But when the Soviet Red Army moved into Hungary in early 1945, they arrested Raoul Wallenberg as a spy, and sent him back to the Soviet Union. He was reported to have died from a heart attack two years later, but for decades reports surfaced from prisoners who said they might have seen him alive.
In his new book, Bengt Jangfeldt offers a new theory explaining why Wallenberg was arrested. He writes that the Swede had a fortune of gold and jewels given to him by Hungarian Jews for safekeeping. He had them hidden in his car, Jangfeldt says, and planned to transport them to Sweden when he met with the first elements of the Red Army. The author claims the Russians found doing something nice for someone else too hard to understand, and assumed instead that Wallenberg was smuggling stolen Nazi gold for his own profit.
Jangfeldt tells Radio Sweden there is no question that someone like Wallenberg would have been taking the gold for himself, and this was a logical progression from saving the lives of Jews. He was trying, the author says, to save their property before the expected Russian plundering of Budapest.
This unfounded suspicion may also explain, he says, why the Swedish authorities did not try harder to get the Soviets to release someone with diplomatic immunity. He says there was apparently a rumor spread that Wallenberg was just trying to enrich himself. And it is obvious that if such information reached the Swedish Foreign Ministry, they would not have put too much pressure on the Russians, for it would have been too embarrassing.
Another new book takes up the issue of why, having ignored the Wallenberg issue for decades, Sweden suddenly took it up again with the Soviets in the 1970’s. Journalist Ingrid Carlberg claims that the Carter administration in the United States wanted to score points over the Soviets concerning human rights. So, she says, the CIA put in motion a plan where several people began to claim they had seen Wallenberg in Soviet prisons long after he supposed to have died in 1947.
The stories, she says, were false. But, as she told the radio program Good Morning Stockholm, they persuaded the Swedes to make their first diplomatic protest to the Soviets on the issue in 14 years.
Ingrid Carlberg says the White House needed the Swedes to act before Washington could, so the CIA cooked up the plot, and the Swedish authorities woke up from their "Sleeping Beauty slumbers". At the same, the attention re-established Raoul Wallenberg in the public imagination as a genuine folk hero.