World War II: Sweden--German Policy

Swedish Boy Scouts World war II
Figure 1.--This American press photo was captioned, "Swedish Boy Scoutsd Pepare: Stockholm, Sweden .... Steel-helmeted and carrying their gas masks in cases worn havesack fashion, Swedish boy scouts are shown undergoing ambulance drill in Stockhol, where anti-air raid percautions now arte the order of the day. The boys are carrying a 'wounded' comrade to a dressing station." The photograph is undated, but was probably taken in late-1939 or 1940. The Swedes were neutral, but had every reason to excpect bombing raids. Poland had been heavily bombed by the Germans (September 1939). The Russians had bombed Finnish cities (December 1939). And the Germans invaded neigboring Denmark and Norway which were also neutral (April 1940). The photograph was probably taken in 1939 or 40, because at the beginning of the War, it was expected that the Germans would use poison gas in their air raids. Training boys this age and equipping them with helmets shows just how serious the Swedes were.

When the NAZIs invaded Denmark and Norway (April 1940), it was widely expected that Sweden would be next. Many Swedes assumed this. We do not know to what extent Hitler considered invading Sweden and what disuaded him from doing so. Switzerland was in a similar position. Hitler apparently concluded that Sweden would prove more useful as a neutral country. Hitler and the NAZIS had a racial world view. They hated the Poles and Russians because they were Slavs, explaining his invasion of those countries and the methods used in the ensuing occupaion, both out of racial hatred and the desire to seize their land and resources. The invasion of Denmark and Norway was different. Here for racial reasons Hitler and his associates admired the people of both countries who were even more Nordic than the Germans. Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich outlined to his colleagues in Prage a programtic outlook for the NAZI New Order. He described countries the Denmark, Flanders, the Netherlands, Norway, and Swesen) which were inhabited by "Germanic men" who had "our blood and character" that would in the future be incorporated or associated with Germany. He then contrasted this view with NAZI plans for the Slavic East (October 1941). [Karny, Milotova, and Karna, pp.110-15.] Himmler, Hitler, and other leasding NAZIs had similar views. The invasion here was primarily because the Allies were prepared to mine Norwegian harbors which would have cut Germany off Swedish iron ore shipmentsd through Norway as well as impaired the ability of the U-boats to reach the Atlantic. There was no real military imparaive to invade Sweden as the Swedes were willing to supply German with essential war materials--especially the all important iron ore. And the Swedes like the Swiss were prepsared to fight. Invading Sweden would have diverted resources from Barbarossawhich Hitler by late 1940 was devoting his attention. And of course after his expected quick success in the Soviet Union, the Swedes, Swiss and Spanish would have no choice but to comply with his orders, making invasion unecesssary. Invading Sweden would not have improved dispositions for Bsrbarossa and would have complicaed relastions with Finnland who were participating in Barbarossa.


Karny, M. J. Milotova, and M. Karna. eds. Deutsche Politik im'Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren' unter Reinhard Heydrich, 1941-1942: Eine Dokumentation (Berlin 1997).


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Created: 8:13 AM 7/18/2009
Last updated: 8:13 AM 7/18/2009