RUSSIA AND RAUOL WALLENBERG: UNFINISHED BUSINESS
By Dr Inna Rogatchi, The Rogatchi Foundation
(C) Inna Rogatchi, 2016 –
The Presidential Archive and Its Closed Envelopes
In 1990, Russian president Boris Yeltsyn did quite unusual for the Soviet and post-Soviet ruler deed: he admitted the guilt of the Soviet regime. The matter was the massacre of the Polish officers in Katyn by the Soviets in 1941. Yeltsyn was courageous enough to hand to the Polish side highly classified documents from the Presidential Archive, specifically designated body to keep the most sensitive documents throughout the Soviet history safely locked there.
If there is something that Russian authorities are still keeping on Raoul Wallenberg case, the file, most likely, is to be at this very place.
At the time of establishing The Presidential Archive in 1991, in incredible haste and complete chaos amidst collapsing Soviet Union, the main thinking about it was to grab and remove the most important cases – as Katyn massacre and presumably Wallenberg case – from all existing in late Soviet Union archives, including those of the KGB and military intelligence, into the one place, to seal all the most sensitive secrets, and subordinate those explosive materials placed in large sealed envelopes to the only person who would be the arbiter on whenever to unseal the envelopes in question, when, and under which circumstances. That person would be a president of the Russian Federation.
I was a witness of the process, as I was working on many of hastily de-classified for a short period of time documents from all periods of the Soviet Union in a strong team of international researches and diplomats. We regularly saw the documents of extra-ordinary importance piled in disorder all over deserted compound of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Moscow.
We have learned that the Presidential Archive has been established in a hot panic that overwhelmed the Soviet leaders at the abrupt end of the regime. We were explained by readily co-operative and palpably nervous men that the idea of the Presidential Archive is to make it small, compact and easily movable; so only the cases of the extra-ordinary importance had been selected there.
We have learned on the documents with four degrees of secrecy, with stamps on the pages of the originals: Secret ( secretno in Russian), Completely Secret ( sovershenno secretno ), Special Importance ( osobaja vazhnost ) , Special File ( osobaja papka ). The documents bearing all four stamps on its front page were at sole disposal of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, the nerve centre of the Soviet regime.
Yet atop of that, there is also documentation of a superior secrecy. Such documents are stored in a form of sealed packages and this highest form of secrecy in Russia is known as ‘sealed package’. Those packages are numbered. The Katyn package had number 1 written on it by hand. The package that contains the original materials on the Soviet-German pact preceding the Second World War is known as package 34 – which Mr Gorbachev
wanted to destroy, according to his closest aides who did not dare to do such a thing.
The envelope with what’s left in the Wallenberg dossier should be among those numbered sealed packages. In 2000, after the decade of hardly fruitful co-operation of the Russian-Swedish Raoul Wallenberg Working Commission, the Russian officials provided their Swedish counter-parts with the document that meant to be the proof that they did everything possible in order to trace the existing documentation on the case. The document was a protocol of the supposed to be a nation-wide search for the documents related to the Wallenberg case in all Russian archives. All of them, except the Presidential Archive.
There are repeated claims by the Russian officials insisting that the Wallenberg File was destroyed. In the realities of the Soviet security apparatus, however, it was hardly possible to destroy an entire file, a cache of documents. In all probability, such exceptional documents as the original of the letter that poor Raoul had written to Stalin from his cell at the Lubjanka prison, would not have been destroyed under any circumstances.
The idea of establishing in 1991 the archive of inaccessible documents in rapidly collapsing Soviet Union had been quite useful for the country’s leadership, seemingly. In the case of Raoul Wallenberg, it did work for twenty five years by now. Being added to forty six previous years, from the Russian perspective, it worked for them for 71 year and 8 months.
In August 2016, international media has reprinted basically one story about published in Russia in May 2016 diaries of Ivan Serov, notorious head of the KGB and GRU in 1950s and early 1960s, claiming it as ‘the discovery that would end the mystery of Raoul Wallenberg in Russia’. It is hasty and naive reaction, playing on the Russian authorities’ hand perfectly.
[ On the photo: Guy von Dardell, the brother of Raoul Wallenberg, in Moscow, at the Lubjanka Square, in front of the KGB head-quarters. 2009. Credit: SIPA Press].
