Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev may have been directly responsible for the arrest of Raoul Wallenberg, Sweden's "lost hero of the holocaust." Startling new information concerning the Brezhnev connection is now being investigated by the Swedish Foreign Ministry. If confirmed, it could jeoparldize Soviet-Swedish talks due to be held in Moscow next month on the possibility of establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Nordic area.
Wallenbberg, as a young Swedish diplomat, saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from Nazi death camps in the closing stages of World War II.
The US Congress votes next month on a bill tht would make him an honorary citizen of the United States.
Wallenberg, a member of a wealthy Swedish banking family, was attached to the Swedish legation in Budapest in 1945 and used money raised in the US to buy safety for an estimated 100,000 Jews threatened with extermination under Adolf Eichmann's "final solution."
When the Red Army marched into the city later the same year, Wallenberg was suspected of spying. He was arrested and taken to Moscow, where the Russians claim he died two years later in the Lubyanka prison.
However, over the years there have been consistent reports that Wallenberg is still alive within the Soviet prison system. Committees dedicated to securing his release have been set up in Sweden, the US, Israel, and Britain. Earlier this year an international hearing organized by these committees and held in Stockholm heard evidence from former Soviet detainees claiming to know Wallenberg's whereabouts.
But the Soviet Union has steadfastly refused to reopen the case of "the lost hero of the Holocaust."
If the information that Brezhnev himself might have been responsible for Wallenberg's arrest is correct, it would explain why the Soviet Union has maintained its wall of silence over the affair.
Swedish Embassy officials are quizzing Yaakov Menaker, a Soviet dissident now living in Israel. Menaker was a lieutenant in the Red Army's 18th division, which liberated Budapest.
He claims that the 18th division was under the comman of Brezhnev, then a young up Communist Party-and-coming official attached to the Red Army.
Ingrid Garde Widemar, chairman of the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg Association, said: "We know Brezhnev was a Communist Party official in Budapest when Raoul was arrested. We cannot confirm that Brezhnev personally gave the order for the arrest, but he must have known about it."
"Therefore we doubt his credibility when he says he doesn't know where Raoul Wallenberg is. It can be an explanation as to why Brezhnev has always been so negative to our appeals."
She said she was pesonally convinced that Wallenberg was still alive, now aged 69. "We know which prison area he is in. He is sick and in poor condition but still alive."
She said the assocation had asked LiefLeifland, the Foreign Minsitry's under secretary of state, to raise the matter with Brezhnev at the talks in Moscow next month.
The Foreign Ministry has flown a representative from Stockholm to Tel Aviv to quiz Menaker on his story that Brezhnev was responsible for the Wallenberg arrest. His claims were first published in the Stockholm evening paper Aftonbladet.