World War II: Sweden--Neutrality

Swedish neutrality
Figure 1.--Sweden was one of the few uropeans countries that was able to keep out of World War II. Part of the reason was tht like Switzdrland. it would have been costly to invade and the Swedes were willing to provide what the Germans most wanted--iron ore. This Stockholm boy wants to join the military parade. The wire service photo caption read, "Hey pop! Wait for me.: This Stockholm youngster probably exclaims in Swedish 'Hey pop, wait for me as he runs ahead of his mother while his dad msrches by on parade." The photograph was dated June 19, 1941. Three days later the Germans launched the largest military campaign in history--Operation Barbarossa. Ironically it may have saved Sweden. The Germans were so focussed on the Ostkrieg that all they wanted was in Sweden was no disruption of the iron ore shipments.

Like many countries, Sweden after Germany invaded Poland proclaimed its neutrality (September 1939). Sweden remained neutral in World War I and hoped to do so again after World war II broke out in Europe. Unlike World War I, there was little sympthy for the Germans in Sweden during World War II. Sweden until the Napoleonic Era had been a major European power. By the 20th century, Scandinavian attitudes had changed. The population had increasingly adopted a more pascifistic outlook with muted national outlooks than was the case in much of the rest of Europe. In the end no military action took place on Swedish soil, but this does not mean that Sweden was not affected by the War and played a part in it. There was military action all around Sweden. Both the Germans and Soviets invaded Poland to the south (September 1939). The Soviets attacked Finland to the east in what became known as the Winter war (November 1939). The Germans attacked Denmark and Norway to the east (April 1940). The Soviers completed their tke over of thge Baltic states (Estonia, Lativia, and Lithusnis) (July 1940). The Swedes braced for a German attack, but it never came. And the Finns joined the Germans in Babarossa (June 1941). This left Sweden completely surronded. Sweden was vital to the German war effort. It was their major supplier of iron ore, mich of it shipped through the Norwegian port of Narvik. As thge Swedes continued to supply the iron ore, Hitler apparently decided an invasion was not necessary. And the Swedes made concessions to apease Hitler. This and the iron ore shipments meant that Sweden was not strictly neutral. Sweden declared itself to be 'non-belligerent' in the Winter War which is not the same as neutral. The Swedes aided Finland economically and with som armaments. Sweden and Finland jointly laid minefields in the Sea of Åland to prevent Soviet submarines from entering the Gulf of Bothnia. The Swedes were also not strictly neutral in dealing with the Germans. This was most flagarantly the case during Barbarossa. Sweden permitted the Germans to transport the 163rd Infantry Division and its equipment from Norway to Finland on the Sedish railwy system (June–July 1941). German soldiers in Norway were allowed to pass through Sweden for homeleave in Germany-- permittenttrafik. At the same time the Swedish military passed intelligence to the British. And the Swedes not only gave refuge to individuals escaping the German occupation, but provided military training to them.

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Created: 9:55 AM 11/24/2011
Last updated: 9:55 AM 11/24/2011