Saved to Remember: Raoul Wallenberg, Budapest 1944 and after
Monash University Publishing $34.95 pb, 158 pp, 9781925377088
'Is the Mystery of Raoul Wallenberg's Death Finally Solved?' asked a headline in Israel's Haaretz newspaper, on 6 August 2016. The New York Times published a similar story, reporting on the publication of Notes from a Suitcase: Secret diaries of the first KGB chairman, found over 25 years after his death (2016). Suitcases of journals were discovered hidden in the wall of a house inherited by the granddaughter of the first KGB chairman, Ivan Serov. The diaries state for the first time that the saviour of some 100,000 Hungarian Jews was liquidated on Stalin's orders in a Soviet prison in 1947. Since Wallenberg's arrest by the Soviets, many explanations of his likely fate have circulated, with reported sightings into the 1980s. Determining Wallenberg's fate has been a fervent, worldwide quest. This latest find still needs verification.
Frank Vajda, author of Saved to Remember, published here in June 2016, must be both overcome by this news and disappointed that it did not arrive in time for his book, an account of his own life and his career in medicine, but also a homage to Wallenberg. Like other Hungarians in Australia, Vajda was saved by Wallenberg, an architect and banker turned special envoy sent to Hungary following the Occupation in March 1944. The Nazis, with the complicity of the ruthless Hungarian militia, the Arrow Cross, were determined to rid Hungary of Jews. Vajda's father died of starvation in the Mauthausen camp in 1945 and some sixty members of his extended family also perished.