General Serov and His Diaries
One needs to understand the place of general Ivan Serov in the Soviet totalitarian machinery in the key periods of its and the world’s history, from the end of 1930s through mid-1960s, to grasp what the publishing of his diaries means. Ivan Serov was the one of the most cruel and most efficient leaders of the NKVD, KGB and GRU. During 24 years of his active career, from February 1939 until March 1963, he occupied the most crucial positions in the Soviet punitive apparatus, being the highest official in charge with GULAG, and the chief NKVD representative in Germany after the end of the war.
He was the first chairman of the KGB after Stalin’s death and Beria’s arrest, and then the head of GRU, very able Soviet military intelligence, under Khrushchev. If not the case of colonel Penkovsky, the Western super-agent in the heart of the Soviet military intelligence, his boss Ivan Serov would be ruling the Soviet intelligence apparatus for long years to come.
Ivan Serov was a fearsome man. He played a pivotal role in organising the criminal extermination in 1941 of thousands of the Polish officers who were forcibly moved by the Soviets to Ukraine for the purpose of their brutal extermination. Many years later, being disagree with Yeltsyn’s decision to apologise to Poland for the Katyn massacre, he went on bragging : ‘Although I have organised ( in Ukraine) the liquidation of the Poles in much more substantial quantities that it had been done in Katyn, no one ever could incriminate me and us ( the regime) anything on that’, – he was saying, according to the account in his thorough historical biography by well-known Russian historian Nikita Petrov ( “The First Chairman of the KGB Ivan Serov”, 2005).
General Serov was the top Soviet specialist on deportations, and the author of a special instruction on how to prepare and execute mass deportation. That contribution of his was highly praised by the central Soviet authorities, and is understood to be used widely as practical guide-line all throughout the massive wave of sweeping deportations both inside and outside USSR under the Stalin reign.
Ivan Serov also took a personal participation in the politically motivated ethnic cleansings and did it eagerly: in Poland before the WWII and inside the Soviet territory during the war. He was responsible for massive cleansing of the Soviet citizens within the Soviet territory close the front lines that was moving in correspondence with the German offensive. He earned the rare and the one of the highest Soviet military rewards, Suvorov Banner of the First Degree, for the mass deportation of thousands of people from the Soviet
Caucasus Republics in 1944. He was the highest NKVD representative in the Soviet sector of Germany after the end of the war.
Serov was in charge with little reported massive operation conducted by the USSR in all countries in the Soviet sphere of influence, with total arrest of all ethnic German males from 16 to 60-years old and sending them to the Soviet Union as prisoners and forced labour. Those hundreds of thousands of men were not German citizens. He played a very visible, if not central role in the harsh suppressing of the Hungary Uprising in 1956.
It worth of noticing that Serov was not professional military man. He was exceptionally cruel apparatchik, the one of the key-figures characterizing the cannibalistic nature of the Stalin regime.
[Photo: general Serovs gets award from Molotov. Archive photo ].
Operation ‘Suitcase’: Timing & Aiming
In May 2016, a series of events was organised in Moscow. The events were highly-profiled and covered in the Russian media at its best. But somehow, it did not catch the eye of the Western media, which came as disappointment to the Russian side.
Firstly, on May 11th, there has been a presentation of a new book at the Russian Military-Historical Society. The Society is a top body in Russia, with articulated patriotic agenda. It is patronised by the Russian authorities and is funded by the state, with a special article in the Russian state budget for the body exclusively.
Then, in two weeks time, the exhibition has been opened at the new Museum of Military History ( opened in 2015 ). The title of the exhibition was “Ivan Serov. A Man of the Epoch”, and it was opened by the Russia’s minister for culture Vladimir Medinsky. Medinsky who is known as a keen amateur military historian and a proud adept of Stalin, was instrumental in re-creation and state funding of Russian Military-Historical Society. He made it possible for the Museum to get a prestigious place and building in Moscow, just next to the Tretjakov Gallery, so many people do believe that the new Museum is a part of the world famous art collection.
The exhibition was done on a top level. It presented the vanished figure of general Serov in pain-staking detail and reverence: his uniform, his official passes signed by Stalin, a myriad of his Soviet military and state decorations, a museum installation of his restored office, tens of photographs of him with entire Soviet elite. A figure of general Serov had been literally taken from oblivion and presented at the state level now, with deep respect, if not an admiration.
A public presentation of the general Serov’s diaries book also had a place at that state-level ceremony. Minister Medinsky was announced as a patron of a public side the whole project, not surprisingly. There had been focused effort to draw as much attention to the publication of the Serov’s diaries, as possible. In all the speeches and followed media reports we heard nothing but ‘sensational discovery’, ‘true detective story’, ‘thriller’s plot’, ‘unprecedented discovery’, etc. But in a good old Russian tradition, the public there tends to treat anything what is promoted by the state so emphatically with a good pinch of scepticism. As it turned in this case, with a good reason.
On the cover of a thick 704-pages volume, additionally to its title and the name of Serov, there is an extra-line: “The Alexander Khinshtein’s Project”. As it happened, the diaries of the first chief of the KGB and head of the GRU had been ‘read and edited’ and actually written for the book by Mr Khinsthein. This detail did not ring any bell in the West. But it did in Russia where Khinshtein is known not only as the MP, but also as the journalist who had been very close to the KGB, openly so in the beginning of his career.
Those are not ‘speculations’. Khinshtein has a wise policy of not denying the very well known fact, but instead proudly declaring such co-operation and his support of the Russia’s (and previously late Soviet) security and intelligence services.
“There is one thing when people are thinking that they would be reading Serov’s own text, and it is totally different when they realise that they will be reading the text of Khinshtein’s. And Khinshtein, of all people”, – the experts on the Russian intelligence history were discussing on ever popular Echo of Moscow debate ( Ivan Serov’s Diaries. Year 1941. Dilentants programme. Historian Boris Sokolov speaks to publisher Boris Dymarsky. Echo of Moscow, July 14, 2016).
There should be no mistake: the published recently book presented as a genuine diaries of general Serov, is the result of the thorough work of the close to the Russian security services journalist who had edited the materials and presented it in his own way. The title on the book’s cover thus is quite correct: it is the Alexander Khinshtein’s project. And his friends, colleagues and soul-mates’, too.
The discovery of such utterly delicious historical material as the trove of diaries of Ivan Serov was presented to the public in the following way: the Serov’s grand-daughter absolutely accidentally found the treasure hidden in the wall of her grandpa’s garage when she decided to renovate the place that she has inherited in 2012.
The organisers of the Serov-show were so generous, as to exhibit the suitcases in question, along with the genuine type-writer on which Serov’s wife was typing her husband’s memoir, lovingly arranging the manuscripts from the trove in a garage wall inside the suitcases at the exhibition.
The secrecy was supposed to beef up the interest to the story, and the minister himself was not tired to remind that ‘to have a diary it was absolutely impossible thing for a Soviet security official, as anyone who would do such a thing would be facing military tribunal”. So, general Serov, the steel-disciplined boss of both the KGB and the GRU had been suicidal to keep the diaries knowing the risk?.. It is amusing to observe the Russian top officials sometimes.
There are many intelligence professionals in Russia who had been analysing the story known now as ‘Operation ‘Suitcase’ wittingly and ironically. Some of them calculated that for the laying the suitcases presented to the public into the wall, the wall in its width should be 90 cm at very least which was not the case in a garage walls in the Soviet Union, even for the boss of the KGB. “Ridiculous, and so hapless”, – was the verdict of the pros’ community in Russia.
Also, any expert on intelligence does know the way and form of preserving information in Russia, doubly so, personal information and notes, and when it comes to such high-profile security official, as Ivan Serov was. Maybe in twenty years time such funny explanations would do for the Russian public in the way, as it did for the Western media now. But until the time when people in Russia who are still remember the Soviet realities are alive, Medinsky, Khinshtein and their team do not stand a chance to fool their own people. Sorry, guys.
It is known that bitter general Serov who had been ousted from his operative positions and was even deprived his membership in the Communist party ( which was severe and menacing punishment in the USSR) was quite jealous after the publication of the Marshal Zhukov’s memoirs, and the attention it has grabbed both in the USSR and internationally. Serov was bragging in the family circles that he ‘would be able to write a memoir that would certainly beat the one by Zhukov, as he does have a lot to tell about many things’ ( Nikita Petrov, “Ivan Serov, the First Chairman of the KGB”, 2005). You bet he would.
