The Full Wiki

Sweden during World War II: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The official policy of Sweden before, during, and after World War II is neutralism. It has held this policy for almost 2 centuries, since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815.[1](see Swedish neutrality).

In contrast to many other neutral countries, Sweden was not directly attacked during the war. It was however subject to British and Nazi German Naval blockades, which led to problems for the supply of food and fuels. From spring 1940 to summer 1941 Sweden and Finland were surrounded by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

This led to difficulties in maintaining the rights and duties of neutral states in the Hague Convention. During the war Sweden violated this by:

  • Supporting Finland during the Winter War with military equipment and military volunteers. In this context, Sweden acted not as a neutral country but as a non-belligerent
  • Between July 1940 to August 1943 German troops were allowed to travel through Swedish Territory.
  • From 1943 training Norwegian and Danish troops in Sweden.

In spite of the fact that it was allowed by the Hague Convention, Sweden has been criticized for exportation of iron ore to Nazi Germany war industry via the Norwegian port of Narvik. Nazi German war industry dependence on Swedish iron ore shipments was the primary reason for Great Britain and their allies to launch Operation Wilfred and the Norwegian Campaign in early April 1940. By early June 1940 the Norwegian Campaign stood as a failure for the allies, and by securing access to Norwegian ports by force Nazi Germany could obtain the Swedish iron ore supply it needed for war production despite the British naval blockade.

See also: Sweden during World War II (Timeline)



When hostilities began on September 1, 1939, the fate of Sweden was unclear. Eventually, even though 20 nations had held a policy of neutrality in September 1939, only eight European nations were capable of officially sustaining this alleged policy, and not be drawn into armed conflict throughout the entire war: Sweden along with Ireland, Portugal[2], Spain[3], Andorra, Liechtenstein, Vatican City and Switzerland.

Sweden owed this maintenance of official neutrality to its geopolitical location in the Scandinavian Peninsula, its long-held neutral stance in international relations, a dedicated military build-up after 1942, luck and successful real-political maneuvering in the unpredictable course of events.

A few of the concessions, and sometimes breaches of the nation's neutrality, that the Swedish government made in favor of both the Nazis and the Western Allies were:

  • Allowing the Wehrmacht to use Swedish railways to transport (June-July 1941) the 163rd Infantry Division "Division Engelbrecht", along with war material freight, i.e., howitzers, tanks and anti-aircraft weapons and associated ammunition, from Norway to Finland.
  • Transiting soldiers on leave between Norway and Germany — the so-called permitenttrafik.
  • Training "Police Forces" manned by refugees from Denmark and Norway, to be used after the Nazi defeat.[4]


Political background

In Sweden, Russia had always been seen as the innate enemy; between 1523 and Sweden's final war in 1814, a state of war had existed between the two for a total of 67 years. In the peace that followed the Finnish War in 1809, all of Finland was ceded to Russia, and Sweden was reduced to two thirds of its former size.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Sweden, as in many other nations, was lined with strikes and public disorder, due to appalling working conditions and the working class rising against the state. In 1908 alone there were about 300 strikes.[5]

Since the 1880s, the socialistic movement in Sweden had been divided in two opposing groups, the revolutionary (communist) and the reformist (social democratic), the latter being the larger one.[citation needed]

In 1917, Sweden’s need for a new political system was apparent from the riots. The rules of the democracy were changed, and the electorate’s size grew. In 1921, the first free election was held in Sweden. This led to greater left wing influence on the state, which meant that the conservatives' influence shrunk. Despite this, women, men with tax debts, men who had not fulfilled their military service, the extremely poor, and the mentally handicapped were not eligible to vote.

Ådalen shootings. This picture of the demonstration was taken before the military opened fire.

These reforms were seen as far too radical by some of the right wingers and conservatives, who wanted strong leaders, and did not believe in democracy.

Following the October Revolution, the Russian Empire had become the Soviet Union. Many of the Swedish communists were cooperating with the new Soviet regime, and sought to realize the world revolution. Compromise and parliamentarism were thought to stand in the way of a better, more equal society.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the 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 (Sw: borgare) militia – “Munckska kåren” was exposed. It consisted of about 2000 men, and had access to heavy weaponry. It was disbanded the next year.[6]

A new, stable government led by the social democrats and Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson took control in 1932. A policy of cooperation and consensus was pursued, which led to furthering the fissure between the revolutionary and reformist left. The distance between the two, at least on the ideological level, was somewhat close to outright enmity, and the communists often named the social democrats “the social fascists”.

