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Holocaust hero Wallenberg declared dead decades after disappearance

Raoul Wallenberg helped saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews. Seventy-one years after he was detained by Soviet intelligence, Sweden has issued his death certificate.

World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg was delcared dead by officials in his native Sweden on Monday, more than 70 years after his disappearance at hands of Soviet counter-intelligence. Wallenberg is known as the "Swedish Schindler" for forging travel documents for thousands of Hungarian Jews in 1944 and 45.

The declaration was made at the behest of the Wallenberg family, who requested a death certificate from the government in 2015. According to a statement sent to French news agency AFP, they were seeking "a way to deal with the trauma we lived through, to bring one phase to closure and move on."

Although the Soviet Union told the West that Wallenberg had died in custody in 1952, they offered no evidence and his family had refused to accept Moscow's version of events.

Disappeared by the Soviets

Born in a small town near Stockholm in 1912, Wallenberg was sent as part of diplomatic delegation to Nazi-controlled Budapest in 1944, just as the Third Reich was beginning to implement the "Final Solution" in Hungary. Wallenberg became part of a secret program that saved tens of thousands of Jewish citizens by getting them fake documents from Sweden, which was a neutral party to the conflict.

Wallenberg was also able to rent buildings in Budapest and house a number of Jews there, giving them extraterritorial status and saving them from being deported to concentration camps.

Then only 32 years old, he was detained by the Soviets on suspicion of espionage in Budapest at the close of the war, and was never heard from again. In 1957, Moscow released a document saying he had been held in Lubyanka prison, and died there of a heart attack in 1952.

The new death certificate lists July 31, 1952 because, according to a spokeswoman from Sweden's tax authority, "we must choose a date at least five years after his disappearance and there were signs of life until the end of July 1947."

Wallenberg has received numerous posthumous accolades, including Israel's Righteous Among the Nations status in 1986, an honor he shares with Polish industrialist Oskar Schindler. 

es/msh (AFP, AP)

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