World War II Hero Declared Dead After 71 Years Missing, But His Fate Remains A Mystery

Raoul Wallenberg memorial London. <a href=>Photo Credit</a>
Raoul Wallenberg memorial London. Photo Credit

Raoul Wallenberg, the World War II hero that is credited with saving over 20,000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust, was pronounced dead by the Swedish Tax Agency, 71 years after he disappeared.

Wallenberg has been listed as a missing person in Sweden even after authorities were certain they would never find him alive. The Swedish Tax Agency is responsible for registering births and deaths in Sweden.  They confirmed that they have officially pronounced Wallenberg dead.

Pia Gustafsson heads the agency’s legal department.  She said that the action was taken on October 26.  It was initiated by an application from Wallenberg’s trustee.

The official date of Wallenberg’s death was set at July 31, 1952, due to a rule that states a missing person that is assumed to have died should be considered as having died five years after they disappeared.

Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviet Union in 1945. The Soviets originally denied having him in custody.  In 1957, they said that he died of a heart attack in prison on July 17, 1947.

There is another report that states that Wallenberg was still alive six days after the Soviets say he died.  Still other, unconfirmed witnesses state that they saw him alive decades later.

Wallenberg was Sweden’s special envoy to Nazi-occupied Hungary.  He helped Jews escape Nazi Germany by hiding them in Swedish territory buildings and issuing Swedish passports.

He has been commemorated in many countries, including Israel.  That country named him one of the “Righteous Among the Nations.”  This is the highest honor given non-Jews that risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust.

He received the US Congressional Gold Medal in 2012 to honor his heroism.

Wallenberg was an Honorary Citizen of the United States.  He is the second person to receive that honor, after Winston Churchill.  Wallenberg is also an honorary citizen of Canada, Hungary, Australia, and Israel.

Wallenberg was born in Lidingo, near Stockholm, in 1912.  He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1948 and again in 1949, Chicago Tribune reported.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE