Answers sought on Wallenberg

Chicago Sun-Times
Copyright The Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.

Victor Aitay of Highland Park said he did not know Raoul Wallenberg well, but he credits the Swedish diplomat with saving his life.

When Aitay, then in his 20s, escaped from a Nazi labor camp in 1945 and arrived in Budapest disguised as a priest, Wallenberg gave him sanctuary.

"He had a million pressing things to do, so I only spoke with him briefly," said Aitay, 78, a violinist and Chicago Symphony co- concertmaster emeritus.

When the 32-year-old diplomat - known for rescuing perhaps 100,000 Jews from certain death by providing passports - left for another rescue mission near the Hungarian border in January 1945, Aitey and others assumed he would return.

But Wallenberg disappeared, and for 55 years, his whereabouts have proved a haunting mystery.

While information suggests he was seized Jan. 17, 1945, by an agency of the Soviet Union on the pretext that he was a spy, a complete accounting has eluded those who see him as a moral hero. To mark the 55th anniversary of his disappearance, the American Jewish Committee here called for closure to his story, which has been muddied by conflicting official accounts.

"It is important, particularly now that there is something of an openness in Russia," Jonathan Levine, Midwest regional director of the American Jewish Committee, said Tuesday.

Recently computer analysis of Soviet prison files by University of Chicago professor Marvin Makinen and researcher Ari Kaplan have sought to try to trace Wallenberg's path through the Soviet gulag.

If Wallenberg is still alive, he must be liberated, said those assembled Tuesday at the American Jewish Committee offices in Chicago.

"As long as any possibility exists, it is incumbent upon us to act," said Hugh Schwartzberg, secretary of the Wallenberg Committee here.

While Aitay and others would like to thank the man who risked all for them, there is another reason, too.

"I believe he should be put forward as one of Chicago's heroes," said the Rev. Charles Infelt, pastor of Holy Family Lutheran Church of Chicago.

The Wallenberg Mystery by William Korey tells the story of Raoul Wallenberg, who rescued Jews from the Nazis.; Credit: JOHN H. WHITE

Back to Ari Kaplan's Home Page


nberg, who rescued Jews from the Nazis.; Credit: JOHN H. WHITE

Back to Ari Kaplan's Home Page