberg’s untiring struggle for his protégés, how he ‘worked day and night […] to look after their interests, collected from prisons people who had been taken away, brought medicine and supplies to the safe houses, etc.’ About his disappearance it reported that one of his co-workers claimed to have seen him ‘on the Russian side’ on 17 January. Wallenberg’s achievement received further praise two days later in a long and well-informed article in Dagens Nyheter. It was based on information from Anger and Danielsson who both underlined Wallenberg’s deeds – not only the protective passports and his rescue actions during the death marches but also his outstanding organisational work (food and medicine supplies, hospital,

A Diplomatic Failure soup kitchens, and so on). Anger told about the death threats against the legation members and first of all against Wallenberg. According to Anger, however, there was still hope that he might be alive. ‘There is a possibility that he has been taken into Russian custody […] and there is also a slight chance that he may have gone to the place where the new Hungarian government is residing.’ Another Stockholm daily, Svenska Morgonbladet, ventured the hypothesis that Wallenberg might have ‘fallen to an Arrow Cross bullet or in fighting between Russians and Germans, nobody knows’.

Marcus Wallenberg’s Letter On 19 April Söderblom sent a telegram to the foreign ministry suggesting that either of Raoul’s uncles, Marcus (‘Dodde’) or Jacob, write to the former Soviet envoy to Sweden, Alexandra Kollontay. The reason was, he specified in a letter the following day, that ‘one of the worries burdening one’s heart is, naturally, Wallenberg’s tragic disappearance’. ‘I know, you see,’ he added as an explanation for his initiative, ‘that Madame Kollontay sets great store by Dodde, and I think that at his request she would do her best to have the matter investigated.’ The reason for Söderblom’s optimism was that during a conversation on 20 March Kollontay had promised him to ‘try to speed up the inquiries about the Budapest Swedes’. The letter was to be sent by diplomatic pouch to Moscow, where Alexandra Kollontay had been living for a month. Shortly after the talks with Maj von Dardel and Mrs Günther the envoy had gone down with a serious case of influenza. As soon as she recovered she was recalled to Moscow by Stalin. The order came on 13 March, and six days later she left Stockholm on a Soviet military plane. The recall was so sudden that the doyenne of the diplomatic corps scarcely had time to say her farewells to her colleagues and friends in Stockholm. Why Kollontay was recalled at such short notice is not entirely clear, but there is no reason to believe that the decision was dictated by concern about her state of health. A feasible explanation is that the recall had to do with her close contacts with the Wallenberg family. With one of the family members in Soviet captivity she risked ending up in a conflict of loyalties. Shortly before her recall her closest collaborator, the legation councillor, Vladimir Semyonov, had also been called back to Moscow, with no motivation and just as speedily. The measures indicate that Stalin was anxious to replace the staff of the Soviet legation in Stockholm as quickly as possible.



The Hero of Budapest It was Dodde, not Jacob, who assumed the charge. He was the one who had had the closest ties with the former envoy and knew her best. On the same day that he was informed about Söderblom’s suggestion he asked Koloman Lauer to provide him with facts – which the latter did by return of post. In a long letter of 20 April Lauer informed Marcus Wallenberg about Raoul’s recruitment and mission in Budapest. The information about the role of the American legation, however, he asked Wallenberg to treat with ‘strict confidentiality’ as he did not have the right to mention it. Since the Russians had reported that ‘Raoul’s person and property were under Russian protection’, Lauer concluded that he ‘got safely to the Russians, who will see to it that no harm comes to him, as they regarded both him personally and his mission with the greatest sympathy’. The details provided by Lauer was no doubt based on information that he, in turn, had received from Per Anger, whom – one may take for granted – he met the same day that he arrived in Stockholm. They also echo a written report by Anger composed on 20 April which may in fact have been intended for Lauer. As soon as Marcus Wallenberg received the information from Lauer he wrote a letter in French to Alexandra Kollontay, ‘on a strictly private matter’. It concerned, he said, Raoul Wallenberg, a relative of his who ‘intervened very forcefully and courageously [in Budapest] to save Jews from the Gestapo and the Arrow Cross’. Citing Dekanozov’s note of 16 January, Wallenberg continued: ‘Now that three months have passed without news, the Wallenberg family, particularly Mr Raoul’s close relatives, are naturally very worried and would be much obliged to you if you could use your influence in order to research the matter during your sojourn in Moscow.’ The letter was dispatched on 21 April and arrived in Moscow on the 27th. As early as the following day Staffan Söderblom handed it over to Kollontay. Söderblom’s own attitude emerges from a meeting he had had with Dekanozov the day before. During their conversation the minister put forward the theory that Wallenberg could have met with ‘an accident’ of some kind. When the deputy foreign commissar asked Söderblom to specify what he meant he said that according to Hungarian Jews who had fled to Bucharest Wallenberg had ‘died in connection with a car accident’. Söderblom’s conversation with Dekanozov was the result of ‘a definitive instruction’ from the Swedish foreign ministry to ‘look up Dekanozov and […] request that the Soviet military authorities under whose protection Wallenberg was placed be urged to conduct a thorough investigation [into] his subsequent fate’. The sharp wording (‘definitive instruction’) came from Foreign Minister

A Diplomatic Failure Günther and was presumably inspired by information he had received from the Budapest legation. Söderblom’s assumption that Wallenberg was dead turned out to be wrong, but at this point he was far from the only one who adhered to it. The arrest of a diplomat was against international law and almost unthinkable. The hypothesis that Wallenberg might have had an accident or been killed thus seemed quite reasonable – especially considering the chaos prevailing in Hungary in January–February 1945. Marcus Wallenberg’s letter was never answered – or the answer has not been preserved.

Minister Danielsson’s Dress Problems Koloman Lauer was not the only one to take an interest in the information from the homecoming Budapest Swedes. So, and to an even greater extent, were of course Wallenberg’s close family. On 24 May Maj von Dardel invited Danielsson for a chat – an invitation that the minister rejected, with the excuse that he ‘did not have a suitable attire’.1 It is a strange argument – Danielsson’s clothes may have been in a bad condition after all his hardships, but he could have bought new ones. And surely Maj von Dardel would have accepted a minister en déshabille in exchange for information about her son! This Danielsson must have understood. Nevertheless, he chose to reject the invitation. Why? Danielsson’s reluctance, of course, had nothing to do with dress code. The explanation must be sought elsewhere. All members of the Budapest legation – Anger, Berg, von Mezey and Margareta Bauer – submitted detailed reports to the foreign ministry about the Arrow Cross attack on Christmas Eve and the Soviet looting in February. Not Danielsson, however, who seems to have reported only to the American minister Herschel Johnson and Iver Olsen of the War Refugee Board. That the foreign ministry did not debrief Danielsson or demand a written report from him is remarkable. Danielsson’s treatment of Raoul’s mother must be seen against the background of his general silence about his time in Budapest – a silence that may be explained by his views of Wallenberg’s activities there. Raoul’s mission was sanctioned by the Swedish government and Danielsson had accepted its conditions. As a trained diplomat, however, he had been critical of Wallenberg’s generous interpretation of his mandate, just like Anger and Berg. The antagonism



The Hero of Budapest between the professional diplomats and Wallenberg were obviously deeper than it has seemed appropriate to admit after his disappearance – that can be read between the lines in memoirs and is apparent from a letter from Lars Berg: ‘Our whole workforce was concentrated night and day on the fight for Sweden’s and Raoul’s cause – although his cause damaged Swedish interests more than the other way around because of his ever more generous staff policy and production of protective documents – against Danielsson’s order.’ It was, however, probably not the minister’s criticism of Wallenberg’s unorthodox diplomatic manners that made him reject Mrs von Dardel’s invitation. The reason seems to have been a different one: that he thought he was privy to information that, if it were true, was highly embarrassing for Wallenberg. Danielsson had been brought to believe that Raoul had no intention of returning the valuables he had with him when he went over to the Russians but wanted to appropriate them. After the fall of Buda Danielsson had been contacted by persons who wanted belongings that they had entrusted to Wallenberg to be returned to them. This we know from Miklós Krausz, who met Danielsson in Switzerland after the war. According to Krausz, however, Danielsson, held ‘no grudge’ against Wallenberg but was ‘genuinely upset and disappointed by these developments’ and ‘almost in tears’ when he told him about it.2 Danielsson’s information was based on second-hand sources, since he had not met Wallenberg after Christmas 1944. That Wallenberg was handling money and valuables was, as we have seen, a fact known to many. That Danielsson drew the conclusion that the goods were stolen is, however, both strange and surprising. Nothing in Wallenberg’s character indicated that he would be capable of anything of the sort. Also, Danielsson was well aware of the fact that valuables disappeared during the Soviet lootings of the Swedish legation in February–March. There can be no doubt that the valuables that Wallenberg was carrying during his last days in Budapest were supposed to be given back to their rightful owners. If Danielsson believed that Wallenberg had other plans for them, however, that may have been reason enough not to want to face his mother.

Lefortovo On 24 May Wallenberg was moved from the Lubyanka to the Lefortovo prison, located in a Moscow district named after one of Peter I’s (the Great’s) foreign generals, the Swiss François Le Fort. The prison has housed

17.1  Cell No. 203 in Lefortovo, which Wallenberg shared with Willy Roedel.


The Hero of Budapest many famous prisoners since it was erected in 1881, among them Alexander Solzhenitsyn. At the same time Willy Roedel was also moved to Lefortovo, whereas Jan Loyda was taken to the third of Moscow’s large prisons, Butyrki. Wallenberg and Roedel were placed in cell No. 203. (Langfelder, as we have seen, had already been moved to Lefortovo in March.) Interestingly enough, Wallenberg was never alone but always shared a cell with other prisoners. In most cases there were three prisoners in each cell. Even more interesting is the fact that most of his cellmates were high-ranking German diplomats or bureaucrats. Considering the accusations of German espionage levelled against Wallenberg, it is difficult to regard this as coincidence. The prison routine was the same as in the Lubyanka. The prisoners were awakened between six and 6.30 and at seven were given a breakfast consisting of tea, bread and five or six lumps of sugar. Between ten and 10.30 certain categories of prisoners, among them diplomats, were given porridge. Lunch (soup and porridge) was served between one and two o’clock and supper (porridge again) between six and seven o’clock. Just as in the Lubyanka the prisoners had the right to a 20-minute daily walk in the exercise yard but that right was often limited to a few walks a week. In Lefortovo too there was a library with books in Russian and a bath, which was located on the first floor. Every tenth day, in connection with the bath, the prisoners were given new underwear and sheets. There was also a pharmacy as well as a surgery and a dentist. Other than that conditions in Lefortovo were much worse than in the Lubyanka.3 The cells were small, three by 2.4 metres – that is, about seven square metres. The largest part of the room was occupied by the bunks and a table 50 centimetres wide. Next to the cell door there was a toilet bucket and a washbasin. The window was equipped with bars and had a metal cover, which meant that the light could only penetrate from below. The thick walls were of plastered brick. The stone floor was cold. The light was on day and night. The Italian diplomat Claudio de Mohr, who was in Lefortovo at the same time as Wallenberg, remembered with horror the conditions in the cell: the filth, the mould, the stench, the cold – in winter, the temperature was only five degrees Celsius – the walks in the exercise yard in minus 30 in tattered clothes and shoes; the food, consisting mostly of porridge and cabbage. If conditions in Lefortovo in most respects were worse than in the Lubyanka, the prison differed positively from the latter on one point: unlike in the Lubyanka the inmates could communicate with one another. The contact was maintained mainly by knocking and through the water pipes – in the summer these were

A Diplomatic Failure usually empty in the upper floors because of the low pressure. By opening the taps the prisoners, whose cells shared water pipes, could use them as a sort of telephone. Since cell No. 203 was on the fourth floor Wallenberg and Roedel could communicate with their neighbours with the help of both methods. In the bath it was also possible to shout one’s name and sometimes even to exchange a few words. The knocking was done in two different ways. The most common method was the so-called ‘idiot system’, where one knock is A, two knocks B, three C, and so on. That method is easy but time-consuming. Another one was the ‘square system’ where the letters are arranged in rows and columns. You first knock to indicate the row, then to indicate the letter. According to this method one strikes a B by knocking once for the row and twice for the column: The most common knocking instrument was a toothbrush handle. Since all kinds of communication between the cells were strictly forbidden the knocking had to be exercised with the utmost caution. In order to conceal the activity the prisoner would be sitting with his back against the wall and a book in one hand while knocking with the other, the one furthest away from the cell door. The arm was not stuck in the sleeve but the sleeve was arranged in such a way that it looked as if it was. From the guard’s perspective – the peephole in the cell door – nothing suspicious could be seen. The prison authorities did not seem to have been aware of how widespread the knocking was. Thanks to Gustav Richter we have firsthand information about Wallenberg’s time in the Lubyanka. Not so in the case of Lefortovo since his cellmate Roedel was killed in the autumn of 1947 (see next chapter). The information available

17.2  ‘The square system’.



The Hero of Budapest is therefore based partly on a few prison documents, partly on knocking and water-pipe communication – according to fellow prisoners Wallenberg was ‘a very zealous knocker’ who ‘talked and knocked in fluent German’. The knocking information became known in the 1950s when some of Wallenberg’s and Langfelder’s fellow prisoners were released and returned to Germany. Wallenberg was held in Lefortovo for almost two years. During this time he was interrogated only twice. The first interrogation was conducted on 17 July 1946 – he had then not been interrogated for 15 months – the second one on 30 August. No minutes have survived from either of the interrogations. From the information Wallenberg provided through knocking and water pipes we know, however, that the accusations of espionage remained. ‘Wallenberg was accused by the Russians of espionage but was held “for years and days” without being interrogated’ (Karl Supprian, general secretary of the German Science Institute in Bucharest). ‘Wallenberg was arrested on suspicion of espionage because he had entered Russian-occupied territory’ (Ernst Ludwig Wallenstein, scientific staff member of the German legation in Bucharest). Wallenberg had ‘on 13 January 1945 in his capacity as administrator of Jewish questions left for the Soviet–Russian headquarters in order to negotiate with the Russians about better conditions for Budapest’s Jewish population. In connection with this Wallenberg was seized and dispatched to Moscow suspected of espionage’ (Willy Bergemann, clerk at the German legation in Bucharest). ‘The Soviet–Russian authorities supposedly accused him of espionage for the Germans’ (Wilhelm Mohnke, commandant of the government headquarters in Berlin). ‘Langfelder was accused of espionage for America – or possibly Britain. In these accusations Wallenberg was also included’ (Ernst Huber, corporal, telegraphist in Romania). Wallenberg’s fellow prisoners also testified that he had ‘as a Swedish diplomat repeatedly protested sharply against his arrest’ (Heinz-Helmut von Hinckeldey, German general staff major in the Romanian army). He also continued to demand that he be put in contact with the Swedish legation or the Red Cross. The answer to this was that ‘nobody took any notice of him’: ‘If the Swedish government or its legation had taken the slightest interest in you, they would have contacted you long ago’ (Bernhard Rensinghoff, economic adviser at the German legation in Bucharest). The lack of interest on the part of the Swedish authorities was said to be ‘the best proof that he was guilty’ and that it was up to him to prove the opposite. The argument about Swedish indifference was meant to break Wallenberg down mentally and was also used against other Swedish prisoners in Soviet captivity – they too were told that ‘the Swedish legation in Moscow showed no interest in them’.

A Diplomatic Failure Since Wallenberg was neither interrogated nor allowed contact with the Swedish legation, he decided to complain directly to Stalin. The letter was written in French and was addressed to ‘Monsieur le Président’. The wording was discussed with the help of knocking mainly with Wallenstein and Rensinghoff, who have testified about the letter independently of one another. Wallenstein claimed it was written around New Year 1945–6, Rensinghoff in the summer of 1946. In the letter Wallenberg, invoking his diplomatic status, demanded to be interrogated and to be put in contact with representatives of Sweden. It was given to the guard and is said to have been sent. It goes without saying that it was never answered. When Wallenberg asked to know what was going to happen to him the interrogator (who every now and then visited the cell) said that his fate – as well as that of the other prisoners – would be decided at a foreign ministers’ conference in March 1947 which was to discuss, among other things, the repatriation of prisoners of war. If that piece of information could be of some comfort, the interrogator’s answer to Wallenberg’s question whether he would be judged or not was more ominous: ‘You will for political reasons never be judged.’ That is, his case was not of a juridical nature.4

Feller and Meier The same day that the warrant for Wallenberg’s arrest was issued, 17 January 1945, a similar warrant was made out for the Swiss diplomats Harald Feller and Max Meier and the Slovak envoy Jan Spišak, who were to be sent to Moscow ‘in the same way as Wallenberg’. This order too was signed by Deputy Defence Commissar Bulganin and addressed to the commander of the 2nd Ukrainian Front, Malinovsky. Judging by a memorandum from the head of SMERSH, Viktor Abakumov, to the Soviet commissar for foreign affairs, Vyacheslav Molotov, the decision was taken ‘in accordance with instructions from Comrade Stalin’, which indicates that Wallenberg’s arrest was also decreed on the highest level. That Bulganin, a loyal but incompetent underling, who in January 1945 had held the post as deputy defence commissar for only three months, would on his own initiative have issued a warrant for the arrest of foreign diplomats is almost out of the question. After the bridges over the Danube had been blown up, Feller asked Meier to look after Swiss interests in Buda while he represented his country in Pest, just like Wallenberg. As we saw, Feller and Wallenberg had had a lot to do with



The Hero of Budapest one another in their efforts to save Jewish lives. The last time they met was at the Swiss legation in Pest during the second week of January. At that meeting, according to Feller, ‘Wallenberg had said that he would try to reach the Russian lines through Pest.’ Feller and Meier were not seized immediately but only several weeks after the arrest warrant was issued. Meier was apprehended at the Swiss legation on 10 February, and Feller during a visit to the Soviet command in Budapest six days later. After a few days in Budapest and the Hungarian countryside they were taken, via Lwów and Kiev, to Moscow, where they were imprisoned in the Lubyanka on 4 March. After being interrogated they were moved to Lefortovo the next day. When Feller was arrested he was told that it was not ‘because they disapproved of him but only with the aim of perhaps using him later as an object of exchange’. At this point about 10,000 Soviet citizens were interned in Switzerland, most of them prisoners of war. At the same time around 6,000 Swiss citizens had ended up behind the Soviet lines. As soon as the Swiss government found out, in the autumn of 1946, that their diplomats were being held captive in the Soviet Union they initiated negotiations about a swap. Since the Soviet Union and Switzerland lacked diplomatic relations the talks were held with a specially established Soviet Repatriation Commission. The Soviet side was anxious to get back two Russian fighter pilots who had fled to Switzerland and asked for political asylum there, Vladimir Novikov and Gennady Kotchetov, a demand that the Swiss refused to comply with because of the country’s asylum laws. Instead they proposed that Feller and Meier be exchanged for six Soviet citizens held in Swiss prisons for minor offences. Switzerland finally agreed to extradite Novikov, but when the Russians announced that they would not release the two Swiss diplomats if both pilots were not extradited, the Swiss gave in and the Russians got both pilots plus the other six Soviet citizens. In return Feller and Meier were handed over to the Swiss authorities on 27 January 1946, a year almost to the day after the warrant for their arrest was issued. In reports given after his release Feller stated that he had been treated well, but also, interestingly enough, that his questions about what was going to happen to him had remained unanswered for months. In this unwillingness to give answers about the future we can see a clear parallel to the treatment of Wallenberg. Another interesting piece of information is that during the four interrogations conducted with Feller, the Soviets showed no interest in Wallenberg or his activities in Budapest. Feller and Meier were thus seized in order to be used in prisoner exchanges. Was that also the case with Wallenberg? We shall return to that question.

A Diplomatic Failure

The Brigittine Convent: An Alternative Trace According to the generally accepted view, Raoul Wallenberg was held captive in Lefortovo in Moscow for almost two years. Is that correct? Yes, if we accept that the available documentation tells the truth. This documentation consists of registration cards from the prison and testimonies of fellow prisoners and cellmates. According to the registration cards Wallenberg entered the prison on 29 May 1945, and left it on 1 March 1947. One of Wallenberg’s fellow prisoners, Willy Bergemann, stated that he had knocking contact with him until they were moved to Lubyanka in the spring of 1947, whereas other prisoners have testified that the contact ceased at the end of 1946. In the enormous Wallenberg material gathered by the Swedish foreign ministry since 1945, there are innumerable reports from people who claim to have met him in various prisons or camps. Many of them are pure fantasy or based on misunderstandings and misconceptions and can be dismissed immediately. But the extensive material also contains testimonies that bear the stamp of credibility. One such case occupied the Swedish foreign ministry for ten years without leading to any final conclusions. True or not, the information provided in this testimony is so remarkable that it warrants attention. It may be a false lead. But it is interesting since it illustrates the difficulties and the traps facing anyone trying to find out the truth about the fate of Raoul Wallenberg. Adolphe Coen (or Kon) was a Polish Jew born in 1910 who after the war worked in ‘Soviet Poland’ – the part of Poland that after 1939 was part of Ukraine – to help Jews emigrate to Palestine. To this end, he was active in various Zionist organisations. In November 1946 he was arrested and brought to the Brygidki prison in Lwów (a former convent belonging to the Brigittine order), in his own opinion because of his cooperation with a Polish officer suspected of conspiracy against the Soviet Union. Coen was held in the Brygidki prison between November 1946 and March 1947. After his release he went to Paris, where on 9 July he contacted the Swedish legation. The reason was that in prison he had been in contact with a Swede whose name was Raoul and whose family name he recognised as Wallenberg when the Swedish minister, Karl Ivan Westman, suggested it to him. According to Coen, Wallenberg had been in cell No. 149, the cell next to Coen’s. Coen had never seen the Swede but they had communicated by knocking and by talking though the cell windows. The communication took place in English. Coen received food parcels from the family of a professor, Ryniewicz, and could share the food with Wallenberg through his window with the help of shoelaces.



