A hero honored: Russia’s Putin should open the Wallenberg files

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Congress has not done much lately to applaud, and when it takes a time-out for a ceremonial occasion, taxpayers have reason to wish lawmakers would just do their regular work. Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol was different.

Congress honored Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews from becoming victims of the Holocaust. This week he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, its highest civilian honor.

Wallenberg’s heroic action in the face of Nazi terror was one of the most uplifting stories of World War II, but it also remains one of the greatest mysteries of that war. Arrested by the Soviets in 1945, he is believed to have died in a notorious Moscow prison — he was probably executed — in 1947.

So much about Wallenberg’s detention and death remains a mystery. In accepting the medal, his half-sister, Nina Lagergren, expressed the hope that a way could be found to uncover the truth.

Russian President Vladimir Putin should take note. Wallenberg was made an honorary U.S. citizen in 1981. In a period of tense U.S.-Russian relations, with Crimea’s annexation still a sore point, a complete accounting of what happened long ago under the Soviet regime would not be a blow to Russian prestige. On the contrary, it would be a chance to show Russia in a different light.

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