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Historisk tidskrift 125:4 • 2005

Innehåll (Contents) 2005:4

Uppsatser (Articles)

Alkibiades eller Akilles? Ariseringen i Sverige och reaktionerna på denna

Sven Nordlund

Fulltext (pdf)


Alcibiades or Achilles? Aryanisation in Sweden and its Responses

Although a non-participant in the Second World War Sweden still experienced the policy of Aryanisation. Thousands of Swedish firms and businessmen, Jewish and non-Jewish, were asked about their ”racial origin” and were registered by the Germans. In many cases they were threatened with different kinds of reprisals and some were boycotted. These measures were intensified during the period 1938–1942. The reactions to the Aryanisation policies in Sweden were those of a silent and passive bystander, especially during the years 1939–1942. Only once did the Swedish authorities speak up when in December 1938 foreign minister Rikard Sandler openly criticised German Aryanisation measures in Sweden. Aryanisation demands and measures continued, however, and escalated in 1941 in a most spectacular way. In this year, German firms and authorities demanded of their Swedish commercial contacts that they sign an agreement to help create a Europe without Jews by giving up all contacts with Swedish-Jewish firms and entrepreneurs. Should they not comply they would not be allowed to trade with Germany. Neither in this case nor in the case of other Aryanisation measures did Swedish authorities, public opinion or business organisations officially protest against German demands. It is possible that this behaviour expressed fear of German reprisals or of the Aryanisation measures. There was however, a secret report by the Swedish Board of Trade from early 1939 regarding the Aryanisation policies and its consequences which proves that the government and business organisations were concerned. The report showed that businessmen and their organisations were uneasy about Aryanisation and did not support the Nazi racist policy against Swedish Jews. The report didn’t, however, lead to any official protests. Naturally there are many explanations for the Swedish silence about Aryanisation, such as anti-Semitism in certain circles of the administration and business community or simply indifference. The public report of 1939 shows that Swedish pre-war companies were not willing to openly criticise and protest against Aryanisation since this could jeopardise important commercial relations with Germany. It also demonstrates that businessesmen had little interest in the consequences of Aryanisation for Swedish Jews. The image of Sweden as a totally passive bystander should be modified, however. Sweden’s stance can be described as that of active silence. There was passive resistance to the German demands among many Swedish firms and businessmen that the Germans could not neglect. The Germans had to accept this for commercial reasons. The existence of this passive resistance may explain why German official representatives in Sweden in 1941 gave the advice to the authorities in Berlin that Aryanisation in Sweden could wait until the war was over.