The Jewish Book Council, Visiting Scribe Series: My Wallenberg Education in Budapest, Stockholm, and Moscow

Wednesday, May 06, 2015| Permalink

Traveling to various destination and sites, meeting participants and witnesses, searching archives, led me to get a feel of the different cultures, and fill in the puzzle of R. Wallenberg. In Stockholm for example, I experienced the world of the proud if icy Swedes, a conservative, private people. And I felt the elegance of their orderly town, the wonderful mahogany interiors (of restaurants, municipal buildings), the curved city library, and the narrow cobblestone streets. I could see where Wallenberg had sketched some of his future architectural plans and his interest in developing the quay area. Importantly, I met in the Lindingo suburb home of a friend, a seventyish gentleman who had been in the Officer Training Corps with the young Wallenberg, who told me a story which contributed significantly to my understanding of my protagonist. When they were together in the north of Sweden for their officer camp training, the Commanding Officer disciplined a young soldier for some violation of rules, demeaning him in front of the group of twenty. When he did this, another young officer stepped forward, identified himself (Raoul Wallenberg), and said he objected to the humiliation of his fellow trainee, calling it “unprofessional.” The officer in charge was shocked at this breach of authority, stared at the young rebel, and decided to pull back from his severe punishment. “Everyone of us saw what sort of man this young officer was, not afraid of authority,” my old witness said, and how this RW was, brave, unorthodox, fearless. The small group of young officers was impressed. And for me, that characteristic of the youthful Wallenberg never left my sights as I was composing my character.

At the elegant Stockholm Municipal Building where I went to search for archive files of interest, I was given three CD’s—Raoul Wallenberg, 1945-70, Dossier P2 Eu—by the efficient archivist. These were innocuous enough documents of diplomatic notes, etc. But when I sought the more revealing and more relevant diplomatic notes between the Government of Sweden and the Soviet Union, and those between the Foreign Ambassador of Sweden and his counterparts in SU, during those crucial years of 1945-47, I was told they were off-limits still, some fifty-five years after the events. The cordial archivist shook his head, smiled sympathetically and offered, “I know, I know. One day perhaps….” So I understood that beneath the order, the elegance and the courtesy, there lurked shadows and secrets that were waiting to be disclosed if unearthed. In other words, something was rotten in the state of Sweden.

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The Jewish Book Council, Visiting Scribe Series: Meeting Pagliansky in Moscow

Monday, May 04, 2015 | Permalink

Meeting Daniel Pagliansky in 2003, the KGB interrogator of Wallenberg in 1945-47, was like meeting a soul from Hades. He was a bag of bones in his late 80’s, but his eyes were fierce and his determination steely, and he banged the desk with his fist as though it were a gavel. He yelled at me when he entered the study where I was standing with my interpreter and his son, asked how dare I visit when told explicitly not to! I shivered inwardly at his mad ferocity in his advanced age, but stayed cool and said nothing, letting him beat me up verbally. I knew I was meeting history incarnate here, a Soviet Officer and KGB interrogator who had never before met with a Westerner.

I had heard about the infamous fellow from Nikita Petrov, my friend and guide from Memorial House in Moscow, who had written articles and a book about the KGB, and knew all about its history, rules, protocols. In fact he had warned me, “You will never get to meet with him, you see he won’t even meet up with the FSB who have invited him to speak with them about what went on back then, with Wallenberg, with full immunity in case he needed that.” So Nikita was quite amazed when the meeting occurred, and when I explained to him how it had happened, he nodded. (“Yes, only by crazy chance!”) Here’s what happened. My interpreter and I had called several times, and Pagliansky had politely enough refused, saying he was too ill. But ten days before my leaving Moscow, we were up at Pushkinskaya, a famous square in central Moscow, and we called again, since I knew it was a short walk from his apartment. This time his son answered and said, in Russian to my interpreter, “An American writer? Sure, come on over, Dad is having lunch with mother now, but they will be finished soon.” Rather excited, my fingers crossed, we walked the fifteen minutes to his apartment block, found the apartment, and were greeted cordially by this tall hefty fellow, Gyorgi, the son, a man of about 55. He took our coats and called out to his father in the next room that I was here, the American writer, but then his father yelled back, in Russian, “Why did you let him in! I told him not to come!” But Gyorgi only smiled to us, said father would calm down, just take it easy, and escorted us into father’s study. He asked what I wanted to talk about, I said the World War II era, I was writing a novel about it, and maybe Wallenberg. Gyorgi shook his head, “No, you mustn’t ask him about that, or he will throw you out immediately! Please.” I nodded, and was left to regard the wide oak desk with the glass top covering numerous photos underneath it, and the bookshelves, filled with books in German, Russian, and English. I was tempted to take the small photo of the youthful Pagliansky, handsome in his Soviet officer’s uniform, but instead gazed at the bookshelves, astonished to find Brooklyn leftie writers of the 1930's like Daniel Fuchs and Michel Gold, as well as Howard Fast. How and why did he collect these hard to find writers?

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Forbes: The Enduring Mystery of Raoul Wallenberg

Americas for Conservation + The Arts Launches Publishing Arm – The Enduring Mystery of Raoul Wallenberg – 4/30/2015 @ 12:23PM

Seventy years ago, in January 1945, Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, the Righteous Gentile responsible for saving many Jewish lives in Hungary by issuing documents attesting to their Swedish Nationality and letting them live in Swedish owned houses in Budapest, was seen leaving Budapest to meet with Soviet Army officials who had recently liberated the city from the Nazis. Wallenberg disappeared shortly thereafter never to be seen in public again. Ever since his fate has been the subject of inquiries and investigations, protests and demonstrations, not-for-profits and international associations, gala dinners and commemorative ceremonies dedicating placques, statues and even postage stamps in his honor, books, movies, mini-series and now a new novel, “Searching for Wallenberg” by Allan Lelchuk (Mandel Vilar Press).

Lelchuk, the author of many previous novels including “Zipp: A life,” and who is on the faculty of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where he resides, imagines a professor at a Dartmouth-like college who through one of his students discovers a Hungarian woman in Budapest who claims to be Wallenberg’s child. This sets him off on an exploration of Wallenberg that, if false, could ruin his career, and if true, could add to the knowledge and solve one of the great mysteries of our time: What really became of Raoul Wallenberg?

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Miami Herald: Author calls latest novel his valentine to Miami Beach

BY CONNIE OGLE, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thane Rosenbaum lives in New York now, but he remembers vividly the Miami Beach in which he grew up. Not the blingy SoBe of celebrity food festivals, gay pride parades and Art Basel. What Rosenbaum recalls is the once-glitzy, slowly crumbling Beach of Jackie Gleason, Meyer Lansky and Wolfie’s.

“I remember seeing Muhammad Ali running laps at Miami Beach High,” said Rosenbaum, who appears Saturday at Books & Books in Coral Gables. “People were always saying, ‘I saw Muhammad Ali running on Collins Avenue.’ Everybody had a Meyer Lansky story, a story where they had lunch with him or something. Everybody was casual about the Jewish Mafia.”

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