Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More on Swedish neutrality in the 2nd World War

Holiday snap in Stockholm, 17 July 2011
My cousin Kim took this picture of me standing on the steps of the Stockholm office of the Swedish employers federation three weeks ago. The address is Södra Blaiseholmen 4a, and during the Second World War it was the German embassy. My aunt Inger once said: “during the war we were ruled from that building.”

German military trains, known in Swedish as permittenttåg, were allowed to use Sweden’s rail network to transport troops to and from occupied Norway. As Sweden was neutral, this was and remains controversial.

During my visit last month the 70th anniversary occurred of the permittenttåg. The TV news showed an interview with an elderly German who, as a junior officer in the Wehrmacht, had travelled on these trains. It was like travelling through a friendly country, he said, he encountered no hostility. A black and white movie clip was shown, taken from the moving train. Two Swedish girls standing by the track waved at the German soldiers as the train passed by. OK, so the clip was probably from a Nazi propaganda film, but nonetheless, the evidence accumulates.

My aunt and her sister reminisced about their life in Stockholm during the war, and how Stockholm was full of Nazi sympathisers. They had a Jewish sounding surname, and one day they discovered a swastika daubed on the door of their apartment. Inger (who would have been about 12 at the time) cried “I wish we weren't called Levin”, according to her sister.

These are all anecdotes. When I have time, I intend to look up some of the history.

For a different angle on those trains, see a couple of pieces I posted early this year:

A German troop train in Sweden

My Swedish cousin and the German cigarettes

And see also Irish & Swedish neutrality during the Second World War