Europe was politically insatiable at the end of the thirties. In 1938 Germany started its expansion policy by annexing Austria and the sudet-german parts of Czechoslovakia. War was in the air and the Swedish government warned the press not to publish anything that would endanger Sweden capability of maintaining its neutrality and safety. The government reserved its right to cancel newspapers that held
an anti-German position.
This right was seldom used; instead there was a trust in “informal” pressure and the “good judgment” of the editors. In 1940 the Board of Information was established to control information received by the Swedish press. This “informal censorship” turned out to be very effective and the majority of journalists respected the demands of the government.
There were exceptions though. The most important anti-nazi publisher was Torgny Segerstedt at Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning (Gothenburg Trading and Shipping paper). It was feared that his campaigns would bring Sweden in to the war.
The temperance of the Swedish press played an important role in the preparations of the Red Cross rescue action in the final stage of the war. During negotiations between National minister and SScommander Heinrich Himmler’s Folke Bernadotte, Himmler’ demanded that there be complete press silence. He feared that Hitler, if he found out about the concessions, would immediately stop the
Hitler had already stopped the Swiss government trying to release prisoners, since the press had noticed a previous, successful try. Bernadotte could fairly easily agree to the demands. The Swedish press had already demonstrated its silence.
Source: The White Buses. The Swedish Red Cross rescue action in Germany during the Second World War – The Swedish Red Cross, Stockholm, January 2000 /Research: Agneta Greayer and Sonja Sjöstrand/Editing: Martin Wikberg Translation: Annika and Peter Hodgson.
Image: Wounded-Ravensbrück-refugees-are-cared-for-at-Padborg-on-the-Danish-border Photo Credit: Christensen-TagPolfoto