|Blue and gold two-
issued to Elizabeth
23, 1944. Put on
auction May 11, 2011,
$5,000-$6,000, but later
|(Right) Nina Lagergren in Sweden, 2001;
(Left) Raoul Wallenberg's Passport
the United States—an honor previously extended only to Winston Churchill.
The delayed recognition of Wallenberg’s achievement has made the mystery of his fate
all the more poignant. Despite Russia’s attempt to close the case, those working on
behalf of Wallenberg’s legacy continue to press for information about him. Evidence
that he was alive during many of the last fifty-six years is compelling and impossible to
dismiss. Only reports in the international media of Wallenberg sightings by former
Soviet prisoners in the gulag kept the case before the Swedish public.
In 2000 the American Jewish Committee published a pamphlet by William Korey that
meticulously summarizes the history of the Wallenberg case. Near the end of this
frustrating and depressing tale, Korey explains how the Russian-Swedish commission
established in 1990 at the behest of Guy von Dardel, Wallenberg’s half brother, to
scour Russian prison archives for information on Wallenberg was thwarted by
constantly changing Russian politics and the ultimate impossibility of gaining access to
key KGB files.
Korey believes that the American government could yet make a difference. “The fate of
concluded that Wallenberg was a double agent, working for the Americans and the
Germans. The Soviets did not want to deal with such a dangerous unknown when they
marched in to occupy Budapest.
Wallenberg trusted the Communists only slightly more than the Nazis. But he allowed
himself to fall into their hands because he hoped that the Soviets would allow him to
stay in Hungary to take part in the postwar revitalization of its society.
At the time he was abducted, Wallenberg’s heroism was unknown to the world at large.
Sweden is Russia’s near neighbor and the Swedish government was far more interested
in maintaining good relations with the Soviet Union than in finding out what had
happened to a Swedish citizen employed by the United States. In April 1945, Averell
Harriman, acting on behalf of the U.S. State Department, offered the Swedish
government American help in making inquiries about Wallenberg’s fate. His offer was
curtly declined. It was not until June 1946, under pressure from the Swedish public and
the Foreign Office, that the Swedish minister to Moscow finally requested an interview
with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to discuss Wallenberg. Though the Swedish Foreign
Office had evidence that Wallenberg was imprisoned in Moscow, the minister
volunteered that he personally believed that the great humanitarian had been killed in
Budapest. Offered an easy out, Stalin did not disagree.
Wallenberg’s personal effects, returned to his family by the Soviets in 1989
That conspiracy of silence continued for eleven years. Wallenberg’s immediate family
was blown up. He began sleeping in a different place each night .
With Soviet troops approaching, the Nazis stepped up their attacks on Budapest’s
Jewish population. In the last days of the occupation, German troops, along with
Hungarian Nazis, assembled around the Jewish ghetto in preparation for a massacre.
When he learned of the plan, Wallenberg confronted the Nazi commander, persuading
him that if he allowed the attack on the ghetto to go forward, Wallenberg would see
that he was hanged for crimes against humanity after the war. The frightened Nazi,
who knew Hitler was about to be defeated, called off the assault. The lives of 70,000
Jews were saved.
The threat did not end with the Nazi retreat. As the Germans began to flee Budapest,
Hungarian Nazis ruled the streets, killing Jews at random. The once-beautiful city had
become a terrifying hellhole.
For two months, Wallenberg had heard Soviet guns on the outskirts of Budapest.
Knowing that the army would soon be moving into the city, he began practicing his
primitive Russian. He hoped to meet with Soviet leaders to begin planning the
Wallenberg’s “safe houses” saved thousands of Jewish lives, including those of a
University of Michigan professor, Andrew Nagy, and his mother. Nagy, then fourteen
years old, will always remember Christmas Eve 1944, when the residents of the safe
house next door to his were rousted from their beds, marched to the Danube River, and
shot by the Nazis. Jews were frequently tied together three in a row on the bank of the
Danube. The middle person was shot, sending all three into the freezing water to
drown. A woman from Wallenberg’s office recalled an occasion when Wallenberg
heard that Hungarian Nazis were shooting women and children at the river. He asked
his staff who could swim. “We went—it was a cold night—and jumped into the
Danube - the water was icy cold." They saved fifty or sixty people.
