Sweden’s post-war strategy

Germany’s luck started turning in the summer of 1942. It became more apparent that the allied forces were stronger, and after allied victories at Stalingrad and El Alamein, it was seemed that the Nazis could loose the war. By the beginning of 1943 the Swedish government saw the need to start planning its post-war strategy.

Foreign policy was focused on creating a counter weight to the traditional friendly relationship Sweden had maintained with Germany and instead build firmer bonds with the Western Powers and the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile Germany had increased its prosecution of the Jews and started applying the so-called “Final solution”. Hitler built annihilation camps to which Jews and other “threats to the Arian race” where transported to be executed. In Norway Jews and members of the resistance were deported to camps in Germany and Poland.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry warned Germany that relations between the two countries would be affected if this continued. The warning had no immediate effect, and half of Norway’s Jews were brought to Poland. Sweden then offered to take Norway’s remaining Jews, around 700, and intern them in Sweden.

Germany refused this offer too, so Sweden allowed the Norwegians to cross the border and gave them asylum.

In August 1943 the Nazis proclaimed a state of emergency in Denmark and announced that they would begin applying “the final solution” there too. Sweden opened its borders for the Danish Jews, as she had before for the Norwegians. Ninety five percent of them, about 7 300 Jews, and many members of the resistance managed to escape to Sweden.

The change in Swedish foreign policy was apparent. Relations with the neighboring Scandinavian countries improved considerably and Sweden became a place of refuge for Danish members of resistance. As a sign of Sweden’s willingness to help Norway the Norwegian minister Niels Ditleff was accredited in Stockholm on December 15, 1943. Ditleff would later become a key person in the White Bus rescue action.

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