In Soviet diaries, clue to disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg

Raoul Wallenberg disappeared in 1945.
Raoul Wallenberg disappeared in 1945.
Published Aug. 7, 2016

MOSCOW — The 1945 disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg — a Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from Nazi gas chambers — ranks among the most enduring mysteries of World War II.

Suspicion for the snatching of Wallenberg off the streets of Budapest fell on the Soviet Union. To the Soviets occupying Budapest, the ties that Wallenberg had forged with Nazis and Americans smelled like espionage, with rescuing Jews a cover story. But his disappearance went unexplained, right through the Gorbachev era of glasnost and the chaos after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This summer, however, the newly published diaries of the original head of the KGB — found secreted inside the wall of a dacha — have shed fresh light on the case by stating outright for the first time that Wallenberg was executed in a Moscow prison.

"I have no doubts that Wallenberg was liquidated in 1947," wrote Ivan Serov, a Soviet military man who ran the KGB from 1954 to 1958.

Memoirs from high-ranking Kremlin officials are exceedingly rare, and this one, while hardly definitive, contains several references to previously unknown documents on Wallenberg.

They include a report about Wallenberg's cremation, and another quoting Viktor Abakumov, who preceded Serov as head of state security but was tried and executed in 1954 in the last purges by Josef Stalin. Abakumov apparently revealed during his interrogation that the order to "liquidate" Wallenberg had come from Stalin and the foreign minister.

Previously, the security service denied that such files existed, according to diplomats, historians and others who have worked on the case.