Apart from the time of "the vacation government" (Sw: semester regeringen) between June 19 and September 28 in 1936, Per Albin Hansson would be the prime minister of Sweden until his death in 1946.

Military background

Since the 1890s, the army of Sweden was, in case of war, organized in four divisions, with the regiments of northern Norrland and Gotland as separate units. This organization was outdated, and in 1942, a new military organization was adopted.[7]

Sweden had very few tanks in the inter-war era. For a time, the entire armored corps consisted of ten Stridsvagn mf/21, a German First World War tank. These tanks appeared too late to enter that war for Germany. After the Versailles treaty, the tanks were secretly purchased by Sweden as assemblage kits of tractors.

In the 1936 “Försvarsbeslut” (directly translates to “Defence resolution” in English; a governmental decision made about every five years, concerning the military's organization and development), it was decided to organize two tank battalions. Fale Burman, chief of “Arméns utrustningsdetalj” ("army materiel command" in English), comments in 1937:[8]

... Härför krävdes total nyanskaffning av deras viktigaste innehåll, stridsvagnarna. Redan på ett tidigt stadium fick vi dock klart för oss att om vi enbart valde kanonutrustade vagnar skulle de högst komma upp till ett antal av 15 -20.”

(This, required a new acquisition of their main content, tanks. Already at an early stage, it was clear to us that if we simply chose the cannon-equipped tanks, their numbers would maximally reach a number of 15-20.)


To make sure training on a battalion level would be possible, machine gun-equipped tanks were purchased.

By 1939, Sweden had 48 Czech-built tanks with machine gun armament and about 20 tanks armed with a 37mm gun, built by Landsverk AB.[9]

Pre-war trade

Military balance in the Baltic

Sweden's long-standing policy of neutrality was tested on many occasions during the 1930s. The challenges came from a strongly rejuvenated, nationalistic Germany. From 1919 until 1935, Sweden had been an active supporter of the League of Nations. Most of Sweden's energy in the international arena had been directed towards preservation of the League.

The Swedish non-aligned policy was founded on the assumption that there were two opposing powers in the Baltic, Germany and the Soviet Union;[10] because these two powers needed to guard against each other, they could only deploy minor forces against Sweden or other non-aligned countries, which made defense of a small country feasible. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, signed at the end of August 1939, upset this balance.

Pre-war preparations

In 1936, the Swedish government started augmenting its military preparedness as the international situation worsened. Military spending went from US$37 million in 1936, to $50 million in 1937, to $58.6 million in 1938, and then increased over fivefold to $322.3 million in 1939. During World War II itself, military spending peaked at $527.6 million in 1942.

During European hostilities, Swedish industry had to supply an increased share of domestic goods, due to the German blockade of the North Sea, while satisfying the vastly increased demand for armaments. Before the war, annual production of armaments typically totaled tens of millions of Swedish kronor, but during the war, output exceeded SEK 1 billion (US$240 million).

Not only was the Swedish government buying material to strengthen its defenses, it began drafting conscripts. On May 6, 1938, the government called up the entire conscript class of 1923, then at the age of 35, for short periods of training. In addition to this, the Swedish Cabinet ordered that one quarter of the 1938 military draft intake be retained for further training.

In 1940, the Hemvärnet ("Swedish Home Guard"), was created. Its units were small groups of former soldiers who were equipped with rifles, machine guns, ammunition, medicine and uniforms. They had the option to buy additional materials such as skis, sweaters and marching boots. The Lottorna ("Swedish Women's Voluntary Defense Service") had been created in 1924.

Swedish Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson declared Sweden neutral on 1 September 1939

While arming itself, Sweden felt that it was necessary to articulate and enforce its policy of neutrality. Per Albin Hansson stated shortly before the Second World War began:

Friendly with all other nations and strongly linked to our neighbors, we look on no one as our enemy. There is no place in the thoughts of our people for aggression against any other country, and we note with gratitude assurances from others that they have no wish to disturb our peace, our freedom, or our independence. The strengthening of our defense preparations serves merely to underline our fixed determination to keep our country outside the conflicts among others and, during such conflicts, to safeguard the existence of our people.
—Per-Albin Hansson, 1 September 1939

Georg Homin, a captain on the General Staff, stated:

Without a defensive force we cannot follow any policy of our own, our declarations become merely empty words, and we leave the country's fate to chance or to the decision of others. With a defense as strong as Swedish conditions allow we secure for ourselves the basis of a continued independent Swedish policy.
—Georg Homin

The war

After the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 between Germany and the Soviet Union versus Poland, and France and Britain versus Germany, Sweden declared itself a neutral country in regard to the conflict in whole.

