Sweden in World War II - across borders

Refugees from Germany

As the nazi political actions in Germany develops many refugees travel to Sweden, among them many jews. [s06]

Almost refugees - German soldiers were close to become refugees in Sweden in June 1940. When allied forces (British, French and Polish) had arrived in Narvik in the north of Norway to support the Norwegian troops, the German troops were forced eastwards along the railroad between Narvik and the border to Sweden. On 7 June the Germans were at Bjørnefjell, the last station in Norway, but on the morning of 8 June came the order to halt the Norwegian and Allied attack. The Allies needed all their troops to stop the German assault in western Europe. [s10]

The German troops were pressed as ear as just five kilometres from the border to Sweden. [s01]

There even was an order from Hitler that these soldiers should retreat into Sweden and get detained, but that order was stopped by a young officer before it was sent from Berlin. [s12]

By the way, the decision to make a complete withdrawal of Allied troops from Norway was taken by Churchill 23-24 May 1940. On 31 May they still had not informed the Norwegians about the decision. Then a British officer and diplomats on place in Norway decided to inform the Norwegians. [s12]

(In the period the British Expeditionary Force was pressed to retreat in Belgium, the British did not inform the Belgians that they planned to leave Belgium. [s38])

The plan for a demarcation line between a South Norway occupied by Germany and a free northern Norway was awoken again. A plan, where Swedish troops should guard the line, that had been scrapped by both Britain and Norway two weeks earlier. [s12]

In early January 1943 the British continued to discuss possibilities and suitability to rescue Jews from Germany and German-occupied territories. Among others a spokesman for the World Jewish Congress saw hope for rescue of 100000 jewish children if the Allies pressed the nazis. Discussions went on. In a note to the British legation in Stockholm, the Foreign Office wrote their opinion that neutral countries were the focus of many rescue schemes. They thought Swedens geographical position would prevent large influx of refugees, and that Britain would not ask Sweden to do more unless it was as part of international efforts. [s27]

A British-American conference that opened on 19 April to discuss the Jewish refugees pressed Britain to act before the conference. Among others the British foreign minister Eden pressed the USA to assure Sweden and other neutral nations that they would not need to support refugees indefinitely. [s27]

Sweden had suggested to Germany that Norwegian and Dutch Jews could be sent to Sweden, but Germany had refused. The only exceptions Germany might do was to release specific Jews for large sums of money. When the USA minister in Stockholm took contact about the Jewish refugees, he learnt about this. Sweden was willing to try again, but was pessimistic about the outcome. A few days before the conference opened, Sweden declared that it was willing to take care of 20000 Jewish children. Conditions was that Britain and the USA paid for the care of the children, that Sweden was allowed to import food for them, and that Britain and the USA promised that it would only be until the war ended. Sensitive issues during the conference were among others Britains fear of political problems in the Arab territories in the Middle East, and not to send food through the Allied blockade, while the USA would keep its tight immigration policy. The conference agreement resulted in suggestions for some small projects, among others small camps for Jewish refugees were established in North Africa. [s27]

The discussions continued. Among others Britain offered that 5000 Jewish children could travel to Palestine. Himmler might be interested if there was an exchange, like four interned young Germans for every Jew. The German foreign office wrote that the Jews could not go to Palestine due to Arab objections, but could go to Britain if Britain gave Germany something in exchange. Another view from Germany was that some Jews only would be released or exchanged if they left Europe. Another part of the discussions was a proposal for Belgian and French Jews to go to Sweden, but Germany could not take care of the transportations. [s27]

On 28 April 1944 a Bücker Bü 181 C-1 landed in Kalmar. The two Germans told that they had stolen the plane, and came to Sweden as political refugees. They were the first who deserted from Luftwaffe to Sweden. [s77]

In September 1944 a camp for German deserters was opened in Vägershult in southern Sweden. [s77]

A German air mechanic and an Estonian girl fled to Sweden on 31 October 1944 from Nest, east of Peenemünde, in a stolen new (only 12 hours flying time) Dornier Do 24 T-3 3-engine flying boat. In January 1945 the plane was bought by the Swedish air force, the air mechanic got a job as instructor at a Swedish air force base, and the girl also stayed in Sweden. [s77]

1945-04-12: Two German pilots had planned to escape to Sweden, and had sent their families into hiding. When they heard on a BBC broadcast that three Germans had fled to Sweden in a Fw 189, they flew their Bf 109's to Sweden. [s77]

During WW2 333 foreign planes came to Sweden, in various conditions. Closer to 160 of them had connection to German forces. Some landed after technical problems or navigation errors, others crashed, about a dozen were forced to land or shut down by Swedish anti-aircraft or planes. [s77]

From 12 April 1945 planes with refugees and runaways dominated. In some cases family members had been passengers. [s77]

A few German sailors fled to Sweden when their ships were in Swedish harbours or Swedish waters. [s60]

A few German soldiers deserted in Denmark, Finland and Norway and went to Sweden. Until November 1942 some of them were denied entry to Sweden, but when it was considered to be a political reason for a soldier to escape he/she was accepted as a refugee. After November 1942 all deserters were received as refugees. [s60]

Among the refugees that fled to Sweden during the last year of World War II, away from the advancing Soviet troops, were a couple of thousand German soldiers. [s28]

Before the end of World War II, Sweden had agreed with the Allies that all refugees in Sweden who had arrived in German uniforms should be sent back to their home countries. In June 1945 the Soviet Union demanded that Sweden should send back all these refugees, and Sweden felt the need to follow the agreement. The German soldiers were sent back. [s28]

On 4 May 1945 a Messerschmitt Bf 109 landed in Malmö with a German kind-of-deserter. At the German base at the mouth of the river Weichsels, they had 15 planes prepared to fly. The Hauptmann selected the best 15 pilots and assigned them to fly to Copenhagen where they should surrender to British forces. He lost his extra fuel tank, and flew to Sweden instead. He was interned until 25 January 1946, when he was sent to the Soviet Union (according to the agreements and demands made at the end of the war). He was released on 22 September 1949. [s77]

17 German planes landed in Sweden 8-9 May 1945, and more had passed over Sweden. During the last period of the war, Germany had run a large operation to evacuate people from the advancing Soviet Union forces. In the morning of 8 May a Luftwaffe order had been given to units in Denmark and Norway, to take part in this evacuation by fetching people from the Windau area. (The German forces in Norway had not capitulated at the time.) [s77]

The results varied. Those who had to land in Sweden on their way eastwards were interned, and after the war sent to the Allies. Those who had managed to fetch refugees, and the soldiers that they had fetched, were interned and later sent to the Soviet Union. The same happened to those who fled directly from the east to Sweden. A few escaped in Sweden. One Latvian man took his life when the last shipment sailed on 25 January 1946. [s77]

Read more on the page "German soldiers in Sweden", at the bottom of the page.

Some of the German flyers that had deserted to Sweden had been registred as civilian refugees, and the take-off place as unknown. Those Germans were not sent to the Soviet Union. [s77]

2019-04-07. www.granfoss.se. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss