The Wallenberg Case Revisited: A Focus on Its Ethical Dimensions (Case Study #17)


While serving as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest, Raoul Wallenberg is credited with saving as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews from annihilation by the Nazis. As a neutral country functioning in Hungary, Sweden's Budapest office was in an position essential to the humanitarian rescue effort, and Wallenberg was able to advance the aims, albeit indirectly, of U.S. efforts against Germany.

The West has recognized Wallenberg's heroic efforts, yet Korey's case chronicles the deception on the part of Soviet-Russia to address Wallenberg's mysterious kidnapping on January 19, 1945, by Moscow's secret police. Why was a Swedish diplomat with strong political ties with the U.S. (then Moscow's ally) apprehended? Even with glasnost and the break-up of the Soviet Union, why has Moscow's diplomatic corps repeatedly deceived, covered-up, and cast a shroud of suspicion over Wallenberg's disappearance?

Korey argues that for the international community to recognize the legitimacy of a successor state, the successor state must make a clean break with its deceptive past and be held accountable for its political crimes. For Russia this means full disclosure of the Wallenberg kidnapping. Korey emphasizes the ethical imperative of revealing the historical events surrounding Wallenberg's disappearance. Korey chronicles the absurd and contradictory "official" reports which alleged that Wallenberg was a spy for the Nazis against the Soviet Union or other reports in which Soviet political leaders deny knowing Wallenberg. What was their motivation in kidnapping Wallenberg, and what happened to him? Why did the U.S., who valued Wallenberg's close affiliation with the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, lobby so little on Wallenberg's behalf? How can moral concerns be reinforced as a function of power?

To purchase this case study, go to the GUISD Pew Case Study Center.