In Budapest Wallenberg worked constantly, sleeping only four hours a night. He was an
inspiration to the Swiss and Swedish neutrals working on similar humanitarian missions,
into the jaws of the Nazi death machine, someone who spoke both Hungarian and
German, someone with an independent spirit who would not need much oversight or
direction. One of the people Olsen met in Stockholm was Kalman Lauer. Lauer
immediately recommended his young business partner, Raoul Wallenberg. For
Wallenberg, Olsen’s offer was irresistible, an opportunity to accomplish something
truly important. He agreed to go to Hungary, arriving by train in July 1944.
Wallenberg was technically attached to the Swedish embassy in Budapest, although at
his insistence he was not subject to the usual restrictions imposed upon diplomats. His
efforts over the next six months were daring, shrewd, remarkably inventive and
In Budapest, Wallenberg quickly established an office and “hired” 400 Jewish
volunteers to run it. He immediately ordered his staff to remove the yellow stars they
wore to mark them as Jews, telling them, “You are now under Swedish diplomatic
protection.” His mission to save what remained of the Hungarian Jewish population was
Wallenberg invented a special Swedish passport, the Schutzpass. It was a colorful,
|I have looked for Irene Vilchek and her daughter, Erika,and haven't found
them, but her husband, who I assume did not have a safe pass is listed here(at
least I think this is him): Central DB of Shoah Victims' Names - Record
N.B. The Yad Vashem only lists people who died in the Holocaust. Irene
and her daughter Erika must have made it to safety. - Q. Gen.
|If you have a picture you'd like us to feature a picture in a future quiz, please
email it to us at CFitzp@aol.com. If we use it, you will receive a free analysis of
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|Answers to Quiz #370 - October 7, 2012
|1. What was the purpose of this document?
2. Some of these have a W in the lower left corner. What did it signify?
3. What enduring mystery is associated with the person responsible for issuing
the passes (not necessarily the person who signed this one)?
1. Stating that the bearer was under the protection of Sweden.
2. It was authorized by Raoul Wallenburg.
3. Wallenburg had a meeting with the Soviets on 17 January 1945. Neither
Wallenburg nor his driver was ever seen again. It is certain that they
were taken captive by the Soviets, but after that, their fate has been
the subject of speculation for decades.
|Congratulations to Our Winners
Marcelle Comeau Christine Walker
Frank Nollette Dennis Brann
Collier Smith Carol Farrant
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Daniel E. Jolley Angel Esparza
Gary Rice Margaret Paxton
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|Comments from Our Readers
|Thank you for posting this quiz. I think it is good for us to be reminded that there have
been real heroes in this world. At this point in my life, given the state of the world, I am
depressed by the human condition. It is as if we have learned nothing from history.
The whole story of the Swedish diplomatic mission in Budapest is more like Indiana
Jones meets Holly Martins (The Third Man) via Martin Scorsese. Why no one has
made a movie about this is beyond me. Christine Walker
There is a school here in San Francisco named after him. There is a connection
between this quiz and "Shoe Bank", July 10, 2011, Quiz #313. Raoul Wallenberg found
out who on his staff could swim. They went to the Danube, jumped in and saved 50 to
60 people. Carol Farrant
The story of Raoul Wallenberg is most astounding. He has been honored for his heroic
measures in many countries of the world -- sculptures, street names, medal, lecture,
fellowship, day of remembrance etc.
The best original image of a Schutz pass I found was in blue and gold at:
The U of MI has many items honoring him: www.wallenberg.umich.edu/interest.html
Do you think those colors were chosen because Wallenberg was a graduate of the
University of Michigan -- official colors maize and blue. These passes were only issued
between July and Dec. 1944. Of course, the Swedish flag is a yellow cross on a field
Too bad there are not lists of all the Schutz passses issued. The ones that remain and
are posted usually have photos and other identifying information. The ones given out
on trains and on the streets must have been more generic. I did find one issued to a
Hortense Levy, but the birthdate was 20 years younger and the woman had married. I
could accept the marriage, but not 20 years off the age. Judy Levy Pfaff
|A letter of protection
(Schutzpass), issued by
the Swedish legation in
Budapest, to the
Hungarian Jew Lili
Katz. The document
bears the initial W for
Wallenberg in the
bottom left corner.
|Protective document issued to Erika
Vermes by the Swedish Red Cross.
Protective document issued to Erika
Vermes by the Swedish Red Cross. The
document states that Erika's name
appears on the passenger list of a
Swedish children's transport that is
about to leave Hungary and appeals to
the authorities to let her remain at her
current residence until the time of her
Budapest’s Jewish population was under
siege. By the spring of 1944, every other
major Jewish community in Europe had been
decimated, and Adolf Eichmann had come to
Hungary determined to complete Hitler’s
“Final Solution” before the war ended. He
was briskly dispatching 10,000 to 12,000
Jews to the gas chambers every day.
Belatedly, the American government was
trying to stop him. That spring, President
Roosevelt sent Iver Olsen to Stockholm as
an official representative of the American
War Refugee Board.
Olsen was looking for a man willing to walk
imposing, official-looking document. With permission
from no one, he announced that it granted the holder
immunity from deportation to the death camps.
Wallenberg distributed his Schutzpass to Jews
indiscriminately. The Schutzpass alone is credited with
saving 20,000 Jewish lives.
Using his American funds, Wallenberg scoured the city
for buildings to rent. He eventually found thirty-two,
which he declared to be “extraterritorial buildings”
protected by Swedish diplomatic immunity. In an
architecture class at the University of Michigan,
Wallenberg had received a grade of “excellent” for
designing a low-cost housing project that could fit 4,500
people in sixteen city blocks. In Budapest he found a
way "to place 35,000 people in buildings designed for
fewer than 5,000."
to the Red Cross, and to those who
worked at his side. But perhaps even more
important was his ability to revive hope in
those who believed they were doomed.
Wallenberg was well known to the Nazis,
whom he bribed, manipulated, confronted
and harassed tirelessly. Eichmann referred
to him as “Jewdog Wallenberg.” As late
fall turned to winter, Wallenberg’s life was
increasingly in danger. One day his car
|Wallenberg's signature on a schutz pass.
rehabilitation of Budapest’s shattered society.
On a mid-January morning in 1945, twenty Soviets arrived
at Wallenberg’s door. Speaking haltingly in Russian,
Wallenberg explained his mission to rescue the Jews and
asked to be taken to the highest Soviet authorities. He
spent that night at Russian headquarters in Budapest. The
next day he returned home with an escort to pick up his
belongings. Friends described him as calm but with an
edge in his voice, assuring them he would be back in
about a week. Wallenberg’s friends and family never saw
Why was Wallenberg arrested by the Soviets? One reason
might have been that Iver Olsen, the American who
recruited him, was also an agent for the U.S. Office of
Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA. The Soviets
were well aware of this and very paranoid. A Soviet spy
who had infiltrated the Red Cross in Budapest had
observed Wallenberg closely. He found Wallenberg’s
humanitarian motives simply incomprehensible. He
never gave up hope of locating him and
from the moment he disappeared pressed
their case relentlessly. It was only in
1957, during the political thaw following
Stalin’s death, that the Soviets broke their
official silence on Wallenberg’s fate. They
admitted that he had survived the war, and
even that Stalin had been holding him
prisoner at the time of the 1946 meeting
with the Swedish minister. But they
claimed that Wallenberg—a healthy thirty-
two-year-old man at the time he was
abducted—had died in prison of a heart
attack two years later. That remained the
official line until the fall of 2000.
For thirty-five years, Wallenberg’s story
remained unknown outside Sweden. It
was not until 1980 that Elenore Lester, in
a now-famous article for the New York
Times Magazine, brought Wallenberg’s
story to the attention of the world. The
following year, President Reagan made
Raoul Wallenberg an honorary citizen of
Wallenberg has been discussed between the United States
and Russia at lower diplomatic levels and largely in the
context of the Helsinki process, which is designed to
inform the public of gross human rights violations, not to
produce an immediate substantive result,” Korey writes.
“America’s unique ‘honorary citizen’ deserves more.”
In April 2001 the Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the
United States published an eight-page “Chronology of the
Raoul Wallenberg Case”. Included in this chronology are
details of every reported sighting of Wallenberg and
encounter with him in Russia by his fellow prisoners since
1945. The last was in a prison camp 150 miles from
Moscow in 1987.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century it seems an
indisputable fact that the Russian government continues to
stand between the world and the truth about what
happened to Raoul Wallenberg after January 17, 1945.
As the final chapter on Wallenberg’s fate continues to be
written, recognition of what he achieved in Hungary
continues to grow. In Israel, he is honored at Yad Vashem—Jerusalem’s memorial to
Holocaust victims—as the most outstanding of the “Righteous Gentiles.”
In 1985, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick, speaking on the
fortieth anniversary of Raoul Wallenberg’s arrest, said Wallenberg “has become more
than a man, more even than a hero. He symbolizes a central conflict of our age, which
is the determination to remain human and caring and free in the face of tyranny. What
Raoul Wallenberg represented in Budapest was nothing less than the conscience of the