This is the diplomatic passport of Raoul Wallenberg

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This is the diplomatic passport of Raoul Wallenberg

On 6 February 1957, the Soviet government released a document dated 17 July 1947, which stated “I report that the prisoner Wallenberg who is well-known to you, died suddenly in his cell this night, probably as a result of a heart attack or heart failure. Pursuant to the instructions given by you that I personally have Wallenberg under my care, I request approval to make an autopsy with a view to establishing the cause of death… I have personally notified the minister and it has been ordered that the body be cremated without an autopsy. The document was signed by Smoltsov, then the head of the Lubyanka prison infirmary, and addressed to Viktor Abakumov, the Soviet minister of state security. In 1989, Wallenberg’s personal belongings were returned to his family, including his passport and cigarette case. Soviet officials said they found the materials when they were upgrading the shelves in a storeroom.

In 1991, Vyacheslav Nikonov was charged by the Russian government to investigate Wallenberg’s fate. He concluded that Wallenberg died in 1947, executed while a prisoner in Lubyanka. He may have been a victim of the C-2 poison (carbylamine-choline-chloride) tested at the poison laboratory of the Soviet secret services.

In Moscow in 2000, Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev announced that Wallenberg had been executed in 1947 in Lubyanka prison. He claimed that Vladimir Kryuchkov, the former Soviet secret police chief, told him about the shooting in a private conversation. The statement did not explain why Wallenberg was killed or why the government had lied about it. General Pavel Sudoplatov claimed that Raoul Wallenberg died after being poisoned by Grigory Mairanovsky, a notorious NKVD assassin. In 2000, Russian prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov signed a verdict posthumously rehabilitating Wallenberg and his driver, Langfelder, as “victims of political repression”. A number of files pertinent to Wallenberg were turned over to the chief rabbi of Russia by the Russian government in September 2007. The items were slated to be housed at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, which opened in 2012.

In August 2016, new information about Wallenberg’s death came to light when the diary of KGB head, Ivan A. Serov, surfaced after Serov’s granddaughter found the diary hidden in a wall of her house. “I have no doubts that Wallenberg was liquidated in 1947,” Serov wrote.

This is the diplomatic passport of Raoul Wallenberg
Source: AP Photo

The diplomatic passport of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat credited with saving tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust, is seen at the home of his half-sister Nina Lagergren in Stockholm, Sweden. The Russians gave the passport to Lagergren in 1989 along with his telephone diaries, money and other papers seized from him. Lagergren has been campaigning to learn the fate of Wallenberg, who was arrested by the Soviets in Jan. 1945, six months after he arrived in Budapest to begin his rescue mission. She believes he spent decades in Soviet prisons and psychiatric institutions.

This is the diplomatic passport of Raoul Wallenberg
Swedish Army Museum

 

This is the diplomatic passport of Raoul Wallenberg
Stockholm, Jewish Museum

FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...