Sweden in World War II - across borders


Sweden had declared itself ‘voluntarily’ neutralit in 1939. Denmark, Finland and Norway were also neutral.

A neutral state is obliged to defend its territory against all powers of war, and not support any of them in any way. A ‘voluntarily’ neutrality does not include a juridical commitment from other states to respect it, and the neutral state can at any time change its decision. [s02]

However, Sweden made some exceptions. Or rather - a number of exceptions. These exceptions changed during 1939-1945, but were not quite consistent over time and district in Sweden.

The most official exception took place in 1939-1940, during the winter war when the Soviet Union attacked Finland.

But - what is written about neutrality in various sources may not be correct.

When it comes to neutrality, international law did not forbid transit of troops and war material in the neutral country's territorial waters (in contrast to transit on railways through the country). There was not an expressed prohibition against warfaring countries warships to pass through neutral waters. There is nothing like 'moral neutrality' or 'ideological neutrality'. [s60]

A neutral state is obliged to defend its territory against all powers of war ...

On 16 February 1940 the British destroyer Cossack followed the German freighter Altmark into the Norwegian Jøssingfjorden, boarded her and released some 300 British prisoned sailors. Norwegian guard vessels who should defend Norways neutrality were spectators, and did not fire a single shot. On 19 February the Norwegian foreign minister defended the passivity also in the Norwegian parliament - among others he stated that it would have been insane to fight against such an superior force. [s56]

A British warship did not respect the declared Norwegian neutrality, Norwegian guards of the neutrality did not defend it, and the foreign minister told openly that Norway would not defend itself agains an superior force.

That was used by Germany, who said that the troops that landed in Norway on 9 April were sent to help Norway defend its territory.

2015-01-06. www.granfoss.se. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss