Sweden in World War II - across borders

Swedes for Germany

German camp Around 260 Swedes were volunteers in the German army. [s41]

Fewer that 200 Swedish citizens fought for Germany during World War II, and at a low estimate 160 Swedish-speaking persons of non-Swedish nationalities but who saw themselves as Swedish. [s50]

(Seemingly no Swedes fought for the Germans or the Norwegian nazi party during the attack on Norway. [s50])

In the 1932 election for the Swedish Riksdag, the government, the pronazi parties got 13 000 votes. In the 1944 election they got about the same number of votes. [s06]

The Swedish officer Hamilton, aged 45, left the Swedish armed forces in late October 1914 to fight for Germany in World War I. He was active on Germanys east front. After the war he became a Swedish officer again, but worked as an aide for the German ex-Kaiser (on exile in Netherlands) a couple of weeks every year in 1929 to 1941. On 25 August 1939 Hitler made Hamilton a honorary general in the Wehrmacht (the German army). He remained German-friendly during World War II, and he may have been consulted prior to the German attack on the Soviet Union. [s50]

In early July 1941 Germany wanted to reqruit Swedish volunteers, but the answer was no. Swedes were only allowed to volunteer for the Finnish army. This attitude was made public in September 1941. [s58]

Germany had chartered Swedish tankers for transports to the German forces in Norway and the Baltic region. It has been estimated that some 500 Swedes worked on these ships. This traffic continued until December 1944. In October 1944 the last ship with iron ore for Germany left Sweden. [s50]

Around 30 Swedish tankers were used by Germany in the Baltic Sea and to Norway from the autumn of 1941 to the autumn of 1944, foremost to freight oil products between ports in Germany and German-occupied countries. Most tankers sometimes sailed between Germany and Sweden and sometimes between German-controlled or -friendly ports. Sometimes ships were chartered. It happened that oil was delivered to submarines at sea for exercise. [s59]

Procyon ran aground near Lysekil when she passed Sweden on her way to Norway 1 October 1941, with fuel for German Luftwaffe bases in Norway. The crew was all-Swedish, but there were also German soldiers onboard. [s73]

At least one Swedish tanker also supplied German submarines in the Atlantic Ocean with fuel, on several trips. [s65]

The Swedes were treated well, and got the same rations as German submarine crews. Every third month the Swedes got a food parcel from Sweden. [s59]

There were dangers too, and Swedes were killed. For example m/t Svea Reuter was hit by a torpedo from a plane in 1943, and m/t Sigrid Reuter was hit by British bombs in Hamburg in 1944. [s65]

The tanker B.T. V was sunk in Stettin on 13 May 1944 during an allied bomb attack. [s73]
B.T. V, built in 1887 by Götaverken, Göteborgs MV

When Germany attacked the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet wrote about 'Finlands great and glorious task to, in the Nordic, secure the springboard against the red tsarism'. [s50]

Himmler gave permission to "Germanische Leitstelle", recruitment office for SS, to recruit Swedish volunteers to Waffen-SS on 4 September 1940. [s50]

Germany pressed Sweden to choose between Berlin or Moscow, not Berlin or London, due to the old history with several wars between Sweden and Russia. Sweden refused to choose, since Sweden was neutral. On 5 July 1941 the German negotiator in Stockholm proposed a Swedish volunteer corps on the eastern front, but the Swedish answer was that it was unthinkable of Swedish volunteers in other than the Finnish armed forces. Another offer was for Swedish officers to participate on Germany's eastern front in German uniforms, which was ok for both the Swedish prime minister and the Swedish military. Shortly afterwards Hitler said no to the idea. The meagre Swedish contribution to Germanys important battle was not well received in Germany. Switzerland too gave little support to Germany. On 8 May 1943 Goebbels wrote in his diary, that Hitler had come to the conclusion that the remaining rubbish of small nations in Europe should be eliminated as soon as possible. [s50]

The German foreign office and some departments did not want SS to recruit so intensive in Sweden and Switzerland, due to the important imports from these countries. SS had to follow their directives. [s50]

The chief of staff for the "Germanische Leitstelle" said, in a speech in the autumn of 1943 at a Waffen-SS school for officers, that Sweden was the most important human reservoire of the germanic (aryan, teutonic) race. [s50]