The Hero of Budapest Wallenberg told Coen that he was a Swede, that he had served at the Swedish legation in Budapest and that when the Red Army entered the city he had ‘gone to friends in order to save them from acts of violence and that he had had with him a briefcase which the Russians had confiscated’. When it turned out that this briefcase contained jewellery and money, the Russians declared that Wallenberg ‘had tried to withhold property belonging to anti-democratic persons’. According to Coen, Wallenberg was then ‘arrested, beaten and battered and forced to sign a protocol in Russian, the content of which he was ignorant of’. In a letter sent to Minister Westman two weeks later, Coen expressed himself in the following way: From the various conversations I had with Mr R.W. I have come to the conclusion that the only reason why the RKWD5 is still keeping him is that they took a large amount of money from him during his imprisonment, as well as jewellery, which had been given to him by some friends for safety’s sake. A few years later Coen quoted Wallenberg’s story in more precise words: ‘On the last day a Jew had given him a briefcase with very valuable jewels, gold coins and foreign banknotes. When soon after this he was taken by the Russians, both the valuable briefcase and his own wristwatch had been taken from him.’ As we can see, Coen relates the course of events more or less correctly. The information that a Jew ‘on the last day’ had given Wallenberg ‘a briefcase with very valuable jewels, gold coins and foreign banknotes’ echoes the testimony of Miklós Krausz about Wallenberg’s visit to the legation ‘on the last day’ before he was abducted. As we remember, on 16 January Wallenberg came to fetch a briefcase that Krausz suspected contained valuables belonging to his protégés. The other piece of information which forces us to take Coen’s testimony seriously is the following: ‘I also remember that Mr R.W. told me that at the same time as he was arrested, he was notified by a Russian officer of the Security Service that a Swiss diplomat had also been arrested.’ This statement is also true: even if the Swiss diplomats Harald Feller and Max Meier were arrested two weeks after Wallenberg, the warrant for their arrest is dated the same day as Wallenberg’s, 17 January. Since this document became known only in the 1990s, this piece of information can arguably have come only from Wallenberg himself. Wallenberg also provided Coen with information of a personal nature. For example, he said that he belonged to ‘a banking family with great influence’ and that he had a married sister (whose name he had scribbled on a cigarette

A Diplomatic Failure paper which Coen had lost when he was released). Wallenberg also said that he had a brother in the USA, but that may be the result of deficient memory or a misunderstanding on Coen’s part – perhaps Wallenberg had told Coen about his own studies in America. (That Guy was at this time studying in the USA Wallenberg could not possibly know.) There are several pieces of information in Coen’s story that are not correct, but information collected in a prison environment is usually full of contradictions, inconsistencies and misconceptions. What is interesting in Coen’s case is that two of the statements – about the briefcase with the money and the valuables and the arrest of the Swiss diplomat – correspond to the truth. In order for Coen to receive this information Wallenberg must, in other words, have been held captive in the Brygidki prison at the same time as Coen. Is that possible? Our knowledge of Wallenberg’s sojourn in the Lefortovo prison is deficient. We know when he was moved to the prison and we know when he was moved from it. We know when he was interrogated. We have the testimonies of his fellow prisoners. But the information they have left about the order of events often diverges. The monotony of prison days tends to blur the notion of time. As we have seen, one of Wallenberg’s fellow prisoners claimed that Wallenberg’s letter to Stalin was written around New Year 1945–6, whereas another prisoner dated it to the summer of 1946. And when it comes to the registration cards and the information about his interrogations there is no guarantee that they are complete or have not been manipulated. According to available documentation, the last interrogation with Wallenberg in Lefortovo took place on 30 August 1946. The next time he was interrogated was on 11 March 1947 – in the Lubyanka, to which he had been moved on 1 March. During the six months between these dates it is thus feasible that he may have been held somewhere else. That there is no record registering such a move does not have to mean anything. As a matter of fact, it is not impossible that Wallenberg was moved from Lefortovo sometime at the end of 1946. Bernhard Rensinghoff claims that he once heard a knocking from Wallenberg’s and his cellmate Roedel’s cell which meant: ‘We are being taken away.’ ‘This happened during the course of 1946, as far as I remember in the autumn of that year.’ Another German prisoner of war, Anton Mohrmann, who like Rensinghoff was held in a cell under Wallenberg and Roedel, states that, as far as he remembers, he had no contact with them after December 1946. A third prisoner, Karl Supprian, reports that he had knocking contact with Wallenberg and Roedel ‘until 1947’. Given the fact that the information conveyed by Coen must reasonably have



The Hero of Budapest come from Wallenberg himself it is not improbable that Wallenberg may have spent some time around the turn of the year 1946–7 in the Brygidki prison in Lwów. The hypothesis about Wallenberg’s incarceration there is reinforced by the testimony of Wallenberg’s Budapest acquaintance Áron Gábor who was brought to Lwów in February 1947. When he asked whether Wallenberg had been there, several of his fellow prisoners – by Gábor described as ‘completely reliable’ – confirmed that this was the case. The Swedish minister in Paris, Westman, took Coen’s testimony seriously. ‘Personally, I am convinced that the trail is genuine,’ he reported to the Swedish foreign ministry. ‘The amount of detail provided by the informant cannot possibly be made up.’ Westman also stressed that Coen had no idea about ‘the commotion the Wallenberg affair had stirred up in Sweden’, something that guaranteed that he was not out to create a sensation. The head of the Swedish intelligence service, the sharp-minded Otto Danielsson, wrote that one is inclined to give credence to [Coen’s] account, first and foremost because he has not put forward any claims for compensation or reward for his helpfulness, e.g. permission to enter Sweden or that our legation should make any sort of pleas for him. If Coen’s account were a fantasy, why then has he fantasised? When, four years later, in 1951, Coen was interviewed by the Swedish minister in Brussels, he confirmed his account about Wallenberg. Nevertheless, the Swedish foreign ministry chose not to pursue the trail, mainly because Coen had been found guilty of fraud and spent some time in prison. But Otto Danielsson never gave up the belief that Coen might have spoken the truth. ‘I am fully aware that Coen is a man who to a large extent lives by fraud, but the question is whether this is enough to dismiss his account as totally worthless,’ he wrote in 1957. Danielsson therefore suggested that the Swedish government ask the Soviet authorities to investigate whether Wallenberg had ever been in cell No. 149 in the Brygidki prison. This was never done.

Diplomatic Offensive If Wallenberg was indeed moved to Lwów in late autumn 1946, what were the possible motives guiding the Soviet authorities? One motive may have been that they wished to get him away from Moscow because of the mounting pressure

A Diplomatic Failure from the Swedish government at this time. This diplomatic offensive was, in turn, a result of the fact that during 1946 testimonies emerged that strongly indicated that Wallenberg was held in Soviet captivity. So far the Swedish attitude in the Wallenberg affair had been strikingly defensive. When in April 1945 the US ambassador in Moscow, Averell Harriman, offered American assistance in the search for Wallenberg, the offer was turned down with the argument that there was no reason to believe that the Russians did not do what they could – an American intervention was therefore not ‘desirable’. The one who rejected the offer was Staffan Söderblom, who did not even bother to report the proposal to his principals in Stockholm. Since in his contacts with the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs Söderblom had ventilated the theory that Wallenberg had probably been killed in Hungary, he has come to be seen as the major symbol of the passivity and impotence characterising Swedish diplomacy at the time. During a meeting with the new head of the Scandinavian section of the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Abramov, on 26 December 1945 Söderblom presented this theory as his ‘personal opinion’, adding: I know of course that my opinion cannot be of a personal nature, but in this case I would like you to consider it as personal. I take it that Wallenberg is not alive. It is possible that he died in a German air raid or in an attack by some Hungarian or German military unit operating behind the Soviet troops. […] It would be splendid if the mission were to be given a reply in this spirit, that is to say, that Wallenberg is dead. It is necessary first and foremost because of Wallenberg’s mother who is still hoping that her son is alive. She is wasting her strength and health on a fruitless search. […] I stress once again that my request for a reply from the Soviet government, and the contents of this reply is a personal request and my personal opinion. Söderblom reiterated his opinion during a meeting with Stalin on 15 June 1946. He was leaving his post in Moscow after only two years of service and had been granted the rare privilege of an audience with the Soviet leader. According to Söderblom’s own written account of the discussion, he said to Stalin that he was ‘personally convinced that Wallenberg had fallen victim to an accident or robbers’ and that he found it ‘probable that the Soviet military authorities do not have any information about his subsequent fate’. He would, however,



The Hero of Budapest prefer to receive ‘an official message that all possible measures have been taken in order to find him, even if, unfortunately, they had remained fruitless’, and ‘an assurance that we will receive further notice if something becomes known about Wallenberg’s fate’. ‘This is in your own interest,’ Söderblom said to Stalin, ‘since there are people who in the absence of information may draw the wrong conclusions.’ Stalin promised to take on the case. Just as Söderblom had put the words in Abramov’s mouth, he now placed them in Stalin’s. By doing this, he made it possible for the Soviet side to put an end to the Wallenberg affair by referring to his presumed death. Why bother about Wallenberg when the Swedes themselves assumed that he was no longer alive? How can we explain Söderblom’s attitude and behaviour? It is difficult to free oneself from the thought that the Swedes wanted to get the matter off the table since it threatened to damage relations between the two countries. A trade agreement between Sweden and Russia had been under discussion for some time. The talks were intensified in March 1946 and finalised in November. Against this background, was Söderblom’s ‘personal opinion’ really his own? Or did he have the support of the Swedish government? Before the meetings with Abramov and Stalin, Söderblom had visited Stockholm. Is it possible that during these sojourns he was either directly instructed by the foreign minister, Östen Undén, to present the theory about Wallenberg’s death, or at least got the impression that such a message would not be met with disapproval at home? What speaks in favour of the theory that Söderblom’s ‘personal opinion’ had the support of his principal in Stockholm is the fact that the foreign minister did not correct his ambassador after having read his report of the talk with Stalin. Nor did Undén discuss the matter when he met his Soviet counterpart in New York in November of the same year. As the historian Krister Wahlbäck writes, this could ‘on the Soviet side reasonably be interpreted only as a confirmation – if such was needed – that Söderblom’s statement about Wallenberg’s death reflected the real opinion of his government’. This being said, it must once more be underlined that the notion that Wallenberg was no longer alive was at this point not particularly controversial. That Söderblom’s view of the Wallenberg case was not necessarily of his own making but echoed that of the foreign ministry is borne out by the fact that during a visit to Stockholm in May 1946 he once again asked Marcus Wallenberg junior to write to Alexandra Kollontay. Why would he do that if he were so convinced that Wallenberg was dead? When Söderblom returned to Moscow he brought with him both a letter and a present from Marcus: a painting by the Swedish artist Prince Eugen, an acquaintance of the former

A Diplomatic Failure Soviet envoy. The letter has not been located, but Kollontay’s answer shows that she appreciated the painting which was now adorning her study and made her think of Sweden. As to the question of Raoul’s fate, however, her answer provided no reason for optimism. ‘I will do what you ask of me, but when one is no longer on active service one does not have the same opportunities to act.’6 When Gunnar Hägglöf, who had replaced Söderblom as minister in Moscow, visited Kollontay in April 1947 he received the same resigned answer: ‘I would so much like to help, but what can I do?’

New Evidence During the spring of 1946 new circumstances appeared indicating that Wallenberg might be alive in the Soviet Union. At the end of March, a Swedish citizen, Edward af Sandeberg, was released from Soviet captivity. Af Sandeberg, a journalist working for the Scandinavian News Agency in Berlin, had been evacuated to Moscow in April 1945 together with members of the Swedish legation in Berlin. While the diplomats arrived safely in Stockholm in May, af Sandeberg and a few other Swedish citizens remained captive in the Soviet Union. After diplomatic pressure the Soviet authorities confirmed that this was the case and in March 1946 af Sandeberg was released and was able to return to Sweden. A few months later, in June, af Sandeberg told a Swedish newspaper that he had shared a cell with a German called Erhard Hille. He in turn had been sharing cells with both Langfelder and Jan Loyda, who had told him about Wallenberg. This was the first serious indication that Wallenberg was being held in Soviet captivity. Although the Swedish foreign ministry was sceptical about af Sandeberg’s information, it was forwarded to the Swedish legation in Moscow and handed over to the Soviet Commissariat for Foreign Affairs on 12 July. On the day that the interview with af Sandeberg was published, he and Raoul’s mother were received by King Gustaf V, who promised to talk to the foreign ministry about her son.7 The view that Wallenberg was alive and held captive in the Soviet Union was reinforced in the middle of November, when the book Raoul Wallenberg: Diplomat, kämpe, samarit (Raoul Wallenberg: Diplomat, Fighter, Samaritan) was published. It was written by an Austrian refugee, the journalist Rudolph Philipp, who had been living in Sweden since 1937. In this book, Wallenberg’s Budapest mission was for the first time described in detail – including how he contacted the Soviet army and was taken away on 17 January. The book also



The Hero of Budapest describes the role of the War Refugee Board in Wallenberg’s recruitment and the financing of his rescue mission. The publication of Rudolph’s book provoked an immediate change in the general opinion of the Wallenberg affair, not least because of the author’s harsh criticism of the foreign ministry’s handling of it. The indications that Wallenberg was held captive in the Soviet Union were now so strong that in November Philipp was asked to present his findings to the council of ministers. That same month the Wallenberg case was discussed in parliament. Answering criticism of his passivity, the prime minister, Tage Erlander, gave assurances that the foreign ministry had ‘tried and followed up all suggestions and traces that had in one way or another come to its knowledge’, and that the government ‘does not consider the Raoul Wallenberg case to be closed’. In order to assure parliament and the public that the government was committed to solving the case, the legation in Moscow was instructed on 28 November to ask the Soviet government for ‘a definitive answer about the result of the investigations promised repeatedly by the Soviet authorities’. The démarche was followed during the next few weeks by several reminders from the Swedish side. But instead of progress, the diplomatic offensive led to a sudden change in the Soviet attitude. Beginning in early December, Vladimir Dekanozov refused to receive any Swedish diplomats. When Ulf Barck-Holst, counsellor at the legation, made a new démarche on 13 January 1947, he was received not by Dekanozov but at a lower diplomatic level. The same thing happened to the new Swedish minister, Hägglöf, a few weeks later. From this it is possible to conclude that sometime around the turn of 1946–7 an important decision was taken in Moscow concerning the Wallenberg case. Could it be that he was moved from Moscow in connection with this? A Swedishforeign-ministry memorandum stated that ‘it cannot be excluded’ that Wallenberg was held in Lwów during the period indicated by Adolphe Coen. ‘At the time in question very energetic démarches concerning the Wallenberg case had been made in Moscow. It is perhaps not too bold to assume that in view of this certain Russian authorities may have regarded it as more convenient to have Wallenberg removed from Moscow for some time.’ Otto Danielsson, the head of the intelligence service, arrived at the same conclusion: ‘Undoubtedly, many things speak in favour of Coen’s statement that he met Wallenberg in Lwów. It is now quite clear that the NKVD in 1947 made some evasive manoeuvres to hide Wallenberg. What would be more natural then to send him to a little convent in eastern Poland?’

A Diplomatic Failure

‘What Is All This About?’ Around New Year 1946–7 the Soviet handling of the Wallenberg case entered a new phase. Repeated Swedish questions about his fate had always been met by the Soviet foreign ministry with the answer that they had no information to give. Facts that have emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union indicate that this may in fact be true: neither Deputy Foreign Minister Vyshinsky nor his senior officials seem to have known that Wallenberg was held captive in the Soviet Union. When Kirill Novikov, head of the section for northern Europe, during a meeting with Hägglöf on 30 January 1946 told the Swedish diplomat that the investigations had been fruitless, he was obviously speaking the truth. SMERSH, which in the summer of 1946 had become a part of the Ministry for State Security (MGB), was a state within the State that did not deem it necessary to answer questions from the foreign ministry about Wallenberg. On Novikov’s report from the meeting with Hägglöf, Vyshinsky made a note on 2 February: ‘What is all this about? We must find acceptable explanations.’8 It was only after this that the foreign ministry got word that Wallenberg was held in captivity in the Soviet Union. The information from the security ministry – which was given verbally – was forwarded in a memorandum to Molotov, who was one of the few who knew about Wallenberg’s arrest. It is reasonable to believe that he also knew that he was incarcerated in Moscow. Other persons who knew about Wallenberg’s fate were Stalin and probably also Dekanozov who had made his career within the security organs before being appointed deputy foreign commissar in 1939. The information was passed on to Vyshinsky, who in a memorandum to Molotov on 14 May wrote that the Swedish legation had since April 1945 made eight written and five verbal enquiries about Wallenberg. He also reported on Söderblom’s visit to Stalin, the discussions in the Swedish parliament and the ‘press campaign’ after the publication of Philipp’s book. He furthermore called attention to the fact that the Soviet foreign ministry had repeatedly asked SMERSH and the MGB for information about Wallenberg. In conclusion Vyshinsky asked Molotov to enjoin the security minister – the former head of SMERSH – Viktor Abakumov to ‘report on the essence of the matter and suggest how it can be liquidated’. When Molotov forwarded the memorandum to Abakumov four days later it was with the following request: ‘Please report to me.’ On 7 July Vyshinsky wrote a letter addressed directly to Abakumov in which he informed him about the Wallenberg case. He had received an enquiry from the US trade secretary Henry Wallace, and the Swedish government was continually



The Hero of Budapest ‘pressing’ the matter. He therefore urged Abakumov to provide him with ‘at least some kind of answer about [Wallenberg’s] fate’. A plausible explanation of what had happened to him had to be presented: In order to solve the matter of a reply and its contents, it is important to receive information about the place where Wallenberg was taken into protective custody by Soviet military forces, his whereabouts, the places to which he was sent and whether any fighting or bombing occurred at these places, whether Wallenberg had freedom of movement or was under constant surveillance and whether at this point in time he was in contact with or met members of the Swedish mission in Vienna [sic] or other foreigners. Since by this time Vyshinsky was aware that Wallenberg was in MGB custody the letter must be seen as a set of tips for a possible answer to the Swedish government. Wallenberg had perhaps perished during fighting? Or during a bombardment in Budapest after having been taken under Soviet protection? At a meeting with the head of the foreign ministry’s Scandinavian section Mikhail Vetrov, Hägglöf’s successor Rolf Sohlman (the Swedish ministers in Moscow changed often during these years!) received an answer along these lines. There was, said Vetrov, ‘much that indicated that Wallenberg had perished during the intensive bombardment’ of Budapest. When Vyshinsky did not receive the requested information from Abakumov he urged him, ‘on account of the raising in Sweden of the question of the fate of the Swedish legation secretary R. Wallenberg’, to answer his letter as quickly as possible. He received no answer this time either. As a matter of fact, Abakumov had answered Vyshinsky’s letter – but the answer was sent not to Vyshinsky but to Molotov, as the latter had requested. This is evident from a note on Vyshinsky’s letter: ‘Answered by Ab[akumov] 17/VII 1947 in a personal letter to Comrade Molotov under reference number 3044/a.’ According to the security ministry’s outgoing diary the letter was about ‘the Swedish subject Wallenberg’. Although it was registered as received by Molotov’s secretariat it has not been located, which indicates that it contained sensitive information and has probably been destroyed. The next stage in the preparation of the Wallenberg case started at the beginning of August when Vyshinsky sent Molotov a draft of an answer to the Swedish government. The draft formed the basis of the official answer that Vyshinsky sent to Ambassador Sohlman on 18 August. In this ‘personal note’

A Diplomatic Failure the deputy foreign minister wrote that it had been established ‘as a result of careful investigation that Wallenberg is not in the Soviet Union and is unknown to us’. In spite of all enquiries he has not been found ‘in camps for prisoners of war or internees’. Then follows the explanation that the Soviet leaders had been polishing since February: one cannot of course ignore the fact that Wallenberg was taken into the custody of Soviet troops at a time of fierce fighting in Budapest, when any kind of incident could have taken place – Wallenberg’s voluntary departure from the position of the Soviet troops, an attack from enemy planes, death from enemy fire, etc. ‘This only leaves the assumption,’ Vyshinsky finished, ‘that Wallenberg died during the fighting in the city of Budapest, or that he was captured by members of the Arrow Cross.’ The note was mendacious but slyly worded. Vyshinsky did not say that Wallenberg had never been in the Soviet Union, only that he was not there at the present moment. And he said that he had not been found ‘in camps for prisoners of war or internees’ – which was also true: Wallenberg had been held in a prison. That Wallenberg was ‘unknown’ to the Soviet leadership, however, was an outright lie and the ‘assumption’ that he had died in Budapest an instance of consummate cynicism.

Cell No. 7 By the time Vyshinsky sent his note, the embarrassing Wallenberg case was in fact already ‘liquidated’. On 1 March Wallenberg had been moved back to the Lubyanka. According to the prison journal the transfer was to have taken place on 26 February, like Roedel’s, but it was postponed – perhaps because he was not in Lefortovo but in Lwów and had to be transferred to Moscow? In the Lubyanka Wallenberg and Roedel were placed together in cell No. 7 and given an officer’s ration. It is hard to imagine that the transfer to the Lubyanka did not have to do with the raising of the Wallenberg case at this point. As we have seen, at the beginning of February the foreign ministry learned that Wallenberg was incarcerated in Moscow and realised that the case must somehow be solved. Vyshinsky asked for ‘acceptable explanations’ and in the spring began working on these. Perhaps



The Hero of Budapest at this time alternative solutions were considered, one of which would be to set Wallenberg free. That would explain why he was moved to a prison with a milder regime and given an officer’s ration. According to one source, shortly after the transfer to the Lubyanka Wallenberg was transferred to a special pavilion, the KGB commandant’s building, where orders were given that his state of health be supervised. It cannot be excluded that the new orders had to do with the ‘Moscow conference of foreign ministers’, which began on 10 March. That conditions improved after the transfer to the Lubyanka is confirmed by the person who served as an interpreter during the interrogation that Wallenberg was subjected to on 11 March. The interrogator was the same Kuzmishin who had interrogated him once before. The interpreter, Lieutenant Sergey Kondrashov, was struck by the fact that Wallenberg, dressed in a dark suit, ‘behaved very confidently, very calmly’, even ‘self-assuredly’, and answered all questions ‘calmly, confidently and […] at length’. He looked ‘quite healthy’, there was ‘not a trace of despondency or illness’. According to Kondrashov, it was a ‘control interrogation’ where circumstances and facts that Wallenberg had been interrogated about before were to be confirmed. ‘It was about documents which had been found on him when he was arrested. The documents were lying in heaps on the table, I did not read them, but as far as I remember there were lists of some kind, lists of people.’ The interrogation also centred on Wallenberg’s contacts with the German authorities and representatives of other states. Kondrashov did not get the impression, however, that Wallenberg was accused ‘of any serious crimes’. Perhaps Wallenberg made such a confident impression because he saw the improved conditions as a sign that the ‘misunderstanding’ would soon be straightened out. Perhaps he had even been told that this was the case and that he would soon be set free. We do not know. What we know is that four months later he was reported dead.

Liquidation On 17 July 1947 the chief medical officer of the Lubyanka prison Alexander Smoltsov sent the following report to Security Minister Viktor Abakumov: I report that the prisoner Walenberg,1 known to you, suddenly died last night in his cell, probably as the result of a myocardial infarction. In accordance with your order to keep Walenberg under my personal care, I ask for instruction as to who should be asked to do an autopsy in order to establish the cause of death. A note written diagonally across the report says: ‘Have personally notified the minister. Order issued to cremate the corpse without post-mortem examination. 17/VII Smoltsov.’ Raoul Wallenberg was thus said to have died of a heart attack on the night of 17 July 1947, one month after Vyshinsky had presented Ambassador Sohlman with his assumption that Wallenberg ‘died during the fighting in the city of Budapest, or that he was captured by members of the Arrow Cross’. Smoltsov’s report was made public in 1957, when the Soviet authorities admitted for the first time that Wallenberg had been in Soviet captivity. The authenticity of the report was immediately called into question – Smoltsov was no longer alive and could not be heard. And why did it surface only now? Were there no other documents pertaining to the Wallenberg case? The question marks were many. Analyses of handwriting, paper and other markers made by Swedish and Russian forensic experts in the 1990s, however, indicate that the report is genuine. Even if the report’s authenticity cannot be ascertained to 100 per cent, the hypothesis that Wallenberg died in 1947 is the most likely one. According to

18.1  The Smoltsov report, certifying that Raoul Wallenberg died of a heart attack on 17 July 1945.

Liquidation Emmy Lorentzon, Alexandra Kollontay’s secretary and confidante, Kollontay had in 1948 been told to stop her enquiries about Wallenberg as he had died from illness in a prison in 1947. Assuming that Lorentzon’s memory did not deceive her, the information that Kollontay got about Wallenberg’s death as early as 1948 is a strong indication that at this point he was already dead. Lieutenant Kondrashov, who served as interpreter during the last known interrogation with Wallenberg, has confirmed that this was the case. When a few years later he asked the interrogator, Kuzmishin, what had happened to Wallenberg he got the answer that he had been shot. Among persons connected to the Soviet security organs the opinion that Wallenberg died in 1947 is commonly held. That a 35-year-old man who by his cellmates – and by Lieutenant Kondrashov as late as 1947 – was seen as perfectly healthy would suddenly die from a heart attack is, however, unlikely. According to the medical journals of the Lubyanka and Lefortovo prisons Wallenberg asked for medical assistance only on a few occasions and then in connection with minor ailments like a cold and toothache. Abakumov’s order to cremate the body without post-mortem is a strong indication that the cause of death was anything but natural. According to Kuzmishin, Wallenberg was shot – a cause of death that has been suggested by many people with a background in the Soviet security service. This presupposes that Smoltsov was privy to the murder plans – the existence of a bullet hole would have made it difficult for someone who was not initiated to issue a certificate indicating a heart attack as the cause of death. A more likely explanation, provided, among others, by the former KGB general Pavel Sudoplatov, is that Wallenberg was given an injection of poison in the so-called ‘Laboratory X’, which was situated next door to the pavilion where he was held. The laboratory was led by toxicology professor Grigory Mayranovsky, whose field of research was the effect of deadly gases and poisons on malignant tumours. In 1939 his research team was put under the auspices of the Commissariat for Internal Affairs and was now performing controlled executions for experimental purposes. The poison used was probably curare. The injection could in turn provoke the heart attack that Smoltsov certified but whose cause he was probably unaware of – as opposed to Abakumov, who precisely for that reason decided that no autopsy should be conducted. ‘Myocardial infarction’, incidentally, was a term often used when somebody had been executed or beaten to death. The truth about Wallenberg’s death is in fact to be found with Abakumov. Or, rather, in the letter about ‘the Swedish subject Wallenberg’ that he wrote to Molotov, which was received in the foreign minister’s secretariat but has



The Hero of Budapest obviously been destroyed. The letter was written the same day that Smoltsov issued the death certificate. What was in the letter we do not know, but since it was an answer to Vyshinsky’s request for suggestions as to how the Wallenberg case could be liquidated, it most likely contained a message that it had been liquidated in the more ominous sense of the word, that is, that the subject of the matter was no longer alive. That something dramatic happened in the Lubyanka prison in the middle of July 1947 is borne out by the fact that a few days later, on 22 and 23 July, everyone who had at some point shared a cell with Wallenberg or Langfelder was summoned for interrogation: Richter, Roedel, Huber, Kitschmann, Hille and others. They were asked whom they had shared a cell with, what Wallenberg or Langfelder had told them and to whom they had talked about them. The interrogations were led by high-ranking security officers, among them Sergey Kartashov, head of military counter-espionage within SMERSH and the man responsible for the Wallenberg case. Langfelder was also interrogated – for two days in a row, the second time for 16 hours by none other than Kartashov. After the interrogations all those who had been Wallenberg’s cellmates or had had indirect knowledge about him were put in solitary confinement cells for eight months or more. Even after that they were forbidden contact with other prisoners and shared cells only with former cellmates. Willy Roedel and Vilmos Langfelder ‘died’ shortly after the execution of Wallenberg, the former during a transfer to another prison on 15 October. The reason was given as heart failure caused by sclerosis. (In Roedel’s case a postmortem was conducted but that is no guarantee that the cause of death was correct.) Langfelder was in 1957 said to have died on 2 March 1948, but this information has no documentation to support it and is most likely a fabrication. In all probability Langfelder too was liquidated in the summer of 1947. Thus, within a few months, two of the people who knew most about Wallenberg disappeared. If this was a coincidence, it was a very Soviet one.2

The Options There is much to indicate that in the winter of 1947 the Soviet leadership was not sure what to do with Raoul Wallenberg. The pressure from Sweden was increasing all the time, and in the Soviet Union knowledge of his incarceration was no longer restricted to the security ministry and a few high-ranking politicians. In this situation there were two options to choose between: to get

Liquidation rid of him or to set him free. The latter was fraught with great risks. Against all international rules a foreign diplomat had been arrested, abducted and imprisoned – a representative of a neutral country to boot. A Wallenberg set free would most certainly report on the circumstances surrounding his arrest and his experiences in Soviet prisons, perhaps even write a book as Edward af Sandeberg had done. One solution would therefore be to release him but not as a free man – rather as a sort of agent. If such recruitment attempts were made, it would have been in the spring of 1947, when Wallenberg was transferred to the special pavilion where especially important prisoners, whose enlistment was sought, were held. According to the head of the Scandinavian section of the foreign-intelligence service, Yelisey Sinitsyn, he and his superior Pavel Fitin tried to persuade Abakumov to hand over Wallenberg to their department to this end. The minister, however, is said to have refused as he had similar plans for Wallenberg himself. (Sinitsyn knew Sweden well, having worked at the Soviet legation in Stockholm in 1944–5.) The aim in recruiting Wallenberg was presumably not to turn him into a regular agent but to get an agent of influence with good contacts in the Swedish political and economic elite, not least Wallenberg’s own family. During the postwar years the Soviet Union was keenly interested in concluding favourable trade agreements. According to General Alexander Belkin, who during the last months of the war was the head of the SMERSH Front Directorate, the Soviets thought that Wallenberg had contacts with German military counter-espionage, the organisation known as the Abwehr. This information was now used to blackmail him to cooperate. If they succeeded in recruiting Wallenberg his ties with Jewish organisations would also be of use, like his American contacts. The information about recruitment attempts is based on memoirs and oral testimonies from veterans in the Soviet organs of state. If such plans existed it would explain why in March 1947 Wallenberg was put on a special diet and orders were given that his state of health be monitored. An argument that has been presented against the recruitment theory is that none of Wallenberg’s fellow prisoners said anything about such an attempt. But that argument does not hold water since his cellmate in the spring of 1947, Willy Roedel, ‘died’ later in the same year and could never report about his talks with Wallenberg – as opposed to Richter and the others who were released and returned to Germany. Furthermore, it is not certain that Wallenberg would have informed Roedel about such a delicate matter. A more solid argument against the recruitment theory is that it is difficult to see what could have prevented Wallenberg from breaking a possible promise to cooperate once he left Soviet territory.



