March 15, 2012
Unknown Swedish prisoner may provide clues to Wallenberg
by Susanne Berger
A so far unidentified Swedish prisoner in Soviet captivity
in the 1950s may provide historians with more clues as to
the fate of missing WWII diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, argues
historian Susanne Berger.
In 1957 a former German prisoner of war
by the name of Ludwig Hunoldt provided intriguing information
about a Swedish citizen he had encountered in the Soviet
According to Hunoldt, this meeting took place under rather
grim circumstances in 1950, in Vladimir prison, the Soviet
Union's most forbidding isolation facility, located some
150 kilometres northeast of Moscow.
In a formal interview with former Swedish diplomat and
foreign ministry cabinet secretary Leif Leifland, conducted
in Bonn, Germany on July 15th, 1957, Hunoldt explained that
he had been arrested by Soviet troops in January 1945.
After an odyssey through various Soviet prisons, he arrived
in December 1948 in Vladimir. Leifland's protocol outlines
the story from there:
In January 1950, after suffering an epileptic seizure,
Hunoldt had been taken to cell 57 of Vladimir's hospital
section. After some time, another prisoner was brought in
who had just undergone surgery on his gall bladder.
This prisoner, who remained in cell 57 for five days, told
Hunoldt that his name was "Eriksson" and that
he was a Swedish citizen, married and that he had earlier
resided in Uppsala.
He had been arrested in the autumn of 1944 in Sofia, Bucharest
or Budapest - Hunoldt could no longer recall "Eriksson's"
precise statement about this - together with two other Swedes
who were apparently also being held in Vladimir.
He did recall that "Eriksson" had said that he
and the other two Swedes had worked on behalf of a Red Cross
organisation to handle the transfer of the German diplomatic
representations in the Balkans ("mit der Abwicklund
der deutschen Gesandschaften betreut").
In this connection, they had been arrested by Soviet organs
and had been taken to Lubyanka and later to Vladimir, after
having been sentenced to 25 years for espionage."
Hunoldt reported further:
"Eriksson expressed his amazement and
bitterness over the fact that Soviet authorities should
keep him - a citizen of a neutral country and a representative
of the Red Cross - detained year after year.
As far as Hunoldt could recall, Eriksson had
not mentioned the names of the other two Swedes who supposedly
had been arrested with him.
According to Leifland, Hunoldt described "Eriksson"
as about 52-years-old, with "light blue eyes, an oval
face, short shaved hair and broad shoulders."
He spoke German fluently and it appears that his mother
was German. It is possible that he was a German citizen
who was married to a Swede, but that - in spite of his statement
to Hunoldt he did not possess Swedish citizenship
"Eriksson" is quite clearly not identical with
Raoul Wallenberg or any other Swede known to have spent
time in Soviet captivity after 1945.
"Eriksson's" case profile, however -- a Swede
arrested in Eastern Europe while working in an official
capacity for the Red Cross or similar aid organisation --
could have easily led to confusion with Raoul Wallenberg.
Hunoldt told Leifland that "Eriksson's" physical
condition was very poor and that he was removed from his
cell after a few days. It is not clear if Hunoldt's recalled
"Eriksson's" last name correctly.
Another witness described meeting a man some years later
in a Russian prison camp whose personal story and physical
description appears strikingly similar to the man Hunoldt
encountered in "Vladimir".
The witness gave that man's last name as "Johansson",
with his wife residing in either Uppsala or Lund.
In his personal comments about the witness statement, Leifland
stressed that Ludwig Hunoldt made a very reliable impression.
Swedish officials had not learned of Hunoldt's experience
directly, but through a fellow prisoner named Hans Schmidt
who had been interviewed by Swedish authorities in connection
with his stay in Vladimir prison.
Schmidt told investigators that Ludwig Hunoldt had told
him already during their time together in Vladimir prison
about his meeting with "Eriksson".
In 2001, two independent experts to the Swedish-Russian
Working Group which formally investigated Raoul Wallenberg's
fate in Russia, Dr. Makinen and Ari Kaplan, conducted a
thorough database analysis of foreign prisoners held in
Vladimir for the years 1945-1973.
They confirmed Hunoldts stay in Vladimir prison in
1950 and they further confirmed that on several occasion
he had been held alone in a cell.
No prisoner card with the name "Eriksson" was
found in the central prison registry.
If Hunoldt's account is true, this would suggest that the
card for "Eriksson" is missing or that it was
Such removal of cards has been confirmed for several other
prisoners known to have been imprisoned in "Vladimir".
Requests to Russian authorities to provide information
about "Eriksson" and his colleagues have yielded
no results. The Swedish foreign ministry has also been unable
to identify the men.
It has been confirmed that in the autumn of 1944, Swedish
diplomatic representatives in Bulgaria and Romania oversaw
the planned departure of German diplomatic personnel from
these two countries to destinations such as Turkey.
The International Red Cross and other aid organizations
monitored and assisted the transfer.
Most of the German and Italian diplomats under Swedish
protection at the time were nevertheless arrested by Soviet
forces before reaching Turkish territory and they were taken
to Moscow where they spent years in imprisonment.
Therefore, "Eriksson's" claim that he was detained
in connection with such transfers appears credible.
If he lived as an expatriate German or Swedish resident
in Eastern Europe, his disappearance would possibly not
have attracted much attention in his home country (Sweden
Inquiries to the Red Cross have also not provided any conclusive
information. However, it is not clear from Hunoldt's statement
if "Eriksson" indeed was employed by a "Red
Proper identification of "Eriksson" and his colleagues
would be of great help to researchers studying the fate
of Swedish citizens in Soviet captivity after 1945.
Susanne Berger is a US-based German historian heavily
involved in research into the life of Raoul Wallenberg,
the Swedish diplomat who helped prevent the arrests of thousands
of Hungarian Jews during the Second World War.