Sweden criticized for its handling of Wallenberg disappearance

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- A Swedish commission blamed the government Tuesday for failing to follow leads in the 1945 disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg, who was captured by Soviet troops after saving thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II.

In 2001, Russia acknowledged for the first time that Wallenberg and his driver were imprisoned for political reasons until they died, but didn't say how, where or when they died.

Tuesday's report accused the Swedish Foreign Ministry of "a palpable lack of interest in the security of Raoul Wallenberg during the critical months after his disappearance in January 1945" in Budapest, Hungary.

The report said a lack of leadership in the ministry resulted in a failure to adequately investigate leads that could possibly have led authorities to Wallenberg.

"Whatever the explanation, this passiveness in the first months is not defensible," commission chairman Ingemar Eliasson told reporters.

He said the Foreign Ministry should have demanded that Wallenberg be sent home.

In Los Angeles, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said the report seemed to confirm Sweden's "gutless" attitude toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

"The fact remains that the elite of Sweden never really understood what motivated Raoul Wallenberg or how incredible his achievements were," Cooper said.

Wallenberg is credited with saving 20,000 Hungarian Jews by issuing them Swedish passports and securing diplomatic protection for entire neighborhoods in Budapest.

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