Given the amount of the Serov’s highly incriminating knowledge, then the KGB Chairman Andropov had alarmed the Soviet Politbureau on possible another memoir scandal, after the one that they had with the Khrushchev’s memoir. Andropov had his personal interest in that matter, too. During the extremely cruel crush by the Soviets the Hungarian Uprising in 1956, the future long-termed head of the KGB and short-termed leader of the USSR Jury Andropov was the Soviet Ambassador to Hungary. He was known for his personal involvement into massive Soviet repressions in Hungary during and after the Uprising. But it worth to remember that in practical terms and reality Andropov was a subordinate to general Serov who had been the real master of the Soviet repressions in Hungary in 1956. Andropov was the least person interested in the appearance of any memoir by his previous boss-de-facto.
It is known that Serov was summoned to the Central Committee office at Staraja Ploschad in Moscow and have got quite a harsh lecture there on inadmissibility of even a thought of any kind of memoir issued by him. The episode occurred in 1971. Serov fully understood the message, and it could be plausible to think that whatever he had in a written form as a working material for his would-be memoir, he had packed and stocked away, – but not to wall it up into a wall of a garage. Yet more plausible is that he had been ‘recommended’ to surrender his materials to ‘a safe place’ where the state would have take care on them. Most likely, it is what really had happened with the Serov’s papers. In those now famous suitcases, of course.
There had been discrepancies in the family’s story accompanying the official show around ‘the discovery’. Initially, Serov’s grand-daughter Vera was telling on ‘accidental founding of two suitcases’ and ‘a half of year’ of the time that she needed for scanning it all personally. A bit later, a different version appeared – now there was ‘three suitcases’ and ‘a year’ that the scanning took. Those are not small details. Those are the details which had been altered, thus casting a doubt of the ingenuity of the Vera Serov’s public version of her story.
[Photo: Vera Serov posing at the installation at the Ivan Serov exhibition. Moscow, May 2016. Russian Media, Open Sources].
Analysing all the factors, many intelligence experts have expressed the opinion that in a high probability the volume advertised as genuine diaries of general Serov is the official version prepared by the Russian authorities. The question is why now? And what for, in general?
Characteristically, in the 704-page book, there is hardly anything new stated. The book is full of carefully selected details of general Serov’s meetings, attendances, discoveries – such as the bodies of dead Hitler, Eva Braun, and the children of Goebbels. Which is not a small thing for historians, of course, but his role in Berlin in 1945 had been known previously, as he was the one who called Stalin to report on his discovery of the corpses in the Hitler’s bunker.
There is only one story from the 704-page book promoted as ‘sensational’ that did catch an eye of the Western media, the story on Raoul Wallenberg.
In the Serov-Khinshtein’s book, there are few short entries regarding Wallenberg. Some of them are certainly worthy of attention, given the omerta that both the Soviet and the Russian regimes are still keeping on Raoul Wallenberg for more than 70 years. In the book, it is stated by general Serov in the interpretation of Khinshtein that “based on the reports by the top NKVD officials, Stalin and Molotov were interested in using Wallenberg as a witness of the Soviet side at the Nuremberg Trial”; that Soviets ‘ had agreed with American side’ on the appropriate for them spectrum of issues which would – and would not – be presented at the trial; that after such agreement, “after the end of the Nuremberg trial, Raoul Wallenberg has lost its value” ( for the Soviet regime and its leaders); that infamous head of the Soviet NKVD special Lab that was designated for killings by poisoning ‘Maironovsky and the staffers of his special lab has confirmed that in 1946-1947 they has liquated a number of the foreign prisoners who were kept in the inner Lubjanka prison and in Vladimir prison. They did not remember concrete names’ though. And that former minister of the Soviet security Abakumov who was later arrested and shoot in the Beria-related purge, ‘did confirm during his interrogations the liquidation of Raoul Wallenberg namely. He ( Abakumov) was referring to the direct instructions of Stalin and Molotov whom both he briefed on the case regularly’.
In the final entry on Raoul Wallenberg, the book states that many years after, being retired, general Serov had unofficial meeting with a senior Soviet official ( whose name he promised not to reveal). In their discussion, the official asked general: “Could it be possible that Wallenberg might be kept in (the Soviet ) prison institution under the assumed name today?”. I replied that my people had conducted the most thorough check, and I have no doubt that Wallenberg has been liquated in 1947” ,– is written in the book.
