(ADDS NEW COMMENTS FROM WRITER, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL, MORE BACKGROUND)
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews from Nazi death camps, supported the non-Communist armed resistance movement during World War Two, according to new research viewed by BosNewsLife Wednesday June 26.
Wallenberg’s involvement in the resistance may have been the main reason why he was abducted by troops of the Communist Soviet Union and explains why “neutral Sweden” remained “passive” following his disappearance, says Swedish-Hungarian writer Gellért Kovács in a book on the issue.
“His contact with the armed resistance and Western allies was an important reason why he was detained by the Soviet Union,” Kovács told reporters. “They considered him to be a very dangerous person with too much knowledge and too many contacts,” he claimed.
“By that time Russians considered the Western Allies unreliable….as they foresaw a conflict of interest in the future,” Kovács added. “Wallenberg and and his colleague [first secretary ] Per Anger, had contacts with the American and British intelligence services.”
In his book, whose Swedish title translates as ‘Dark skies over Budapest’, the author also quotes historian József Gazsi who learned from witnesses that the envoy provided “hand grenades, pistols and even machine guns” to the armed resistance.
Kovács cites documents he discovered in Hungarian military history records as prove that the resistance groups communicated positions of Nazi Germany’s ships in the Danube river to allies via radio transmitters based in the Swedish embassy in Budapest, the capital. He said British planes based on the island of Malta used that information to bomb the vessels.
His research over the 2009-2012 period was supported by Sweden’s Foreign Ministry as the Scandinavian nation still searches for answers to what remains one of the most important unresolved mysteries in its recent history.
Swedish author Ingrid Carlberg, who last year won the annual August Prize for Swedish literature for her biography of Wallenberg, called the new data “very interesting” and “highly relevant.”
Yet, she said those activities were likely launched by fellow diplomat Per Anger who worked closely with the leader of the resistance group that used the radio equipment.
Wallenberg’s support for the resistance came while he also tried to protect hunted Hungarian Jews.
His diplomatic work was viewed as a cover for his humanitarian mission as secret envoy of the U.S. War Refugee Board, which was established to halt the extermination of Europe’s Jews, according to historical records.
Wallenberg saved at least 20,000 Jews in Budapest — though other American and Hungarian officials suggest the real figure is as high as 100,000 — by giving them Swedish travel documents or moving them to dozens of safe houses.
Hungary was a close ally of Nazi-Germany during most of World War Two when about 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed. Some Hungarians argue that most of them were deported after Germans eventually occupied Hungary in 1944, but at least one Israeli embassy official in Budapest told BosNewsLife that the “blueprint” for those deportations were arranged under longtime pro-Nazi ruler Miklos Horthy.
Hungary was also the first European country to introduce anti-Semitic legislation as early as 1920. Known as the ‘numerus clausus law’ it limited the number of Jewish students in universities, prompting intellectuals to emigrate, including scientist Edward Teller who left Hungary in 1933.
Critics say the legislation contributed to an atmosphere of hatred in Hungary, which eventually became a close ally of Nazi Germany.
Wallenberg tried to prevent the deportations of Jews, but was unable to save everyone, with many Hungarian fascist forces actively supporting Nazi-troops, according to survivors and historians.
“They destroyed our home in the town of Nyíregyháza, nearly exterminated my family and killed hundreds of thousands of other Jewish people,” Holocaust survivor Nikolaus (Miklós) Grüner told BosNewsLife.
Wallenberg arrived too late for people like him as he and his family were transported as cattle in May, 1944, in an overcrowded train from Hungary to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Nazi-occupied Poland.
He lost his parents and a younger brother in the extensive network of Nazi death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. “Hungarians were eager to close the carriages of the death trains,” Grüner, 84, recalled in an interview.
A dispute remains over when and where Wallenberg may have died in the Soviet Union.
Wallenberg disappeared after being arrested by the Red Army of Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin in Budapest in 1945. Moscow initially denied he was in Soviet custody, but then said in 1957 that he died of a heart attack in prison on July 17, 1947.
Yet, other inmates claimed to have seen him many years later. “The end of his life is so tragic: he escapes the grip of the Nazi dictatorship, but falls victim of the Soviet regime,” noted Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Németh recently.
“He rescues tens of thousands of Hungarian Jewish children and adults in Budapest and loses his own life in the Ljubljanka or somewhere in the Gulag – where and when exactly, we still do not know,” he told a conference in Prague on Wallenberg’s rescue of Hungarian Jews. “The very bitter irony of his life is obvious for us, who live in Central-Europe. His life is far from the typical carrier diplomat’s fate,” Németh said.
Hungary’s government supported the recent Raoul Wallenberg Year to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday year.
It included the naming of a renovated park near Budapest’s Great Synagogue, Europe’s largest, after the late diplomat amid concerns of a fresh wave of anti-Semitism here, including vandalism of Holocaust memorials and Jewish graves, verbal threats against Jewish leaders and far-right demonstrations.
“The figure of Wallenberg is not only symbolic, but also real, vivid, colourful and inspiring,” Németh argued. “We see [in pictures] a handsome, agile, very inventive and brave young businessman-like man with diplomatic entitlement, who fights with an enormous and merciless enemy like David against Goliath in the Bible,” Németh recalled, adding “God bless his memory.”
Fresh revelations about Wallenberg’s role in the war came while in neighboring Serbia the Hungarian and Serbian presidents have recalled their countries atrocities during World War Two.
In 1942 some 3,000 mainly Serb civilians were murdered by Hungarian forces in the Serbian town of Novi Sad. Two years later tens of thousands of ethnic Hungarians and Germans were massacred by Yugoslav partisans.
Last week Serbia’s Parliament voted for a resolution “condemning the atrocities against Hungarians”.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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