Sweden in World War II - across borders

Swedes for Norway

Shortly after the attack on Denmark and Norway, the Swedish government prohibited public meetings and recruitment organisations for Swedish volunteers to Norway. Maybe some 300 Swedes went to Norway, some of them in the Swedish uniforms with Finnish emblem they had used as volunteers for Finland against the Soviet Union attack, and maybe half of them got into fights with Germans. [s50]

The Swede Gösta Benckert led a company of at the most 219 men, mostly Norwegians who had fought in Finland and some 20 Swedes. Those who had turned up drunk at the central station in Stockholm had been sorted out by foremost a simple obstacle passageway. On 16 April they defended Kongsvinger fort for about a day and night, while two German batallions were stopped from advancing. When Benckert tried to find out who of his men later had fired at a Norwegian ambulance, several of the Swedes went back to Sweden. When he learnt that the Allies left the south of Norway, he kept 20 men and fought guerilla war until early June 1940 when the fighting in northern Norway also ended. [s50]

The Norwegian fort Hegra, near Trondheim, managed to withstand German attacks for almost a month. The commander of the fort helped the three Swedish volunteers to escape shortly before the fort was capitulated. [s50]

Swedes fought in Norway both as officers and privates. Germany complained to Sweden. At least three Swedes sailed with the British troops when they evacuated from Molde to Orkney, and later they participated in northern Norway. [s50]

Among the Swedes were three members in the Swedish National Socialist Party. The German attack on Denmark and Norway gave several Swedish nazis and other German-friendly persons a negative feeling. Some of the Swedes who were volunteers in Norway were not only positive experiences. Six of the Swedes were killed in Norway. [s50]

On 28 April 1940 Britain began to evacuate the British troops in mid Norway, which made it tough for the Norwegians with different backgrounds to continue the defence in this part of Norway. But there still were resistance here and there, among others along the border to Sweden between Røros and Trysil. Norwegians and Swedes who had fought for Finland kept on with smaller attacks on the Germans until mid May. [s01]

While the Norwegian king and government were in Tromsø in northern Norway, having fled through Norway since 9 April, a steady stream of young men arrived from Finland and Sweden. They wanted to fight for Norway, but there was a lack of weapons and also uniforms. [s01]

On 14 May 1940 a Norwegian batallion attacked a German position on height 870 on Næverfjellet, near Narvik. The Norwegians won the battle, with only one man killed - a Swedish lieutenant who was a volunteer. [s43]

Around 18 May there was a fight between German and Swedish soldiers. A German force advancing south of Mo met a group of 38 Swedish volunteers, and the Germans retreated south of Mofjellet. One Swedish sergeant was killed, and four soldiers wounded. The Allied forces retreated to a position north of Mo, but the British rearguard got the order too late. They were thought to have been captured or killed, but they had marched through deep snow to Storforshei led by a Swedish captain (another Swedish volunteer who fought for Norway, despite that it was forbidden by Swedish authorities). He also managed to arrange transport to Krokstrand. After the war the Swedish captain Lewenhaupt was awarded the British Military Cross. [s43]

Swedes who had fought for Norway established some of the first courier routes between the Allies and the Norwegian resistance via Sweden [s50]

Many Swedes who lived along the border participated in secret activities throughout the war.

The British major Malcolm Munthe (with a Swedish father) had been hunted in Norway for three months, shot and caught by the Germans, escaped via a toilet, and came to Sweden. He worked for the British SOE, and was the first British commissioner for the early courier traffic. [s50]

US military ambulanceThe Scandinavian-American Field Hospital had started as support for Finland, but unable to deliver due to the end of the war between Finland and the attacking Soviet Union on 13 March 1940. Instead they supported Norway. The head of the field hospital was Bror von Blixen-Finecke, a Swedish volunteer for the British during World War I. He and 20 persons from the USA drove into Norway from Östersund, in military ambulances with USA flags. For some time they aided Allied troops in Namsos, but when the German troops advanced they returned to Sweden. [s50]

Swedes in the French Foreign Legion participated in the fights in northern Norway, also as officers. (One of them later fought against the US Army in Algeria, and after a short time as war prisoner against the German Africa corps.) [s50]

On 27 November 1942, the day after the deportation of 532 Norwegian Jews to Germany, Gösta Engzell at the Swedish foreign office sent a list to Oslo with names of Norwegian Jews that had Swedish relatives. He also asked the Swedish legation in Berlin to act for Norwegian Jews with connections to Sweden. [s60]

On 3 December a telegram was sent from the Swedish prime minister to the envoy in Berlin, with instructions to discretely contact the Germans with a declaration. If more Jews were to be sent from Norway to Germany, Sweden was prepared to take care of them instead. The Germans were not interested. [s60]

On 30 November 1943 1,200 students and academic teachers were arrested in Oslo, and the plan was to send them to Germany. The German minister in Stockholm was called to the Swedish foreign minister to receive a plea from the Swedish government, especially when it came to the plan to deport the students to Germany. The following communication between Sweden and Germany, where Germany asked Sweden not to intervene in German-Norwegian issues, was not held in friendly phrases. Also the Finnish government contacted Germany. [s60]

290 students were sent to Germany on 9 December 1943, while the rest began to be set free. On 19 December a German ammunition depot in Oslo exploded, and the release of students was stopped. On 8 January 1944 more students were sent to Germany. Despite the hard words from Sweden, it seemingly did not lead to anything but words. But words continued to come from Sweden, foremost that sick students should be transported back to Norway. During the last months of 1944 143 students were sent to Norway. [s60]

"Grupp Fritjof" was a guerilla group led by a Swedish officer and based in the district of Värmland in Sweden. It was a part of the Norwegian resistance, with at the most 120 persons. On 22 February 1945 they received the first Allied delivery of weapons to the group, by parachuted containers over Swedish territory. The group was disbanded in mid July 1945. [s50]

On 12 December the "Svensk-norska frivilligförbundet" (Swedish-Norwegian volunteer association) was founded, with the purpose to establish a Swedish volunteer corps that could act in connection to the Norwegian police troops that had been formed in Sweden. The recruitment for the association was open, with among others posters and newspaper advertisements. Enlistment and some educations began in February 1945, among others Stockholms sports management held free instructions for throwing hand grenades. [s50]

On 15 March 1945 the association asked the Swedish military to call-up of the so called Norgebataljonen for military training. This was approved by the Swedish government on 6 April. Military education of about 640 persons began on 26 April, with Swedish military equipment. Partisan actions and clearance of German mines were parts of the infantry training. About half of the persons had earlier infantry training, and around close to 100 had been volunteers in Finland and/or Spain. [s50]

Due to the German capitulation, the Norgebataljonen did not get into active service. During the four months the association had grown to 35 recruitment offices, and the number of members has been estimated to around 5000-6400. (By some reason the archives were thrown away shortly after the war.) [s50]

In 1945 the Allies did not look forward to a continued war in Norway, after a victory in central Europe. However there were many well-armed German troops in Norway, around 350 000, and many fortifications had been constructed along the coast.

A question was sent to Stockholm about the possibility to send troops via Sweden, and support by Swedish military. [s13]

The Norwegian government in London asked Sweden to mobilize and be ready to act in Norway if it should be necessary. Sweden did not, partly because they thought it could stimulate desperate Germans in Norway to fight and partly because they felt that there would be no more fighting in Norway. [s13]

88 Swedish sailors and 8 other Swedes were killed while in Norwegian service during the war. [s50]

2013-05-22. www.granfoss.se. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss