Legal Aspects of the Raoul Wallenberg Case

By Susanne Berger

The Raoul Wallenberg case involves a number of different legal aspects, ranging from the violation of his diplomatic immunity at the time of his arrest in 1945 to questions regarding the rights of his family and researchers to access information about his case in Russian and international archives. (link to David Matas’ Report/Frank La Rue).

Background - Marie Dupuy’s current litigation in Russia

In 1991, Russian officials released approximately two hundred documents, mostly from the Archives of the Soviet/Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MID) and the former Soviet Ministry of State Security Committee (KGB). All were in copy form, with many documents showing severe signs of censorship. As it emerged only many years later, Russian representative had withheld important information contained in prison registers. There is mounting evidence that this suppression of documentation occurred intentionally.

The material includes information about an unidentified Prisoner no. 7 who had been part of the special interrogation line-up of prisoners on July 23, 1947, all of whom were questioned during that fateful night and had direct connection with the Wallenberg case. However, researchers (and Wallenberg's family) only learned about this information in 2009, as a result of an inquiry to the FSB Central Archive. In fact, it was the FSB archivists who came to the conclusion that Prisoner no. 7 “in great likelihood is identical with the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg." They based their conclusion on circumstantial evidence, including the fact that Prisoner no. 7 had been questioned together with Raoul Wallenberg's driver, Vilmos Langfelder, for a full 16 1/2 hours. [link - https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/the-mysterious-case-of-raoul-wallenberg-soviet-prisoner-55533]

However, the FSB officials refused to allow researchers to review the original register page, nor did they provide a copy of the entry for Prisoner no .7. The circumstances surrounding the interrogations of Prisoner No. 7 are undoubtedly sufficient to suspect that this man could have been Raoul Wallenberg. Consequently, they establish reasonable doubt about Wallenberg’s death on July 17, 1947. It means that Wallenberg may have been held as a numbered prisoner during investigation (Prisoner no. 7) and was perhaps alive six days after previous Soviet claims of his death in Lubyanka Prison, on July 17, 1947. 

Prisoner no. 7 (not shown) 


The apparently intentional censoring and withholding of information with central importance to the Wallenberg case by Russian archivists had serious consequences for the Wallenberg investigation. If researchers had learned about the issue of Prisoner no. 7 already in 1991, it almost certainly would have attracted close attention at the time and an all-out push to identify this person would have followed.

If the failure of Russian archivists in 1991 to share the information about interrogations of a Prisoner no.7 on 22-23 July 1947 had simply been an inadvertent oversight, there would have been plenty of opportunities over the next ten years to correct the mistake. Yet the Russian side never indicated to researchers that they possessed such information.

They merely relayed the fact that Vilmos Langfelder, had been questioned for sixteen and a half hours on 23 July 1947, but never released a copy of the actual page [in the interrogation register]. Oddly enough, Swedish officials never insisted on receiving such a copy. This failure raises numerous serious questions.

Also quite startling is the fact that in 2012, also Ambassador Hans Magnusson, the former Chairman of the Swedish Working Group that investigated the Raoul Wallenberg case during the 1990s was declined access to the Lubyanka Prison Interrogation Registers for 1947. Magnusson had previously reviewed the register in the early 1990s, but it had apparently been reclassified, in connection with the 1993 Russian Law of State Secrets). The refusal is all the more remarkable because Magnusson at the time was conducting an official review of the Wallenberg case, on special request of Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt.

More than eight years after the information about Prisoner no. 7 was first revealed, Russia has not complied with any requests for additional information and the issue remains unsolved. After years of unsuccessful appeals to the FSB Central Archive and to other Russian governmental authorities by Marie Dupuy and numerous researchers to permit access to the documention, Ms Dupuy reluctantly decided to file suit against the FSB in 2017. (See Marie Dupuy: “Why I sued the FSB”). She is represented in the litigation by Team 29 a group of Russian attorneys and journalists based in St. Petersburg, Russia that specialize in cases concerning Freedom of Information.

In October 2017, the Mechansky District Court ruled against Ms Dupuy’s request. An appeal was filed in the Moscow City District Court in late 2018. In February 2018, the court refused to overrule the previous verdict. For more information about the case and the current appeals process, please see www.vadimbirstein.com

Photo: Heavily censored page from the Lubyanka Interrogation Register for July 23, 1947, showing a 16 1/2 hour interrogation of Vilmos Langfelder, Raoul Wallenberg's Hungarian driver and Sandor Katona, Langfelder's cellmate. FSB archivists claim that a “Prisoner no. 7”, who was interrogated with them, was "in great likelihood" Raoul Wallenberg. Source: The FSB Central Archive.