The Hero of Budapest Those who claim that a recruitment attempt did take place also claim to know that Wallenberg rejected the proposal. If this is true, that would no doubt be one of the reasons – perhaps the main reason – that the Soviet leadership saw no alternative but to ‘liquidate’ the case in the way in which it did. Whether the attempt took place or not, the possible reluctance on the part of the Soviet leadership to resort to that solution was not dictated by scruples but by the fact that the victim was a foreigner and also a diplomat. In the long run, however, these circumstances could not prevent the Soviet authorities from taking the measures they deemed necessary. This emerges from parallel cases which show striking similarities with that of Wallenberg. The Dutch army lieutenant Gerrit Van Der Waals managed to flee from a Soviet prison camp in Poland and get to Budapest. Just like Wallenberg he went over to the Soviet side in order to present them with what he perceived as useful information. And just like Wallenberg he was instead suspected of espionage and arrested. He was brought to Moscow where, in February 1945, he was interned in the Lubyanka and then in Lefortovo (where, incidentally, during an interrogation he mentioned that he had met Wallenberg in order to help a Jewish woman at the request of Pál Szalai). In spite of repeated requests for information about Van Der Waals, the Dutch government was told that the person in question was unknown in the Soviet Union. In 1956 the Soviet authorities at last admitted that the Dutch officer had been incarcerated in the country but that he had died in 1948 of pulmonary and intestinal tuberculosis and that the body had been cremated. A similar fate befell the Austrian minister in Prague, Ferdinand Marek, who was apprehended by the Soviet military in May 1945. During the following nine years the Soviet authorities denied all knowledge of Marek and his fate. After pressure from the Austrian government they admitted in 1954 that Marek had been taken into custody by Soviet troops but that he died from heart failure and pneumonia in May 1947. A third case is the American citizen Isaiah Oggins, who was arrested in 1939 and sentenced to eight years in prison. In spite of the fact that this was known to the Americans, the Soviets found it impossible to set him free after he had served his sentence. Oggins was a Soviet agent and it was feared that he would betray secrets about the Gulag and perhaps name other spies. Abakumov therefore suggested to Stalin and Molotov that he be executed. Officially he suffered from tuberculosis and, according to the death certificate, died of this illness in a camp in 1947. In fact, Oggins was killed in the same way as Wallenberg, in Mayranovsky’s poison laboratory.


The Suspicions against Wallenberg Just as obscure as the circumstances surrounding Wallenberg’s captivity and death are the reasons he was arrested in the first place. During the Soviet occupation of Hungary tens of thousands of people were interrogated but only a few were arrested. Between 1 and 20 January 1945, the 2nd Ukrainian Front SMERSH unit arrested 48 people. Out of the three unnamed diplomats two were employed by the Swedish legation in Budapest – one of them was Wallenberg, the other probably Henry Thomsen, to whom we shall return later. As we have seen, the warrant for Wallenberg’s arrest was issued in Moscow, where the security organs had been collecting information about the Swedish legation in Budapest and Wallenberg’s Jewish-rescue action. The decision to arrest a foreign diplomat, however, was probably not easy to make even in Stalin’s Soviet Union. It can therefore not be ruled out that the warrant was issued on the basis not only of the information collected in Moscow but also of reports from SMERSH in Budapest – reports based on the talks with Wallenberg on 14 January and on the general impression he left. There was in fact much in Wallenberg’s behaviour that was difficult to understand for the Soviet intelligence officers with whom he was confronted after crossing the lines. His tales about the Jewish-rescue action were hard to understand and his projects for postwar Hungary were quite contrary to the Soviet plans for the country when the war was over. There is much to indicate that he behaved in a manner which was perceived as suspicious by the SMERSH officers, trained as they were to see spies everywhere. If one is to believe Wallenberg’s knocking information to Ernst Wallenstein he was arrested ‘because he had entered Russian-occupied territory [my italics]’ – the very fact that he had voluntarily contacted the Soviet army was thus enough to arouse suspicions about espionage. Did the outgoing and loquacious Wallenberg blurt out some Russian words and expressions that he remembered from his high-school years? That too may have seemed suspicious. ‘I must admit that though we liked Wallenberg, we were a little suspicious of him,’ remembered the interpreter Yakov Valakh. There may, however, have been an even more concrete reason for Wallenberg’s arrest. It cannot be excluded that the money and the valuables he had with him were discovered not after the arrest warrant was issued but, on the contrary, that it was this discovery that triggered the decision to arrest him. International rules prevent a diplomat from being searched but why would SMERSH respect such rules? Wallenberg’s luggage may very well have been searched in an unguarded moment – for example, when he was asleep.



The Hero of Budapest Could the reason Wallenberg was arrested be that simple? That the counterespionage people discovered that he was trying to smuggle out what may have been perceived as Nazi goods – recompense from the Germans or valuables that he tried to save on their behalf. What else could it be? The fact that Langfelder was also arrested is in any case an indication that the final decision to arrest Wallenberg may have been taken after a report from Budapest. The decision to arrest Langfelder can hardly have been based on intelligence information in Moscow. If it is reasonable to believe that Wallenberg had a dossier there, in the case of Langfelder it is not. According to Valakh, Langfelder was perceived by the Russians as being ‘too intelligent for a chauffeur’ – an impression that was perhaps forwarded to Moscow. The main reason that Langfelder was seized and sent to Moscow together with Wallenberg, however, was probably much simpler than suspicions of duplicity: Langfelder knew what had happened to Wallenberg and could therefore not be allowed to go free. As is evident from the interrogations of Lars Berg, the Swedish legation was accused of having issued protective passports to persons with no connection to Sweden. According to a report from the deputy SMERSH head of the 2nd Ukrainian Front, Mukhortov, of 19 February 1945, there were among these ‘known members of fascist organisations in Hungary, certain collaborators and agents of enemy intelligence services and counter-espionage as well as other counter-revolutionary elements who are in hiding from the Soviet organs’. The report was partly based on information retrieved from interrogations with Mikhail Kutuzov-Tolstoy and a certain Henry Thomsen, who also worked at the Swedish legation. Thomsen had been employed at Berg’s B section since Sweden was the protecting power for the Soviet Union in Hungary and was in need of Russian-speaking personnel. He claimed to be a Russian-speaking Norwegian but his real name was Grossheim-Krysko and he was born in the Soviet Union. During an interrogation on 24 January he declared that protective passports had been sold by many people employed at the legation, for example Forgács, Countess Nákó, von Mezey and perhaps even Danielsson himself. Just like many other members of the legation the minister was said to have expressed strongly anti-Soviet views. The greatest hostility towards the Soviet Union, however, was displayed by Göte Carlsson and Yngve Ekmark. Apart from Wallenberg and Langfelder, Thomsen was the only legation member to be arrested and sent to Moscow. Many other employees connected to the legation were interrogated, however. One of them was the head of the Swedish hospital, Aladár Feigl, who was interrogated on the same day on which the International Ghetto was liberated, 17 January. The Soviets claimed to have

Liquidation proof that the members of the legation had spied for the Germans. They also declared that they ‘already had Wallenberg’ and that Feigl had better put his services at their disposal as an agent. Feigl answered that Wallenberg had ‘only seen his task as looking after the interests of the Jews in Hungary’. The accusations of espionage for the Germans were unfounded, but apart from that the interrogations with Feigl show that the SMERSH officers were remarkably well informed about Swedish matters. About Danielsson it was said, for example, that he was hardly a friend of the British since during his time as head of the Swedish legation in Egypt he ‘had had a personal controversy on the family level’ with a British diplomat. It is true that Danielsson had been declared persona non grata ‘for political reasons’ and expelled from Cairo in March 1942 but the concrete reasons are unclear. He seems to have made careless political pronouncements, and he was also romantically involved with a young lady (who after the war became his wife) who was suspected of spying for the Germans. However, this was known only in narrow foreign ministry circles in Sweden! Where did SMERSH get that information from? From the Soviet legation in Stockholm? Or from Soviet infiltrators at the Swedish legation in Budapest?3 Pál Hegedűs was also interrogated, on several occasions. He was asked about conditions at the Swedish legation and especially about Wallenberg, who was said to be a German spy – the rescue action was just a camouflage to hide this fact. Two questions were asked repeatedly: Who is Wallenberg? What did he do in Budapest? Hegedűs’s explanation that Wallenberg’s work was of a humanitarian nature was dismissed as a lie. Why would a representative of a neutral nation devote himself to such a rescue action? ‘A high-ranking Soviet functionary explained,’ remembered Hegedűs, ‘that it was inconceivable that Raoul should have come from peaceful Sweden to dangerous Budapest only to save human lives.’ And Jews? That was difficult to understand for Soviet officers, many of whom had been brought up on a rich diet of anti-Semitism.

Count Kutuzov-Tolstoy If the decision to arrest Wallenberg was taken on the basis of a SMERSH report from Budapest in combination with intelligence already collected in Moscow – where did this information come from and what did it contain? One source was the Soviet legation in Stockholm. From here information was forwarded to Moscow by Alexandra Kollontay and, first and foremost, by the legendary spy couple Boris Rybkin and his wife Zoya, who had been stationed



The Hero of Budapest in Stockholm since 1941 under the name Yartsev – Boris under the cover of legation counsellor, Zoya as press attaché. Their main duty in Sweden was to collect and analyse information about Germany, a task that was facilitated by their considerable social talents. Zoya, moreover, was strikingly beautiful and spoke fluent German and Finnish. Zoya and Boris were a popular couple with excellent contacts in diplomatic and upper-class circles in Stockholm – and with the Wallenberg family. Zoya Rybkina had together with Kollontay been deeply involved in the efforts to make Finland break with Germany and conclude a separate peace agreement with the Soviet Union (which was achieved in September 1944). In these negotiations, which were partly held in a Wallenberg-owned hotel at Saltsjöbaden, a prominent mediating role was, as we have seen, played by Marcus Wallenberg junior. Since Kollontay and Rybkina knew the Wallenberg brothers personally, their respective employers in Moscow were well informed about the family’s economic status, political importance and circle of contacts. The one they met most frequently was Marcus junior, but there can be no doubt that reports about Jacob’s peacemaking activities (of which more later) also reached Moscow. What information was forwarded from Stockholm about Raoul’s Budapest mission is, however, not clear. Another source was Mikhail Kutuzov-Tolstoy, born 1896 and just like Grossheim-Krysko employed at the legation’s B section. He was a former count and belonged to the finest Russian nobility. His full surname was GolenishchevKutuzov-Tolstoy and he counted among his ancestors Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov, who stopped Napoleon’s offensive in Russia. His mother (a Sheremetev) and wife (a Volkonsky) also belonged to Russia’s oldest nobility. Like many other Russian aristocrats Kutuzov-Tolstoy had fled his homeland after the Revolution of 1917. He settled in Brussels where there was a large Russian colony in the 1920s. At the beginning of the 1930s he was recruited by the Soviet security service. Perhaps he had been afflicted by the same homesickness as many other Russian émigrés at this time, perhaps the decision to start working for the Soviet Union had other causes – that is of less importance in this context. In any case, there can be no doubt that Kutuzov-Tolstoy was a Soviet agent when, in 1944, he was employed by the Swedish foreign ministry. That a person with his pedigree would be put in charge of the foreign commission in Budapest if he did not already work for the Soviet security organs is out of the question. The fact that he was not, like Thomsen, arrested and sent to Moscow also testifies to his special status. According to the information that Kutuzov-Tolstoy forwarded to Moscow, Wallenberg worked in close contact with the German security service.4

Liquidation A third possible source is Vilmos Böhm, who worked for the British but who also seems to have provided the Soviet side with information. Through Böhm the Soviet Intelligence Service may have known about the War Refugee Board’s involvement in Wallenberg’s mission. The aim of informing the Soviets was of course not to harm the West or Wallenberg. The Soviet Union was an ally in the battle against Nazism and Böhm’s possible collaboration must be seen as an expression of the same kind of political naivety that made Wallenberg contact the Soviet army. After the war the social democrat Böhm, who was for some time Hungary’s ambassador to Sweden, confessed to having been ‘fooled by the cooperation with the forces of democracy that the Communists achieved during the war all over the world’.

The Himmler Trail Even if Wallenberg was suspected of also working for the American and British intelligence services, the interrogations of his co-workers in Budapest show that the German trail was the hottest one. The mere fact that Sweden maintained diplomatic relations with Hungary after the German occupation was enough to arouse Soviet suspicions. After four years of incalculable losses the Soviet leadership viewed any kind of cooperation with Nazi Germany as totally unacceptable. That was especially true when it came to attempts to bargain with the Nazis. One such example was the negotiations about trucks in exchange for Jews, behind which the Soviets rightly suspected an attempt on the part of Himmler to establish contacts with the Western Allies in order to reach a separate peace. ‘The thought of the Western powers and Germany allied against the Soviet Union was for Stalin a nightmare based on a combination of historic realities and Communist ideology,’ as one historian put it.5 Perhaps it is here that we should try to find the causes of the Soviet suspicion of Wallenberg. Many of Heinrich Himmler’s peace-feelers during 1943 and 1944 were made through Stockholm and Jacob Wallenberg, who had broad contacts both in Germany and among the Western Allies.6 He was also a member of the Swedish government commission that was negotiating a trade agreement with Germany and, as we have seen, he made many trips to Berlin during the war. The Wallenberg family had been helpful in the negotiations for a separate peace with Finland, but the fact that the Swedish government had agreed to sell ball bearings to Germany could be interpreted by the Soviets in terms that were negative for the family that controlled SKF, the Swedish Ball Bearing Factory.



The Hero of Budapest The Wallenberg brothers were anti-Nazi but, like many other ‘capitalists’, regarded a post-Hitlerite, democratic Germany as a bulwark against Bolshevik Russia. The family’s – as well as Sweden’s – ‘neutrality’ was therefore regarded with scepticism by the Soviet leadership, which, thanks to the Rybkin couple, knew about the German attempts to reach a peace agreement without Soviet participation. When one regarded the Wallenberg family from the Soviet standpoint it was natural to take Raoul into consideration. When Soviet eyes were directed towards Budapest they saw something else, and more, than a Swedish rescue action – they saw yet another activity aimed at appeasing the Western powers in order to lure them to the negotiating table. How else could one explain why the Germans tolerated the fact that Sweden – as well as Switzerland and other neutral countries – were engaging in rescue activities which totally clashed with Nazi ideology and Eichmann’s mission? Per Anger was of the opinion that there could be no doubt that the Germans ‘turned a blind eye to the Swedish action to save the Jews’. The reason was that they were anxious not to disturb the diplomatic relations between the countries. Therefore, according to Anger, they accepted ‘a Swedish legation there […] which included Wallenberg’. For a Soviet observer it was natural to interpret the Germans’ tolerance of Wallenberg’s mission as part of a strategy aimed at a peace agreement between Hitler’s Germany and the Western Allies – an agreement whose final goal was to stop the Soviet advance in Europe and perhaps even to bring about the fall of Communism. That the view of the rescue action as a part of a greater conspiracy directed at the Soviet Union played an important role in the decision to arrest Wallenberg emerges from a book about the Western Allies’ negotiations with Germany concerning aid to the Jews published in Warsaw in 1955. There can be no doubt that the text was sanctioned at the highest level and reflected the official Soviet view of Wallenberg. The author, Artur Eisenbach, writes that Wallenberg’s mission in Budapest was officially about helping Jews but that, ‘like other actions at this time, it was a propaganda affair organised for political purposes’. Wallenberg was in fact an American agent and the activities of the War Refugee Board a cover for ‘the real American goals of conducting negotiations with the Germans directed at the Soviet Union’. The Germans, in turn, tolerated his activities since they hoped to profit from them ‘in order to conduct negotiations with leading circles among the Western powers’. The theory that the Germans shut their eyes to the Swedish rescue action is supported by John Lukacs, according to whom Hitler allowed Himmler to deviate from the extermination policy for economic or political

Liquidation reasons. One such deviation was the Wallenberg mission, which the Germans accepted in order to sow discord among the Allies. This view is shared by Gitta Sereny, who claims that Himmler used the Budapest Jews as bait in order to initiate negotiations with the Allies through contacts in Sweden. The suspicion that Wallenberg was part of a conspiracy directed against Soviet interests was no doubt a result of his close contacts with German Nazis in Budapest, among them Kurt Becher, whose involvement in the ‘blood for goods’ action and the Kasztner train was well known in Moscow. As we have seen, it was with Becher that Wallenberg bargained about the repatriation of Swedish protégés in November–December 1944. The War Refugee Board connection may also have attracted the Soviet leadership’s attention, although it is not clear how much they knew at this time about its involvement in Wallenberg’s mission. (However, Iver Olsen’s negotiations with representatives of Himmler with the aim of buying off a few thousand Latvian Jews for $2 million were known – and criticised – in Moscow.) In this connection the association which Alexander Yakovlev, one of the leading advocates of perestroika and a highly respected person, made in 1988 between Wallenberg and the negotiations about ‘blood for goods’ is very interesting. He had heard, he said, that Wallenberg had been arrested ‘in connection with an exchange of trucks for Jews’. The information was factually wrong but true in a deeper sense: from the Soviet standpoint Wallenberg’s mission was associated with negotiations directed against the interests of the Soviet Union. There is a document in the Swedish-foreign-ministry archives that underpins the theory about the Soviet view of Wallenberg’s mission as a cover for a conspiracy led by Himmler. The document is an anonymous report made in 1950 by a Sudeten German soldier who had been forcibly recruited to the German army and who in the winter of 1945 was hiding in the Swedish legation in Budapest. How he got there is unknown, but the report is so well informed and detailed (the looting, the blowing up of the safes, the rape of von Mezey’s sister, and so on) that the story he tells deserves serious attention. In March 1945 the soldier, Otto Prade,7 was interrogated several times by SMERSH. They wanted to know why the Swedes had cooperated with the Hungarians and especially with the Germans and what ‘the Englishman’ (that is, John Dickinson) was doing in the legation. When Prade answered that the Swedes had on the contrary been threatened by the Arrow Cross, the interrogator claimed to have evidence to prove that foreigners had been residing in the legation. According to Prade the Soviets’ notion about Swedish activities in Budapest ‘belonged to the realm of fantasy’.



The Hero of Budapest During the subsequent interrogation Prade was threatened with death if he did not reveal what had been going on in the legation. When he gave the same answers as before, the interrogator asked what he knew about Wallenberg’s mission. ‘My answer that I had never seen Mr Wallenberg and that all I knew was that he had helped persecuted people and especially Jews from being taken by the Gestapo or the Arrow Cross provoked a roar of laughter among all those present.’ An officer then pulled his gun, pressed it against Prade’s head and said that he had only a few minutes to tell the truth about Wallenberg. Prade reiterated what he had said before and was taken into the adjacent room. When the interrogation was resumed the interrogator asked if Prade could ‘at least mention the sum that Wallenberg had received from Himmler for his activities’. When, at long last, the interrogator became convinced that the German had nothing to say he told him that it ‘had been arranged that this “bird” [Wallenberg] would never again issue a passport and never see Hungary or Sweden again’.

Disinformation Attempts The interrogation of the German soldier is yet another indication that the Soviet leadership saw Wallenberg as a participant in a political game, the ultimate goal of which was the overthrow of the Communist regime. When Wallenberg was arrested on 19 January and SMERSH came by his address book and diary the suspicions about his contacts with the German authorities were substantiated. In his address book they found the telephone numbers for Adolf Eichmann (no fewer than three!), the legation’s specialist in Jewish questions, Theodor Grell, the Waffen-SS General August Zehender, Kurt Becher, the German legation, the Gestapo command in Budapest and the Wehrmacht. Vilmos Billitz and Schweizerische Bankgesellschaft in Zurich were also among the contacts listed, as well as Péter Hain. In his diary were notes about meetings with Becher and Billitz (once, as we have seen, ‘with Gestapo’), as well as with Hungarian bigwigs like László Ferenczy and Gábor Kemény. In addition to this, Wallenberg’s briefcase was filled with money and probably also with gold and valuables. What more did Soviet counter-espionage need to convince themselves that he worked for or with the Germans? As no minutes have been preserved from the interrogations with Wallenberg we can only guess what they were about. During the first interrogation on 8 February, two days after he was interned in the Lubyanka prison, Wallenberg is said to have referred to his diplomatic status and refused to say anything. But

Liquidation even if he had answered the questions it is unlikely that the replies would have satisfied the interrogator. It is therefore not inconceivable that the Soviet leadership realised at an early stage that they had got themselves into a difficult situation. They had arrested and abducted a Swedish diplomat on grounds that turned out to be rather shaky. When after the first interrogations they understood that Wallenberg had no useful information to provide – or refused to provide it – they did not know what to do with him. As a result of this, they began to consider the possibility of letting him ‘disappear’. In this connection, Dekanozov’s note and Alexandra Kollontay’s message to Maj von Dardel and Mrs Günther constituted complications since they certified that Wallenberg was not only in Soviet custody but also in the Soviet Union. Neutralising the effect of these messages, therefore, was seen as a primary task. It is against this background that one should see the information broadcast by Kossuth Radio to the effect that Wallenberg had probably been killed by Gestapo agents. At the same time Soviet diplomats in Bucharest told their Swedish colleagues that nothing was known about Wallenberg in Moscow and that he had probably ‘disappeared somewhere’.8 In order to carry out this disinformation campaign they had to make sure that no one could testify about what had happened to Wallenberg. The abduction of Langfelder was a part of this process. An interrogation conducted of Valdemar and Nina Langlet at the beginning of February must also be seen in this light. In a letter to the Soviet Commissariat for Internal Affairs the Langlets had asked for assistance to help a person with a connection to Sweden – since Wallenberg had ‘gone to Marshal Malinovsky’s headquarters and could therefore not intervene’. The interrogator wanted to know the whereabouts of Wallenberg – as if he did not already know! – and asked Mr and Mrs Langlet how they had learned about the visit to Malinovsky. When they answered that they did not know more than they had written in the letter and had no idea where Wallenberg was, the officer said: ‘Then you shouldn’t have written as you did, since you don’t know whether it’s true.’ As the Soviets were planning a disinformation campaign to the effect that Wallenberg had disappeared on his way to see Malinovsky it was important to find out what the Langlet couple knew about Wallenberg’s activities after he contacted the Soviet army. In spite of the precautionary measures taken, the Wallenberg case was in all likelihood a very small issue in a country that had lost tens of millions of people in a war which was, in the spring of 1944, still going on – a country where the fate of an individual counted for much less than in a democracy; for nothing, as a matter of fact. ‘Compared with other major issues involving the final stages



The Hero of Budapest of the war, Stalin and the other leaders probably did not spare more than a passing thought for Raoul Wallenberg,’ as a joint Swedish–Russian report on the Wallenberg case has pointed out. That explains why Wallenberg was held captive for two and a half years without being interrogated more than five times. They had no use for him and did not know what to do with him. So he was kept incarcerated. That is a theory that the Soviet intelligence officer Pitovranov leans towards: the authorities may not have known very much about Wallenberg to begin with but kept him imprisoned in order to find out more and try to figure out how he could be of use. When the matter was finally brought to a head because of the pressure from the Swedish government they had two alternatives: to set him free, but only as a collaborator of some kind, or to dispose of him and sweep away the traces.

