In July 1944, a Swedish businessman named Raoul Wallenberg arrived in Budapest to assist Hungarian Jews. Wallenberg is remembered worldwide today for the actions he took rescuing Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. Most famously, he distributed Swedish "safe-conduct" certificates to thousands of Jews in an effort to keep them from deportation and death. These documents stated that the bearer was under the protection of the Swedish government. Wallenberg had traveled to Budapest at the request of the War Refugee Board (WRB)—the US agency created in January 1944 to aid Jews during the Holocaust. This message contains the instructions the WRB gave Wallenberg in preparation for his work in Hungary.1
Sweden remained neutral during World War II, maintaining diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany and its collaborators. After German forces invaded Hungary in March 1944, the WRB asked five neutral European countries with embassies in Hungary—Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey—to consider increasing their diplomatic staff and spreading them throughout Hungary. The WRB hoped that these diplomats could act as a deterrent to deportations and murders, or at least as witnesses to German and Hungarian crimes. Sweden was the only neutral country that agreed to the United States' request. Swedish officials allowed the WRB's representative in Stockholm to choose a new Swedish diplomat who would focus on aiding Hungarian Jews.
The WRB staff in Washington made it clear that Wallenberg was permitted to bribe officials to "motivate action impeding, relaxing or slowing down tempo of persecution and facilitate escapes and concealment." The WRB placed $50,000 in an account to be provided for Wallenberg if he found that a bribe or payment might save lives. The WRB staff also suggested that Wallenberg pay sailors to sneak Jews onto ships sailing down the Danube River, or pay railway workers to disrupt train transport from Budapest.
The War Refugee Board staff also provided Wallenberg with a list of names of Hungarians who might be of assistance to him, along with brief descriptions. These descriptions show that the WRB staff learned much of this information from sources who may or may not have been trustworthy.2 Wallenberg's rescue work depended greatly on reliable support from neutral countries' diplomats and Hungarian connections. It was also fraught with danger—if sources' information proved inaccurate, his work could end quickly.3