Sunday, 17 July 2016

The supposed "neutrality" of Sweden in WWII

As in most Nordic countries, under an apparent unblemished layer, shocking truths appear, from the slaughter of dolphins in the "advanced" Denmark to the crimes committed by the Finns in the WWII.

The case of Sweden is curious, always bragged of "neutrality" in WWII, but if you dig a little, we see some aspects at least nauseating.

Like other countries which have been accused, as Spain, rightly, being almost allies of the Germans , and which were changing position as the war was unfavorable to the Germans, Sweden did exactly the same, from to sell basic materials to the Germans as iron, granting loans and allow the passage of his troops to Finland and sent volunteers to fight in Finland ,to go being more favorable to the allies and let Jewish refugees from Denmark in Sweden ..

 We will describe in parts.

As the end of the 19th century approached, and the beginning of the 20th began, Sweden, like many other nations, became beset by strikes  and public disorder. Appalling working conditions were no longer tolerated and the working class was rising against the state. In 1908 alone, there were about 300 strikes in Sweden. By 1917, Sweden’s need for a new political system was apparent from these riots. Since the 1880s, the socialist movement in Sweden had been divided into two opposing groups, the revolutionary   socialists, a conmunist  movement, and the reformists , a social democratic  movement, the latter being the larger of the two. In 1917, the rules of democracy were changed in Sweden, the electorate’s size grew and in 1921, women were also allowed to vote.
Ådalen shootings. This picture of the demonstration was taken before the military opened fire.
But even these reforms were seen as far too radical by some conservatives. Some wanted strong leadership and did not believe in democracy. In the 1920s and 1930s, confrontations between employers and employees in Sweden continued. In 1931, this culminated with the Ådalen shootings, an incident where the military opened fire on a protest march. In the same year, a secret upper class (borgare in Swedish) militia, the Munckska kåren, was exposed. It had recruited about 2000 men and had access to heavy weaponry. It was disbanded the next year.

New documents show how the Swedish finance minister in wartime, Ernst Wigforss, approved bank credits to Berlin in 1941. The details were recently uncovered in a filing cabinet at the finance ministry.
The loans served to increase Swedish exports to Nazi Germany, allowing it to prosecute its war on all fronts.
The new document is a letter received by Wigforss in April 1941 and undersigned by the director of Skandinaviska Banken, Ernst Herslow.It was never entered into Swedish official records but hidden away.
The letter summarized a conversation concerning the approval of bank credits to Germany to enable them to pay Swedish shipbuilders for services rendered. For this the bank required state approval.
'The minister expressed his understanding, that it would be desirable for the credits to be provided,' Herslow wrote. The loans amounted to around 40million kronor, around £3.5million in today’s money and an astronomical sum at the time.
Sweden had maintained neutrality in international affairs for over a century before the outbreak of the Second World War.
But Nazi Germany had tested that stance severely throughout the 1930s.

In June of 1941, the year that Germany launched its invasion of the Soviet Union, the Nazis asked Sweden for military concessions regarding logistical support.
The concessions were granted, but not after a political debate that has been termed the 'midsummer crisis'.
These new documents are the first evidence of any financial support given to Nazi Germany by Sweden, however. Historians say the credits were the first breach in Swedish resistance to Nazi Germany's demands.
'The result of the approval of the bank credits meant that Sweden avoided demands from Germany for direct Swedish state aid and that Swedish boat yards could continue to build vessels for Nazi Germany's navy,' said one Swedish news website
Sweden was not neutral, Sweden was weak,'' said Arne Ruth, a Swedish journalist who has written a book on the Third Reich. ''Its sales of iron ore made an important contribution to the German effort. It allowed German troops and weaponry through its territory to Norway. In 1943, its government told the central bank to ignore suspicions that German gold Sweden received was looted. What is interesting is that all these facts, more or less known for some time, are commanding such attention now.'' 

Production of high-grade steel suitable for armour plate and gun barrels depended largely on the Bessemer process which, in turn, required ores of high phosphorus content. This Swedish iron had in plenty, and German foundries relied especially on supplies mined from ... northern Sweden.

Swedish ore was so essential to the German armaments industry, in fact, that as late as 1944, when the Reich's inland transportation network was under considerable strain, Germany went to great lengths to sustain its coal exports to Sweden in order to complete the exchange for ore.(1)
The Commander of Swedish volunteers General Ernst Linder and his Chief of Staff Carl August Ehrensvärd in Tornio during the Winter War.

It is known that at least 15,000 Swedes volunteered to fight alongside the Finns, with 10,000 accepted for training and 8,000 actually went to Finland  in organised units before the war ended, which can be compared to the largest contributor to the International brigades, France, during the entire Spanish Civil war . In addition a smaller number of individuals joined the Finnish army units or operated mechanical shops repairing equipment, mainly in the Swedish speaking south of Finland. The Swedish government and public also sent food, clothing, medicine, weapons and ammunition to aid the Finns during this conflict
Swedish volunteers

During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Sweden allowed the Wehrmacht  to use   Swedish railways to transport (June–July 1941) the German 163rd Infantry División along with , howitzers, tanks and anti-aircraft weapons and associated ammunition from Norway  to  Finland. German soldiers traveling on leave between Norway and Germany were allowed passage through Sweden — the so-called permittentraffik . Iron ore was sold to Germany throughout the war. And for the Allies, Sweden shared military intelligence and helped to train soldiers made up of refugees from Denmark  and Norway, to be used in the liberation of their home countries. It also allowed the Allies to use Swedish airbases between 1944 and 1945.
Swedish volunteers

Sweden also became a refuge for anti-fascist and Jewish refugees from all over the region. In 1943 ( after Stalingrad and  Kursk, so when the Germans had virtally lost  war ) , following an order to deport all of Denmark's Jewish population to concentration camps, nearly all of Denmark's 8,000 Jews were brought to safety in Sweden . Sweden also became a refuge for Norwegian Jews who fled from Nazi occupied Norway.

There is no question that recently declassified documents, the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1995, and unprecedented access to archives in Moscow and other ex-Communist states have all played a role in reopening discussion of the war and turning events of long ago into news. 

 For all the above it is not surprising a discussion that took place in Moscow on the night of November 7, 1943 at the party that gave Molotov to celebrate Russian victories during the year, particularly the taking of Kiev, with the Swedish ambassador , as says Alexander Dallin, (2) "There was something a row between Molotov and the Swedish Minister, Molotov whom upbraided for the peculiar" neutrality "Sweden had been pursuing. The minister said was soon afterwards by his Government."

(1) Greenhous, Brereton, et al. The Crucible of War, 1939-1945. The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Volume III. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1994.
(2) Russia at War 1941-1945. Alexander Dallin. Page 753. London 1964

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