Swap? Before the Soviet leadership decided to ‘liquidate’ the Wallenberg case in the winter of 1947 they may have pondered another solution: to exchange him for Soviet citizens who had for various reasons ended up in Sweden during the war. When Feller and Meier were arrested the idea of an exchange seems to have been the principal motive, but in Wallenberg’s case there is nothing to indicate that. However, this does not exclude the possibility that the idea was aired at a later stage. At the time of Wallenberg’s arrest there were a couple of hundred Balts in Sweden who had fought on the German side. The Soviets wanted them extradited since the Baltic states had been incorporated into the Soviet Union and they were all sent back (with the exception of a few who were allowed to stay for health reasons). Five Soviet seamen who had defected were also staying in Sweden, as well as a 15-year-old girl, Lidia Makarova, who in the autumn of 1944 had arrived with her mother from Estonia and was put in a foster home. The mother was a Soviet citizen, just like her father who was supposed to have died. But the father turned out to be alive and during the whole of 1945 the Soviet legation in Stockholm tried to have the girl sent back to the Soviet Union. Makarova, however, had no desire to go back and the Swedish government refused to hand her over. From the beginning of 1946 the case was addressed not only by the Soviet legation in Stockholm but also in Moscow, during Staffan Söderblom’s talks with representatives of the Soviet foreign ministry. When Söderblom brought up Wallenberg or other Swedes (such as af Sandeberg) the

Liquidation Soviet side countered by mentioning the case of Lidia Makarova. This could be interpreted as an invitation to discuss a possible swap, but it could just as well be seen as a way of leading the discussion away from the topic of Wallenberg, as a diversion. Also, could a 15-year-old girl be considered payment enough for Raoul Wallenberg? The fact that the Soviet Union later also wanted the extradition of a Soviet seaman who worked for the Commissariat for Internal Affairs and defected to Sweden in the autumn of 1946 does not alter matters. Until February 1947 only the highest Soviet leadership knew that Wallenberg was being held captive in the Soviet Union. This means that the question of exchange could be brought up only by Stalin or Dekanozov, not by any of the senior officials at the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs whom Söderblom and other Swedish diplomats were in touch with. It was in fact only during Söderblom’s meeting with Stalin that the question was – perhaps – addressed in earnest. The fact that Stalin made an exception to his rule not to receive foreign diplomats may have been because he thought that Söderblom had something important to say – perhaps concerning Wallenberg. When Söderblom said that he was ‘personally convinced that Wallenberg had fallen victim to an accident or to robbers’ Stalin asked: ‘Have you not received any message about the matter from us?’ ‘The message’ was Alexandra Kollontay’s information to Maj von Dardel and Ingrid Günther or, possibly, Dekanozov’s note. The question was an obvious signal to Söderblom to keep on talking about Wallenberg. However, Söderblom did not catch the ball but said: ‘No, I find it likely that the Soviet military authorities do not possess any information about Wallenberg’s subsequent fate.’ If instead he had reminded Stalin that Kollontay had said that Wallenberg was in the Soviet Union, how then would Stalin have reacted? We will never know. Söderblom’s answer was unprofessional if not criminal. If ever there was a possibility of making make progress in the Wallenberg case it was during this meeting with Stalin, but Söderblom was deaf to the message that the latter was perhaps trying to convey. Stalin had set aside one hour for the audience but cut it short after only five minutes, realising that Söderblom had nothing important to say. It is impossible to know whether the Soviet leadership at some stage seriously considered a swap. Stalin – and perhaps Dekanozov – may have wanted to fool the Swedes into believing that an exchange was possible, but in all probability it was never an option. After the time in prison Wallenberg simply had too much to tell.9



The Hero of Budapest

What Was the Purpose? That it was suspicions of espionage or some other kind of cooperation with the Nazis that led to Wallenberg’s arrest is beyond doubt. Probably he was also suspected of collaboration with the American and British intelligence services. For a paranoiac like Stalin it probably did not matter greatly what the exact pattern looked like. The important thing was that in both cases Wallenberg’s activities were seen as directed against Soviet interests. Without access to anything other than indirect information we may thus answer the question of what Wallenberg was suspected of with a reasonable degree of certainty. If the explanation of his arrest is to be found in his supposed role in a political game directed against the Soviet Union – what did they hope to gain by arresting him? What was the purpose? The recruitment and exchange motives have been discussed. Such motives may have existed, but not initially. Even though it may have been tempting to recruit Wallenberg in order to use his position and contacts in Sweden this does not seem to have been a principal motive. In that case the recruitment efforts would arguably have been pursued from the very beginning and with greater purposefulness, and there are no indications of that. If the exchange option was ever considered it was also at a later stage – to begin with there were simply no sufficiently valuable individuals for exchange at hand. Of all possible explanations of the purpose of Wallenberg’s arrest, the most feasible is the one concerning ‘the Himmler trail’. Wallenberg had cooperated with the leading dramatis personae – mainly Becher and Kasztner – in several ‘blood for goods’ actions connected with Himmler’s name. It could therefore be supposed that he was privy to important information about the possible doubledealing of the Western Allies – information that could be used against them in the peace talks after the war. That Wallenberg was considered an important source of information is borne out by an early testimony of the director of the Hungarian Central Bank, Takacsy, according to whom ‘the notes and data’ that were confiscated when he was arrested would be used ‘in future processes against compromised Hungarians’. But perhaps all these speculations about the reasons for or purpose of Wallenberg’s arrest are ‘cream whipped out of air’, as the Russian saying goes. Perhaps it is the result of a Western need for rational explanations, for comprehensive patterns. Perhaps the circumstances surrounding Wallenberg’s arrest are too haphazard, too trivial for us to accept them. Perhaps everything was much simpler, perhaps Wallenberg’s activities just seemed so deviant, so

Liquidation incomprehensible that the Soviets could only see one explanation for them. ‘One must remember that in trying to save Budapest Jews from slaughter, Wallenberg had to deal with the worst elements. His operations during the last months of the war could easily have given Soviet NKVD officers the impression that he was some sort of spy,’ Iver Olsen said as early as 1947.10 Perhaps it was an unfortunate combination of circumstances, coincidences and suspicions that led to the arrest. Perhaps the money and the valuables played a fatal role. Perhaps a SMERSH report from Budapest based on distorted information about Wallenberg’s activities combined with a paranoid Soviet leadership was quite enough. ‘In reality, a few, not necessarily profound motives may have sufficed,’ as the Swedish–Russian group of experts put it.


Aftermath Budapest While Raoul Wallenberg was languishing in Soviet prisons, his deeds were being praised in both Hungary and Sweden. In May 1945 Stockholm’s Jewish Congregation expressed to Danielsson and the other members of the Budapest legation ‘the Swedish Jews’ deep gratitude for the extraordinary humanitarian action of the legation on behalf of the Hungarian Jews’. In a telegram to Maj von Dardel the chairman, Gunnar Josephson, wrote that the Congregation’s thoughts were ‘especially with Raoul Wallenberg and his brave actions’ and that it was their ‘fervent hope that he will be able to save himself and return home’. At the same time, the foreign ministry, at the initiative of Rabbi Ehrenpreis, requested the Swedish legation in Bucharest to make enquiries about Wallenberg’s fate with the Jewish Community in Budapest. Raoul Wallenberg’s plan for the restitution of Jewish property and the rebuilding of Hungary after the war disappeared with him and never materialised. His work for the victims of Nazism would still be continued, albeit on a smaller scale. In the spring of 1945 survivors from the German concentration camps arrived in Sweden in the so-called White Buses. The rescue action was conducted under the aegis of the Red Cross. In mid May Koloman Lauer made a journey to southern Sweden where he visited refugee camps. What he saw made a deep impression on him. ‘More than 20 per cent of the women were taken so seriously ill with tuberculosis, mainly skeletal tuberculosis, that they are unlikely to survive,’ he wrote to Marcus Wallenberg junior. ‘I have seen women who were covered in bruises and abscesses, young women who looked like they were over 40 years old. The average weight was between 31 and 35 kilograms.’

Aftermath Lauer therefore decided to try to ‘continue Raoul’s work’ and took the initiative in creating an organisation which was given the name ‘Raoul Wallenberg’s Aid Committee for Hungarian Deportees’. The Aid Committee was introduced at a press conference in Stockholm on 24 May. The board consisted of Marcus Wallenberg junior and of individuals who had, in one way or another, connections with Raoul and Hungary, among them Sven Salén (chairman), Yngve Ekmark, Erik Björkman, Koloman Lauer, Ebba Bonde and Maj von Dardel. The goal was to ‘lend a helping hand to the women who are now on Swedish soil and who are among those whom he fought to save from the butchers’ sway’. Clothes and other objects could be taken to a big department store in Stockholm and money paid to a postal giro account. Among the contributors were Iver Olsen, the War Refugee Board and Amalia Wallenberg. If only the contours of Wallenberg’s deeds were so far known in Stockholm, they were a living memory in the minds of those he had saved in Budapest. On 21 June the board of the Jewish Congregation held a meeting with only one item on the agenda – a tribute to Raoul Wallenberg: We witnessed the release of prisoners, the happy liberation of sufferers, when Mr Wallenberg appeared among them and brought relief. It was beyond human capacity, when knowing no fatigue, facing all dangers, he brought back children who were dragged away, and freed elderly parents. We saw him procure food for the starving multitudes and care and medicine for the sick. We shall never forget him and the noble Swedish people, or the Swedish flag flying above the protected houses signifying security for those thousands of Jews who slept there at night. He was a righteous man, may God bless him! The chairman, Miksa Domonkos, gave a speech which depicted Wallenberg as an almost mythical figure: There are legends about this young man. One day, he suddenly appeared in our midst in the grave months of agonies. His slim figure turned up everywhere. He stood up against insanity, in front of the murderers’ machine guns. He raised his arm to defend the victims of the death marches, to stop the bloodthirsty, bestial savages, and to protect with the Swedish flag those condemned to die.



The Hero of Budapest Perhaps one day only legends will tell his story, of which coming generations will not know how much is the truth, how much is certain. There will be doubters, those who will smile. We, the witnesses of a grave historic period who survived, know that this modest young Swede is the living truth, who fought with the courage of a lion for the lives of Jews unknown to him. […] He was present everywhere, in places of greatest danger. He did not care for his own safety, he argued, threatened, made conditions and was worth a small army when he faced the henchmen of a stupendous fascist regime. […] The Hungarian Jewry knew who he was. The legend is true. Whenever we recall the tragic past, the wonderful memory of this outstanding son of the Swedish nation will live for ever in the hearts of the people who suffered. The meeting decided that a ward in the reconstructed Jewish Central Hospital should be named ‘Raoul Wallenberg’s Pavilion’. The resolutions of the meeting were sent to Raoul at his Stockholm address, in the hope that he might have arrived home safely. A visible expression of the gratitude of the Budapest Jews was that one of the streets in the former International Ghetto, Phoenix Street, was renamed after Wallenberg and a memorial plaque was put up. At the same time a Hungarian Wallenberg Committee was created, consisting of his closest collaborators. In June 1946 the Committee arranged a gala concert ‘In Honour and Memory of Raoul Wallenberg’ in the great hall of the Musical Academy. The hall was decorated in the Swedish and Hungarian national colours and the concert was broadcast on both Hungarian and Swedish radio. Works by Bach, Handel, Kodály, Bartók, Vivaldi and Chopin were performed, as well as Swedish songs. The pianist Annie Fischer, who had fled to Sweden after the German occupation, gave her first performance after her return to Budapest. The concert opened with a speech by the new Swedish minister in Hungary, Rolf Arfwedsson, and an emotionally charged homage to Wallenberg by Vilmos Forgács’s youngest son Pál.1 The proceeds of the concert went to a monument to Wallenberg by the sculptor Pál Pátzay. The monument, which depicted a man killing a snake, was erected in April 1949 in the Szent István Park, in the midst of the International Ghetto. The place was well chosen: it was here that the Nazis and the Arrow Cross used to drive the Jews together before the deportations. However, on the eve of the inauguration it was taken down and removed. ‘I saw the shrouded statue myself, and I happened to be present when a horse-drawn cart with

19.1  The Snake-Killer in Szent István Park before it was dismantled and taken away.


The Hero of Budapest

19.2  In 2001 this plaque was placed on the façade of the house on at 16 Benczúr Street: ‘The Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved the lives of thousands of persecuted Hungarian Jews, was in January 1945 deported from this house to the Soviet Union where he fell victim to the terror of Stalinism.’ three workmen turned up the night before the ceremony to break up the monument with crowbars and cart the remains away,’ wrote the reporter from the Manchester Guardian. ‘Two days later even the plinth had gone. Mr Wallenberg’s name was never mentioned in the press again. The Russians had finally caught up with his fame.’2 Three years later the monument turned up outside a new medical research center in Debrecen. If Wallenberg never made it to Debrecen, the monument to his achievement covered that distance – without the plinth that showed to whom it was dedicated. By this time representatives of the same kind of regime as the one that had arrested Wallenberg had seized power in Hungary, where he now became a non-person. That is, until the winter of 1952–3, when his name was brought up again, in a terrible context. In late 1952 the communist government initiated a bogus process with the aim of showing that Wallenberg had been killed at the instigation of Joint and that this organisation, which had financed his rescue action, was in fact a cover for a spy and terrorist operation directed against the Soviet Union and other communist countries. Valdemar Langlet was said to have


19.3  Memorial plaque of Vilmos Langfelder at 36 Andrássy Boulevard, where he lived. been one of the leaders of the undercover activities in Budapest. Several Jewish leaders who had worked with Wallenberg were arrested and beaten, among them Miksa Domonkos, Lájos Stöckler and László Pető. Károly Szabó was also implicated. The reason why Wallenberg was murdered was, it was said, that he had discovered some ‘dirty business’ that Joint had been involved in. The Jews had therefore decided to put him – and Langfelder – out of the way. The killing was supposed to have been carried out by Pál Szalai between 15 and 17 January 1945. The process had two aims: to show that Wallenberg and Langfelder were dead (and thus not in the Soviet Union) and that the instigators were people paid by an international Jewish world that wished to hurt the Soviet Union. It was an expression of Stalin’s growing anti-Semitism and paranoia and was coordinated with the planned trial against Jewish doctors in Moscow. Both processes were stopped after Stalin’s death in March 1953. It was only during the political thaw in the second half of the 1980s that Raoul Wallenberg became a persona grata in Hungary. In 1988 a new monument to him was erected, and in 1999 a copy of the statue known as Snake-Killer was placed in the park where it once stood, on a pedestal with the original text. Several memorial plaques were also put up in Budapest: on the façades of the Hazai



The Hero of Budapest Bank (nowadays the British embassy) and 16 Benczúr Street (now the Austrian embassy). A memorial plaque to Vilmos Langfelder was placed at 36 Andrássy Boulevard, where he lived.

Stockholm–Moscow While Moscow was busy trying to draft an answer to the Swedish government, Raoul’s family was acting to find out what had happened to him. In the winter of 1947 his half-brother Guy, who was studying in the USA, took the opportunity to inform not only the public (in newspaper articles) but also President Truman about the fate of his brother. The letter ended with a plea: In view of the manifest inability of ordinary diplomacy to cut through the tangle of red tape and misunderstanding that may still be holding my brother a prisoner – more than two years after the completion of his United States-inspired humanitarian mission – I ask your assistance, Mr President, in obtaining the true facts.3 At the same time Maj von Dardel tried to act on behalf of her son. She wrote a letter to the Soviet Red Cross, and Count Folke Bernadotte turned to the International Red Cross Committee. As their efforts were in vain she decided to write direct to ‘the Mighty Ruler of the Soviet Union’, Generalissimo Joseph Stalin. She told him about her son’s struggle for Budapest’s Jews, about Dekanozov’s note and the ‘good news’ from Alexandra Kollontay in February 1945, and continued: Since then two-and-a-half years have passed without further information about him from the Soviet authorities. My faith in the mighty Soviet Union has been so great that in spite of my great worry I have however been convinced that I will one day see him again. As I suppose that the delay in his homecoming is a result of misunderstandings on a lower level, I now turn to the Ruler of the Soviet Union with a plea that my son may be sent back to Sweden and his mother who longs for him. The letter was to be delivered to Stalin by the Swedish minister in Moscow, Rolf Sohlman, but it never was. Sohlman received the letter at the same time as he received Vyshinsky’s note that Raoul was ‘unknown to us’. After consulting with

Aftermath the foreign ministry he therefore decided not to hand over the letter, which ‘had been composed on the presumption that the Soviets concerned had not answered the Swedish petition in the matter’. ‘It is,’ he added in a letter to Maj von Dardel, ‘my conviction that the Soviet authorities have made serious efforts to find out about your son’s fate and it is only to be regretted that the result is negative.’ Vyshinsky’s message was received without critical examination by the foreign ministry and the press, but not by Raoul’s family and the indefatigable Rudolph Philipp who refused to accept the information. After all, they knew from Langfelder’s cellmate Erhard Hille that Wallenberg had been incarcerated in the Lubyanka! Therefore they continued their efforts to shed light on what had already developed into a ‘case’. In November 1946 the family received a contribution of $2,500 (roughly $50,000 today) from Joint to research Raoul’s fate, and the summer of 1947 saw the creation of what was later to be called ‘The Wallenberg Action’ – an association of several societies committed to the Wallenberg case. In mid July an appeal for Wallenberg’s release addressed to Stalin was handed over to the Soviet legation in Stockholm. It was signed by 60,000 members of 17 Swedish women’s organisations. The creation of ‘The Wallenberg Action’ led to a total change in public opinion. Besides the foreign ministry there now existed an organisation that was doing all in its power to obtain the truth about Wallenberg’s fate. For the foreign ministry, which for obvious reasons preferred more diplomatic methods, the body became a constant source of irritation and the relationship between the two was at times quite frosty. Per Anger, who since 1948 had been handling the Wallenberg case at the foreign ministry and who in many respects shared the views of ‘The Wallenberg Action’, was caught in a conflict of loyalties and in January 1951 resigned from his assignment. A reflection of the tense atmosphere characterising these years is the fate of Jenő Lévai’s 1948 book Raoul Wallenberg regényes élete, hősi küzdelmei, rejtélyes eltűnésének titka (which appeared in English in 1988 as Raoul Wallenberg: His Remarkable Life, Heroic Battles and the Secret of His Mysterious Disappearance), published first in Hungarian and then in Swedish as Raoul Wallenberg: Hjälten i Budapest (Raoul Wallenberg: The Hero in Budapest). The Hungarian journalist had had a Swedish protective passport, he had good knowledge of Wallenberg’s activities in Budapest, and the book is well researched. But he was loyal to the new communist regime and supported Kossuth Radio’s thesis that Wallenberg had been killed by the Arrow Cross. Although this passage was deleted in the Swedish edition, Guy von Dardel and Rudolph Philipp, who was strongly anticommunist, persuaded the publisher to withdraw the book from bookshops and



The Hero of Budapest to destroy the copies in stock. The same fate befell a book written by Lars Berg and published the following year, Vad hände i Budapest? (published in English as The Book that Disappeared: What Happened in Budapest). The controversial part of this book was the author’s blunt description of the ravages of the Soviet army after the occupation, of the looting and the rapes. The book barely reached the shelves before it disappeared. Only about 300 copies seem to have been distributed. Whether Soviet agents or Swedish interests – the family’s or the foreign ministry’s – were behind this blitz operation is an open question – the matter has never been cleared up. The appointment of Arne S. Lundberg as deputy secretary of state in 1951 led to a new beginning in the handling of the Wallenberg case and to a thaw in the relationship between the foreign ministry and ‘The Wallenberg Action’ and Raoul Wallenberg’s family. In the autumn of 1952 Wallenberg was awarded the Royal Medal Illis Quorum ‘for the self-sacrificing and successful work that he carried out in 1944 and the beginning of 1945 in extremely difficult conditions for the benefit of persecuted Jews in Budapest’. The award, which came after a plea from Raoul’s stepfather and Rudolph Philipp, was meant as an expression of ‘the government’s appreciation of Wallenberg’s achievement in Budapest’. In the 1950s several testimonies from German and Italian prisoners of war became known, enabling the Swedish government to confront the Soviets with irrefutable evidence that Wallenberg had been held captive in the Soviet Union in 1945–7 – in spite of Vyshinsky’s assurance to the contrary. In 1957 the pressure resulted in a new Soviet note, the so-called ‘Gromyko memorandum’, named after the Soviet minister for foreign affairs, Andrei Gromyko. It was here that the Smoltsov report was quoted. It was said to have been found in the hospital ward of the Lubyanka prison. The blame for Wallenberg’s arrest and death was conveniently cast on the security organs and especially Viktor Abakumov, who after Stalin’s death in 1953 had been executed for ‘criminal activities’. The Gromyko note claimed that, beside the Smoltsov report, no other documents or testimonies pertaining to Wallenberg had been found. The Swedish side, however, refused to believe that ‘all other documentation concerning Wallenberg’s time in Soviet prisons other than the report mentioned in the memorandum from the Soviet government had been totally destroyed’. The Swedish government ‘therefore expects that, if any further material emerges in the Soviet Union that can clarify what has happened to Wallenberg, this will be communicated to the Swedish foreign ministry’. The uncertainties surrounding the Smoltsov report – which was not presented – forced the Swedish government and the von Dardel family to continue

19.4  Raoul Wallenberg’s parents Maj and Fredrik von Dardel.


The Hero of Budapest their struggle to find out what had happened to Wallenberg. At irregular intervals information emerged that Wallenberg was still alive in Soviet prisons, camps or mental institutions. None of these reports, however, could be confirmed by two independent sources or in documented form. The continued pressure from the Swedish government was invariably countered with negative answers. In despair at the lack of positive responses Maj and Fredrik von Dardel took their own lives in 1979, two days apart. It was only in 1989, during perestroika, that the Soviet government presented the ‘further material’ that the Swedish government had asked for in its answer to the Gromyko memorandum. All of a sudden Wallenberg’s belongings, which had been confiscated when he was arrested, turned up: his pocket diary and address book, his diplomatic passport, money in various currencies, his cigarette case. The things were said to have fallen off a shelf during a renovation in the Lubyanka prison. They were handed over to his half-brother and -sister, who after the death of their parents had shouldered the responsibility for the search for the truth about Raoul’s fate. The new openness in the Soviet Union led to the creation in 1991 of a joint Swedish–Russian working group with the aim of trying to find out what had happened to Wallenberg. The group conducted comprehensive investigations in Soviet archives and interviewed a large number of people with a connection to the Soviet security organs and the foreign ministry at the time of Wallenberg’s supposed death. New documentation emerged that has been used frequently in this book: intelligence reports from Budapest, registration cards from the Lubyanka and Lefortovo, and so on. The group also had access to the original of the Smoltsov report. The forensic investigations carried out in Sweden and Russia showed that the report is in all probability authentic – which is not the same thing as saying that it is true. The work resulted in the report Raoul Wallenberg: Report of the Swedish– Russian Working Group, published in 2000 in Swedish, Russian and English. The report concludes that ‘the burden of proof regarding the death of Raoul Wallenberg lies with the Russian government’. The wording reflects the doubts about the authenticity of the death certificate, but also the existence of testimonies claiming that Wallenberg may have been alive after 1947. During the last few years information has emerged to the effect that a ‘prisoner No. 7’, who might be Wallenberg, was interrogated a few days after the official death date – which throws yet another shadow on the Smoltsov report. A discussion of this piece of information and its credibility, however, is beyond the scope of this book, to whose author the hypothesis that Raoul Wallenberg did indeed die in July

Aftermath 1947 – if perhaps not on the very day indicated in the Smoltsov report – seems the most likely one.