At the outbreak of the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union in November 1939, Sweden declared itself to be ”non-belligerent” in regard to that particular conflict, actively siding with Finland. This allowed Sweden to aid Finland economically, and with armaments. Sweden and Finland also laid minefields in the Sea of Åland to deter Soviet submarines from entering the Gulf of Bothnia.[11]

Foreign trade

At the beginning of the war, agreements were signed between Sweden and the two great powers in order to sustain vital trade. In spite of the fact that Sweden had declared itself as a neutral country, the belligerents started to attack Swedish shipping.

However, when Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in April 1940, coupled with a German blockade of the North Sea, every single shipment had to be negotiated with both British and German authorities, which drastically reduced the volume of trade. Between 1938 and 1944, the Swedish import of petroleum products and coal decreased by 88% and 53% respectively, which led to severe shortages. Other critical items were natural rubber, alloy metals and food.

This led to extensive rationing of fuels and food. Sweden started production of different substitutes. Wood gas was invented as a fuel for motor vehicles and oil shale as a substitute for bunker oil.[12]

Sweden's trade with Britain was cut by a total of 70%. Within the North Sea blockade, trade with Germany increased, until 37% of Sweden's exports were shipped to Germany.

Gay Viking one of the high speed boats used as blockade runners for the roller bearing trade

For very important goods such as roller bearings for the British aircraft industry, some export was made by blockade runners. This was done by rebuilt Motor Gun Boats, which could use winter darkness and high speed to penetrate the German Skagerrak Blockade.

Regarding military equipment, before the outbreak of the war, the Swedish Ministry of Defense (Kungl. Flygförvaltningen) had ordered some 300 combat aircraft from the United States, which were primarily Seversky P-35s and P-66 Vanguards. In 1940, the US administration halted these exports after only about 60 aircraft had been delivered. Sweden then succeeded in buying 200 aircraft from Italy, a fascist ally of Germany at the time, which were primarily Fiat CR.42s, Reggiane Re.2000s, and Caproni Ca.313s.[13]

The Winter War

Impact on domestic politics

The Liberal, Conservative and Agrarian parties were concerned about a perceived threat from the Soviet Union and were more favorably disposed towards Finland than the Social Democrats were. Among the latter, a certain wariness from the Finnish Civil War still lingered. The Communists, on the other hand, were loyal to the Soviet Union, and supported its Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Germany. However, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, they swung around to a pro-Allied view.

The Defense of Finland

When the Soviet Union invaded Finland in November 1939, many Swedes favored some sort of involvement in the conflict, both on a humanitarian and military basis. Sweden's interest in Finland lay in the fact that Finland had been an integrated part of Sweden for more than six hundred years, with Sweden losing control of its eastern provinces in 1809. Despite several pleas from the Finnish government, the Swedish government chose not to engage militarily when the Red Army advanced during the Winter War. However, Sweden was declared a "non-belligerent" rather than neutral during the conflict and accepted that as many as 8,000 Swedes voluntarily went to Finland. The Swedish government and public also sent food, clothing, medicine, weapons and ammunition to aid the Finns during the Winter War, but avoided direct military involvement. The military aid included:[14]

  • 135,402 rifles, 347 machine guns, 450 light machine guns with 50,013,300 rounds of small arms ammunition;
  • 144 field guns, 100 anti-aircraft guns and 92 anti-armor guns with 301,846 shells;
  • 300 sea mines and 500 depth charges;
  • 17 fighter aircraft, 5 light bombers, 1 DC-2 transport aircraft turned into bomber, and 3 reconnaissance aircraft.

Twelve of Sweden's most modern fighter aircraft, Gloster Gladiators, were flown by volunteer Swedish pilots under Finnish insignias,[15] which was one third of the Sweden's fighter force at the time. In addition, some 70,000 Finnish children were sent to safety from Finland to Sweden during the 1940s.[16]

Possible Allied invasion

Franco-British support was offered on the condition it was given free passage through neutral Norway and Sweden instead of taking the road from the Soviet-occupied Petsamo.

German industry was heavily dependent on Swedish iron ore. The Allies had intended to use the Soviet November 30, 1939 attack on Finland as a cover for seizing the important Swedish ore fields in the north, and the Norwegian harbors through which it was shipped to Germany.

