The University Record, October 30, 1995

Wallenberg's heroic actions were no surprise, Anger says

By Rebecca A. Doyle

 "Not only we Swedes, but the whole world has the right to know what happened to the man who, through his deeds in Budapest, has become one of the greatest humanitarians in modern times, has become a symbol of the fight for human rights."

Per Anger, former Swedish ambassador to Australia and Canada and, during World War II, a member of the Swedish Foreign Service assigned in Hungary, concluded his address with those words on "The Fate of Raoul Wallenberg" last Wednesday before an audience of more than 400.

Since 1979, Anger has been searching for his countryman and friend, Raoul Wallenberg, whom he last saw Jan. 10, 1945, when both were trying to evade Nazi troops in Budapest.

"I told him to hide because they were searching for him," recalls Anger. "But you know what he said? He said, `I could never go back [to Sweden] without knowing I have done everything I can to save all the people I can.' "

"And so he was arrested."

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Wallenberg's disappearance, and it was especially fitting that the 1995 University Wallenberg Lecture be given by someone who knew Wallenberg well and served with him in trying to prevent the destruction of the Jewish people in Hungary.

Anger spoke about the man rather than his deeds, and what may have motivated him to become a man of such courageous actions.

"You know about the things he did, all the people he saved, and the numbers," he said. "There are films and documentaries all over the world about his deeds.

"But all this tells us not very much about Raoul Wallenberg as a person. Who was he? Who is Raoul Wallenberg, as a person?

"I believe," Anger said, "that many of the ideals he held were formed during his years in Ann Arbor."

Wallenberg lost his father when he was only five years old and was raised by his grandfather. It was he, Anger said, who insisted that Wallenberg come to the United States for an education. As a student, Anger said, Wallenberg adopted American ideals of freedom and democracy and developed "warm, human attitudes" in Ann Arbor that he thinks influenced Wallenberg to make some of the decisions he did later on in risking his own life to save thousands of others.

"It came as no surprise, what he did, then, for humanity later on in the War," Anger said. Wallenberg was a student at the U-M in the 1930s, graduating in 1935 from the College of Architecture.

"When it came to the persecutions in Hungary, he was prepared in his mind for going," he continued. "It was quite natural for him to take on this job. You can call it coincidence, I don't know. I don't believe in that. I think it was meant to be that he was the man who was going to do that work."

Anger maintains that his friend and countryman, who would be only one year older than he is, may still be alive in Russia, where he was taken in 1945.

There have been reports of people who have seen Wallenberg since that time, he says, the most important of which was a doctor who spoke to a Russian physician about Wallenberg and was told that he was in a mental hospital in Moscow in 1969, despite reports from the Russian government that he had died from a heart attack in 1947.

In 1990, the Soviets opened archives and prisons to an international commission investigating the case, but results were inconclusive. Anger went to Russia with Wallenberg's family and viewed the passport and other personal effects that Russians had retained and saw papers that told when Wallenberg spent time in Russian prisons and was questioned.

"We know that there are retired KGB officers who know the secret," Anger noted, but they refuse to talk about Wallenberg. "The Swedish government says that as long as there is no proof that he died, there is still a possibility that he is alive somewhere.

"I don't think there is much time left if they don't get results in a half year or so," Anger said. Wallenberg would now be 83 years old.

"I hope that this report they are going to issue will be the truth and will say what happened. If not, I'm afraid that this report will end up in a big question mark."

Anger urged the audience to help search for the truth by asking the government to press for full disclosure.

The Wallenberg Lectures are supported by the University Wallenberg Endowment, established in 1985 to commemorate Raoul Wallenberg and to recognize those whose courageous actions or writings call to mind his own extraordinary accomplishments and human values.

The endowment also supports one or two graduate students each summer whose work is related to the goals of the lectureship. This year's Wallenberg Graduate Fellow is Carolyn Kraus, a doctoral student in English and education. Her writing includes an account of the conditions on the Qualla Boundary Indian Reservations in the Smoky Mountains.