We could help to the book’s editor: the meeting described above had a place in 1987, three years before the Serov’s death. His vis-a-vis was the member of the last Soviet Politbureau Alexander Yakovlev who had been very close to Gorbatchev and was an architect of the Soviet ‘perestroika’. Yakovlev was double-checking the facts before his meeting with Academician Sakharov who shortly before that was released from his exile. Andrey Sakharov, the conscience of Russia, was extremely taken and involved into the efforts to shed the light into the destiny of Raoul Wallenberg ( as I have written on the subject previously, citing my conversations with Sakharov’s widow, Elena Bonner, in early 1990s – Inna Rogatchi. Restoration of Heart. Thinking on Raoul Wallenberg. Materials of The Art of Impossible, the International Raoul Wallenberg Conference and Roundtable. Raoul Wallenberg International Initiative ( RWI-70 ). Budapest, May 2016; https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1625478441076964&id=100008444714060; and http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/212598 ).
These statements are not new, for the experts. The information of murdering Raoul Wallenberg by poisoning him in the murky Lab Number 12, the Maironovsky Lab, appeared for the first time in the memoirs by general Sudoplatov in co-authorship with highly reputed American historians Leona and Jerrold Schecter in 1994. In his recollection, the most important Soviet spy-master did not elaborate on the reasoning of the Wallenberg’s murder.
That reasoning had been thoroughly analysed in quite authoritative book by Lev Bezymensky, The Budapest Mission: Raoul Wallenberg. The book published in 2001 had been the first, and to the best of my knowledge, the only book in Russia solely devoted to the subject. Characteristically, it was published in 2001, just after the end of the Yeltsyn’s rule. It would be hardly possible to publish anything like this book on a later stage. Lev Bezymensky knew what he was talking about. He was a well-known expert on German history who had been close to the top Soviet military and security authorities during whole his career. During the Second World War, he was the translator for the highest Soviet military command at the interrogations of Marshal Paulus, and later on, at the interrogations of Goering, Keitel, and the other top imprisoned Nazis. It was in the Bezymensky’s book that the quite well reasoned explanation of the murder of Raoul Wallenberg after the end of the Nuremberg trial had been published for the first time back in 2001.
The few notes on Wallenberg mentioned in the Serov-Khinshtein’s book now, is a compilation of the previous revelations by two major sources, general Sudoplatov and Lev Bezymensky. From a point of view of a historical observer, it looks as general Serov sort of ‘stamped’ the Sudoplatov and Bezymensky’s statements, made twenty two and fifteen years ago in retrospect, with his confirmatory verdict: “Correct” ( Verno in Russian).
There is one interesting detail with regard to the timing of the book’s publishing now. The first presentation of the book, for the members of the Russian Military-Historical Society, was organised a week before serious international event, The Art of Impossible, The International Raoul Wallenberg Conference and Roundtable organised in May 2016 in Budapest. The conference was the results of the efforts by The Raoul Wallenberg Initiative ( RW-70) and the Wallenberg family – http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/212598
The exhibition and public presentation of the Serov’s diaries had happened in Moscow a week after the conference in Budapest. The conference had been carried on at the high international level, with participation of many Ambassadors of the key countries involved in the Raoul Wallenberg story ( but Russia), and such legendary figures as the former Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, the mentor of Vaclav Havel, and the first Chairman of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights Karel, Prince of Schwarzenberg, and former Minister for Justice of Canada Irwin Cotler, as well as the author of the critically important new biography of Raoul Wallenberg Ingrid Carlberg.
[Photo: Karel Schwarzenberg speaking at the Raoul Wallenberg conference. Budapest, May 2016. (C) Inna Rogatchi].
The conference was covered prominently in the international media, not only during, but also before and after its occurrence. The next stage of this international initiative is planned, as it was announced, as the visit of the selected Raoul Wallenberg Initiative committee to discuss the progress with the Russian authorities in Moscow in October 2016.
Additionally, the Wallenberg family, being tired and exhausted, has decided to ask the Swedish authorities to declare Raoul dead, and this act of closure from their side is expected to happen in the autumn this year.
Despite all the fanfares of the Operation ‘Suitcase’, it did not arise any interest by the Western media initially. After two and a half months, in early August 2016 the article on the topic has finally appeared in The New York Times. The article had been written by Neil MacFarquhar, the Chief of the NYT bureau in Moscow from 2014. MacFarquhar who has spent the most of his life in the Middle East, is known as a versatile expert on the Middle East, but he had been unknown for his works on the history of the Second World War, or Raoul Wallenberg, or Russia, for that matter, before just a two years ago. Two Russian journalists had contributed to the NYT story, very helpfully.
