Sweden in World War II - across borders

Swedes for Britain and allies

Several Swedes worked in Warszawa, Poland, for Swedish companies in the 1930s. Some of them helped the Polish resistance from November 1939, foremost to bring information, photos and films to the Polish authorities in Britain. Money was carried to Poland. [s50]

One of them, Sven Norrman, had managed to get a pass that allowed him to visit the Jewish ghetto in Warszawa. He managed to take several photos in the ghetto. These were the first photos from the ghetto that were published in other countries, but many people saw it as propaganda - too inhuman to be true. [s60]

Norrman smuggled several hundreds of messages out of Poland, on special films hidden in book covers, shawing brushes, et cetera that he brought to Sweden. One message smuggled out on 21 May 1942 described how the killing of Jews was performed, and gave number of killed Jews at several places. (This information was used by the Polish prime minister in a BBC broadcast on 9 June 1942.) [s60]

Later suitcases with double bottoms were used. Money to the Polish resistance were sometimes paid by the Swedish company's Polish daughter company, and compensated in Sweden by Poles in Stockholm. Other Swedes used similar money transactions and methods. [s60]

At the end of April 1942 one of the Swedes was told that the Geographical Institute in Warszawa had stopped their work with maps over Turkey. Instead they produced maps over Sweden, working three-shift around the clock. A Polish engineer, who already had documents that allowed him to travel, went to Berlin and informed the Swedish minister. [s60]

On 10 July 1942 one on the Swedes left Berlin on a plane destined for Stockholm. About half an hour after take-off the plane was ordered to return to Berlin, where Gestapo men came onboard and fetched the Swede. [s60]

Sven Norrman was in Sweden when the others were arrested. [s60]

In mid 1942 Gestapo caught 7 Swedes and 24 Poles, and 4 Swedes were sentenced to death. Among others the Swedish king wrote to Hitler and asked for a milder sentence, and the Finnish president and others too contacted Germany. [s50]

A Swedish diplomat visited the imprisoned Swedes in August 1942. On the train from Warszawa to Berlin he happened to meet the SS-officer Kurt Gerstein, who for several hours told about how Jews were treated in the concentration camps. The Swedish diplomat informed the deputy chief of the Swedish embassy in Berlin, but it is unknown how his report was handled. [s60]

The four Swedes were released towards the end of the war. [s50]

After the end of WWII, both the Swedish foreign minister and the Swedish envoy in Berlin wrote that Felix Kersten had a decisive role in the release of the Warschau Swedes. [s67]

Some Swedes fought for the French Foreign Legion, among others in the Narvik area in Norway in May-June 1940 during the Allied campaign there [s50]. There was at least one Swede who was an officer in the French Foreign Legion troop that fought in the Narvik area [s51].

Legioners, and also some other soldiers, sometimes used false names and home countries. [s50]

BritishAround 30 Swedes fought in British forces, among others for Special Operations Executive (SOE) both in the Norwegian Company Linge and in other groups. They participated among others in sabotage in Norway. On one occasion the Germans believed that a Swede had been involved in a railway sabotage, Swedish authorities got the information - and when one of the Swedes came from Norway to Sweden for the second time, he was sent to a Swedish jail. [s50]

A Swedish sailor on a Norwegian ship survived when the ship was torpedoed in the autumn of 1942, and decided to 'pay back' when the lifeboat was attacked twice by German planes. After commando education in Britain followed commando raids along the Norwegian coast, also on the northern Bjørnøya. On D-day 6 June 1944 he fought in Commande Royal Marines on Sword Beach. [s50]

The Swede Allan Mann volunteered for civilian labour in Finland when the Soviet Union attacked but was moved to armed forces, and then fought in various areas in Norway. To get to the Narvik area he and a group of Norwegians travelled through Sweden as tourists, via northern Finland and along the northern coast of Norway to Narvik. During the fights he was injured, but pulled a French legionary officer with an inured foot into Sweden. Contacted by Malcolm Munthe, who worked for SOE at the British embassy in Stockholm, he began as a courier between Sweden and Norway. To Britain in the spring of 1944 for SOE education, in November 1944 back to Sweden and the USA air transport base in Luleå in northern Sweden, and parachuted over northern Norway to handle intelligence operations and distribution of weapons. [s50]

Erik G:son Lewenhaupt participated in Finland and Norway, and later joined British forces. Among others he was sent to Denmark by parachute for a secret mission, fought with the 6th Airborne during the invasion, was captured by Germans, fled but captured again, and liberated by the Allies. Then he fought for Britain in among others Burma and Singapore. [s50]

At least 7 of Swedens few military pilots joined the British Royal Air Force (RAF), 6 of them already in 1940-41. A British telegram from August 1944 told that the Swede Ulf Christiernsson was the first Allied pilot who had met a German jet-propelled fighter plane in action. It was a Messerschmitt Me 262 that attacked his Mosquito during 8 minutes, but he and his observer survived thanks to the Mosquitos maneuverability and then an area with thick clouds. [s50]

A couple of Swedes joined the Royal Navy. [s50]

Other Swedes fought in for example British infantry, in a Field Security Batallion and as air combat instructor. [s50]

At least 16 Swedes were active in various military forces from the USA, including service on submarines and airborne units. Some of them fought in Asia. [s50]

Rolf Johansson from Göteborg enlisted for the U.S. Army Transports, and participated when islands in the Pacific were liberated. Some Swedish sailors who had settled in the U.S.A. before the nation got involved in the war, chose to enlist in the Allied fleet instead of detention (not U.S.A. citizens). Per Törnqvist was one of those who enlisted for the U.S. Army Transports, where he met several Swedes who had enlisted there when the French Foreign Legion was dissolved. [s65]

There were a few Swedes who had more indirect paths to service in the USA armed forces. One fought for the German SS Wiking division, was caught as war prisoner by USA troops, escaped and got rid of the uniform, after some time was driven by hunger to a USA refugee camp, and with his Swedish passport and a false story was offered a job as military police. Another Swede had fought in Spain, been arrested by the Germans for work in the Danish resistance, held in a German prison camp, liberated by the USA 7th Army, and became an interpreter for the USA forces. [s50]

USAnother example is a boy born in Stockholm in 1930 by an unmarried mother, taken care of by a German family, and then by an Estonian who was captured by the Soviet Union NKVD in April 1941. The boy had been away from home at the time, and joined with a youth gang who performed some small sabotage actions against the Soviets. Captured and sent to Leningrad, escaped and went back to the (at the time) German-occupied Estonia under a railway car, caught by the Germans and sent to slave labour at a German ammunition factory, fled with two USA pilots and met USA forces in November 1944. Then the 14 years old boy worked for the USA forces as interpreter (often in the front line, where he also was wounded), and from June 1945 he worked for the US Grave Registration Service. [s50]

From May 1940 60 percent of the Swedish ships that waited in various ports outside the German Skagerak barrier were timechartered by Britain, including 8,000 Swedish sailors. [s64]

Arcturus was one of the Swedish ships that sailed for the allies. On the way from New York to Montevideo she was torpedoed by a German submarine. The lifeboats drifted 925 nautical miles in 9 days before they were rescued. [s73]

On 12 January 1945 a Dakota plane from the USA army air force landed on the airport near Kirkenes, with among others a Norwegian bishop who earlier had to escape to Sweden after the Norwegian church's protests against the Germans. The plane had started from Västerås in Sweden. [s51]

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, the U.S.A. paid for the Swedish liner Kungsholm and used her as a troop carrier. Many of the Swedish crew, who had to leave Kungsholm, sailed on with neutral or Allied ships. Several worked in the U.S.A., and around 50 became citizens in the U.S.A. [s65]

On one trip the Swedish s/s Johanna sailed along the British coast with cement from London. German torpedo boats attacked, and six of the nine ships were sunk. Not Johanna. [s65]

Gestapo found a couple of Allied airmen on board a Swedish ship in the Kiel Channel, hidden in the coal box. Apparently Gestapo had been told by someone on another Swedish ship, who had heard sounds from the coalbox. [s65]

Many Swedish sailors worked on Allied merchant ships, also female sailors. More than 700 served on Norwegian ships, of the totally more than 8000 who served on ships from several nations. Of these, some 600 were killed while sailing on non-Swedish ships. 84 Swedish ships were sunk on the Atlantic Ocean, of totally 270 sunk Swedish ships. [s50]

One Swedish sailor worked on the Norwegian m/s Moldanger in June 1942. She was on the way from Buenos Aires to New York when she was hit by torpedoes from a German submarine on 26 June. Eleven men had been killed, and the surviving seven Norwegians and the Swede were on a raft with a small container with water and six boxes with biscuits. It took 48 days until another Norwegian ship discovered them. In New York they were interviewed by newspapers, received the Norwegian King Haakon medal, and also were given 200 U.S. dollars by the Norwegian Nortraship. Nothing was written about it in Swedish newspapers, until 1960. [s65]

(There were also many Swedish citizens, who were born in Sweden but lived in among others Canada and the USA, who fought in the Allied military forces. [s50])

2015-08-29. www.granfoss.se. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss