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The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest
"He brushed past SS guards and handed out Swedish passports"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 12:23 GMT
Sweden's WWII hero 'executed'
Wallenberg graphic
Wallenberg is hailed as a true hero of the Holocaust
A Russian investigation has concluded that Raoul Wallenberg - the Swedish diplomat who helped Jews escape from Nazi-occupied Hungary during World War II - was executed by Soviet secret police.

It is the first time that the authorities in Moscow have acknowledged the previous regime's responsibility for Mr Wallenberg's death, after denying it for more than half a century.

Now we do not doubt that he was executed in the Lubyanka

Russian investigator Alexander Yakovlev
Mr Wallenberg was last seen in January 1945 in Budapest, after being summoned to the headquarters of the Soviet army which had seized the city.

"We must put an end to this story, which has acquired an acute international significance and has been poisoning the atmosphere for a long time," said Alexander Yakovlev, who chairs a commission to rehabilitate victims of Soviet repression.

Diplomatic protection

During the Nazi occupation of Hungary, Wallenberg was thought to have saved tens of thousands of Jews by distributing Swedish identity cards to those threatened with deportation to concentration camps.

Swedish ID issued by Wallenberg
Swedish papers are thought to have saved between 20-50,000 Jews
It is said he won diplomatic protection for whole sections of Budapest, with at least 20,000 saved from the Nazis.

The Soviet Union first claimed that Wallenberg was killed in the Budapest streets. Then, 12 years after his disappearance, it admitted that he was taken to Moscow's notorious KGB headquarters, the Lubyanka, where he was said to have died of a heart attack 1947.

We still have not had any definite evidence of just which version is more truthful than the other ones

Swedish investigator Jan Lundvik
"Now we do not doubt that he was executed in the Lubyanka and we are appealing to the military prosecutor's office for a thorough inquiry into the circumstances," Mr Yakovlev said.

He said most of the relevant documents had been destroyed, but he had learnt about the execution from Vladimir Kryuchov, an ex-KGB chief of the 1980s.

Swedish scepticism

Russia and Sweden have set up a joint committee to uncover Wallenberg's fate, but Sweden's senior official has played down Mr Yakovlev's assertion.

"We have a number of conflicting versions but we have no way of telling which one reflects the truth," said Swedish investigator Jan Lundvik.

He acknowledged tales that the diplomat did not die a natural death - either being shot or poisoned or dying from maltreatment - but he said there was also testimony that Wallenberg had been sighted in Gulag labour camps.

"That is one of the unexplained aspects of this case," Mr Lundvik said. "Why was there never any official document certifying his death?"

Russia and Sweden are each expected to present their findings in January 2001 in separate reports, and if "definite light" cannot be shed on what happened, the Swedish investigation would continue, Mr Lundvik said.

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