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Can Congress Solve the Mystery of Raoul Wallenberg’s Disappearance?

It’s been 72 years since Raul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who had saved the lives of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust, was last seen alive. In August, a KGB officer’s diaries were published, revealing that he was executed in 1947.

And now, a group of lawmakers are asking Congress to launch another effort to uncover the mystery of his disappearance.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan slate of House representatives introduced H. Res.58, a resolution expressing House of Representatives’ collective frustration at all the unanswered questions surrounding Wallenberg’s fate.

“Raoul Wallenberg was one of the world’s unsung heroes during the darkest chapter in human history, and we must continue to demand answers regarding his tragic disappearance and death,” said New York Democrat Nita Lowey, one of the resolution’s co-sponsors. “It’s the least we can do for a man who risked everything to save tens of thousands of Jews from the Nazis.”

Wallenberg went on a mission to Hungary during World War II in an effort to save Hungarian Jews from the Nazis. He granted more than 20,000 Swedish passports to Hungarian Jews, thus protecting them from deportation to Nazi camps. Wallenberg also set up humanitarian help operations for Jews and intervened to block mass murder efforts carried out by the Nazis. In January 1945 he was taken into custody by the Soviet forces and interrogated, for reasons unknown, in Moscow. According to Russian officials, Wallenberg died in prison, though his body was never returned.

The non-binding resolution urges Russia to open all relevant archives and provide all help to researches in their effort to discover the circumstances of Wallenberg’s arrest and death. It urges the U.S. administration to raise the issue of Wallenberg in talks with Russian officials. The resolution also “reaffirms Raoul Wallenberg’s ‘humanitarian spirit, personal courage and nonviolent action in the face of enormous odds.’”

Congress has been active throughout the years in efforts to commemorate Wallenberg, much thanks to late congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, who himself was aided by Wallenberg. In 1985, Congress granted Wallenberg honorary American citizenship. He was later presented posthumously with the congressional gold medal and in 1995, a bronze bust of Wallenberg was placed in the Capitol Rotunda.

“For over 70 years, the mystery of what really happened to Raoul Wallenberg has haunted the memories of his loved ones, of the countless he saved from the horrors of the Holocaust, and of the many who have fought tirelessly to uncover the truth,” said Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen when introducing the bill. “Now we have a chance to honor his memory by bringing closure to this tragedy.”

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com

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