Sweden

Full Name Kingdom of Sweden
Alliance Neutral or Non-Belligerent
Population in 1939 6,341,000

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

Ever since the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden had maintained its neutrality, and it attempted to do so from the onset of WW2. It was able to maintain its neutrality, but it was a difficult process. The first challenge came during the 1939 war between Finland and Russia, where Finland, which shared a bond with Sweden, pleaded for military assistance; 8,000 volunteers crossed the border to help Finland's defense, but the Swedish government officially did not become involved aside from sending food and clothing as humanitarian aid. The next challenge came in Apr 1940 when Germany invaded Norway; Sweden remained neutral, but as both neighbors became involved in war while Germany controlled the Baltic Sea, Sweden was virtually under a blockade and was unable to conduct business with any foreign nations except for Germany. Before the war, 24% of Sweden's exports went to Britain and 18% to Germany. After the German invasion of Denmark and Norway, trade with Britain became impossible as the German Navy blockaded the entrance of the Baltic, and eventually nearly all of the goods formerly destined for Britain went to Germany instead. The most controversial exports to Germany at this time were iron ore and ball bearings, for that they were undoubtedly used for war.

Just as Sweden made efforts to appease Germany, it offered assistance toward the Allies as well. At the start of the war a fleet of merchant marine vessels were leased to Britain. When the German Navy raided British shipping, some of the intelligence British acquired was from the Swedish military. At the very end of the war, Sweden briefly entertained the idea of joining the Allies, but in the end remained neutral; however, Sweden did allow Allied aircraft to use Swedish air bases between 1944 and 1945.

Beginning in 1940, Adolf Hitler pressed hard for Sweden to align itself with Germany. Sweden appeased some of the demands, and even allowed German troops limited use of the Swedish rail system, but refused to openly befriend Germany. As the war went on, pressure came from the Allies as well, for they viewed Sweden as a prime location to launch air raids against Germany.

The government of Sweden pressed hard to keep the difficult neutrality. To deter invasion by either Germany, Britain, or Russia, the Swedish government significantly increased the size of its military. In 1936, the Swedish defense budget was $37 million; by 1939, it had grown to $322 million. It peaked in 1942 at $527 million. Conscription was also activated during WW2. Meanwhile, freedom of press was limited in order to prevent Nazi or communist propaganda from swaying the Swedish population in either direction. Nevertheless, world events could not be kept totally from the population. Just like how some volunteers crossed the border into Finland to fight the Russians, some joined the German military, including membership in the SS. Some volunteers went to Britain, too, to fight for the Allies.

Sweden's war-time policy was not completely controlled by outside factors. For one, it held the initiative if conducting humanitarian missions. During the war, Sweden sheltered over 70,000 Fins and 50,000 Norwegians. It played a role in rescuing victims of the Holocaust, too, saving upwards of 100,000, many of whom Jews, from occupied Europe.

Although neutral in official stance, Sweden swayed back and forth throughout the war and offered assistance to both sides of the conflict. However, the country did remain unchallenged by either side in the conflict, therefore avoiding the war that devastated so many countries during this era. After the war, Sweden offered her industrial base and strong economy to help rebuild Europe.

Source: Wikipedia.

People

Bernadotte, FolkeHansson, Per Albin
Gustaf VWallenberg, Raoul

Weapons

40 mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft GunKg m/40 Machine Gun

Photographs

Prince William, King Gustaf V of Sweden, and Crown Prince Gustaf observing the Games of the V Olympiad, May-Jul 1912Author Pearl Buck receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature from King Gustaf V, Stockholm Concert Hall, Sweden, 10 Dec 1938






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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Anonymous says:
    27 Jan 2009 07:39:37 PM

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  2. A Student says:
    4 Mar 2009 06:51:28 AM

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Prince William, King Gustaf V of Sweden, and Crown Prince Gustaf observing the Games of the V Olympiad, May-Jul 1912
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