The plan was to get Norwegian and Swedish permission to send an expeditionary force to Finland across northern Norway and Sweden, ostensibly to help the Finns. Once in place they were however to proceed to take control of the harbors and mines, occupying cities such as Gävle and Luleå and shutting down the German access to Swedish ore, presenting Norway and Sweden with a fait accompli. Realizing the danger of Allied or German occupation and of the war being waged on their territory, both the Swedes and the Norwegians refused the transit requests.[17] Meanwhile, the Germans having realized the Allied threat, were making plans for a possible invasion of Norway in order to protect their strategic supply lines.

The Altmark Incident of February 16, 1940, convinced Hitler that the Allies would not respect Norwegian neutrality, so he ordered the plans for an invasion.

The Scandinavian reluctance to allow Allied troops on their territory halted the original Allied plan for using aid to Finland as a pretext for moving in troops, but on March 12 the Allies decided to try a "semi-peaceful" invasion nevertheless. Troops were to be landed in Norway, and proceed into Sweden to capture the Swedish mines. However, if serious military resistance was encountered they were not to press the issue. However, Finland sued for peace on March 12, so the revised version of this plan had to be abandoned too.

The Germans were partly aware of the Allied planning, as they intercepted radio traffic showing that Allied transport groups were being readied. A few days later, they also intercepted messages that the Allies had had to abandon their plan and redeploy their forces.

Plans for the German invasion of Norway continued since Hitler feared the Allies were nevertheless going to launch their own invasion sooner or later. Despite being unaware of the actual plans, he ended up being correct. April 9 was set as the date of Operation Weserübung, the German attack on Norway.

The Allied plan had two parts, Operation Wilfred and Plan R 4. In operation Wilfred, to take place on April 5 (but delayed to April 8), the Norwegian territorial waters were to be mined, violating Norwegian neutrality. This would force the ships carrying ore to Germany to travel outside the protection of Norwegian territorial waters and thus accessible to the British navy. It was hoped that this would provoke a German military reaction. As soon as the Germans would react, under "Plan R 4", 18,000 Allied troops were to land in Narvik, closing the railroad to Sweden. Other cities to be captured were Trondheim and Bergen. The first ship with Allied troops were to start the journey a few hours after the mine laying. On April 8, a Royal Navy detachment led by HMS Renown mined Norwegian waters in operation Wilfred, but German troops were already on their way, and the original "Plan R 4" was no longer feasible. The Allies had, however, provided Hitler with an invasion excuse.[18] Although "Plan R 4" could not be executed as planned, Allied troops were swiftly sent to Norway and were able to fight alongside the Norwegians quite successfully against the Germans (see the Allied campaign in Norway). However, the successful German campaign against France and the low countries led to an Allied troop re-deployment. Allied troops were evacuated from Norway by June 8, 1940.

Occupation of Denmark and Norway

Swedish soldier during World War II

On the 9'th of April 1940, Germany successfully launched Operation Weserübung - a daring operation, with the objective to simultaneously occupy Denmark and Norway, and stage a Coup d'état in Norway. This had several far-reaching consequences for Sweden: Sweden was in effect cut off from trade with the western world, and therefore more dependent on German goodwill, it eventually lead to commencing the permitenttrafik, but it also lessened the immediate risk of Sweden being a theatre of war between the Axis and the Allies. However, an invasion of Sweden could be launched from almost any direction. Because of this, Sweden started to build fortifications at the Norwegian border and along the coast of Scania.[19]

During the invasion, Germany demanded access to the Swedish telephone and telegraph lines between Germany and Norway. Sweden allowed this, but tapped the lines. In the early summer that year the Swedish mathematician Arne Beurling succeeded in deciphering and reverse-engineering the Geheimfernschreiber cypher machine that Germany used, which afforded the Swedes advance knowledge of Germany's military intentions.[20]

When Germany invaded Denmark and Norway on April 9, 1940, the 100,000 men who were deployed along the Finnish border in northern Sweden, during the Winter War, was under demobilization. Before the war, Sweden had no plans for defending Norway or defense against a German invasion from there. Moreover, an agreement from the Dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden in 1905 stated that no fortification was allowed along the border. One of Germany's demands on Sweden during the invasion was not to mobilise. However, Sweden organized its mobilization system so that personal order by letter was possible as an alternative to official proclamations, so 320,000 men were raised in a few weeks.

The 1941 "Midsummer Crisis"

At the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in early summer of 1941 (Operation Barbarossa), the Germans in June 22 asked Sweden for transportation of armed German reinforcement troops, the 163rd Infantry Division/Division Engelbrecht commanded by General Erwin Engelbrecht, and military equipment through Swedish territory by train from Norway to the eastern front in Finland. The Swedish government granted the transition. In Sweden, the political deliberations surrounding this decision has been called the "midsummer crisis".