Whoever Saves One Life Saves the Whole World Outside Budapest, Moscow and Stockholm Raoul Wallenberg came to be recognised as one of the great luminaries of the twentieth century. As early as 1948 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize with the citation that his ‘chivalric struggle’ for the Jewish people is ‘one of the most shining examples of our time’ of what an individual human being can do ‘for the sake of peace and humanity’.4 Fifteen years later he was named by the State of Israel as one of the ‘Righteous among the Nations’, an award given to Gentiles who, at the risk of their own lives, saved Jews during World War II. In order to be recognised as ‘Righteous among the Nations’, the contribution must have been made on numerous occasions or have been particularly outstanding, and without any financial motives. The recipient is given a medal and a diploma and his name is inscribed on an honorary wall in the Garden of the Righteous in the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem. The medal bears the inscription: ‘Whoever saves one life saves the whole world,’ a quotation from the Talmud. Raoul Wallenberg was honoured as one of the first, in 1963, the year that the award was established. During the following years the other Budapest Swedes were granted the award as well.5 In 1981, Raoul Wallenberg was made an honorary citizen of the USA, the second in the country’s history after Winston Churchill, for having ‘with extraordinary courage and with total disregard for the constant danger to himself, saved the lives of almost one hundred thousand innocent men, women, and children’. The initiative came from Congressman Tom Lantos, who, together with his wife Annette, were saved by Wallenberg in Budapest in 1944, he by hiding in one of the Swedish safe houses, she because she belonged to a family with protective passports. In 1985 Wallenberg became the first honorary citizen of Canada, in 1986 he was made an honorary citizen of Israel, in 2003, of the city of Budapest and in 2013, of Australia. His homeland Sweden was late to recognise Wallenberg’s achievement, but during the last two decades streets and squares have been named after him and monuments have been erected. The last one, by Ulla and Gustav Kraitz, outside the foreign ministry in Stockholm, was inaugurated in August 2012: Wallenberg’s briefcase in bronze on a bench of black granite.


Bringing Honour to One’s Family Raoul Wallenberg was a person endowed with many talents. He was receptive, creative, inventive, enterprising, he was a skilled organiser and negotiator, he had charm, a great sense of humour and a gift for languages, he was garrulous and sociable. Some of these talents were held against him by elements in his own family, who saw him as ‘too loquacious’ to be a serious banker or businessman. Instead, it was the six months spent in Budapest, under extreme circumstances, that provided scope for Raoul’s gifts. It was not only his negotiating skills, which he had shown already as a very young man, in South Africa, that were put to full use here. He also displayed leadership qualities that he was probably himself unaware that he possessed. In a short span of time he created a vast and many-faceted organisation which included everything from the production of protective passports to the acquisition of foodstuffs, to housing and health care. He is most famous for the protective-passport action, but if he had not provided his protégés with food and shelter that would have been of little or no use. This is an aspect of Wallenberg’s Budapest achievement that is often overlooked. However, these qualities were not the only ones that made the Wallenberg action so successful. The success was also the result of Raoul’s fearlessness and daring. The episode with the robbers in the USA in 1933 shows that these qualities seem to have been traits of his character rather than something motivated by circumstances. At times the daring slid over into something bordering on recklessness or even thoughtlessness; one such example was the idea to inoculate

Bringing Honour to One’s Family his protégés with typhus to stop them from being deported (page 224). But the situation in Budapest in the autumn of 1944 left little room for caution. Wallenberg’s decision to make contact with the Russians was an expression of the same kind of daring or recklessness. Or ingenuousness. It was naive to believe that he would be welcomed with open arms by the representatives of a communist dictatorship, and he was cautioned by others not to take the step. But this is easy to say when we regard history through a polished rear-view mirror, with the benefit of hindsight – for Wallenberg, the other option, to stay on the German–Hungarian side involved even greater danger. Perhaps there lay behind his decision to cross over to the Soviet side a sense of invulnerability, of invincibility even. He knew that he had saved thousands of lives and he was conscious of the significance of what he had achieved. And he was a Wallenberg, raised by his grandfather to view himself as a chosen one, as someone who by virtue of his origin had a special mission. What would have happened if Raoul Wallenberg had returned safely to Stockholm after his mission was accomplished? Would he have been ostracised for having overstepped his powers by breaking the rules of diplomacy – like Carl Lutz, the Swiss vice consul, who was put into quarantine for ten years by his country’s foreign ministry? On the other hand, Wallenberg was not a career diplomat and could have lived with such a punishment. Perhaps he would have made the career within the family business sphere that he had so long craved for, having now proven what he was capable of. We don’t know. What we know is that Raoul Wallenberg became a legend and a myth. A myth, however, not woven by fairy tales and mystifications but a myth with a rock-hard kernel of reality and truth. The mythologisation began when his Jewish co-workers gave him the name ‘Wallenbergus Sanctus’, Saint Wallenberg, while he was still in Budapest – and when, soon after his disappearance, a street and a hospital wing were named after him. The image of Raoul Wallenberg as a saviour and a hero is partially the work of latter-day biographers, but it also reflects the view of those who owed their lives to him. What Raoul Wallenberg achieved in Budapest was extraordinary by every measure, from all perspectives. During these six months he proved worthy of the caul he was born with. Raoul Wallenberg never returned home, and the question ‘Why?’ has never received a satisfactory answer. The main blame must of course be laid on the Soviets. But that a communist dictatorship should act in any other way than it did is not to be expected. To the Soviet leadership Raoul Wallenberg was but a speck on the window through which they regarded the world, not more.



The Hero of Budapest Respect for human dignity was not in their vocabulary. It is of the Swedish side that one has the right to demand more. The foreign ministry’s handling of the case during the first years has been addressed above, as has Marcus Wallenberg’s performance. A few questions remain to be asked, however. They are unpleasant and the possible answers even more so. One of them concerns the government and the foreign ministry. What role did the foreign minister’s socialist convictions, anti-Americanism and naivety regarding the Soviet Union have? (It is a well-known fact that he believed the Soviet Union to be a country ruled by law.) Would the foreign ministry have acted otherwise if Wallenberg had been a professional diplomat, a colleague, and not someone who was unknown to them? Was it detrimental to Wallenberg that he bore the name he bore – the very symbol of Swedish capitalism? Was he sacrificed for the sake of good foreign relations, so that the Trade and Credit Agreement with the Soviet Union could be signed? ‘It is terrible to say that Wallenberg was sacrificed,’ said Per Anger when, shortly before his death in 2002, he was shown documents that had been withheld from him when he was responsible for the Wallenberg case in the foreign ministry in 1948–50. ‘But the fact remains that Foreign Minster Östen Undén must have understood that Wallenberg was in a Soviet prison.’1 It is hard not to be struck by the passivity of the Wallenberg family. Through his close contact with Alexandra Kollontay, Marcus junior had a unique opportunity to influence the matter. True, he wrote two letters to her, but in both cases at the initiative of Staffan Söderblom. A benevolent explanation for the lack of interest is that he was convinced at an early stage that Wallenberg was dead and that any pressure was therefore meaningless. But that explanation is valid only for the first years, when nothing was known about Raoul. In the 1950s, when it became clear that he had been – and perhaps still was – incarcerated in the Soviet Union, Marcus Wallenberg, as far as we know, made no attempts to enquire about him. However, some initiatives seem to have been taken by his brother Jacob, Raoul’s godfather. Considering the Wallenberg family’s position and influence, much greater resources could no doubt have been mobilised. ‘Theoretically it should […] have been possible for the Wallenberg brothers to use their influence over key political persons to liberate Raoul Wallenberg,’ according to a scholar who has studied the question in detail: ‘To be sure, it can always be asserted that it is inappropriate to mix personal, economic and political interests, but Marcus Wallenberg had not hesitated to mix these roles during the war.’2 The inactivity is particularly striking when seen against the background of the efforts made when six employees

Bringing Honour to One’s Family of two Wallenberg-controlled firms (ASEA and L.M. Ericsson) were arrested by the Gestapo in Poland in 1942. After two years of negotiations – conducted on instructions from Jacob Wallenberg – the men were set free.3 Whatever motives guided the Wallenberg family, one thing is certain: if Raoul’s grandfather had been alive, everything would have been different. Raoul was the apple of his eye, the projection of his ambitions and dreams. Gustaf Wallenberg would have spared no efforts to enquire about his grandson, to have him released. When Raoul turned 23, in 1935, his grandfather wrote him a letter expressing his hopes for him: ‘May all that come true which is always on my mind, that you shall become an able man and bring honour to our family.’4 Raoul did. If Gustaf Wallenberg had been alive, he would have found that his educational philosophy had borne fruit: Raoul’s victory over the Nazis and the Arrow Cross was a victory for his ‘programme’. His grandson had proved his ability and honoured his family. But he had done it under hellish circumstances and at a devilish cost.


Acknowledgements Many people have helped me during the work on this book – with data, advice, information and criticism: Birgitta and Jan Anger, Gloria von Berg, Lars Brink, Lucien Brongniart and Per-Olov Klein, Louise von Dardel, Gustaf Douglas, Barbro Ek, Kaj Falkman, Eddy Fonyódi, Karin Olofsdotter and Lars-Erik Tindre (Swedish embassy in Budapest), Berndt Fredriksson (Archive of the Swedish foreign ministry), Kristian Gerner, László Győri, Maria Halphen, Torsten Hèrnod, Zsuzsa Hetenyi, Nadav Kaplan, László Karsai, Eva Klein, Bengt, Manne and Rolf af Klintberg, Gellért Kovács, Staffan Lamm, Isac Larsson, Thomas Lundgren (National Archives, Stockholm), Johan Matz, Camilla Nagler, Tina Nordborg and Anders Wesslén (Army Museum, Stockholm), Gregor Nowinski, Ferenc Orosz, Staffan Paues, Anders Perlinge (‘The Wallenberg Archive’), Lena Posner-Körösi, Szabolcs Szita, Zsuzsanna Toronyi, Krisztián Ungváry, Krister Wahlbäck, Péter Zwack and Anne Marshall Zwack and their secretary Judit Láczai. My conversations with Ambassador Jan Lundvik, who has been dealing with the Wallenberg case since the 1960s, have been extremely valuable. Thanks, Jan! A special word of thanks goes to those who worked with or were saved by Raoul Wallenberg and who have helped me in various ways: Alice Breuer, Gábor Forgács, Gabriella Kassius, Frank Vajda, Kate Wacz, Edit Wohl (and Rune Wennerberg). I also wish to express my sincere gratitude to my translator Harry D. Watson, who also polished the English of the last six chapters, which were translated by me. Harry and I have worked together many times, always to my great satisfaction. The thoroughness and acuity of my copy-editor Alex Middleton has helped free the text from some of the inconsistencies marring it before he subjected it to his critical eye. One person has played a decisive role in this book’s coming into being: Raoul Wallenberg’s half-sister Nina Lagergren. Without her kindness, benevolence and


The Hero of Budapest generosity – with information, documentary material and photographs – the project could not have been accomplished. To her goes my deepest gratitude. The original Swedish edition of the book (Raoul Wallenberg: En biografi, Stockholm 2012) has almost 1,200 footnotes, the majority of them references to sources. In the English edition the number of footnotes has been reduced to a minimum. The sources used are instead indicated under each chapter in the notes section. Bengt Jangfeldt, August 2013

Notes Abbreviations KA KB LUB NL RA RW RW Database SEHF


Krigsarkivet (The War Archive, Stockholm) Kungl. Biblioteket (Royal Library, Stockholm) Lunds Universitetsbibliotek (Lund University Library) Nina Lagergren’s archive, Stockholm Riksarkivet (National Archives, Stockholm) The Raoul Wallenberg Collection (in RA) Raoul Wallenberg Database (see Printed and Internet Sources in Selected Bibliography) Stiftelsen för Ekonomisk Historisk Forskning inom Bank och Företagande (The Foundation for Economic History Research within Banking and Enterprise, Stockholm [‘The Wallenberg Archive’]) Statens offentliga utredningar (Swedish Government Official Reports) Stockholms Stadsarkiv (Stockholm City Archives) Utrikesdepartementets arkiv (Archive of the Swedish foreign ministry, Stockholm) Uppsala University Library

Most of Raoul Wallenberg’s correspondence (e.g. with his family and Koloman Lauer), as well as letters and other documents concerning him (including copies of his pocket diary and address book), are kept in the Raoul Wallenberg Collection in the Swedish National Archives (RA). Some family correspondence


The Hero of Budapest is preserved in Nina Lagergren’s private archive. The correspondence between Gustaf Wallenberg and his relatives is preserved in Gustaf Wallenberg’s collections in RA and SEHF. The latter is the main archive for matters – business and private – concerning the Wallenberg family. The correspondence concerning Raoul Wallenberg and his career, most of which was published in Nylander and Perlinge 2000, is kept here. Some letters, however, were not included in this edition and are quoted here for the first time. A selection of letters between Maj von Dardel and her parents-in-law was published in von Dardel 1974 and most of the correspondence between Raoul and his grandfather in Raoul Wallenberg: Letters and Dispatches 1995 (Swedish edition 1987). The letters from Per Wising to Gustaf Wallenberg are kept in SEHF. The diplomatic correspondence (e.g. between the Swedish legation in Budapest and the Swedish foreign ministry as well as between individual diplomats) is preserved in the archive of the foreign ministry (UD). The letters, telegrams and documents concerning the Wallenberg case are collected in the 49 volumes of Documents (see Archival Sources on Selected Bibliography). A selection, including Wallenberg’s reports, was published in Swedish in Räddningen (The Rescue) 1997. The reports were also published in English (Raoul Wallenberg: Letters and Dispatches 1995). The correspondence between the American and British legations in Stockholm and the US State Department is mostly quoted from SOU 2003. ‘The Uppsala Project’, conducted at Uppsala University 1989–91, consists of interviews with 170 persons who were saved by the Swedish rescue action in Budapest or in one way or another involved in it. Most of the documents concerning Wallenberg’s arrest and detention in the USSR, and the subsequent handling of ‘the Wallenberg case’, are reprinted in Raoul Wallenberg: Report of the Swedish–Russian Working Group 2000. The RW Database is an online resource with documents and testimonies pertaining to the Wallenberg case. The apparatus does not contain references to every single source quoted. With a few exceptions it gives only the titles of the literature and archives used.


A Wallenberg Literature: Gårdlund 1976, Lindgren 2009, Olsson 2007, von Dardel 1974. Archival sources: KA (the Royal Naval College), RA (Fredrik von Dardel’s diaries), SSA (estate inventories; guardianship documents; school reports), video interview with Rolf af Klintberg by Louise von Dardel. 1 Oral communication from Nina Lagergren to the author. 2 Unless otherwise stated all italics are in the source.

The New Elementary School Literature: af Klintberg 1946 and 1962, Bierman 1981, Brink 2009, Gårdlund 1976, Lester 1982, Olsson 2001. Archival sources: The af Klintberg family archive (Rolf af Klintberg’s diaries), RA (memos by Maj von Dardel, Anna Nisser and Rolf af Klintberg), SSA (school reports).

Out into the World Literature: Lester 1982, Rosenfeld 1982, Stafford 1985. Archival sources: KB (Carl Milles’s correspondence). 1 John Wehausen (1913–2005) obtained a PhD in mathematics at the age of 24 and worked at several American universities during his long career. He was known for his interest in languages. 2 New York Times (23 September 1932). Three years later the paper reported on a dinner party given by Lucette before ‘the third summer dance’ at the Greenwich Country Club, this time for 500 people (8 September 1935).

The Architect Literature: Bierman 1981, Gårdlund 1976, Lester 1982, Lévai 1988, Marton 1995, Rosenfeld 1982, Stafford 1985. Archival sources: SEHF (the conflict between Marcus and Gustaf Wallenberg). 1 Raoul is referring to the main character, a pimp, in the play Monsieur Alphonse by Alexandre Dumas. 2 The information about the conversations between the brothers is based on an account written by Marcus Wallenberg senior a few months later (SEHF, uncatalogued).

South Africa Literature: Rosenfeld 1982, von Dardel 1974, Wallenberg 1935 and 1936. Archival sources: NL (Bernice Ringman’s correspondence with Raoul Wallenberg). 1 Raoul’s drawings are kept in Stockholm’s Museum of Architecture. His proposal did not win, nor was it mentioned by the jury.



The Hero of Budapest

Palestine Literature: Lévai 1988. Archival sources: SSA (Gustaf Wallenberg’s death certificate). 1 ‘Faccetta nera’ was an immensely popular song at the time, inspired by a beautiful slave girl whom Italian forces came across during the invasion of Abyssinia. Now she was to be freed, brought to Rome and paraded before Il Duce and the king alongside the troops.

The End of an Epoch Literature: Olsson 2007, Wallenberg 1936. 1 Raoul was 176 cm tall. 2 The correspondence between Marcus Wallenberg senior and his daughter Gertrud is kept in SEHF (uncatalogued).

Interlude Literature: af Klintberg 1946, Berger 2005a, 2008a and 2008b, Bierman 1981, Brink 2009, Lévai 1988, Marton 1995, Philipp 1946, Rosenfeld 1982, Stafford 1985, von Platen 1993, Werbell and Clarke 1982. Archival sources: RA (Lauer’s memo ‘Wallenbergaktionen’ and his application for Swedish citizenship; memo by Maj von Dardel). 1 Details about the inheritance are to be found in Berger 2008b. 2 According to Koloman Lauer. 3 The Berlin trip is documented in Raoul Wallenberg’s letters to E. Behrend (6 December 1938, RA) and Maj and Enzio von Plauen (Christmas 1938, NL). 4 Interview with László Hertelendy in Magyar Hírlap (11 April 1987). 5 Oral communication to the author, 27 October 2010. 6 Information about Wallenberg’s business trips is contained in a letter from Koloman Lauer to Rudolph Philipp, 25 October 1955 (RA).

Recruitment Literature: Agrell 2006, Bierman 1981, Braham 1981 (Vol. 2), Brink 2009, Forgács 2006, Klein 2011, Koblik 1988, Lester 1982, Lévai 1988, Levine 2010, Lindgren 2009, Matz 2012, Sjöquist 1974, Svanberg and Tydén 2005, SOU 2003, von Platen 1993. Archival sources: Video interview with Rolf af Klintberg by Louise von Dardel, RA (Masur’s and Wallenberg’s letters to Rabbi Ehrenpreis [in the Ehrenpreis collection]; Lauer’s citizenship). 1 According to their application for Swedish citizenship. 2 This letter is erroneously dated 6 July in Levine 2010, p. 219. 3 Lauer states that the meeting took place sometime at the end of April or the beginning of May, but this would appear to be a memory lapse. It must have taken place after Hull’s telegram to Johnson on 25 May.

Notes 4 This arrangement was accepted by the Swedish foreign ministry, which allowed the War Refugee Board to communicate with Wallenberg through the ministry’s channels (Matz 2012). 5 Oral communication from Nina Lagergren to the author. Leslie Howard, who played the leading role, was incidentally a Hungarian Jew by the name of László Steiner. 6 ‘Incidents and happenings before the outbreak of the world war’, ‘What does the idea “the United States of Europe” mean?’, ‘The five-year plan and Sweden’, ‘The magic mirror of statistics’, ‘Is the younger generation going to the dogs?’ and ‘The open mind’. 7 According to Wallenberg’s report to the Swedish foreign ministry of 29 July it had ‘now been confirmed that the king’s telegram to the regent was the direct reason that the deportations were stopped’. 8 Letter from Folke Bernadotte to Valdemar Langlet, 9 August 1944 (KB, the Langlet collection).

Budapest Literature: Anger 1981, Bierman 1981, Braham 1981 (Vol. 2) and 2000, Forgács 2004, Kaufmann 2000, Korányi [no date], Lajos 2006, Lester 1982, Lévai 1988, Levine 2010, SOU 2003, Marshall Zwack 2001, Raoul Wallenberg: Report of the Swedish–Russian Working Group 2000, Szita 2005. Archival sources: Bauer 1996, Hegedűs 1946, RA (Maria Lauer’s application for Swedish citizenship), UU (the Per Anger collection; the Raoul Wallenberg Project: Per Anger). 1 László Pető’s name is not mentioned in Raoul’s letters from Thonon-les-Bains, but he was two years younger and may have attended another course. Perhaps he also did not stay with Madame Bourdillon but they met elsewhere. 2 The supplementary letter was written by Anger, not by minister Danielsson, as stated in Levine 2010, p. 197. 3 For security reasons – even the courier post was occasionally subject to German censorship – the names of Wallenberg’s sources were given in a later memo. 4 After their emancipation in 1867, many Hungarian Jews converted to Christianity out of conviction and patriotism. In connection with the adoption of the Jewish laws in the 1930s and, especially, during the war, however, many conversions were made in attempts to avoid persecution. After the deportations stopped the number of converts increased radically. See Braham 2000, pp. 173–4. 5 The information about Forgács, Wohl, Hegedűs and Fleischmann is based on Forgács 2006, pp. 44–6, about Hegedűs also on Hegedűs 1946. 6 Undated letter, written at the beginning of August, not in early July as stated in Levine 2010, p. 190. 7 The Order of Vitéz is a hereditary Hungarian award which was initially given to persons who served with distinction during World War I. Later admittance was expanded to include civilians as well. 8 The Sárvár action was surrounded by strict secrecy and is, in Wallenberg’s memo to the Swedish foreign ministry of 6 August, said to have taken place the day before; the information came from a Hungarian police officer who was right in substance but gave the wrong date. The Sárvár camp was closed on 24 July.



The Hero of Budapest 9 There is no good word for the German (or Swedish) Schützling, which means, roughly, ‘ward’ or ‘protégé’. In literature about Wallenberg the word ‘protégé’ is often used. 10 Probably a reference to Maria Lauer’s marriage to Dezső von Bocz, captain in the Hungarian army, which was dissolved in 1936. 11 Curiously enough, neither Maria Lauer’s letter nor Koloman Lauer’s instructions (in RA) have attracted the attention of Wallenberg scholars.

Blood for Goods Literature: Anger 1981, Berg 1990, Braham 1981 (Vol. 2) and 2000, Forgács 2006, Kádár and Vági 2004, Langlet 1982, Lévai 1988, Philipp 1946, Schiller 1991, Szita 2005, Ungváry 2005. Archival sources: Bauer 1996, LUB (Margareta Bauer’s letter to Lennart Petri), KB (Valdemar Langlet’s archive), UD (Hull’s letter to Olsen), UU (the Raoul Wallenberg Project: Per Anger). 1 This account of political developments in Hungary in the summer of 1944 is based on Braham 1981, Vol. 2, pp. 743–90, and Handler 1996, pp. 60–6. 2 Forgács 2006, p. 17; oral communication from Gabriella Kassius to the author, 7 June 2011. 3 Oral communication from Gabriella Kassius to the author, 7 June 2011. 4 Kádár and Vági 2004, p. 210. My account of the ‘blood for goods’ plan is based on this source and on Szita 2005. 5 About Billitz’s biography see Szita 2005 and Kádár and Vági 2004. 6 UD: P 2 EUI 5/8–1998. No. 1551. 7 An almost illegible note in Wallenberg’s pocket diary on 22 September may perhaps be interpreted as ‘13.30 Becher’. Paul A. Levine’s claim that Wallenberg and Becher met ‘at least five times’ (Levine 210, p. 309) is due to a misreading of the pocket diary. The name that occurs ‘at least five times’ (actually seven) is not Becher but Berber [Smit], a Dutch girl whom Wallenberg dated in Budapest. 8 It should be noted that Hungarian Jews were not the only manpower in the Vienna Labour District at this time. Twenty-one per cent of the labour force was in fact made up of foreign workers according to the following hierarchy: free foreign employees; volunteer or conscripted workers from Wehrmacht-occupied territories abroad; forced labourers; prisoners of war and Italian military internees; Jewish forced labourers from Hungary; and concentration camp prisoners (Szita 2005, p. 104). 9 Braham 1981, Vol. 2, pp. 649–53. About the Hungarian Jews in Austria see also Szita 2005, pp. 101–24.