Also interestingly, the previous NYT article on Raoul Wallenberg had appeared in New York Times four and a half years ago, in January 2012. And in general, the NYT lists just four articles on Raoul Wallenberg that they had published since 1952, including the latest story, the one of them covering a musical on the Wallenberg’s life.
In a classic scenario, the publication in the NYT had mushroomed in no time: Daily Telegraph, Le Point in France, German Focus, many Israeli media, Politiken in Denmark, Svenska Dagbladet, Hungarian, Estonian, Finnish, Argentine newspapers has all practically re-printed the initial story in the first couple of days.
Symptomatically, no other topic of the 704-page book by Serov-Khinshtein had been picked up by the international media. Nothing else at all.
The message went through world-wide, the one and the same, from the visible international media-source. In the text-books on intelligence and the classics on its history – such as the books of the distinguished professor Christopher Andrew – this chain of events has its definition as ‘an active measure’. In the case of Operation ‘Suitcase’, it has been conducted in a classic way. Congratulations, comrades.
Personally, after years of looking into the matter, researching it, and talking with many key people and experts, I do believe that Raoul Wallenberg who, extremely deservingly, was called The Conscience of Sweden, and had been posthumously made a honorary citizen of the USA, Canada, Israel, Hungary and Australia, had been unlawfully kidnapped, arrested and detained as anonymous prisoner in the USSR on the direct and personal order by Stalin. I also am of an opinion that Stalin had a very clear plan to keep Raoul until the Nuremberg Trial as the possible counter-witness for the Soviets, in the case they would not be successful in convincing the American Administration of the time not to include into the trial’s agenda such impossible for them matters as their secret protocols with Hitler and the Katyn massacre.
As they succeed in that, poor Wallenberg has become easily expendable ‘collateral damage’ in their eyes, also because the position of the Swedish authorities on the matter had been just unimaginably weak and servile. The Soviets had had a very well grounded impression at the time that nobody cared and would make a scandal over Raoul. There had been no problem for Stalin to order his ‘liquidation’, in their casual term for murdering people, most likely, at some stage in 1947.
In the following years, in my understanding, Khrushchev needed that explosive material – on who issued which order – in his internal fierce intriguing at the highest level of the Soviet power; it is known that he kept the Wallenberg case’ documentation for his wrestling with Molotov. During the 18-years-long reign of Brezhnev nothing ever happened with regard on the acknowledging any mistakes of the past, not to mention crimes. Andropov was continuing the line even more fiercely, and Gorbachev who was eager to destroy the entire package Number 34 with secret Soviet-German pre-Second World War protocols, was not the person who would have a stomach to admit the truth of the crime of such screaming proportion.
Yeltsyn could do it, as he did with Katyn massacre, but after his bold gesture, he was so severely criticised for invoking ‘a shame’ onto the country that he has decided to take a pause in those revelations. Symptomatically, the last official effort to uncover the truth on the Raoul Wallenberg’s destiny, the creation of the Russian-Swedish Bilateral Working Raoul Wallenberg Commission has occurred and was carried on in the decade of the Yelstsyn’s rule, and it was shut down when this rule came to the end.
But even then, the work of the Commission had been very difficult, stagnated, met with numerous obstacles permanently, and turned out to be frustrating and fruitless experience. And then unorthodox, but human Russian ruler Boris Yeltsyn was gone. The rest is known.
During the last sixteen years, from 2000 onward, there had been no news from the Russian official sources on the destiny of Raoul Wallenberg whatsoever. Until the publication of the Serov’s diaries, the cognition of the ‘Operation ‘Suitcase’.
Characteristically, on the occasion of the book’s presentation and the opening of the exhibition on the life of general Serov, the Russian minister of culture, influential in his country Vladimir Medinsky, made the following statement regarding the key role played by Serov in mass deportations of many people of the USSR and the Eastern and Central Europe: “How everyone from us would behave when finding itself at his place, upon receiving the order to deport people? Would somebody start to discuss such order?..” ( quoting from Moscow Komsomoletz newspaper #27111 report, May 27th, 2016). This line does not need a comment. People often could be self-revealing; sometime, in a charming way, sometime, in horrific one. The point here is that Medinsky was absolutely genuine in expressing his views.