Recent research by Carl-Gustaf Scott argues that there was no "crisis", stating that "the crisis was created in historical hindsight in order to protect the political legacy of the Social Democratic Party and its leader Per Albin Hansson."[21]

After 1943

From 1943 onwards, Germany began to meet with a series of military reverses after its losses at the Battle of Stalingrad and elsewhere. Germany was forced into a more defensive position while Allied forces met with greater success on the battlefield, such as in North Africa. It was apparent to Sweden that Germany was unlikely to win. Prior to 1943, Sweden's policy of neutrality was largely under the influence of German politics and the course of events that involved Germany. Following August and September 1943, Sweden was able to resist German demands and soften its stance to Allied pressure. However, despite Germany's defensive posture, Sweden was in constant fear that "the whole course of events suggested that the unexpected might happen", an attitude that was sustained until the very end of the war. With Germany's weakening position came stronger demands from the Allies. The Allies pushed for Sweden to abandon its trade with Germany, and to stop all German troop movements over Swedish soil. Sweden accepted payments from the Allies to compensate for loss of income, but continued to sell steel and machined parts to Nazi Germany (at inflated 'smugglers' rates' ).[22]

Training of Norwegian and Danish troops

Mälsåker Castle in 2007. Norwegian Military academy during the War

During the war, more than 50,000 Norwegians fled to Sweden. They were sent to refugee camps at Öreryd in Halland and Kjesäter in Södermanland.

From the summer of 1943, military training of Norwegian troops began. This was done in cooperation between the Swedish Government and the Norwegian Government in exile in London. To prevent protests from Nazi Germany, they were called ”Police Forces”. From the start, they only had light infantry weapons, but was finally equipped with artillery. Field exercises was held in Dalarna in December 1944 and in Hälsingland in spring 1945. In the latter, 8,000 men participated.

Around 15,000 men were trained and organized in ten battalions. At the end of the war, eight battalions with 13,500 men were ready for action. They entered Norway on May 8, 1945.

The number of Danish refugees was lower, but a brigade of 3,600 men was trained. They were transferred to Denmark on May 5, 1945.[23][24]

Sweden's humanitarian effort

In 1943, Sweden received nearly all of Denmark's 8,000 Jews. With the dissolution of the Danish government in the summer of 1943, the German authorities had decided to deport the Danish Jewish population to concentration camps. However, the Danes successfully transported all but 450 of the Jews to Sweden in an unprecedented rescue effort. There, they were granted asylum, and taken in by Swedes. Many stayed in Sweden after the war. Sweden also received refugees from Finland and Norway, including some of Norway's Jews who were able to escape. This, as well as the protection of Sweden's own Jewish population, was made possible due to Sweden's neutrality. During the war Sweden aided and saved more Jews than any other country.[25][26]

Neutrality also made it possible for Sweden to have access to Germany, which was not only useful to Swedish intelligence but also to the Allies. Employees at Asea, LM Ericsson and Svenska Tändsticksfabriken acted as couriers for the Polish resistance.[25] King Gustav V attempted to use his diplomatic connections with German leaders to convince them to treat Jews more humanely, as evidenced through their correspondence, though he had little influence. Count Folke Bernadotte, a relative of the royal family, was able to communicate with the German government, and relay information back to Sweden, as did other diplomats. He also contributed to saving 15,000 prisoners from concentration camps, including many Jews, as did the famous diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved perhaps 100,000 Hungarian Jews.[citation needed]

In addition, many Swedish nobles used personal connections and wealth to take in and find temporary Swedish homes for children from neighboring countries, mainly Denmark and Finland.[citation needed] Werner Dankwort served as the first secretary for the German legation in Stockholm during the Nazi regime and secretly helped Jewish children escape Germany into Sweden inside wooden crates.


Sweden's neutrality has been criticized as ineffectual in reality, as steel and machined parts were supplied to Nazi Germany throughout the war. Such claims, which use another definition of the word ”neutral” than the 1907 Hague convention about the right and duties of belligerents and neutral countries, could be raised from the United Kingdom, as this country had not signed this convention. Sweden had however signed it, and the Government was determined to follow it, to avoid criticism for not being ”neutral”. Ultimately, the government faced a dilemma: help their close neighbors and the war effort, or protect their own people from invasion by remaining out of the conflict. While it proved impossible to remain entirely uninvolved, they did manage to avoid invasion, at the cost of being seen as cowardly by some.
According to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Sweden during World War II ignored the greater moral issues and played both sides for profit.[22]

Press freedom and public perceptions

En svensk tiger, A famous World War II poster reminding Swedes to be wary of spies asking questions.
'Svensk ' can mean both 'Swedish' and 'Swede' while 'tiger' could be read as either the animal or 'keeps his mouth shut' , giving the poster the double meaning 'A Swedish Tiger' and 'A Swede keeps his mouth shut' , comparable to 'Loose lips sink ships' . The Tiger is colored in the Swedish national colors.

The public's sentiments were widely published in the Swedish press, causing many protests from the German government and prompting the Swedish government to censor areas of the press on a limited basis. In Sweden, the press fell under the control of several councils, despite contemporary claims that the Swedish press was free. The Swedish Government War Information Board determined what military information could be released and what information remained secret. The Swedish Press Council served as a "promotion of good relations between the press and the public authorities and to serve as an instrument of self-discipline for the press." The Press Council issued warnings, public or confidential, to those whom it considered were abusing the freedom of the press.[citation needed]

The government was concerned that its neutrality might be compromised should the press be too vocal in its opinions. Both the Press Council and the Information Board issued comments such as "As far as the material received permits, attempts should be made not to give prominence to the reports of one side at the expense of the other", or "headlines, whether on the billboards or in the newspapers, should be worded in such a way as to avoid favoring one side or the other", and finally, "editorials and surveys as well as articles discussing military events or the military situation, should be strictly objective...".

During World War II, the Communist and Nazi presses were de facto banned from distribution. A ban on transport of the concerned newspapers was imposed, since printing of the newspapers was protected in the Swedish constitution (this was done to avoid directly contravening the constitution). There were indications that these bans served their political purposes by impressing the Germans, while at the same time not really restricting the work of the media.[27]

Sweden's concessions to Nazi Germany

Perhaps the most important aspect of Sweden's concessions to Germany during the Second World War was the extensive export of iron ore to be used in the German weapons industry, reaching ten million tons per year. The Swedish neutrality policy meant that the government could not interfere with the trade. As Germany's preparations for war became more apparent and the risk of another war became obvious, international interest in Swedish ore increased. At the time, British intelligence estimated that German industry relied heavily on Swedish iron ore and a decrease or halt in Swedish ore exports could have been disastrous for German military efforts. This is a contentious view that has been debated in the aftermath of the war. Sir Ralph Glyn, a British Member of Parliament, claimed that if Sweden stopped their exports it could lead to an end of the war within six months.[28]

Given that Britain was unable to prevent the successful invasion of France or Norway, the Swedish government was not convinced that the British could protect them, and opted to continue exports. The iron ore provided much needed gold bullion, food and coal from Germany. The iron ore was transported by sea from the Norwegian town of Narvik and from Luleå in northern Sweden. These shipments were attacked by British aircraft and submarines in the Atlantic and North Sea and by Soviet submarines in the Baltic. About 70 vessels were sunk and 200 sailors lost.[29]

Responding to German appeals for volunteers to fight the Soviet Union, approximately 180 Swedes enlisted in Germany's Waffen-SS, and saw combat against Soviet troops on the Eastern Front. This was a choice made by individual Swedish citizens, contrary to Swedish government policy. This number was small compared to most other countries (Norway 10,000; Denmark 20,000; France 11,000; Netherlands 20,000[30]). Many more joined the Allies, also contrary to government policy.

With the Skagerack blockade, the Swedish merchant marine found itself split in two. The part inside the Baltic Sea traded goods with Germany during the war, while the largest part was leased to the Allies for convoy shipping. Approximately 1,500 Swedish sailors perished during the war, mostly victims of mines and U-Boat attacks.

Sweden's concessions to the Allies

Sweden also made efforts to help the Allied Forces. From May 1940, a large part of the Swedish merchant navy with 8000 seamen was leased to Britain.[31] 642 were lost. Between 100-200 Swedes traveled to Norway to fight the German invasion.[citation needed]

German telegraph traffic to occupied Oslo went through Swedish leased cables which the Swedes intercepted. The traffic was encrypted with Germany's Geheimschreiber device, but the cypher code was broken by Swedish mathematics professor Arne Beurling[20] who also deciphered 10,400 Russian Baltic Fleet's telegrams. Results from this espionage were sent to the Allies through the Polish resistance movement. When the German battleship Bismarck embarked on her raid of the trans-Atlantic convoys, Swedish intelligence informed the British. Swedish businessmen and diplomats were also actively spying for the Allies in Berlin and occupied territories.

