Raoul Wallenberg Officially Declared Dead by Sweden, 71 Years After Disappearance

The former Swedish diplomat helped some 20,000 Jews to safety during the Holocaust, but disappeared in Hungary, believed to have died in Soviet captivity.

An undated black and white file photo showing World War II hero, Sweden's envoy to Nazi-occupied Hungary Raoul Wallenberg.
Scanpix Sweden/AP

Swedish authorities have formally pronounced World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg dead, 71 years after he disappeared in Hungary.

The Swedish diplomat, credited with helping at least 20,000 Hungarian Jews escape the Holocaust, is believed to have died in Soviet captivity, though the time and circumstances of his death remain unresolved.

The Swedish Tax Authority, which registers births and deaths in Sweden, confirmed a report Monday in newspaper Expressen that Wallenberg had been pronounced dead.

According to the diaries of Ivan Serov, who ran the Soviet KGB from 1954 to 1958, Wallenberg was executed in a Soviet prison in 1947. The diaries, which were published in August, contain references to several previously unknown documents referring to Wallenberg, including one recording the cremation of his body.

Wallenberg was posted to Nazi-occupied Hungary during World War II, where he issued protective passports to some 20,000 Hungarian Jews in the final months of the Holocaust. He disappeared in 1945 after being seen surrounded by Soviet officers in Budapest. The Soviets later claimed Wallenberg had died of heart failure in prison.

The diplomat’s parents both reportedly committed suicide in 1979 in despair over his disappearance. Last November, Wallenberg family members asked Swedish authorities to declare him dead.