Book sheds light on Sweden's Nazi ties

  • 2002-08-22
  • Gael Branchereau

The publication this week of a book listing the names of 28,000 Swedish Nazi sympathisers is stirring up a painful debate in a country that has been slow to face up to the darker aspects of its history during World War II.

Called "political pornography" by some, and "pioneering work" by others, the book, "Swedish National Socialism" by left-wing activist Tobias Huebinette, aims to chip away at the widely-held belief that only a tiny minority of Swedes openly sympathized with Hitler's Germany between 1933 and 1945.

"Family secrets are sacred in Sweden, they are part of the Protestant culture," Huebinette told AFP.

Huebinette combed through membership lists of nine political parties, splinter groups or active associations between 1931 and 1945 which he compiled into the 500-page document.

The book contains the names, professions, cities and party membership dates of Swedes from all backgrounds, from fishermen and cleaners to parliamentary deputies, officers and aristocrats, including Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of furniture empire Ikea.

The main fascist organizations, Swedish Socialist Movement (formerly called the National Socialist Workers' Party), the National Swedish-German Association and Swedish Opposition, account for around three-quarters of the total.

Huebinette, who has in the past had trouble with the law because of his spectacular methods of fighting neo-Nazis, has the unqualified support of journalist Bosse Schoen, who himself is the author of a list containing the names of several hundred Swedes who volunteered to join the German Waffen-SS.

"History must sweep up the dust that is still hidden under the carpet," Bosse wrote this week in the daily paper Dagens Nyheter.

In particular, the truth about the Swedish royal family's links with Nazism needs to be told, he said.

This is a reference to recent revelations in the newspaper Arbetaren that Walter Sommerlath, the father of Queen Silvia, whose origins are German-Brazilian, was a member of Hitler's own party, the NASDP.

Several members of King Carl Gustaf XVI's family also sympathized with Hitler's Germany, according to Huebinette, who names the king's mother, Sibylle de Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and his uncle, Prince Bertil.

"But people don't want to know. Many Swedes feel sympathy for those whose names are in the book," Huebinette said.

Prime Minister Goran Persson has promised to open the archives of the Swedish secret police before 1949 to facilitate research of World War II, during which Sweden was officially neutral.

Several of the country's political parties have also promised to come clean about their role during those years.

Meanwhile, Rolf Clarkson, a former conservative deputy, has decided not to wait for the book to admit to what he calls his "youth activities."

"We believed that the Germans were entitled to revenge after the Versailles Treaty, and we approved the building of a classless society in Germany," he wrote in the Swedish press last week. "We knew nothing about the Holocaust."

"The Jewish question was only of secondary importance within the parties, and I do not recall any anti-Semitic declarations," he added.

However, this version of events is rejected by Klaus Boehme, a historian who wrote the book's introduction. Boehme says that the Swedish activists spoke German, read the German papers and were familiar with "the inhuman and racist political culture" of the Third Reich.

Curiosity about the names has the Swedes flocking to buy the book. Hedengrens, a major book shop in Stockholm, sold all its copies of the book on the first day of its publication.