Sweden in World War II - across borders

Sweden in the 1930s

On this page I will tell about a few issues in Sweden during the decade prior to World War II.

First a royal background. Gustav V was king 1907-1950. In 1881 he was married to Victoria, daughter of grand duke Fredrik I of Baden and Louise of Preussen. His son Gustaf Adolf was crown prince from December 1907. His first marriage with Margareta, daughter of duke Arthur of Connaught and Louise Margaret of Preussen, ended with her death in 1920. In 1923 he married Louise, daughter of prince Louis Mountbatten and princess Viktoria of Hessen. [s29]

Stockholm Royal Palace

Like several other nations in Europe, Sweden had cut down on military costs after WWI.

The first Swedish national socialistic party was formed in 1924, and then followed a number of parties. Neither of them got many members or many votes. [s55]

In 1929 a law was proposed to allow sterilization for racial hygiene and social purpose. [s06]

On 27 January 1931 a test pilot was killed during a test with the first Swedish-constructed fighter plane Jaktfalken (a plane the Swedish air force later ordered 18 of). The pilot was a Swedish hero - the pilot who landed on the ice and fetched the Italian general Nobile, when Nobiles airship had crashed on the way back from the North pole in 1928. [s75]

A separate investigation was made, both to find the reason for the fatal plane crash and to look at how military aviation had been handled since the air force was founded as a separate organisation in 1925. Among others they found that there were only 65% of the decided number of planes. In 1930 the number of fighter planes had increased to 1 (one). There were 16 types of warplanes, and 20 types of planes for education and training. Together with other problems, it led to a change of leaders. [s75]

In 1931 Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels were forbidden by Swedish officials to lecture during a planned Swedish nazi meeting in Stockholm. [s06]

The first public Swedish nazi meeting was held in Stockholm in 1932. Some 6 000 people gather, but some sang the socialistic song that is called "Internationalen" in Swedish. [s06]

During the first years of the 1930s, the German air plane company Junkers had three prototypes for the Stuka dive-bomber manufactured in Limhamn in Sweden. They were disassembled and sent to the Soviet Union for tests. (According to the peace treaty after World War I, Germany had limitations regarding production of war material.) [s50]

In 1932 the Social Democrats won the Swedish election, and Per Albin Hansson became the prime minister. He was the leader of the Swedish governments until his death in 1946.

The Swedish prince Gustav Adolf married princess Sibylla of Sachsen-Koburg-Gotha in October 1932 [s28]. The ceremony took place in Koburg in Germany.

On 30 January Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich.

Torgny Segerstedt was the editor-in-chief for the newspaper Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning (Gothenburgs trade- and shipping newspaper) from 1917 to 1945. On 3 February 1933 he published this text in the newspaper: 'Hitler is an insult' (my translation). One result of the article was a reprimand in a telegram from Hermann Göring. Segerstedt was critical not only to the nazi politics during the war, and other bad conditions on our planet, but also to politics in Sweden. In 1942 he published among others a critical text about the Swedish policy for refugees, and reminded about repeated incidents when refugees had made it into Sweden - but had been forced to return across the border again, and to face their death. Over the years he too was criticized, among others from the Swedish king Gustav V and pronazi groups. [s06]

(Hermann Göring came to Sweden after World War I, and lived in Sweden for long periods. Among others he worked as a pilot, and he met Carin (who left her husband and married Hermann Göring).). [s06]

Also other Swedish newspapers recieved critical messages from Germany in 1933. [s06]

From 30 June 1933 political organizations in Sweden were forbidden by law to use uniforms with political marks. [s28]

(A side note about changes in our lives: in 1935 Swedish actors Thor Modéen and Wilhelm Hagberg were fined 75 Swedish kronor. Their crime? They had acted too funny on Christmas Day. [s06] )

Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitlers deputy, visited Sweden in 1935 after an invitation by the Swedish-German association. At the most there were (estimated) some 50 000 nazi sympathizers among the Swedish citizens. [s06]

Also during the first half of the 1930's the Swedish defence was equipped with new material, among others various naval vessels. [s70]

Submarine Delfinen, constructed by Kockums, delivered in 1936

The Swedish company ASJ, founded in 1907 to build railway carriages, founded in 1930 the company ASJA to build airplanes. In 1932 the first of 25 training aircrafts, Raab-Katzenstein RK 26 built under licence, were delivered to the Swedish air force. Among other planes built under licence were Hawker Hart, Focke Wulf Fw44J Stieglitz, North American NA 16-4M and Northrop 8A-1. The first North American and Northrop planes from ASJA were ordered in 1938, and technicians from the USA helped to start the production. [s79]

The 1936 decision for the Swedish defence included modern ideas for air defence, that led to what sometimes was called "the new airforce" (my translation). The renewal was planned to be finished after seven years. The power of the Swedish airforce should be tripled, and in 1943 it was planned to include 257 warplanes. Already when the decision was taken, it was estimated that Britain would have 2,250 warplanes, Germany 2,000 and the Soviet Union 3,500 warplanes. [s75]

In 1936 a rearmament of the Swedish military defence began. [s28]

Lack of competence and capacity in the Swedish aviation industri was a problem, and it was more difficult than believed to purchase warplanes from other countries. Some planes were imported, and others produced under license. Another result of the 1936 defence decision was the start of the company SAAB, for production of planes in Sweden. [s75]

Saab too began with production under licence. The first planes were Junkers Ju 86. of which Sweden had bought 40 from Germany but saw the need for more. Saab 17, the first Saab-plane, was constructed with some aid from technicians from the USA (who went back when WW2 began). [s79]

In March 1937 the Danish prime minister held a speech in Lund in Sweden, in which he said no to the suggestion of a Nordic defence union. [s28]

A new Swedish immigration law in 1937 made it harder for jewish refugees from Germany to be permitted to live in Sweden. There were also jewish organizations sceptical to increased immigration of jews, with the risk of increased antisemitism. [s41]

In 1937 there was information about German concentration camps. [s06]

Extra money to strengthen the Swedish military forces in early 1938. [s28]

In 1938 the possibilities for political refugees to stay in Sweden were slightly improved. German jews were seldom seen as political refugees, and those who did not have a residence permit were sent back to Germany. [s55]

The Swedish king Gustav V visited Adolf Hitler in 1938 during a trip to the Mediterranean Sea. [s06]

During a visit to Berlin in February 1939, king Gustav V presented a Swedish medal to Hermann Göring. [s06]

One issue (?) of the antinazi newspaper "Trots Allt!" (Despite All!) was confiscated in 1939 due to text about Hitler and Germany, and the author Ture Nerman had to spend three months in prison. [s06]

More money to strengthen the Swedish military forces in early 1939. In 1936 many Swedes had thought it was too much with a defence budget of 148 million Swedish kronor, but in 1941-1942 it was 1846 million Swedish kronor. [s28]

In 1939 English was introduced as the first foreign language in Swedish schools, instead of German. [s28]

The Finnish Åland islands, between Sweden and Finland, were since 1921-1922 demilitarized and permanently neutral. In 1938-1939 Finland and Sweden suggested an end to the demilitarization, so that Finland could fortify the islands and Sweden could send troops when there was a risk of war. In June 1939 these plans were ended due to the negative view of the Soviet Union. [s28]

One day in late August 1939 the Swedish prime minister Per Albin Hansson held a speech in Stockholm, a speech that was broadcast over radio. Among others he said that "Vår beredskap är god" (Our preparedness is good). [s06]

What he meant was Sweden's economical preparedness. There were stocks of important primary produce. (During World War I, the neutral Sweden had been blocked.) [s28]

On 2 September 1939 Swedish newspapers had advertisements of an unusual kind - a calling-up for military service. [s06]

The Soviet Union attack on Finland 30 November 1939 resulted in a political crisis in Sweden. A coalition government was formed on 13 December 1939. [s28]

The Swedish communist's support to the Soviet Union after the attack on Finland made many think of them as nationally unreliable. Among others the Swedish military established labour camps for people that were seen as unsuitable for ordinary military service, due to their political views. [s55]

Bonds were sold in Sweden to finance guns and ammunition, from the spring of 1940 with the help of a hit song. [s35]

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