Of the 180 Swedes in the multinational Waffen-SS, most had enlisted in Oslo in Norway. Among them were also Swedish officers. Around 100 was sent to the eastern front, where 28 Swedes were killed. In Waffen-SS there were among others 6000 Danish, 1400 Finnish and 6000 (15000 had applied) Norwegians. 25 Swedish citizens deserter from Waffen-SS and 15 legally terminated their contracts, while others fought to the end in Berlin. [s50]

Two German half-track trucksOne Swede in Waffen-SS deserted on 1 February 1943, as the unit travelled on a premittent train through Sweden. The 19 years old soldier jumped from the train in his SS uniform. He had been a nazi since 1940, but the time in the SS education camp had changed his view of SS. [s50]

Five Swedes left SS during training in Croatia and joined Titos partisans instead of fighting against them. At least six Swedes left their unit in SS during the retreat from Narva and drove their two half-track trucks to the Estonian coast, where they fled with Estonian civilians to Sweden. [s50]

Swedish volunteers in SS fought on several of the German fronts, among others in Finland and in Normandie (where other Swedes fought with the Allies). [s50]

German half-track trucks and tankMore examples: One Swede, in Leibstandarte "Adolf Hitler", was the only Swede who fought in the tank battle in Kursk. When the Leibstandarte was sent to Normandie he changed to another unit, since his contract said that he only should fight against the Soviet Red Army. One Swede was trained on the Panther tank, and another on the Tiger. On the Murmansk front there were a few Swedes in Waffen-SS and one Swede in the German Wehrmacht. Another Swede deserted from SS in Hungary at the end of 1944, went to Berlin and became a driver for the Swedish Victoria church. He was killed when a fighter/bomber pilot from the USA attacked Mecklenburg. One Swedish officer joined Waffen-SS in February 1945. Two Swedish survivors were captured by the Red Army in Berlin, but managed to escape. With armlets in the Swedish colours they managed to get back to Sweden in the summer of 1945. [s50]

In mid April the German commander of the division "Nordland" and one corps commander tried to rescue the foreign volunteers from the final battle for Berlin. Their plan was to send these troops out from Berlin towards British troops, which would be a mutiny to the German forces. Their plan was discovered by other Germans and the division commander arrested. One Swede, who was an officer in the division, visited in civilian clothes the Swedish legation in their bunker in Berlin at the end of April. He asked for help with safe-conduct for him and the other Swedes in "Nordland". The Swedish legation pastor later told that the Swede during a visit on 1 May 1945 had told him about Hitlers suicied. Safe-conduct could not be arranged for them. The Swede survived, and during the summer of 1945 he managed to leave Berlin and get help from the Red Cross. [s50]

To serve for Waffen-SS gave a generous financial support to the soldiers families in their home countries. In Sweden it was the German consulates who handled these payments. The volunteers were also paid, with additional salary for front service. [s50]

44 Swedes, 10 of them earlier volunteers in Waffen-SS, worked for Gestapo, Sicherheitspolizei and Sicherheitsdienst in Norway. One of them acted as a false prisoner in the German concentration camp Grini. One of them was killed druing a bomb raid on Berlin on 26 February 1945. At least 7 Swedes were sentenced by Swedish courts for espionage against Sweden. [s50]

One Swede who was injured while fighting for SS became a prison guard in Norway. A Swede who was an officer in Sicherheitspolizei in Berlin was found shot to death on 19 February 1945. [s50]

Some Swedes fought in the German Wehrmacht. Among others a former pilot who was rejected by the British RAF enlisted in the German Luftwaffe where he served as a mechanic. [s50]

A few Swedes served in German non-military unit Organisation Todt. Some Swedish doctors served in German military units. [s50]

Some Swedes spent time in Allied prison camps for a period. [s50]

In Finland, Iceland, Ireland and Sweden service in the German SS was not a criminal act. Several of the Swedes who had enlisted in SS were sentenced for espionage against Sweden. Swedish soldiers were mostly sentenced for escape from the Swedish armed forces, and some for not following the passport rules. [s50]

Besides these Swedes who lived in Sweden before the war, there were other Swedes who fought for Germany. Some Swedish citizens had lived in among others Denmark, Germany and Austria before World War II. One of them was heard in the German radio broadcasts aimed at Sweden. [s50]

There were also Finno-Swedish, Estonian-Swedish, persons from Gammelsvenskby in Ukraina, and other persons with relations to Sweden who enlisted in German units. [s50]

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