In 1945, as the Allies were planning to liberate Denmark and Norway, the United States wanted Sweden to co-operate in this action. Sweden began preparing for "Operation Rädda Danmark" (Operation Save Denmark), in which Sweden was to invade Zealand from Scania. After Denmark had been liberated, Sweden was to assist the Allies in the invasion of Norway. Though this was not necessary in the end, US planes were allowed to use Swedish military bases during the liberation of Norway, from spring of 1944 to 1945. The Allies were also collaborating with the C-byrån, the Swedish military intelligence. Sweden allowed Allied spies to listen to German radio signals from a station on Öland. A location was also established in Malmö for the British military to lead bombing actions in Germany.[citation needed] Additionally, since 1943, Norwegian and Danish soldiers (the Den danske Brigade) were trained at Swedish military bases. Sweden also set up a series of training camps along the Norwegian border for the Norwegian resistance movement.

The Bäckebo Bomb

On June 13, 1944, a V-2 rocket (test rocket V-89,[32] serial number 4,089[33]) from Peenemünde crashed in Sweden after the rocket had flown into cumulus clouds which had strayed into the controller's line of sight to the rocket.[34] V-89 contained "Kehl-Strassburg"[35] joystick-radio control equipment for the Wasserfall[36] anti-aircraft missile (code named Burgund[35] and a modification of the joy-stick system used to direct the Henschel Hs 293 glide bomb)[37] for the test. The ground controller appeared to have no trouble manoeuvring the rocket until it disappeared in the high cloud layer.[32] A captured German prisoner later explained to the British that the controller was an expert at steering glider bombs from aircraft, but that the spectacle of a rocket launch caused him to incorrectly operate the control lever in his astonishment.[38][39] Peenemünde guidance and control expert Ernst Steinhoff explained that the excited operator applied a set of planned corrections (such as that for the Earth's rotation) in the opposite direction to that which he was instructed.[40] The rocket subsequently exploded in an air burst (a common V-2 malfunction)[32] several thousand feet above the town of Bäckebo,[41][42] and the wreckage was exchanged by the Swedes for British Supermarine Spitfires.[43] On July 31, 1944, experts at Farnborough began an attempt to reconstruct the missile.[44]

Forced repatriation

Baltic and German soldiers being extradited from a prison camp in Eksjö

In January 1946, Sweden handed over 146 Baltic and 2,364 German soldiers who had been interned in Swedish prison camps to the Soviet Union. At least seven of the internees committed suicide during the process.[citation needed]

In 1970, film director Johan Bergenstråhle made a documentary, Baltutlämningen (English title: A Baltic Tragedy), about the Latvian soldiers who were given to the Soviets to be sentenced to hard labor in prison camps.[45]

See also



  1. ^ Andrén 1996.
  2. ^ Portugal offered to honor her treaty with Britain but was declined
  3. ^ Spanish troops fought in Russia but as the volunteer Blue Division
  4. ^ Linder 2002
  5. ^ Adolfsson 2007, p. 249.
  6. ^ Adolfsson 2007, p. 304.
  7. ^ Linder 2006, p. 52.
  8. ^ Linder 2006, p. 53.
  9. ^ Linder 2006, p. 54.
  10. ^ Wangel 1982, p. 15.
  11. ^ Wangel 1982, p. 126.
  12. ^ Wangel 1982, pp. 444–465.
  13. ^ Wangel 1982, pp. 338-351.
  14. ^ Wangel 1982, p. 136.
  15. ^ F 19, the Swedish unit in Finland during the Winter War Urban Fredriksson
  16. ^ "Sotalasten Tiet Ruotsiin 1941-1946 [Children Evacuated to Sweden 1941-1946]" (in Finnish). Helsingin Sanomat. 
  17. ^ Ziemke 1960, p. 67.
  18. ^ Ziemke 1960, p. 68.
  19. ^ Wangel 1982
  20. ^ a b Beckman 2002, p. 105.
  21. ^ Scott 2002, pp. 371-394.
  22. ^ a b Churchill 2002
  23. ^ Wangel 1982, p. 637–644
  24. ^ Johansson, Anders (2005) (in Swedish). Den glömda armén: Norge Sverige 1939-1945 [The Forgotten Army: Norway Sweden 1939-1945]. Falun: Fisher & Co Rimbo. ISBN 9789185183203. 
  25. ^ a b Neuman, Ricki (25 August 2009). "Ny bild av Sverige under krigsåren [New picture of Sweden during the war years]" (in Swedish). Svenska Dagbladet. 
  26. ^ Bruchfeld, Stéphane; Levine, Paul A (1998) (in Swedish). Om detta må ni berätta [Tell Ye Your Children]. City: Regeringskansliet. ISBN 9789163063848. 
  27. ^ Odén, Tomas Andersson (1999). "Mellankrigstiden och andra världskriget [Interwar period and World War II]" (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 9 December 2006. 
  28. ^ Ross 1989
  29. ^ Lennart Lundberg Krigsmalmens offer (Värnamo 1993) ISBN 91-86748-10-6
  30. ^ Rikmenspoel 2004
  31. ^ Lundberg, Lennart (1999) (in Swedish). Lejdtrafik och kvarstad. Karlskrona. p. 16. ISBN 9789185944248. 
  32. ^ a b c Huzel 1962, p. 100.
  33. ^ The Rocket and I Linus Walleij
  34. ^ Klee 1965, p. 68.
  35. ^ a b Pocock 1967, pp. 71,81,87,107
  36. ^ Garlinski 1978, p. 166.
  37. ^ Neufeld 1995, p. 235.
  38. ^ Franklin 1987, p. 91.
  39. ^ Churchill 1953
  40. ^ Ordway 2003, p. 167.
  41. ^ "The Air Torpedo of Bäckebo" (pdf). Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  42. ^ "The Rocket and I". Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  43. ^ Henshall, Philip (1985). Hitler’s Rocket Sites. New York: St Martin's Press. pp. 133. 
  44. ^ Collier 1976, p. 103.
  45. ^ Baltutlamningen New York Times movie summary


  • Adolfsson, Mats (2007) (in Swedish). Bondeuppror och gatustrider: 1719-1932. Natur och kultur ; Svenskt militärhistoriskt bibliotek. ISBN 9789127026339. 
  • Andrén, Nils Bertel Einar (1996) (in Swedish). Maktbalans och alliansfrihet. Norstedts Juridik. ISBN 9789139000372. 
  • Beckman, Bengt (2002). Codebreakers. Providence: American Mathematical Society. ISBN 9780821828892. 
  • Churchill, Winston (2002). Second World War. City: PIMLICO (RAND). ISBN 9780712667029. 
  • Churchill, Winston (1953). Triumph and Tragedy. Haughton Mifflin. OCLC 396153. 
  • Collier, Basil (1976). The Battle of the V-Weapons, 1944-45. Morley: Elmfield Press. ISBN 0705700704. 
  • Franklin, Thomas (1987). American in Exile, An: The Story of Arthur Rudolph. Huntsville: Christopher Kaylor Company. 
  • Garliński, Józef (1978). Hitler's Last Weapons: The Underground War against the V1 and V2. New York: Times Books. 
  • Huzel, Dieter K (1962). Peenemünde to Canaveral. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall. 
  • Klee, Ernst; Merk, Otto (English translation: 1965) [1963]. The Birth of the Missile:The Secrets of Peenemünde. Hamburg: Gerhard Stalling Verlag. 
  • Linder, Jan (2002) (in Swedish). Andra Världskriget och Sverige. Stockholm: Svenskt militärhistoriskt bibliotek. ISBN 9197405639. 
  • Neufeld, Michael J (1995). The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 0-02-922895-6. 
  • Ordway, Frederick (2003). The Rocket Team. Detroit: Apogee Books. ISBN 9781894959001. 
  • Pocock, Rowland F (1967). German Guided Missiles of the Second World War. New York: Arco Publishing Company, Inc.. 
  • Rikmenspoel, Marc (2004). Waffen-SS Encyclopedia. City: Aberjona Pr. ISBN 9780971765085. 
  • Ross, John (1989). Neutrality and International Sanctions. New York: Praeger. ISBN 9780275933494. 
  • Scott, Carl-Gustaf (2002), "The Swedish Midsummer Crisis of 1941: The Crisis that Never Was", Journal of Contemporary History 37 (3), OCLC 196909719 
  • Wangel, Carl-Axel (1982) (in Swedish). Sveriges militära beredskap 1939-1945. Stockholm: Militärhistoriska Förlaget. ISBN 9789185266203. 
  • Ziemke, Earl F. (1960), "The German Decision To Invade Norway and Denmark", Command Decisions, United States. Dept. of the Army. Office of Military History, OCLC 1518217, 

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address