Raoul Wallenberg is a double enigma. The first enigma is how any man could be so good. The second is how his life’s end could be so tragic. He is both a perfect saint and a perfect martyr. More, he acted in the presence of the evil of Adolf Hitler to save Jews, only to be caught in the equal evil of Joseph Stalin and eventually be–so it appears–shot. In Stalin’s shadow, in fact, no statue honoring him could be risen in Hungary.
Wallenberg–I mentioned this last night–saved 100,000 Jews from death at the hands of the Gestapo, playing fast and loose with the rules he was supposed to follow to save them in order to save more Jews than a meticulous obeying of bureaucratic protocol would have justified. However, his life, especially how it ended, is enough to convince a person that such bureaucratic protocol might as well be counted as evil at the beginning, being–as it was–inimical to both Hitler’s destruction of the Jews and Stalin’s destruction of his own people. Perhaps when C.S. Lewis claimed that the demons in hell might as well be compared to one great bureaucracy he might have guessed truly: cold bloodedly handing down orders to do evil is what Hitler’s and Stalin’s bureaucrats are best known for doing. Even today’s social welfare agencies, good though the people’s intentions are who set them up were, are sometimes only there to mirror the gridlock of the Congress we have now with its 50-50 split in terms of how it achieves its work. Luckily, however, they at least are not known for murdering the poor outright.
Anyway, Wallenberg was one of those rare souls that working for the most rigid bureaucracies could not stem his desire to do good. Alas, it was his naïve faith that the Russians would help him survive once the Germans were just barely being driven from Budapest that led to his cruel death. Despite the fact that the U.S.S.R. was supposed to allied the United States–who had called upon Wallenberg to do his work–and his Swedish homeland being a neutral power–he was arrested by Stalin’s henchmen, and tortured for information, which he would not give them. Ultimately his value was seen as minimal–the people Sweden could have traded for him were not traded–and he was shot. Yes, I hate to record it: his immediate superiors were too spineless to save Wallenberg from a forced labor system as equal as the Gestapo. They thought that it was dishonorable to trade other prisoners for him.
Apparently the succeeding governments under Khrushchev and Brezhnev did not want to reveal the perfidy committed in the name of Communism. And so, despite credible evidence the Swedes had, claimed that Wallenberg had died of a heart attack. It was not until the post-Communist era that the truth came out, how this brave hero for humankind was murdered.
In my book Tales of the Land of the Firebird Part I, I hope to write a story: “In Search of Raoul Wallenberg” about a spy who slips into Russia hoping to find the courageous hero whom the West cannot admit is dead. I hope to quote Solzhenitsyn about human beings being half angel and half devil, but also mentioning a film I saw years ago about a Roman official sent to Israel to find Jesus’ body. The idea of that film sounds a little bizarre–and in fact it really wasn’t a good film even if you were Christian and devout (Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments were much better even as art)– but the fact that this one soldier meets people like Pilot and his wife searching for a man everybody recognized as “good” but who is also presumed dead reminds one of Raoul Wallenberg–save that the poor man really was dead all that time, and the faceless hypocrites would not admit how he died only prolonged the agony of his friends and family.
Before I write it I will read another biography of Raoul Wallenberg and some more books on the Gulag in books like The Harvest of Sorrow by Robert Conquest and The Red Famine by Anne Applebaum.