The Death Marches Literature: Anger 1981, Berg 1990, Bierman 1981, Braham 1981 (Vol. 2), Ember 2000, Forgács 2004 and 2006, Frojimovics et al. 1999, Kádár and Vági 2004, Lajos 2006, Lester 1982, Lévai 1988, Philipp 1946, SOU 2003, Vörös 1978, Werbell and Clarke 1982. Archival sources: Hegedűs 1946, Müller 1948, Swedish radio (interview with Per Anger,

Notes 8 August 1956), RW Database (Áron Gábor/test. 578), UU (the Raoul Wallenberg Project: Per Anger, Baroness Kemény). 1 According to Lévai it was Lars Berg, not Wallenberg, who negotiated and opened the synagogue (Lévai 1988, pp. 86–7). However, Berg himself claims to have been busy trying to get home from the railway station that day and does not mention the incident at Aréna Street. He does, however, mention a similar rescue action but gives no date. That Berg on one occasion took part in an action at the synagogue on Aréna Street has been confirmed by an eyewitness who claims that it was opened twice, on the 14th by Wallenberg and on the 15th by Berg (Philipp 1946, pp.104–8). In all probability the eyewitness mixed up the dates. 2 In fact the number was greater, more than 300 (Braham 1981, Vol. 2, p. 830). 3 Interview with Per Anger on Swedish radio, 8 August 1956. 4 Lajos 2006, p. 271. The statement was made during Kemény’s trial in 1946, when he was sentenced to death by hanging for war crimes and high treason. 5 See telegram from Johnson to Hull on 7 August: ‘We are informed by Rabbi Ehrenpreis that Germans refused to give Wallenberg visa for temporary return to Stockholm’ (SOU 2003, 139). 6 In the archive of the International Red Cross in Bern there is a correspondence in this matter (oral communication from Szabolcs Szita to the author). 7 The notes are not signed but there can be no doubt as to their authorship. 8 The note was also signed by Spain’s chargé d’affaires Ángel Sanz-Briz, Portugal’s chargé d’affaires Count Pongrácz and Switzerland’s chargé d’affaires Harald Feller. 9 Krausz’s assistant Ari Breslauer, who was also present at the meeting, described it during the Eichmann trial in 1961. Breslauer also took part in the rescue action in Hegyeshalom (The Trial of Adolf Eichmann, session 61).

Ghettoisation Literature: Adachi 1989, Anger 1981, Beér [no date], Berg 1990, Bierman 1981, Braham 1981 (Vol. 2), Kastner 1961, Ember 2000, Forgács 2006, Kaufmann 2000, Koblik 1988, Lajos 2006, Lévai 1988, Philipp 1946 and 1947, Szita 2008, Teicholz [no date], Ungváry 2005, Veres [no date], Werbell and Clarke 1982. Archival sources: Bauer 1996, Hegedűs 1946, Swedish TV (programme about Raoul Wallenberg by Hans Villius and Staffan Lamm, 2 February 1965), RW Database (Áron Gábor/test. 578), UU (the Per Anger collection; the Raoul Wallenberg Project: Agnes Adachi, Per Anger, Jonny Moser). 1 Kaufmann 2000. The legation’s office assistant Margareta Bauer remembers: ‘The Jews who had no references in Sweden were lining up in the legation in order to borrow telephone directories and more by “shut your eyes and point to a name” found something that could be declared as “relative or a business acquaintance”.’ (Bauer 1996.) 2 Oral communication from Gabriella Kassius to the author, 7 June 2011. 3 Ibid. 4 Among others Vilmos Langfelder, Kázmér Kállay, Tivadar Jobbágy, Györgyi Szél, ‘Relli’ Balázs and Sándor Ardai.



The Hero of Budapest 5 The account of the ghetto is based on Braham 1981, Vol. 2, pp. 850 ff., and Ungváry 2005, pp. 237–8, 246–7. 6 Other members were Béla Elek, Péter Sugár, Tamás Veres, András and László Geiger. 7 Veres’s photographs were enclosed in Wallenberg’s report to the Swedish foreign ministry on 8 December. 8 Veres [no date]. According to Sándor Ardai (quoted in Bierman 1981, p. 91) it was Wallenberg who jumped on the freight car, which is highly improbable given his status as a diplomat. The person Ardai saw was no doubt Veres. 9 The importance of Joint’s guarantee for the agreement between Wallenberg and Becher is evident from a telegram from Biss to Saly Mayer (Lévai 1988, p. 275; Biss 1966, p. 226). 10 It is possible that ‘Russian caviar’ was a codeword for something else, but in view of Lauer’s evidently excellent contacts with the Soviet trade representation in Stockholm it cannot be excluded that such a deal was made. 11 It is possible of course that ‘bacon’ was also a codeword. 12 According to Wallenberg’s first biographers this was a way to play for time – ‘in fact Wallenberg did not want to transport his protégés from Budapest under any circumstances’ (Lévai 1988, p. 117) and ‘time after time […] he managed to stop the Jews with protective passports from being put on a train to Sweden’ (Philipp 1947, p. 13). It is reasonable to believe that Wallenberg tried to delay the repatriation before 15 October, but after that date he even paid for the transport to take place. That some of the protégés were anxious to leave Budapest is shown by the fact that a few individuals equipped with provisional passports managed to get to Sweden by bribing the Gestapo.

Open Terror Literature: Berg 1990, Christmas of Raoul Wallenberg 2004, Ember 2000, Kaufmann 1996 and 2000, Lester 1982, Lévai 1988, Philipp 1946, Sjöquist 1974, SOU 2003, Szel 1961, Szita 2008, The Trial of Adolf Eichmann 1995. Archival sources: Bauer 1996, UU (the Raoul Wallenberg Project: Agnes Adachi, Per Anger, Kázmér Kállay, Jonny Moser). 1 Oral communication from Gabriella Kassius to the author, 7 June 2011. 2 Wallenberg’s meeting with Eichmann is described by Lars Berg (1990; Swedish edition 1949) and the other person present, Göte Carlsson, gave an account of it in a Swedish TV programme about Wallenberg in 1965. The meeting was called into question by Ember 2000, pp. 73 ff., and after her by Lajos 2006, p. 150 and Levine, pp. 276ff., with rather ill-founded arguments. It could be argued that Carlsson based his story on Berg’s book, but on the other hand he provided details of the meeting that cannot be found in that book. And why would two Swedish diplomats want to make up such a story? Carlsson also told a Swedish journalist about it (Sjöquist 1974, pp. 47–8), and Berg retold it in a French TV documentary about Wallenberg in 1982 (Philippe Halphen, ‘Le dossier Wallenberg: L’ange de Budapest’, TF1, 17 November 1982) and in a Swedish radio programme (12 June 1983). That Wallenberg met Eichmann was confirmed by Per Anger in an interview which Paul Levine did with him (UU, The Raoul Wallenberg Project). The final proof that the meeting did indeed take place is Gabriella Kassius’s

Notes account of the reaction at the Swedish legation the following day (see previous note). 3 To Elenore Lester Berg said that the meeting took place ‘a week or ten days before Christmas’ (Lester 1982, p. 115). In the French TV documentary (see previous note) Berg is less exact and talks about ‘December’. In all probability the meeting took place at the very beginning of the month – Gabriella Kassius quit her job at the legation on 3 December. 4 The deciphered telegram gives the name as ‘Daögger’. 5 Oral communication from Gabriella Kassius to the author, 7 June 2011. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 The account of the failed rescue action at Budaörs is based on Lévai 1988, pp. 154–6. 9 Some of the employees had already been given the chance to go home. The office assistant Birgit Brulin, who was newly engaged to a Hungarian man, left Budapest in mid December while Margareta Bauer chose to stay on (Bauer 1996). 10 Oral communication from Nina Lagergren to the author. Lévai, who quotes the memo, also claims that it was written by Wallenberg (Lévai 1988, p. 147).

Guest or Captive? Literature: Anger 1981, Berg 1990, Braham 1981 (Vol. 2) and 2000, Lajos 2006, Lester 1982, Lévai 1988, Philipp 1946, Raoul Wallenberg: Dokumentsamling 1957, Raoul Wallenberg: Report of the Swedish–Russian Working Group 2000, Rosenfeld 1982, Sjöquist 1974, SOU 2003, Ungváry 2005, Valakh 1991, Werbell and Clarke 1982. Archival sources: Anger 1945, Bauer 1996 and diaries, CIA (Raoul Wallenberg, Vol. 1–0125), Hegedűs 1946, Library of Congress (Ottó Fleischmann Papers), Lundvik 1999, RW Database (Chapovsky/doc. 304, Danilash/test. 909, Dmitrienko/doc. 64, Golub/doc. 301, Kupriyanov/doc. 65, Makhrovsky/doc. 305, Zakharov/doc. 66), UU (the Raoul Wallenberg Project: Lájos Bajusz, László Pető, Pál Szalai). 1 Switzerland was the protecting power for the USA, Great Britain, Belgium and other countries and looked after their embassies by moving in there themselves. Harald Feller resided in the British embassy, and when this was bombarded he moved to Count Eszterházy’s palace. Carl Lutz stayed in the American embassy and Max Meier in the Glass House in Vadász Street. 2 This account of the events during the Christmas days is based on Margareta Bauer’s memoirs (Bauer 1996) and her diaries, Berg 1990 and Anger 1981. 3 According to Szalai’s own report to the CIA 1956 (CIA, Raoul Wallenberg, Vol. 10125). 4 Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Ottó Fleischmann Papers, Box 3. 5 Interview with Per Anger on Swedish radio, 8 August 1956. See also Sjöquist 1974, p. 69. 6 John Dickinson was a Price, Waterhouse & Co. accountant working in Budapest for the Hungarian subsidiary of the Swedish Match Company. A few documents pertaining to his contacts with Wallenberg are preserved in Swedish archives. See also McKay 2011. 7 A misprint in the English translation of Lévai 1988, on which this information is based, dates the preparations for the trip 16 January (p. 212).



The Hero of Budapest 8 As reported by Langfelder later to one of his fellow prisoners in Moscow (Raoul Wallenberg: Dokumentsamling 1957, p. 104). 9 The description of the events in Benczúr Street is based mainly on the testimonies of three of the employees of the T Section (Andor Veres, György Wilhelm and Béla Révai) kept in the archive of the Swedish foreign ministry (UD). 10 The officer in question is usually referred to as a major by the name of Dimitry Demtschinko. This is a mistake that goes back to a letter from the Swedish minister in Hungary to the Swedish foreign ministry on 26 January 1946 reporting that the former had ‘under mysterious circumstances been called on by an anonymous person’ who stated that he had seen Wallenberg at Benczúr Street with three members of the Soviet army. One of them was a major Dimitry Demtschinko, who was said to be an engineer from Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine (R. Arwedsson to S. Grafström, 26 January 1946, Documents V). This piece of information was picked up by Philipp (1946) and Lévai (1948) and has since been accepted as a fact by Wallenberg biographers – although no officer with that name has ever been identified. Since the report about the encounter with Wallenberg on 13 January, written early next morning, was signed Ya. Dmitrienko (see page 293) it is logical to conclude that he was the officer Wallenberg was in contact with and that the ‘anonymous person’ had simply confused the names: to a non-Russian ear ‘Dmitrienko’ is easily mistaken for ‘Dimitry Demtschinko’. This hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that Wallenberg on one occasion referred to the officer as a ‘lieutenant colonel’ (Lévai 1988, p. 213, where, however, ‘alezredes’ – the Hungarian equivalent of ‘lieutenant colonel’ – is translated ‘colonel’) whereas the fictitious Demtschinko was said to be a major. (In the original Swedish edition of this book I myself refer to the officer as Demtschinko, since at the time of publication I did not have access to full information about Dmitrienko’s report and thought that it was written in the evening of 14 January. The fact that the report was dispatched as early as eight o’clock in the morning proves that its author cannot be anyone but the person who met Wallenberg on the previous day.) 11 This piece of information comes from Philipp 1946, p. 165. Either Philipp was ill informed or Wallenberg had on his own produced such documents. According to Ivan Danielsson, neither the foreign ministry in Stockholm nor the legation in Budapest had issued any such papers to Wallenberg (L. von Celsing to UD, 19 November 1946, Documents V). In fact, the Swedish minister had given Count Kutuzov-Tolstoy (see page 357) a letter of authorisation giving him the right to contact the Soviets on behalf of the Swedish legation (McKay 2012). 12 The head of the SMERSH section in the division was Colonel Ivan Kislitsa. Others present included the divisional commander, Major General Denis Podshivalov, the chief of staff, Colonel Nikolai Rogatkin, and the head of the political department, Colonel Ya. Dmitrienko (again). 13 Colonel Golub’s detailed information about the Studebaker – the name of the woman officer and the person who repaired the car – makes his testimony very credible. 14 When Gábor was interviewed in 1965 the person in question was still living in Budapest and his name was therefore kept secret for security reasons. 15 The names come from the letter referred to in note 10 in this chapter. 16 According to Philipp 1946, Wallenberg was not allowed to go to the office but had to ask his staff to descend the stairs. However, Bicskei saw Wallenberg coming through

Notes ‘a glass door’ – the entrance to each floor at 6 Tátra Street is made up of glass doors and the office was located on the first floor (RW Database/test. 838). Other persons have also testified that conversations between Wallenberg and his co-workers took place in the office.

Moscow Literature: Anger 1981, Berg 1990, Ember 2000, Hägglöf 1984, Marshall Zwack 2001, Sjöquist 1974, Raoul Wallenberg: Dokumentsamling 1957, Raoul Wallenberg: Report of the Swedish–Russian Working Group 2000, Rosenfeld 1982, SOU 2003, Ungváry 2005, Wallace 1947. Archival sources: Bauer 1945 and 1996, Berg 1945a and 1945b, KB (the Valdemar Langlet collection), RW Database (‘Mr Budapest’/test. 630, Jan Loyda/test. 938, 974, József Marton/test. 587, Gustav Richter/doc. 59/test. 396, Jerzy Trau/test. 662, 712), von Mezey 1945, UU (the Raoul Wallenberg Project: Lájos Bajusz). 1 According to the German officer Erhard Hille, who in the spring of 1945 shared a cell with Vilmos Langfelder, Wallenberg tried to ‘secure that the legation blocks were no longer fired at’ (Raoul Wallenberg: Dokumentsamling 1957, p. 88). However, this must be a misunderstanding as there were no ‘legation blocks’. The blocks or houses referred to were the ones under Swedish protection, i.e. the International Ghetto. That emerges from a testimony of another fellow prisoner, Jan Loyda, who talked about ‘one or several buildings belonging to the Swedish legation in Budapest’ (RW Database/test. 938). 2 The addresses were given to Colonel Dmitrienko by Wallenberg as early as 14 January. 3 After the arrest of Wallenberg a Soviet commission came to Benczúr Street in order to investigate the car in which Wallenberg arrived at the T Section and which was parked in the backyard of 12 Benczúr Street. When a few days later they came back to fetch it they had to drag it away on a sleigh drawn by two horses. Andor Veres had removed the petrol tank in order to make the car unusable (S. Engfeldt, Memorandum, 19 June 1951, Documents X). Did that petrol tank too contain valuables? Or did Veres throw away the petrol tank only to make it impossible to use the car, as he stated? György Wilhelm got a receipt for the car which was later given to Rudolph Philipp by Pál Hegedűs (RW1, Vol. 5). 4 Wallenberg’s dossier, ‘discovered’ in the KGB archive in 1989, contained $1,000, 500 Swiss francs, 30 Swedish kronor, 153,443 pengö and 25,750 in Bulgarian money (Report of the Swedish–Russian Working Group 2000, p. 312). Whether this amounted to the whole sum that was confiscated, however, is difficult to say. 5 The account of the transport to Moscow is based on the testimonies of Wallenberg’s and Langfelder’s fellow prisoners (Raoul Wallenberg: Dokumentsamling 1957). 6 Richter’s extermination plan can be read at the Shoah Research Center (www. 7 The following account is based on Richter’s testimony in the RW Database (test. 396), Raoul Wallenberg: Dokumentsamling 1957, pp. 71–3, and an interview in Dagens Nyheter (8 February 1957). 8 As opposed to Richter, who gave his testimony in the mid 1950s, Loyda, who was living in the DDR, could be questioned only at a much later date, in 1990, when for natural reasons his memory was somewhat obscured.



The Hero of Budapest 9 In an interview with Marvin W. Makinen in 1992, Loyda claimed that the interrogator had said: ‘The German is a diplomat but the Swede is not’ (RW Database/test. 974). 10 Spravka o vyzovakh na doprosy Rikhtera G. [Memo about summons to interrogations with Richter G.] (RW Database/doc. 59). 11 In connection with this the Stockholm evening newspaper Aftonbladet called Alexandra Kollontay, who stated that she had no information about Wallenberg: ‘Here in Moscow I haven’t heard word about Wallenberg. These things no longer pass through me.’

A Diplomatic Failure Literature: Anger 1981, Bezymensky 2001, Philipp 1946, Raoul Wallenberg: Dokumentsamling 1957, Raoul Wallenberg: Report of the Swedish–Russian Working Group 2000, SOU 2003, Villius 1966, Wahlbäck 2002, Werbell and Clarke 1982. Archival sources: Anger 1945, Lundvik 1999, RW Database (Otto Danielsson/test. 202, 469, Áron Gábor/test. 578, Gunnar Reuterskiöld/test. 278). 1 According to Rudolph Philipp (1946, p. 171), who must have got the information from Maj von Dardel. 2 Werbell and Clarke interviewed Krausz in 1981. They also talked to the former prime minister Tage Erlander and Staffan Söderblom who ‘indicated […] that they were both made aware of the question of the missing valuables’ (Werbell and Clarke 1982, pp. 201–3). 3 This account of routines and conditions in the Lefortovo prison is based mainly on information in Raoul Wallenberg: Dokumentsamling 1957, pp. 36–43. 4 The quotations from Wallenberg’s fellow prisoners come from Raoul Wallenberg: Dokumentsamling 1957. 5 Coen meant the NKVD, the Soviet Commissariat for Internal Affairs. 6 Alexandra Kollontay to Marcus Wallenberg, 7 June 1945 (Documents V). 7 Philipp 1946, p. 183. Af Sandeberg specified the information about his encounters with Hille in an article in Stockholms-Tidningen (5 July 1946). In the autumn of 1946 he published a book about his captivity in the USSR (Sandeberg 1946). 8 The account of the Soviet handling of the Wallenberg case during the winter and spring of 1947 is based on SOU 2003 and Report of the Swedish–Russian Working Group 2000.

Liquidation Literature: Agrell 2006, Anger 1997, Bezymensky 2001, Eisenbach 1955, Engblom 2008, Gerner 2005, Lukacs 2010, Matz 2012, McKay 2011b, Raoul Wallenberg: Report of the Swedish–Russian Working Group 2000, SOU 2003, Schiller 1991, Sereny 1995, Sudoplatov 1994, Vaksberg 1997, Valakh 1990. Archival sources: RW Database (SMERSH report by Major Petrovsky/doc.3), Vaksberg [no date]. 1 In Russian double consonants are rare, so the spelling of Wallenberg’s name with one ‘l’ is quite normal. The ‘misspelling’ is actually an indirect proof of the report’s


2 3


5 6 7 8 9


authenticity: a forger would no doubt have spelled it with two l’s – as in all other Soviet documents about Wallenberg. For a discussion about the fate of Langfelder and Roedel see Report of the Swedish– Russian Working Group 2000, pp. 143ff. The coded telegrams between the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs (from 1946: Ministry) and the Soviet legation in Stockholm in 1944–7 were made available in deciphered form in 2012. However, they contain nothing that sheds light on the Wallenberg case. There is a possibility that Wallenberg knew of Kutuzov-Tolstoy’s existence before he went to Hungary. The wife of his stepuncle, the artist Nils Dardel, had a sister, Linde Klinckowström, who was madly in love with the Russian count, whom she first met in Paris in 1927. They met on several occasions in the early 1930s but nothing came of it since her feelings were not reciprocated. Even if Wallenberg had not heard of Kutuzov-Tolstoy before they met in Budapest, it is reasonable to believe that the count, who spoke some Swedish, told him about his Swedish connection. If such was the case, it may have made Wallenberg entrust Kutuzov-Tolstoy with information about his own family that may have been used against him by the Soviet authorities. Schiller 1991, p. 164. ‘The Himmler trail’ was first suggested by Bernt Schiller (Schiller 1991) who argues for it in a well-documented and convincing way. See also Engblom 2008. The soldier was in all probability the Otto Prade mentioned in Berg 1990. See Berger 2001. This piece of information (from Vaksberg 1997, p. 304) has not been confirmed by Swedish-foreign-ministry documents. The Swedish diplomat Ulf Barck-Holst interpreted a conversation with Ivan Sysoyev, head of the 5th European Department of the Soviet foreign ministry, in December 1946 as meaning that the USSR regarded the Wallenberg case as a possible ‘negotiation basis’ for a swap. However, this interpretation presupposes that Sysoyev was aware that Wallenberg was held in Soviet captivity, which is uncertain. John Crawford, ‘The Raoul Wallenberg mystery’, Palestine Post (18 April 1947).

Aftermath Literature: de Vylder-Bellander 1952, Lévai 1988, Philipp 1946, SOU 2003, Sjöquist 1985 and 2001. 1 The account of the homage to Wallenberg is based on Lévai 1988, pp. 237ff. 2 Manchester Guardian (14 November 1952). 3 Washington Post (25 April 1947); New York Herald Tribune (27 April 1947); undated letter to Harry S. Truman, registered 27 March 1947, in Palestine Post (18 April 1947). 4 Redegjørelse for Nobels Fredspris: 1949 (Oslo 1949), pp. 42ff. 5 Valdemar and Nina Langlet in 1965, Per Anger in 1980, Lars Berg and Ivan Danielsson in 1982. Representatives of other neutral states were also recognised, some of them posthumously: Carl Lutz, Harald Feller, Peter Zürcher, Friderich Born, Ángel SanzBriz, Giorgio Perlasca, Angelo Rotta, Gennaro Verolino. Hungarian recipients are László Ocskay, who let his house in Benczúr Street to the Red Cross, the Red Cross



The Hero of Budapest delegate Alexander Kasser and – as late as 2009 – Pál Szalai, the Arrow Cross member who changed sides.

Bringing Honour to One’s Family Literature: Berger 2005b, Engblom 2008, Karlsson 2003, Sjöquist 1985. 1 Per Anger interviewed by Mikael Holmström in Svenska Dagbladet (12 January 2001). 2 Karlsson 2003, p. 643. The Wallenberg family’s involvement in the search for the truth about their relative’s fate is also discussed in Sjöquist 1985, pp. 188–91. 3 Engblom 2008, pp. 11ff. 4 Letter from Gustaf Wallenberg to Raoul Wallenberg, 21 July 1935. The Bonnier archive, Stockholm.

Selected Bibliography Printed and Internet Sources: Adachi, Agnes, Child of the Winds: My Mission with Raoul Wallenberg (Chicago, IL, 1989) Agrell, Wilhelm, Skuggor runt Wallenberg: Uppdrag i Ungern 1943–45 (Lund, 2006) Anger, Per, With Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest: Memories of the War Years in Hungary, trans. David Mel Paul and Margareta Paul (New York, NY, 1981) ——— ‘Inledning’, Räddningen: Budapest 1944: Rapporter ur UD:s arkiv (Stockholm, 1997) Beér, János, ‘A testimony…’ Available at (accessed 28 March 2013) Berg, Lars G:son, The Book that Disappeared: What Happened in Budapest (New York, NY, 1990) Berger, Susanne, ‘Swedish aspects of the Raoul Wallenberg case’ (2001). Available at (accessed 28 March 2013) ——— ‘Stuck in neutral’ (2005a). Available at susanne-berger (accessed 28 March 2013) ——— ‘Jacob Wallenberg’s initiative’ (2005b). Available at researcher/susanne-berger (accessed 28 March 2013) ——— ‘Prologue to Budapest: Raoul Wallenberg and Special-Metall Förening’ (2008a). Available at (accessed 28 March 2013) ——— ‘Raoul Wallenberg’s lost inheritance’ (2008b). Available at www.raoul-wallenberg. eu/researcher/susanne-berger (accessed 28 March 2013) Bezymensky, Lev, Budapeshtsky messiya: Raul’ Vallenberg (Moscow, 2001) Bezymenski, Lev, and Ulrich Völklein, Die Wahrheit über Raoul Wallenberg (Göttingen, 2000) Bierman, John, Righteous Gentile: The Story of Raoul Wallenberg, Missing Hero of the Holocaust (London, 1981) Biss, Andreas, Der Stopp der Endlösung (Stuttgart, 1966) Braham, Randolph L., The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, 2 Vols (New York, NY, 1981)


The Hero of Budapest ——— The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary [condensed edition] (Detroit, MI, 2000) Brink, Lars, Demokrat och krigsfrivillig (Mölndal, 2007) ——— När hoten var starka: Uppkomsten av en väpnad folkrörelse (Mölndal, 2009) Cesarani, David, Adolf Eichmann: His Life and Crimes (London and Portland, OR, 2002) Christmas of Raoul Wallenberg: Budapest 1944 (Budapest, 2004) Dardel, Fredrik von, Raoul Wallenberg: Fakta kring ett öde (Stockholm, 1970) Dardel, Maj von, Raoul (Stockholm, 1974) Eisenbach, Artur, Pertraktacje anglo-amerykańskie z niemcami a los ludności żydowskiej podczas II wojny światowej (Warsaw, 1955) Ember, Mária, Wallenberg Budapesten (Budapest, 2000) Engblom, Göran, Himmlers fred (Lund, 2008) Ett diplomatiskt misslyckande: Fallet Raoul Wallenberg och den svenska utrikesledningen (SOU 2003) Forgács, Gábor, ‘The history of the Üllői út 2–4, Wallenberg office hired by the Swedish Embassy’ (2004). Available at (accessed 28 March 2013) ——— Emlék és valóság: Mindennapjaim Raoul Wallenberggel (Budapest, 2006) Frojimovics, Kinga, G. Komoróczy, V. Pusztai and A. Strbik, Jewish Budapest: Monuments, Rites, History (Budapest, 1999) Gårdlund, Torsten, Marcus Wallenberg 1864–1943: Hans liv och gärning (Stockholm, 1976) Gerner, Kristian, ‘Fallet Raoul Wallenberg, Vilmos Böhm och Stalin’, Historielärarnas Förenings Årsskrift (2005) Hägglöf, Ingemar, Berätta för Joen: mina år med ryssarna 1943–1947 (Stockholm, 1984) Handler, Andrew, A Man for all Connections: Raoul Wallenberg and the Hungarian State Apparatus 1944–1945 (Westport, CT, 1996) Joseph, Gilbert, Mission sans retour: L’affaire Wallenberg (Paris, 1982) Kádár, Gábor, and Zoltán Vági, Self-Financing Genocide: The Gold Train, the Becher Case and the Wealth of Hungarian Jews, trans. Enikő Koncz, Jim Tucker and András Kádár (Budapest, 2004) Karlsson, Birgit, ‘Ekonomiska aspekter på Raoul Wallenberg-fallet’ (appendix to SOU 2003) Kastner, Rudolf, Der Kastner-Bericht über Eichmanns Menschenhandel in Ungarn (Munich, 1961) Kaufmann, Tomas, ‘My memories of Raoul Wallenberg’ (2000). Available at http:// (accessed 28 March 2013) Kershaw, Alex, The Envoy: The Epic Rescue of the Last Jews of Europe in the Desperate Closing Months of World War II (Cambridge, MA, 2012) Klein, Georg, Jag återvänder aldrig: Essäer i förintelsens skugga (Stockholm, 2011) Klintberg, Rolf af, ‘Nya Elementarskolan 1925–1930’, Nya Elementarskolan i Stockholm 1900–1955 (Stockholm, 1962) Koblik, Steven, The Stones Cry Out: Sweden’s Response to the Persecution of the Jews 1933–1945, trans. David Mel Paul and Margareta Paul (New York, NY, 1988) Korányi, Erwin K., Dreams and Tears: Chronicle of a Life (Renfrew, Ontario, [no date])

Selected Bibliography Lajos, Attila, Hjälten och offren: Raoul Wallenberg och judarna i Budapest (PhD thesis, 2006) Langlet, Nina, Kaos i Budapest: Berättelsen om hur svensken Valdemar Langlet räddade tiotusentals människor undan nazisterna i Ungern (Vällingby, 1982) Langlet, Valdemar, Verk och dagar i Budapest (Stockholm, 1946) Lester, Elenore Wallenberg: The Man in the Iron Web (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1982) Lévai, Jenö, Raoul Wallenberg regényes élete, hősi küzdelmei, rejtélyes eltűnésének titka (Budapest, 1948) ——— Raoul Wallenberg: His Remarkable Life, Heroic Battles and the Secret of His Mysterious Disappearance, trans. Frank Vajda (Melbourne, 1988) [English translation of the Hungarian edition of 1948] Levine, Paul A., Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest. Myth, History and Holocaust (London, 2010) Lindgren, Håkan, Jacob Wallenberg 1892–1980: Swedish Banker and International Negotiator, trans. Lars G. Sandberg (Stockholm, 2009) Lukacs, John, The Legacy of the Second World War (New Haven, CT, and London, 2010) Marshall Zwack, Anne, If You Wear Galoshes, You Are an Émigré (Budapest, 2001) Marton, Kati, Wallenberg: Missing Hero (1982; New York, 1995) Matz, Johan, ‘Sweden, the United States and the bureaucratic politics of the Raoul Wallenberg mission to Hungary in 1944’, Cold War Studies xiv/2 (Spring 2012) McKay, C.G., ‘A friend indeed: the secret service of Lolle Smit’ (2010). Available at (accessed 28 March 2013) ——— ‘Excerpts from McKay’s notes on the case of Raoul Wallenberg’ (2011a). Available at (accessed 28 March 2013) ——— ‘What happened in Cairo?’ (2011b). Available at http://www.raoul-wallenberg. eu/researcher/craig-graham-mckay (accessed 28 March 2013) ——— ‘A note on Kutuzov-Tolstoy’s letter of authorization’ (2012). Available at http:// (accessed 28 March 2013) Nilsson, Göran B., The Founder: André Oscar Wallenberg (1816–1886): Swedish Banker, Politician and Journalist, trans. Michael F. Metcalf (Stockholm, 2005) Nylander, Gert, and Anders Perlinge, eds, Raoul Wallenberg in Documents, 1927–1947 (Stockholm, 2000) Olsson, Ulf, Furthering a Fortune: Marcus Wallenberg: Swedish Banker and Industrialist 1899–1982 (Stockholm, 2001) ——— A Prince of Finance: K.A. Wallenberg 1853–1938: Swedish Banker, Statesman and Philanthropist, trans. Pia Helena Ormerod (Stockholm, 2007) Philipp, Rudolph, Raoul Wallenberg: Diplomat, kämpe, samarit (Stockholm, 1946) ——— Raoul Wallenberg: Kämpe för humanitet (Stockholm, 1947) Platen, Gustaf von, Resa till det förflutna: Lättsinne i allvarstid. Minnen del I (Stockholm, 1993) Räddningen: Budapest 1944: Rapporter ur UD:s arkiv (Stockholm, 1997) Raoul Wallenberg Database. Available at (accessed 28 March 2013)



The Hero of Budapest Raoul Wallenberg: Dokumentsamling jämte kommentarer rörande hans fångenskap i Sovjetunionen (Stockholm, 1957) Raoul Wallenberg: Dokumentsamling rörande efterforskningarna efter år 1957 (Stockholm, 1965) Raoul Wallenberg: Letters and Dispatches 1924–1944, trans. Kjersti Board (New York, NY, 1995) Raoul Wallenberg: Report of the Swedish–Russian Working Group (Stockholm, 2000) Remembering Raoul Wallenberg (Ann Arbor, MI, 2001) Rosenfeld, Harvey, Raoul Wallenberg (New York, NY, 1982) Rydeberg, Göran, Raoul Wallenberg: Historik och nya forskningsfält (2002). Available at (accessed 28 March 2013) Sandeberg, Edward, Nu kan det sägas: Sanningen om min fångenskap i Sovjet och Berlins fall (Stockholm, 1946) Schiller, Bernt, Varför ryssarna tog Raoul Wallenberg (Borås, 1991) Schult, Tanja, A Hero’s Many Faces: Raoul Wallenberg in Contemporary Monuments (Basingstoke, 2009) Sereny, Gitta, Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth (Basingstoke, 1995) Sjöquist, Eric, Affären Raoul Wallenberg (Stockholm, 1974) ——— Raoul Wallenberg (Avesta, 1985) ——— Dramat Raoul Wallenberg (Falun, 2001) Stafford, Lillian E., ‘Raoul Wallenberg remembered’, Michigan Alumnus (May 1985) Statens Provskola Nya Elementarskolan i Stockholm. Årsredogörelse, avgiven vid slutet av läsåret 1918–1919 av Rektor Knut Bohlin (Stockholm, 1919 and 1928) Sudoplatov, Pavel (with Anatoli Sudoplatov and Jerrold L. Schecter), Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness, a Soviet Spymaster (Boston, 1994) Svanberg, Ingvar, and Mattias Tydén, Sverige och förintelsen: Debatt och dokument om Europas judar 1933–1945 (Viborg, 2005) Szel, Elisabeth, Operación noche y niebla (Madrid, 1961) Szita, Szabolcs, Trading in Lives? Operations of the Jewish Relief and Rescue Committee in Budapest 1944–1945, trans. Sean Lambert (Budapest, 2005) ——— ‘Langfelder Vilmos, Raoul Wallenberg budapesti segítője’, Múltunk 1 (2008). Available at (accessed 28 March 2013) ——— The Power of Humanity: Raoul Wallenberg and his Aides in Budapest, trans. Bernard Adams (Budapest, 2012) Teicholz, Tom, [Memories of My Father]. Available at http://www.raoulwallenberg. net (accessed 28 March 2013) The Trial of Adolf Eichmann: Record of Proceedings in the District Court of Jerusalem, Vols 1–6 (Jerusalem, 1992–1995) Tschuy, Theo, Dangerous Diplomacy: The Story of Carl Lutz, Rescuer of 62,000 Hungarian Jews (Grand Rapids, MI, 2000) Ungváry, Krisztián, Battle for Budapest: One Hundred Days in World War II, trans. Ladislaus Löb (London, 2005) Vaksberg, Arkadij, Aleksandra Kollontaj (Smedjebacken, 1997) ——— Giftlaboratoriet (Smedjebacken, 2008) Valakh, Yakov, ‘I met Raoul Wallenberg…’, New Times 31 (1990) ——— ‘I was the last one to see Wallenberg’, Izvestiya (15 November 1991)

Selected Bibliography Valentin, Hugo, ‘Rescue and relief activities on behalf of Jewish victims of Nazism in Scandinavia’, YIVO Annual of Jewish Social Science viii (1953) Veres, Thomas, ‘I was there’. Available at­ stories/thomas-veres-i (accessed 28 March 2013) Villius, Elsa and Hans, Fallet Raoul Wallenberg (Stockholm, 1966) Vörös, Márton, Även för din skull: Svenska röda korset i Ungern i världskrigets dagar (Stockholm, 1978) Vylder-Bellander, Birgitta de, ‘Raoul Wallenberg-aktionen: Historik och rapport’, Fred och Frihet 1 (1952) Wahlbäck, Krister, ‘Raoul Wallenberg och synen på Sovjet 1944–47’, Till en konstnärssjäl: En vänbok till Stig Ramel (Kristianstad, 2002) Wallace, Ralph, ‘Raoul Wallenberg: hero of Budapest’, Reader’s Digest (July 1947) Wallenberg, Raoul, Några förslag till ett friluftsbad å Riddarholmen (Stockholm, 1935) ——— ‘Sydafrikanska intryck’, Jorden runt. Magasin för geografi och resor, del II (Stockholm, 1936) Werbell, Frederick E., and Thurston Clarke, Lost Hero: The Mystery of Raoul Wallenberg (New York, NY, etc., 1982)

Archival Sources: Anger, Per, P.M. angående Pilkorsöverfallet på beskickningen m.m. [Memorandum concerning the Arrow Cross attack on the legation etc.] (20 April 1945), Documents IV Bauer, Margareta, Specialberättelse angiven av skrivbiträdet vid Svenska Beskickningen i Budapest fröken Margareta Bauer angående händelserna på Svenska Beskickningen i Budapest under tiden 17 februari–12 mars 1945 [Special report by office assistant Margareta Bauer at the Swedish Mission in Budapest concerning the events in the Swedish Mission during the period 17 February–12 March 1945] (27 April 1945), Documents IV Bauer, Margareta, Minnesanteckningar från krigsåren i Budapest 1943–1945 [Memoranda from the war years in Budapest 1943–1945] (1996), UD Bauer, Margareta, Diary, UD Berg, Lars, Specialberättelse avgiven av attachén vid Svenska Beskickningen i Budapest Lars G:son Berg angående händelserna på Svenska Beskickningen i Budapest under tiden 11–13 februari 1945 [Special report by attaché Lars G:son Berg at the Swedish Mission in Budapest concerning the events in the Swedish Mission during the period 11–13 February 1945] (2 May 1945 [1945a]), Documents IV Berg, Lars, Specialberättelse avgiven av attachén vid Svenska Beskickningen i Budapest Lars G:son Berg. Tiden den 13/2–15/3 [Special report by attaché Lars G:son Berg at the Swedish Mission in Budapest. Period 13/2–15/3] (2 May 1945 [1945b]), Documents IV Documents = Documents about Raoul Wallenberg in the archive of the Swedish foreign ministry in 49 volumes Hegedűs, Pál, Dikterat och undertecknat vittnesmål av Pál Hegedűs avlagt i Stockholm [Dictated and signed testimony by Pál Hegedűs given in Stockholm] (27 August 1946), RW1, Vol. 5



The Hero of Budapest Kaufmann, Tomas, ‘Interview with Tomas Kaufmann’ (1996), Yad Vashem (033C/4257) Klintberg, Rolf af, Minnesanteckning om Raoul Wallenberg [Memo about Raoul Wallenberg] (4 February 1946), RW1, Vol. 7 Loyda, Jan, Dag Hartelius, P.M. över samtal med Hans Lojda [sic] [Memorandum from conversation with Hans Lojda] (5 December 1990), RW Database/test. 938 Loyda Jan, Interview by Marvin W. Makinen with Mr Jan Loyda… (5 June 1992), RW Database/test. 974 Lundvik, Jan, P.M. om Harald Feller och Max Meier [Memorandum about Harald Feller and Max Meier] (26 October 1999), UD Lundvik, Jan, RW-forskning i Budapest: Identifiering av namnen i fickkalendern [RW research in Budapest: Identification of the names in the pocket diary] (12 April 2004), UD Mezey, Dénes von, Specialberättelse avgiven av kanslisten vid Svenska Beskickningen i Budapest D.P. Mezey angående händelserna på Svenska Beskickningen i Budapest under tiden 11–20 februari 1945 [Special report by assistant clerk D.P. von Mezey at the Swedish Mission in Budapest concerning the events in the Swedish Mission during the period 11–20 February 1945] (27 April 1945), Documents IV Müller, Károly, Skriftligt vittnesmål av Károly Müller avlagt i Budapest [Written testimony by Károly Müller given in Budapest] (23 October 1948), Documents VII Raoul Wallenberg Project, Uppsala University Library Richter, Gustav, P.M. angående samtal med Gustav Richter… [Memorandum concerning conversation with Gustav Richter…] (31 October 1955), RW Database/test. 396 Vaksberg, Arkadij, Delo Vallenberga. Ekspertnyi analiz sobrannykh materialov [Expert’s report to the Swedish foreign ministry about the Wallenberg case] [no date]. UD

Index A


Abakumov, Viktor: 303, 335, 345–46, 349, 351, 353–54, 376 Abramov, Alexander: 341–42 Adler-Rudel, Salomon: 256 Anger, Elena: 160 Anger, Per: viii, 125, 138, 142, 149, 151–52, 155–56, 159–61, 165, 168–70, 173–74, 181, 184–85, 187, 189, 204, 207, 212–13, 221–23, 227, 241, 246–47, 265, 268, 270, 272–73, 275–77, 288–89, 295–96, 301, 308–10, 314–15, 322–23, 326–29, 360, 375, 382, 399 Antonescu, Ion: 176, 318 Apor, Vilmos: 223 Arco auf Valley, Ferdinand: 107 Arco auf Valley, Gertrud: 107, 390 Ardai, Sándor: 219, 394 Arfwedsson, Rolf: 370 Arnóthy-Jungerth, Mihály: 161 Aronowski, Dora: 95 Asplund, Gunnar: 29 Assarsson, Vilhelm: 139, 325 Astaire, Fred: 72 Aszódi, Andrea: 164

Bach, Johann Sebastian: 370 Bailey, Roger: 62 Bajusz, Lájos: 290, 304 Baky, László: 148 Balázs, Aurél: 167 Balázs, “Relli”: 167 Balog, Andor: 232, 249–50 Barck-Holst, Ulf: 344 Bartha, László: 253 Bartók, Béla: 370 Batizfalvy, Nándor: 176, 221, 246, 267 Bauer, Margareta: 162, 169, 184, 189, 199, 204, 274–77, 283, 308, 310, 313–15, 324, 329 Bayer-Krucsay, Dezső von: 162, 199 Bayer-Krucsay, Sixten von: 162, 199 Becher, Kurt: 194–95, 197–98, 247–48, 361–62, 366, 392, 394 Beér, János: 239, 242, 244 Behrend, Ernst: 62, 144–45 Behrend, Mrs: 62 Belatini, Braun von: 179 Belkin, Alexander: 353 Bendix, Vincent: 57 Benedicks, Carl: 146


The Hero of Budapest Benedicks, the family: 146 Benedicks, Gustaf: 146 Benes, Ferenc: 249 Berg, Countess von: 275, 308 Berg, Lars: x, 184, 189–90, 193–94, 204, 247, 260–62, 274–77, 285, 290, 308, 310–15, 325, 329–30, 356, 376, 393–395, 399 Bergemann, Willy: 334, 337 Bernadotte, Folke: 150, 374 Bicskei, Mátyás: 301 Bielitz, Wilhelm see Billitz, Vilmos Billitz, Vilmos: 197–98, 223, 248, 362, 392 Bíró, Jenő: 301 Biss, Andreas: 248, 394 Björkman, Erik: 150, 179, 251, 369 Bocz, Dezső von: 392 Boheman, Erik: 137–38, 141, 146–47, 153, 214 Böhm, Vilmos: 139–40, 150–51, 159, 167, 192, 359 Bonaparte, Napoléon: 358 Bonde, Carl: 51 Bonde, Ebba: 51, 134, 142, 369 Born, Friedrich: 1, 176, 192, 248, 274, 399 Bornemisza, Félix: 203, 216 Boschán, Miksa: 281 Boström, Wolmar: 63 Bourdillon, Madame: 22, 24 Bourdillon, Monsieur: 22, 24 Braham, Randolph: 148, 300 Brand, Joel: 195–96 Brändström, Elsa: 249, 271 Bristol, Mark: 35, 62–63 Brulin, Birgit: 154, 162, 169, 184, 189, 204 Bulganin, Nikolai: 303, 307, 335 Burchardt, Björn: 82, 84–86, 88 Burde, Mrs: 315 Bush, Captain: 297

C Carl Johan, prince: 126 Carlsson, Göte: 184, 204, 260–61, 274–76, 308–10, 314, 356, 394 Casserman, Hjalmar: 110 Chapovsky, G.: 294 Chernyshov, general: 301, 311–12 Chopin, Frédéric: 370 Chorin, the family: 194–95 Chorin, Ferenc: 194–95 Churchill, Winston: 68, 131, 379 Coen, Adolphe: 337–40, 344, 398 Colvin, Elsa: 12, 38–39 Colvin, Fitz John: 12, 38 Colvin, Lucette: vii, 12, 23, 38–39, 62, 389 Colvin, William Mechling (“Mech”): 12, 23, 38–40 Crafoord, Lilly: 106, 108 Csiky, Erich: 286

D Dalén, Gustaf: 88 Dálnoki, Béla Miklós: 298 Danielsson, Ivan: viii–ix, 111, 130, 134, 137–38, 146–49, 151, 155, 160, 169, 172, 174–75, 184, 187–90, 193, 199–202, 204, 208, 218, 220–21, 225, 234, 246–47, 253, 258, 262, 268–70, 272–73, 275–77, 280, 286, 289, 295–96, 308–11, 313–14, 321–22, 324, 326, 329–30, 356–57, 368, 391, 396, 399 Danielsson, Otto: 340, 344 Danilash, Michail: 296–97 Dannecker, Theodor: 262 Dardel, Elsa von: 12, 14 Dardel, Fredrik (“Fred”) von: vii, x, 12, 14, 16, 29, 106, 119, 376–38

Index Dardel, Fritz von: 14 Dardel, Guy von: vii, 14, 23, 56, 104, 339, 374–75 Dardel, Maj von: passim Dardel, Nils: 21–22 Dardel, Nina von see Lagergren, Nina Dekanozov, Vladimir: 293, 297, 321, 328, 344–45, 363, 365, 374 Demtschinko, Dimitry see Dmitrienko, Ya. Derujinsky, Gleb: 39 Dessewffy, Aurél: 253 Dessewffy, Gyula: 289 Dessewffy, Tivadar: 253 Dickinson, John C.: 289, 361 Dmitrienko, Ya.: 292–95, 298, 300–2, 396–97 Domonkos, Miksa: 303, 369, 373 Donnenberg, Dezső: 165 Dumas, Alexandre: 4

E Eden, Anthony: 149, 153, 259 Edward VII: 24 Ehrenpreis, Marcus: 131–32, 134–36, 141, 149, 151–52, 158, 181, 368 Eichmann, Adolf: ix, xi, 157, 175–76, 182–83, 196, 199, 207–8, 220–21, 259–64, 281, 317–18, 360, 362, 393–94 Eisenbach, Artur: 360 Ekmark, Yngve: 184, 200, 230, 276, 308–10, 314, 356, 369 Elek, Béla: 221, 223, 267 Ember, Mária: 394 Endre, László: 147, 176, 261 Engel, Samu: 179 Engelmann, István: 165, 238 Eres, Zvi: 222–23 Erlander, Tage: 344

Ernster, László: 205 Eszterházy, Móric: 268, 276, 308, 310, 313–14, 322 Eugen, Prince: 342

F Fagerberg, Mrs: 120 Falk, Friedl: 167, 237 Falkman, Karin: 4, 55, 106–7 Feigl, Aladar: 299, 356–57 Feller, Harald: 280, 286, 289, 335–36, 338, 364, 399 Fény, Béla: 315 Ferenczy, László: 175–76, 217, 221, 241, 253, 362 Fevrell, Theodor (Thore): 84, 106, 146 Fischer, Annie: 370 Fitin, Pavel: 353 Fleischmann, Ottó: 165–66, 173, 275, 277–78, 312, 391 Florén, Albert: 84 Forgács, Gábor: 205, 239, 258, 291, 391 Forgács, Pál: 370 Forgács, Vilmos: 165, 170, 205, 237, 250, 312, 356, 370 Freud, Sigmund: 166 Freund, Erwin: 77, 89, 93–96, 100, 102–3 Frykberg, Carl: 84–85, 88, 94, 106

G Gábor, Áron: 213, 298, 340 Gábor, Magda: 275 Gabor, Zsa Zsa: 275 Galantay, Béla: 169 Gellért, Andor: 133, 153 Georg, doctor: 165, 179



The Hero of Budapest Gera, József: 253 Gergely, György: 301–2 Gergely, Ödön: 238, 299, 301 Gerson, bank employee: 93 Gladstone, William: 24 Goerdeler, Carl: 143, 264 Golub, Ivan: 293–95, 297 Gosztonyi, Márton: 287–88 Grafström, Sven: 142, 151–52 Graham, Fred: 71 Grell, Theodor: 178, 362 Gromyko, Andrei: 376, 378 Grossheim-Krysko see Thomsen, Henry Gustaf V: 110, 146, 149, 163, 343 Günther, Christian: 130, 137, 142, 258, 323, 329 Günther, Ingrid: 322–23, 327, 363, 365

H Hagberg, Knut: 24 Hägglöf, Gunnar: 343–46 Hägglöf, Ingemar: 324 Hagströmer, Anders: 12–13, 18 Hagströmer, Gunnel: viii, 120 Hagströmer, Lennart: viii, 12–13, 18, 120 Hagströmer, Sigrid: 12 Hagströmer, Sven: 12 Hain, Péter: 178, 240, 272, 362 Håkansson, Eberhard: 153, 186 Handel, Georg Friedrich: 18, 72, 370 Hansson, Per Albin: 142 Harriman, Averell: 341 Hedenius, Ingemar: 28, 146 Hedin, Sven: 57, 111 Hegardt, Nils: 83 Hegedűs, Pál: 165–66, 173, 205, 212–13, 227, 237, 249–50, 275, 287, 312, 357, 391

Heidenstam, Jeanette von: 152 Hein, Peter see Hain, Péter Hertelendy, László: 117, 119 Hille, Erhard: 343, 352, 375 Himmler, Heinrich: 176, 182, 194–95, 197, 262–63, 359–62, 366 Hinckeldey, Heinz-Helmut von: 334 Hindy, Iván: 289 Hitler, Adolf: 129, 143–46, 163, 182, 202–3, 261, 264, 360 Hollander, Fritz: 152 Hoover, Herbert: 54 Horthy, Miklós: viii, 117, 128–29, 132–33, 140, 149, 154–55, 159–60, 163, 182, 192, 202–4, 215–16, 243, 318 Horthy, Miklós Jr: 117, 192, 202–3, 215–16 Höss, Rudolf: 221 Howard, Leslie: 391 Huber, Ernst: 334, 352 Hull, Cordell: 136–38, 140, 176–77, 201 Hunsche, Otto: 157

I Ingeborg, Princess: 11, 104

J James, Fredric: 38 Jamnik, director: 290, 304 Jaross, Andor: 176 Jobbágy, Tivadar (“Teddy”): 233, 281 Johansson, Fina: 107, 110 Johnson, Axel: 77 Johnson, Herschel: 77, 136–38, 140, 142, 146–47, 176, 214, 256–57, 329

Index Josefovits, László: 312 Josephson, Gunnar: 151, 368 Jüttner, Hans: 221

K Kállay, Kázmér: 205, 264, 266 Kállay, Miklós: 129 Károlyi, Gyula: 281 Kartashov, Sergei: 352 Kasser, Alexander: 175, 259, 276, 305, 400 Kasser, Elisabeth: 175, 259, 276, 305 Kassius, Gabriella: 227, 265, 392–95 Kasztner, Rezső: 195–99, 247–48, 361, 366 Kaufmann, Tomas: 154–55, 227, 263 Kelemen, László: 159 Kemény, Erszébet: 207, 209, 212–13, 215 Kemény, Gábor: 207, 209, 212–13, 215, 246, 253, 269, 362, 393 Kertész, Miklós: 159 Kislitsa, Ivan: 396 Kitschmann, Horst: 352 Klercker, Bertil af: 117 Klintberg, Rolf af: 18, 28, 35, 114, 116, 119, 143 Kodály, Zoltán: 370 Kollontay, Alexandra: 213–15, 322–23, 327–28, 342–43, 351, 357–58, 363, 365, 374, 382 Koltay, László: 272 Komoly, Ottó: 159, 280–81 Kondrashov, Sergei: 348, 351 Korányi, Alice: 174, 241 Korányi, Erwin: 174 Körner, doctor: 221 Kornfeld, the family: 194

Kotchetov, Gennady: 336 Kraitz, Gustav: 379 Kraitz, Ulla: 379 Krausz, Miklós: 159, 167, 192, 206, 221, 289, 291–92, 297, 330, 338, 393, 398 Krumey, Hermann: 157, 200 Kubissy, police: 300 Kun, András: 240, 280 Kun, Béla: 139 Kupriyanov, Gennady: 295–96 Kutuzov, Mikhail: 311–12, 356–58 Kutuzov-Tolstoy, Mikhail: 358 Kuzmishin, interrogator: 321, 348, 351

L Laffert, Gotthard von: 19 Lagergren, Gunnar: 126, 154, 255 Lagergren, Nina: viii, 14, 104, 119–20, 122, 126–27, 144, 146, 154, 255, 323, 389, 391, 395 Lagerlöf, Selma: 24, 193 Lakatos, Géza: 182–84, 201 Lamm, Olof: 40 Langfelder, Vilmos: ix–x, 219, 233, 268–69, 290–91, 293–94, 296, 301–3, 305, 307, 316, 320–21, 332, 334, 343, 352, 356, 363, 373–75, 393, 396–98 Langlet, Nina: 192, 200, 268, 311, 315–16, 363, 399 Langlet, Valdemar: 135, 150, 169, 187, 192, 200, 268, 276, 311, 315–16, 322, 324, 363, 372, 391, 399 Lantos, Anette: 379 Lantos, Tom: 379 Larsson, Lennart: 151 Larsson, Lennart Jr: 189



The Hero of Budapest Lauer, Koloman: viii, 122–25, 131–39, 141–43, 150–53, 155, 164, 167–70, 177–81, 185–86, 196, 199–201, 214–16, 228, 249, 251–53, 256, 328–29, 368–69, 390, 392, 394 Lauer, Maria: viii, 123–24, 132, 177–78, 390, 392 Le Fort, François: 330 Lester, Elenore: 395 Lévai, Jenő: 375 Levine, Paul A.: 390–92, 394 Libik, György: 301 Lindfors, Viveca: 119, 145 List, Friedrich: 25 Lloyd George, David: 24 Lorch, Emil: 35, 63, 72–73, 109–10 Lorentzon, Emmy: 351 Loyda, Jan: 320–21, 332, 343, 397–98 Lukacs, John: 360 Lundberg, Arne S.: 376 Lutz, Carl (Charles): 167, 208, 217, 272, 284, 381, 399

M Makarova, Lidia: 364–65 Makhrovsky, L.: 294 Malinovsky, Rodion: 289, 291–92, 294, 297, 303, 313, 335, 363 Mandl, Agnes: 241, 264–65 Marcus, Mrs: 251 Marek, Ferdinand: 354 Margareta, Crown princess: 11 Margel, interpreter: 313, 315 Marton, József: 305 Masur, Norbert: 131–32, 152–53, 181, 238 Mauthner, the family: 194 Mayer, Saly: 197–98 Mayo, Catherine: 25 Mayranovsky, Grigory: 351, 354

McDougal, the family: 62 Meier, Max: 335–36, 338, 364 Mezey, Dénes von: 169–70, 184, 275–76, 310–11, 314, 329, 356, 361 Mihály, the family: 161 Mihaly, Susanna: 135 Mikó, Zoltán: 192 Milkó, Elemér: 238, 283–84, 299 Milles, Carl: 35, 53, 57–58 Mogan, Alexander: 287 Mohnke, Wilhelm: 334 Mohr, Claudio de: 332 Mohrmann, Anton: 339 Möller, Alvar: 263 Molnár, Mitzi see Zwack, Mitzi Molotov, Vyacheslav: 315, 335, 345–46, 351, 354 Morgenthau, Henry: 135 Moser, János (“Jonny”): 231, 265 Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: 38 Mukhortov, intelligence officer: 356 Müller, Károly: 212, 298 Müller, Rezső: 238, 248–50, 299, 301 Mussolini, Benito: 91, 203

N Nachmanson, August: 108 Nachmanson, Joseph: 108 Nákó, Erzsébet: 166, 180, 275, 356 Nansen, Fridtjof: 248–49 Nékám, Lájos: 205 Névi, Pál: 224, 299, 301–2 Nidosi, Imre: 284 Nilsson, Asta: 184, 234, 240, 268, 274–76, 293, 308, 310, 315 Nisser, Anna: 12 Nisser, Maj see Plauen, Maj von Nisser, Carl: 12

Index Novikov, Kirill: 336, 345 Novikov, Vladimir: 336, 345

O Ocskay, László: 291–92, 399 Oggins, Isaiah: 354 Olsen, Iver C.: 136–39, 141–42, 153, 161, 167–69, 176–77, 181, 184–85, 191–92, 197, 199, 201, 215, 257, 329, 361, 367, 369 Oxenstierna, Johan Gabriel: 51 Oxenstierna, Siri: 51

P Palmstierna, Erik: 21 Pátzay, Pál: 370 Pavlov, Dimitry: 309 Pehle, John W.: 138, 153, 181, 257–58 Perlaky, Gyula: 173 Perlasca, Giorgio (“Jorge”): 270, 286–87, 399 Peter I: 330 Pető, Ernő: 158–59 Pető, László: 158, 301–2, 373, 391 Petri, Gustaf: 122 Petri, Lennart: 189 Petrovics, Vidor: 117 Pfeffer-Wildenbruch, Karl: 283, 307 Philipp, Rudolph: 343–45, 375–76, 390, 394, 396–98 Philippi, Erich: 117 Pilch, Mr: 179 Pitovranov, Yevgeny: 364 Pius XII: 149 Platen, Gustaf von: 116, 127, 153 Plauen, Enzio von: 103, 126, 145–46, 151 Plauen, Maj von: vii, 23, 103, 126, 145–46, 151

Pogány, Georg von: 165, 173 Pongrácz, Count: 393 Prokop, Pál: 183, 205

R Reichwald, Bruno: 179 Rensinghoff, Bernhard: 334–35, 339 Reuterswärd, Patrik: 314, 321–22 Révai, Béla: 292 Ribbentrop, Joachim von: 195 Richert, Arvid: 154, 262 Richter, Gustav: 316–21, 333, 352–53, 397–98 Ringman, Bernice: viii, 53, 72–73, 86, 118–19 Robinson, Richard: 71 Roedel, Willy: x, 320–21, 331–33, 339, 347, 352–53, 399 Rogers, Ginger: 72 Roosevelt, Franklin D.: 54, 135, 142, 149, 264 Rosa, Clarence: 37, 119 Rotta, Angelo: 175, 208, 212, 221, 272, 399 Rózsa, Miklós: 150 Rybkin, Boris: 357–58, 360 Rybkina, Zoya: 357–58, 360 Rytzell, Anna: 105, 112

S Saarinen, Eliel: 53 Salén, Sven: 123–24, 135, 137–38, 153, 186, 216, 251–52, 369 Salzer, Mrs Vilmos: 240 Sandeberg, Edward af: 343, 353, 364, 398 Sanz-Briz, Ángel: 270, 399 Schaible, Ernst: 37 Schellenberg, Walter: 153, 263



The Hero of Budapest Scheuer, Otto: 318–20 Schischa, Lipót: 228 Schmidhuber, Gerhard: 300 Schröder, the family: 179 Schwartz, Mr: 179 Sebestyén, the family: 240 Semyonov, Vladimir: 327 Sereny, Gitta: 361 Shields, Dick: 69, 71 Sinichov, Anatoly: 296 Sinitsyn, Yelisei: 353 Slusser, Jean Paul: 68, 71–72 Smit, Berber: 204, 235, 392 Smit, Lolle: 235 Smoltsov, Alexander: x, 349–52, 376, 378–79 Söderblom, Staffan: 292, 297–98, 321–24, 326–29, 341–43, 345, 364–65, 382, 398 Söderlund, Carl Axel: 69–70 Söderlund, Nita: 69–70 Sohlman, Rolf: 346, 349, 374 Solzhenitsyn, Alexander: 332 Soós, Géza: 159 Sophia, Queen: 12, 14 Speer, Albert: 144 Spets, Göte: 82 Spišak, Jan: 335 Stalin, Josef: 151, 298, 315, 323, 327, 335, 339, 341–42, 345, 354–55, 359, 364–66, 373–76 Stein, Irene: 135 Stein, Lájos: 135 Steiner, László see Howard, Leslie Stern, Ernő: 280 Stern, Erzsébet: 280 Stern, Samu: 129, 152, 158–59 Stern, Sándor: 280 Stöckler, Lájos: 253, 373 Sudoplatov, Pavel: 351 Sugár, Péter: 258, 266–67, 280–81, 394

Sulner, László: 258, 303 Supprian, Karl: 334, 339 Suranyi, Thomas: 164 Sverchuk, Yakov: 319 Sydow, Anna von: 16 Sysoyev, Ivan: 399 Szabó, Károly: 277–78, 280, 288–91, 300, 373 Szalai, Pál: x, 277–78, 280, 283, 288, 290–91, 299–300, 303, 354, 373, 400 Szálasi, Ferenc: ix, 201–2, 204–6, 208, 212–13, 218–19, 221, 246–47, 256, 264, 269, 272 Székely, Iván: 165, 238–39 Szél, Elisabeth: 263–64 Szél, György: 263–64 Szent-Györgyi, Albert: 173, 301 Szentgyörgyi, András: 239, 266 Szilvássy, Margit: 184 Sztójay, Döme: 129, 139, 182, 202

T Tabor, Susan: 219 Takacsy, Bank director: 366 Tamm, Fabian: 6, 9 Tarnay, István: 298 Tarpataky, Zoltán: 288 Tasnádi-Nagy, András: 237 Taubes, Zwi: 149 Teicholz, Bronisław: 227 Terner, Imre: 165 Thadden, Adolf von: 218 Thomsen, Henry: 355–56, 358 Tito, Josip Broz: 203 Tolbukhin, Fyodor: 292 Trau, Jerzy: 305 Trenker, Alfred: 157 Truman, Harry: 374


U Ullein-Reviczky, Antal: 133, 153 Ullein-Reviczky, Louise Grace: 133, 153 Undén, Östen: 342, 382

V Vajna, Ernő: 281, 283–84, 286, 288, 299–300 Vajna, Gábor: 207–8, 233, 281 Valakh, Yakov: 294–96, 355–56 Van Der Waals, Gerrit: 354 Vandor, Tibor: 165 Veesenmayer, Edmund: 157, 176, 178, 182, 202 Veres, Andor: 292 Veres, Tamás: 242–44 Verolino, Gennaro: 176, 399 Vetrov, Mikhail: 324, 346 Vivaldi, Antonio: 370 Vlachos, Christine: 276 Vöczköndy, László: 246, 272–74, 281 Vörös, Márton: 217 Voroshilov, Kliment: 298 Vyshinsky, Andrei: 345–47, 349, 352, 374–76

W Wahl, Heinrich von: 132–33, 162, 251 Wallenberg, Alice: 3, 63, 107–108, 250 Wallenberg, Amalia: 26–27, 62–63, 369 Wallenberg, André Oscar: 4, 16, 32, 105 Wallenberg, Annie: 3, 9–11, 13–14, 21–22, 36, 53, 153

Wallenberg, Axel: 10, 32, 62–63, 67–68 Wallenberg, Ebba see Bonde, Ebba Wallenberg, Elsa: 62 Wallenberg, Fredrik: 104–5 Wallenberg, Gustaf: passim Wallenberg, Ingeborg: 104 Wallenberg, Jacob: viii, 4, 9–10, 16, 26, 63, 68, 76, 78, 102, 107, 114–16, 120, 132, 137, 143, 153, 186, 252, 263–64, 327–28, 358–59, 382–83 Wallenberg, Karin see Falkman, Karin Wallenberg, Knut: 4, 9–10, 16–17, 63, 76, 78, 104, 107–8, 116–117, 143, 250 Wallenberg, Maj see Dardel, Maj von Wallenberg, Marc: 26 Wallenberg, Marcus Jr (“Dodde”): viii, 4, 16, 26, 62–63, 68, 78, 107–8, 143, 215, 322, 327–29, 342, 358, 368–69, 382, 389–90 Wallenberg, Marcus Sr: 1, 3–4, 8, 10, 16–17, 26, 63–64, 67–68, 77­78, 81, 107–9, 116, 131 Wallenberg, Nita (Sassnitza) see Söderlund, Nita Wallenberg, Peter: 26 Wallenberg, Raoul Oscar: vii, 3–14, 18, 26, 32–33, 51, 64, 68, 112–114, 122, 143, 186, 252 Wallenstein, Ernst Ludwig: 334–35, 355 Wehausen, John: 36, 45, 47 Weiss, Manfréd, the family: 133, 194–95, 197–98, 251, 275 Weisz, Arthúr: 167 Wernberger, Hanna: 106 Westman, Karl Ivan: 337–38, 340 Weyermann, Hans: 302



The Hero of Budapest Wilhelm, György: 291, 297, 300–1, 334, 397 Wilhelm, Károly: 158–59, 289, 291 Winkelmann, Otto: 176, 182, 221 Wising, Anna see Nisser, Anna Wising, Elsa see Colvin, Elsa Wising, Maj see Dardel, Maj von Wising, Per: vii, 1, 8, 10, 12 Wising, Sigrid see Hagströmer, Sigrid Wising, Sophie: vii, 1, 3, 8, 10–13 Wisliceny, Dieter: 157, 221 Wohl, Hugó: 165, 170, 237, 249–50, 268, 281, 291, 299, 312 Wolbe, Schlomo: 201 Woodard, Lyman: 60, 69, 72

Y Yakovlev, Alexander: 361 Yaron, Barna: 224 Yartsev, Boris see Rybkin, Boris Yartseva, Zoja see Rybkina, Zoya Yuldashov, Abolubraman: 301 Yuldashov, Raushan: 301

Z Zakharov, M.: 295, 307 Zehender, August: 362 Zenkov, Nikolai: 307 Zichy, Tivadar: 117, 119 Zürcher, Peter: 284, 286, 289, 399 Zwack, Béla: ix, 172 Zwack, János: 129, 162 Zwack, Lájos: 285 Zwack, Mitzi: 162, 285 Zwack, Péter: 285, 310 Zwack, Vera: 162, 310



The colour section contains most of the drawings in Der Schutzpass in der Kunstgeschichte (The Protective Passport in the History of Art), which Wallenberg received as a Christmas gift from his coworkers.


I. Cave painting in Hyram. Neolithic. 10000 BC. With its contrasting light and dark colours, this cave painting is typical of all artworks from prehistoric times. The wild beast, murdered by primitive man, is drawn with the greatest precision and its bold lines reflect the great expressive power of the artist. A rather special characteristic of the picture is the tablet, painted with primitive hieroglyphs, which the ancient hunter is holding over the bull. According to the lengthy researches of Prof. A.E. Smith, the tablet contains the following inscription: ‘This bull is under the protection, and is the property, of the ambassador of Altamira.’ Apart from the artistic merit of this magnificent painting it also has great historical significance since – if the interpretation is correct – the world’s first protective passport has hereby been found.


II. Chinese protective-passport painter. Colour drawing. Private ownership. Tientsin 4000 BC. This remarkable drawing, allegedly of the Chinese protective-passport painter Fu-Lung-Tse, was found in a private collection in Tientsin. According to historical sources the abovementioned was court painter to the Emperor Tam-Fu, who in the struggle against the invading Manchu hordes, by an agreement with their leader in Hong-Tai, succeeded in having 6,000 Chinese handed over. The delicate pastel-coloured drawing shows the painter at work, sitting at the foot of the holy Mount Fuji.


III. Meth-Pet-Neh runs away from labour service. Papyrus painting. Book of Kings. Cairo Museum of Antiquities. 2800 BC. Foreigners often admire the famous papyrus paintings in the Book of Kings. This chronicle, completed during the 22nd Dynasty, contains among other things the history of the Hebrews who were taken away to perform labour service. According to the drawings of the priest of Axun, during those difficult times the king of Babylon, through his envoys, issued many protective passports. This picture, drawn in the true Egyptian spirit, shows the famous Hebrew Meth-Pet-Neh in the act of leaving his labour service, thanks to his protective passport, while those remaining continue with the hard labour of building the Pyramids.


IV. Achilles and Hector. Vase painting. Greek vase from Colonus. Museum of Antiquities in ebes. 10th century BC. The reproduction shows a part of the well-known terracotta vase, the fine drawings on which reflect the reverence with which Greek artists in general illustrated the works of Homer. In the upper section we see Achilles, hungry for revenge, on his elegant quadriga and a terrified Hector showing him a Mytilene protective passport, which, however, can no longer protect him from Achilles’s rage. In the lower section we see archers ripping apart the protective passports of the shocked and pleading Greeks. The anatomically flawless figures, the precise drawing and the fine workmanship represent the pinnacle of Greek art.


V. Protective tablet from Pompeii. Stone tablet. Monumenta Italiana (Mommsen). Berlin Academy art collection. AD 52. In the course of excavations at Pompeii, Germany’s greatest historian found a remarkable inscription on a broken tablet. The interpretation was supplied ten years later by the renowned German philologist Prof. G.S. Affenmaul, who in his magnificent work Protective Letters in Antiquity proves conclusively that the first Roman protégés are to be found in the bloody years of the reigns of Caligula, Claudius and Nero. During the persecution and repression of the civil war the Carthaginian consul issued protective tablets to several Roman citizens, with the inscription: ‘Extraterritoriality! This house and its inhabitants are under the protection of the consulate in Carthage. Consulate secretary.’ It was such a tablet that Mommsen found and that he brought, reconstructed, to Berlin. It protected the house of the Roman citizen Caius Maius, who had extensive business interests in Carthage.


VI. Mosaic oor of the Byzantine embassy in Skoppelje. 9th century AD. A detail of the mosaic floor in the ruin of the aula which once housed the Byzantine embassy. In the picture are almost all of the individuals who took part in the great protective-passport action. Under the three round arches one can make out the following persons: Falkon, Donnenbergon, Wallenbergon Hagios, Elfridé Falké, Forgácsos, his sister-in-law Maia Szécsi and, in the foreground, Wohlon. This colourful work is supposed to represent the abovementioned persons in the course of their difficult work, with Maia, on the right, exclaiming heatedly: ‘One cannot even have a decent chat with one’s own brother-in-law.’


VII. Protective passport issued by the Byzantine monastery of Mühlberg. Initial section of parchment. Archive for Medieval Abbatial Parchments. AD 933. Such protective passports were issued by the abbot, Father Hylarius Cronfus, to the population of the Eastern Marches against the encroaching Magyars. The reproduction shows a damaged masterpiece with artistic and delicate little miniatures. The initial letter depicts Jonah, who escaped from the whale by showing his protective passport. (Matthew 28:14–16.)


VIII. Rhenish master. (M. Rodolpho? 1330?–1380?): St George with dragon and protective passport. 1352–3. Stained glass. Window in Koblenz Cathedral’s pastoforium. That the protective passport aroused the imagination of the medieval artist is proven by this magnificent glass window. The artist (Master Rodolpho? 1330?–1380?) shows St George as the dragon tries to defend itself against the warrior with a protective passport. This picture shows the revolution in thinking, towards the end of the Middle Ages, that turned against the monasteries and the Church, especially against those clerics who issued protective passports indiscriminately to all and sundry. Despite the generally familiar technique of stained glass, the picture makes a unique impression through the modern and artistic conception of the talented artist. (This masterpiece was unfortunately completely destroyed during an air raid in 1944.)


X. Fra Filippo Donato (Paolo Genuese 1475–1553): Giacomo Bibildo shows his protective passport to the German mercenary troops. 1504. Oil painting. Galleria Nazionale, Milan. The artist, who in general is known worldwide only under the name of Il Genuese, has completed this painting in the first flush of youth. The circular shape, often used at this time, magnificently expresses the importance of the protective passport. In the foreground one sees two soldiers in armour who are in the act of stopping in front of the house of Giacomo Biboldo in order to drag him away with them and rob him. The Italian gentleman, whose wealth and distinction are depicted by his fine clothes, is self-confidently showing his protective passport to the astonished knights. One is bowing deeply, the other is already turning towards his black horse. These three figures in a well-divided space demonstrate the skill and flawless draughtsmanship of the great Italian painter.


XI. Benvenuto da Forli. 1435–1517. Leaf from a sketchbook of 1493. Drawing. London, British Museum, 164/a. The care that artists in the Renaissance took over the question of the protective passport can be seen in this reproduction. A universal genius like da Forli would have made many hundreds of sketches of marginal drawings for the protective passport in order to find the most advantageous form for the text of the passport. Of course, he cannot escape from the general artistic concepts – in particular, Classicism – of his own age. But these meticulous and delicate drawings indicate the unique talent of this great master.


XII. Hyeronimus v. der Brigel. 1500–1567. Peasant boy with protective passport. 1520. Oil painting. Amsterdam. Rijksmuseum. The golden age of Dutch painting was in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The great artists of Flanders were particularly outstanding with their large group portraits. This composition, painted on wood and 1.70 × 1.23 centimetres in size, demonstrates the qualities of such great masters as Bosch and Brueghel. In the foreground is a peasant boy merrily waving his protective passport while warmly dressed mercenary soldiers drag off shackled peasants (who had no protective passports). Below, a snow-covered landscape can be seen with many small groups: mercenaries are asking the protégés for identity papers. In the distance is a town, and the mountains glow in the reddish-yellow colours of the winter sun. It is noteworthy that Samuel Bauer Konrad writes of this in his great work of art history: ‘the best-known work of this artist; the importance of the protective passport in this century is best depicted by the liveliness of the figures, and the care and meticulousness with which van der Brigel completed his work.’


XIV. Jean Corré. 1681–1761. Don Quixote and the windmill. 1742. Copperplate engraving. Prado, Madrid. An apocryphal story by Cervantes, actually a legend from Castile, tells how Don Quixote, accompanied by Sancho Panza, once wanted to attack a windmill in Spain instead of a giant. Then at the last moment he noticed an inscription: ‘This mill is under the protection of the Biscay branch of the Central European.’ He was then forced to withdraw, saddened and without giving battle. This story was immortalised by the famous artist with the skill of his experienced hand.


XV. Vladislav Broniusko. 1804–1876. Charles XXXI, or ‘the Slim’, hands out protective passports. Pinakothek, Munich. Colour sketch. In the style of the historical painters of the nineteenth century, the Polish artist depicts Charles the Slim handing out protective passports in the midst of his courtiers. The reproduction shows us the colour sketch for the large fresco which was planned for Castle Aalenberg. Despite the ambitious execution we can recognise many famous figures from history. The well-grouped persons are all turning towards the midpoint, the main theme of the painting, i.e. the conferment of the protective passport. The painstakingly composed clothes, escutcheons, etc. show how much research went into the picture. It was awarded the gold medal at the 1860 Paris exhibition.


XVIII. Disgustave Dechemiré. 1877–1928. Rue de Minerva 1903. Private collection, Vienna. The famous Rue de Minerva with the legation and people waiting for a protective passport is easily recognisable in the picture. The sunny, bright, expressive, pure pastel colours are characteristic of the Expressionist–Impressionist school of new naturalistic French painting. It is easy to see that the artist has learned a lot from the plein air school and that he was one of the greatest talents of the turn of the century.


XIX. Chicasso (Pablo Miundo). 1910—. Protective passport and star. 1931. Tempera. Washington Knight collection. A modern, futuristic painting on the theme of protective passports. With simple lines and large patches of powerful colours the master expresses his opinion of the protective passport. In the confused world of his painting, those in the know can make out the common man’s anxiety about the protective passport, the danger to life, the sorrows, the despair because of the star and the relief, the joy and the reassurance of the protégés. For the layman the picture with the protective passport remains an eternally gripping puzzle. It goes without saying that this picture is, and will remain, a groundbreaking work in the history of modern art.