The message from the Russian official side is clear: they are hopeful that with the useful international pick-up of the Serov’s statements in his diaries, the matter on all those so tiring inquires on Raoul Wallenberg’s destiny will be closed now. It is quite obvious that Mr Medinsky and MP Khinshtein are not the main players there. Willingly and loyally, they are serving their master who, being a pragmatic enough person does realise that the state of Russian Federation just cannot sit on still open question of Raoul Wallenberg’s destiny indefinitely.
In a further unfolding of this easily readable scenario, some weird appeals to the current Russian Tsar started to appear in public from the sources who, for some reasons, are ignoring very well existing family of Raoul Wallenberg and the family’s wishes. Those people have decided to beg the Russian president, literally, to ‘let them to bury Raoul’ – when everyone knows perfectly well that murdered Wallenberg had been cremated instantly and even his ashes do not exist.
In the same addressing, the people who issued it either being utterly naive, or because of the other reasons, wrote the following: “We are certainly not seeking an investigation into the circumstances of Wallenberg and Langfelder´s detention and disappearance. These events occurred long ago amidst a particular historical context, in the wake of humanity´s bloodiest war. Our sole aim is to bring closure to a human tragedy” ( The Open Letter to the Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. The Raoul Wallenberg Foundation , August 9, 2016 – http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/wallenberg/fate/mr-putin-let-us-bury-raoul-wallenberg/ ) . The signatories of the letter did take a good care for publicising their utterly servile addressing to the Russian president internationally. This is exactly the tone and the message that the Kremlin today would like to hear on the Wallenberg case, and this is exactly the aim of all their elaborated, but not exactly fine, recent operation on the matter.
But Russian authorities are wrong in their intention to close the matter in this currently promoted motto, in indirect and convenient for them way. The crime committed against Raoul Wallenberg has been so hideous, and the handling of the matter by all consequent Soviet and Russian regimes had been so unpardonable that the Russian state does have the obligations before the Wallenberg family and the Kingdom of Sweden.
The Russian Federation has to admit officially the crime committed by the Soviet authorities against the Swedish diplomat and the hero who did save tens of thousands of people from the Holocaust.
They also have to apologise for unlawful detention, kidnapping, imprisonment, and premeditated murder of Raoul Wallenberg, the innocent Swedish citizen.
They have to compensate this hideous crime in a full measure. The immediate family of Raoul Wallenberg, his parents and his brother, did spend a fortune during seven decades of fruitless, desperate search for their son and brother. The family is entitled to full compensation against the crime committed by the Stalin regime and concealed by the all consequential governments of the Soviet Union and Russia till today, with an equivalent of the certain sum elaborated by the team of the international lawyers, for every year since the Raoul’s kidnapping until the moment of the official admitting the crime and its concealment by the government of the Russian Federation, and the issued by them the official state apology.
There is also would be logical to expect from the Russian state their official apology for 72 years of consistent, cruel, inhuman lies with regard to Raoul Wallenberg and his destiny. But I am not as naive, as some of my colleagues in those Western media who did swallow the hook of the ‘Operation ‘Suitcase’’ without a second thought. When it comes to morality, respect and behaviour, one should not expect too much from the Kremlin, as we have learned from the history so painfully.
We are getting the message from Moscow, naturally. It is too clear one not to. We know that Raoul Wallenberg, most likely, is dead for sixty nine years by now. But it will be yet another betrayal of that outstanding man, that champion of the humanity whose shining soul is still warms up the millions, to give in his memory in the way prescribed for us by the Kremlin.
According to the UN convention on Human Rights, the crimes against humanity have no period of limitation. The murder of Raoul Wallenberg by the Soviet state is certainly such crime. In this case, justice can and shall be applied. It is applicable via triple action to be conducted by the Russian authorities: admission, apology and compensation. Until all these three elements would be implemented, between Russia and Raoul Wallenberg it will still be the same as it was during past seventy two years – the unfinished business.
Inna Rogatchi (C)
Dr Inna Rogatchi is the author, scholar, film-maker and the president of The Rogatchi Foundation. Among her work on the modern history, she has published and taught a special course Analysing the Totalitarianism: Documents from the Soviet Archives; authored The Opaque Mirror book that analyses psychological aspects of the intelligence in the USSR; authored several documentaries on the history of the Soviet and American intelligence operations during the Cold War, including internationally acclaimed The Morning After the Cold War film. Her recent film is The Lessons of Survival: Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal that also addresses the destiny of Raoul Wallenberg – www.rogatchifilms.org