Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat spirited away by the Red Army in 1945 after saving thousands of Jews from the Nazis, may still be alive, Sweden said today.
After the release of the results of 10 years of Swedish-Russian investigations, Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson said there was no clear evidence that Wallenberg was dead, and his government would try harder to find out what had happened to him.
Wallenberg, a member of a side branch of the powerful Swedish business dynasty, saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews in World War Two by issuing them with Swedish passports from the Swedish embassy in Budapest.
He disappeared after being seized by Soviet Red Army troops in the city in January 1945.
Searching for Answers
The Soviet and Russian authorities, most recently last December, have asserted that Wallenberg died in Moscow's notorious Lubyanka prison in July 1947.
But there have been persistent reports that he was alive in a Soviet gulag or psychiatric hospital, perhaps as late as 1989. If he were still alive, he would be 87.
The Swedish members of the government-level working group, presenting their conclusions, said no evidence had been found that Wallenberg died in July 1947.
"Even though all the versions from Russian sources largely assume that Raoul Wallenberg had died at that point, the working group has not uncovered any evidence to confirm a definite conclusion to this effect," they said.
"The Russian announcement of Raoul Wallenberg's death could only be accepted if it were confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt. This has not happened, partly for the want of a credible death certificate and partly because the testimony about Raoul Wallenberg being alive after 1947 cannot be dismissed."
But a separate summary presented by the Russian half of the working group stuck to the view that he was long dead.
"All the circumstantial evidence confirms that Raoul Wallenberg died, or most likely was killed, on July 17, 1947," it said.
It said Wallenberg had been executed on a charge of spying for Germany and that most documents relating to the matter were then destroyed. It added that the Soviet governments of the time were responsible for his death and the Russian investigators now considered the matter closed.
Failure to Save Hero
Persson said his government would continue to try and find out what had happened to Wallenberg, based on the assumption that he may have been alive after 1947.
"As long as there is no unequivocal evidence of what happened to Wallenberg — and this is still the case — it cannot be said that Raoul Wallenberg is dead," he said in a statement.
Extolling Wallenberg's humanitarian work, he also apologized for Sweden's failure to do more to save its hero.
Today's report said the Swedish government of the time had failed to respond to Soviet advances seeking the extradition of Soviet citizens, which could have led to Wallenberg's release.
Persson said the main responsibility for Wallenberg rested with the Soviet government, which had ordered and carried out his disappearance from Hungary.
"Nonetheless it is now clear that more energetic and purposeful action on the part of Sweden during the 1940s could have led to a more successful outcome for Raoul Wallenberg and his relatives," he said.
"I should like today, on my own behalf and on behalf of the Swedish government, to extend our deepest regrets to his relatives for these mistakes."
The government will now provide further resources to follow up the working group's report and ask a researcher to investigate how the foreign ministry handled the case.