Sweden launches probe into fate of Holocaust hero

STOCKHOLM Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:47pm EST

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the Wallenberg Year in the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, January 17, 2012. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the Wallenberg Year in the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, January 17, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Bernadett Szabo

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden has commissioned a new inquiry into the fate of Holocaust hero Raoul Wallenberg, who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis during World War Two but disappeared after being arrested by advancing Soviet troops in 1945.

The decision on the new probe into the disappearance of the Swedish diplomat came as Sweden this year commemorates the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Anna Charlotta Johansson, spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, said the inquiry would be conducted by Hans Magnusson, a diplomat who led a joint Swedish-Russian group in the 1990s that tried to find out what happened to Wallenberg.

The investigation "would look into whether there is any new information available, or that can be found, on what happened to Raoul Wallenberg".

The diplomat saved Jews in Budapest mainly by boosting the issuance of Swedish protective passports and offering shelter in buildings he bought and proclaimed Swedish territory.

Russia has said Wallenberg was found dead in his cell in Moscow in July 17 1947, but no evidence for that has been published.

Independent researchers say there is evidence he was alive days later and that he may well have lived longer, but that Russia has persistently denied access to files that may shed light on the matter. They say Sweden has not put enough pressure on Russia.

Bildt said too little was done to save the hero while it might still have been possible.

"The Swedish government's lack of involvement after Raoul Wallenberg was captured and taken to the infamous Lubyanka prison in Moscow is both embarrassing and painful," he said on Tuesday in Budapest in connection with the opening of an exhibition on Wallenberg's deeds.

A Holocaust survivors' group welcomed the new inquiry into the fate of Wallenberg, a "rare hero".

"Unraveling the mystery of Wallenberg is a moral obligation owed this selfless humanitarian and it is a disgrace that the answers to his tragic end remain unanswered," Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a statement.

"Humanity owes his memory a debt that can never be repaid. Uncovering the truth is the least we can do."

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Peter Graff and Rosalind Russell)

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