Sweden in World War II - across borders

Swedish problems for Norway

Some Swedish acting after the German attack on Norway did not improve the relations between Sweden and Norway.

On the morning of 9 April the Norwegian king, government and others fled to Hamar, a city chosen among others because of the several roads to Sweden in case of the worst development. For the Germans it was important to capture Norway's king and government to force Norway to surrender.

An alternative was to kill the king and the crown prince, and make the three years old prince Harald to king - under German control. [s01]

After a German bomb attack 11 April on Nybergsund, where the king and the government had a temporarily place of refuge, they travelled to Jordet. The Norwegian prime minister suggested that they should go into Sweden, but he was voted down. Instead they decided to head for Åndalsnes, closer to the coast. [s11]

The Norwegian king and crown prince had no plans to go to Sweden. They understood that it would place Sweden in an awkward situation, and for the king to leave the country could mean that it fell in the hands of Germany. [s01]

(Some time later there were legal changes that allowed the king and government to operate from another country.)

The Norwegian prime minister and some others left at once. One group of the Norwegian government who felt safer and wanted to eat before they travelled on, then got information about German troops underway that made them travel back and forth and more. Among others they drove into Sweden at Drevsjö customs station. The Swedish skier Nils Mora-Nisse Karlsson was among the soldiers at the customs station, and in 1981 he told about the incident to Norwegian journalists. A soldier called the regiments head quarters, and the answer was that the Norwegian king and the others had to go back to Norway. [s11] (This is written as a note in the book, by the prime minister's son Kristian Nygaardsvold.)

Accoring to another source the Norwegian foreign minister called his Swedish colleague on 12 April and asked if they could stay one night in Sweden and rest after the bomb attacks, and then without problems return to Norway the following morning. After one hour they got a negative answer. They were in Sweden for half an hour more, to avoid a group of German war planes. (The Norwegian foreign minister Trygve Lie later became the secretary-general for the United Nations.) [s12]

Yet another source tells that the answer from the Swedish government was vague and mentioned that no definite promises could be given. [s13]

One source tells that the answer from the Swedish government included an offer to send petrol and necessities to the fleeing king. [s26]

On 12 April 1940 representatives for the Norwegian government asked if the Norwegian king could seek refuge in Sweden without being detained. Such guarantees could not be given by Sweden. The reason for the Swedish act was the international law. The Norwegian king was the supreme commander of the Norwegian armed forces, and when he crossed the border in uniform he should be detained. [s55]

Some Swedes helped the Norwegian officials in Stockholm to buy two airplanes. A smaller plane was used for communication with the Norwegian minitary head quarter while the war was fought in southern Norway, and a larger plane when the Norwegian military had been forced to northern Norway. After some time the Swedish officials stopped this traffic. [s01]

The Norwegians in Stockholm celebrated the Norwegian National Day, 17 May 1940, in a quiet way - since it had been said that the Swedish government would not look positive on a larger celebration. However a priest had arranged that a church in Stockholm could be used during the afternoon, and there were representatives from Allied nations and the USA - but no officials from Sweden. [s01]

A Swedish company with international business let the growing Norwegian legation in Stockholm use office space - for some time, until the Swedish foreign office let the company know that this was not according to the Swedish neutrality. The Norwegian legation had to move. [s01]

The president of the Norwegian parliament (Storting), C J Hambro, hastily wrote and published a book in the USA in the summer of 1940. The reason was the negative picture of Norway that was common in the press - that there had been no resistance in Norway, that treason was common in Norway and that the Norwegians were willing to do anything but fight. "Stories from Stockholm kept this picture alive" (my translation). [s01]

One example was a Norwegian officer who passed Stockholm on the way to northern Norway to join the Norwegian troops who still were fighting. Recently 'reliable sources' had announced that the officer had been shot in Norway as a traitor. Another story in Swedish newspapers told about Norwegian sailors leaving their naval ship when the Germans attacked through Oslofjorden, as an example of Norwegian treason and sympathy for Germany. The officer and 250 men did leave the ship, but the reason was that they had arrived the day before and had neither theoretical nor practical training to use the ship's guns. On land they could get weapons and equipment from the military depots. But, the Norwegian officer who gave up Narvik without fight was later regarded by the Norwegian authorities as a traitor. [s01]

(Hambro left Stockholm on 20 May 1940, via Rovaniemi in northern Finland, for Tromsø that acted as the Norwegian capital at the time. Allied nations had temporary legations in Tromsø, and Sweden too. The main information channel to and from Tromsø was via Stockholm. [s01])

The book was published in among others in Britain, and translated to Spanish, Icelandic and Danish. It was also translated to Swedish, but with changes in the text that suited the Swedish foreign offices wishes - without the knowledge and agreement of the author. However, Swedish authorities confiscated the books. [s01]

When the Germans sent barley and potatoes from Norway to Germany, the people in northern Norway was in great need of seed potatoes. The Norwegian authorities in Sweden could not get export permits, but the Finnish people helped with a national action in the war-struck Finland. [s01]

The Norwegian legation in Stockholm wasn't fully recognized by Sweden until 1943. [s03]

Sweden had no diplomatic representation with the Norwegian government in London until 1943. [s55]

2012-05-20. www.granfoss.se. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss