Missing hero Wallenberg 'was US spy'

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Raoul Wallenberg, the legendary Swedish diplomat who saved more than 20,000 Jews from Nazi death camps, was an agent of American intelligence, according to a report published in US News and World Report.

But after the Soviets jailed him in 1946, believing him to be a spy, US officialdom abandoned him, making no effort to secure his release or establish his fate, which remains a mystery.

A six-month investigation into the Wallenberg affair by the paper, which involved examination of thousands of freshly declassified US intelligence documents, leads it to the conclusion that the hero was betrayed.

The official version of events provided by the Soviet Union to the Swedish government in 1957 was that he had died in prison 10 years earlier. But numerous witnesses contacted by the paper said they had seen him in prison after 1947. According to one version, Wallenberg ended up in a mental hospital outside Moscow in the early Sixties, driven mad by the sense that the world had forgotten him and had failed to try to do for him what he had done for Hungary's Jews.

Only Wallenberg's family and some of his friends refused to let his case die. Per Anger, a retired Swedish ambassador, believes that Wallenberg was still alive in 1989, the year he sat in on a telephone conversation between Helmut Kohl and Mikhail Gorbachev. Chancellor Kohl, Mr Anger told the paper, pleaded with Mr Gorbachev to "let that old man go". But the Russian leader, to whom Mr Anger later made a personal appeal, proved unwilling or unable to act. An investigative commission appointed by Boris Yeltsin in 1991 also yielded nothing.

In declassified US intelligence documents indicating that Wallenberg had been working for the the Office of Strategic Services (later the CIA), CIA officers ventured internal criticism of their superiors for drawing a curtain of silence after his arrest in January 1946.

Wallenberg, who came from a wealthy Swedish family whose steel factories supplied the Nazi military, was recruited by a US embassy official in Stockholm in June 1944 and sent to Nazi-controlled Budapest, under Swedish diplomatic cover, the following month.

Discovering that Hungarian Jews were being deported to Auschwitz by train at a rate of 12,000 a day, Wallenberg incurred Nazi rage by setting about a one-man mercy mission with wit, courage, energy and remarkable success.

He would use his US funds to bribe Nazi officials and rent buildings all over Budapest on which he would hoist flags of Swedish neutrality. Soon he became a landlord to thousands of Jews, many of whom he provided with Swedish identity documents which came to be known by his grateful beneficiaries as "Wallenberg passports".

A less known part of Wallenberg's duties in Budapest was to gather intelligence on the Hungarian resistance and on both Nazi and Russian military movements, all of which he passed on to US agents through Swedish diplomatic channels.

Wallenberg's cruelly ironic reward in the end might have been avoided, US News concludes, had the Swedish and US governments been less anxious to avoid embarrassment. A spy swap, for example, might have saved him. But the Swedes did not want to admit they had knowingly allowed one of their diplomats to work for the Americans; and the Americans would not admit Soviet charges that Wallenberg was working for them.