Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 8, 2014

How Stieg Larsson exposed Swedish Nazis

Filed under: Fascism,Sweden — louisproyect @ 11:32 pm

From “Stieg Larsson: the Real Story of the Man Who Played With Fire” by Jan-Erik Petterson. Petterson devotes most of the book to showing how Larsson took considerable risks to uncover such developments as these:

One feature of the extreme Right in Sweden is that, despite the weakness of its popular support, it is remarkably well represented among the elite and ruling classes: among scientists, academics and high-ranking military officers. It was not just theorists like Kjellen and Molin who were in the vanguard in formulating ideas which then became prevalent in the Third Reich. Herman Lundborg, the world’s first professor of eugenics, was part of the trend as early as 1910, and founded the Swedish Society for Racial Hygiene. A decade later he managed to get more or less the entire Establishment behind him when he set up a Swedish racial research institute.

The National Eugenics Institute opened in 1921, with Lundborg at its head, and became well known for its large-scale field-research projects on the Swedish people. He and his colleagues travelled all over the country, photographing, measuring and making notes. The subjects of this research, seeing no harm in it, were allocated to racial groups on the basis of their physical constitution, skin colour, hair colour, shape of cranium, cranial circumference and so on. And there were few who doubted its scientific validity. On the strength of his findings, Lundborg pursued a vigorous campaign for an active population policy, including compulsory sterilization of undesirables, such as Lapps, Gypsies and vagrants. If this were not implemented, the fusion of the races would escalate and culture would fall into decline: `Sexual urges would intensify, immorality, hedonism, vice and crime break out and leave their mark on society. Sooner or later it would lead to discord, dissent, riot and revolution’ (according to an article in Svensk Tidskrift in 1921).

One reason for the rapid and widespread support for Lundborg’s theories was that there had been a deep-seated belief since the mid-nineteenth century that the Germanic peoples of northern Europe were related and that Sweden was their original home. So when the Nazis stepped forward and began talking of restoring the honour of the German nation and defending the Nordic race, many Swedes were willing to listen. And these were not so much Swedish Nazi party members as influential individuals in politics, the civil service, the business world, the military, the police, even the royal family. Some of the greatest admirers of Germany before and during the Second World War were to be found in the Swedish military. When Hitler celebrated his fiftieth birthday in the spring of 1939, he was congratulated by a Swedish delegation of high-ranking officers led by the future supreme commander Olof Thornell. They were accompanied by the openly Nazi Carl Ernfrid Carlberg and Henri de Champs as representatives of the Manhem Society (a patriotic Scandinavian association named after Olaus Rudbeck’s seventeenth-century book of Gothicist speculations) and the Swedish-German Association, who also presented Hitler with a gift, a statuette of Charles XII, which he is said to have much appreciated.

In the initial phase of the war the Swedish coalition government adopted a far-reaching policy of acceding to German demands, with increased exports of iron ore, the transit of troops by rail and sea, and censorship of any Swedish newspapers which criticized Germany.

Things did not go so well, however, for the official Nazi parties. Generals and colonels would never dream of subordinating themselves to Warrant Officer Lindholm, not even under a German occupation. And the nation it was the intention to unite was not very interested in the constant bickering among the Nazi parties themselves. But there was a common pool of historical ideas and attitudes from which groups and individuals drew their inspiration and which made some hold fast to their fundamental credo — aggressive nationalism, racism, the belief that elites should rule — while other friends of Germany took down their portraits of Hitler and enrolled for correspondence courses in English.


  1. I remember years ago being shocked when I read Ingmar Bergman’s autobiography *The Magic Lantern*. Bergman pointed out that sympathy for Nazi Germany was widespread in the milieu in which he grew up. Some of his school teachers were openly sympathetic to the “new Germany.” One teacher used to spend his summers attending officers� meetings in Bavaria. Bergman�s brother (who later on entered the diplomatic corps) was an organizer for the Swedish National Socialists. Ingmar himself at the age of 16 went to Germany as an exchange student. Since, he was a pastor’s son, he was paired with a German boy who was also a pastor’s son. This German pastor was an ardent Nazi who was as prone to use texts from *Mein Kampf* for his Sunday sermons as he was the Gospels. As an exchange student young Ingmar became an enthusiast for Hitler’s regime. Bergman reported that his infatuation with Nazism lasted until after the end of WW II when finally the evidence of what the Nazis did to the Jews and others had become so strong as to become undeniable. However, in the meantime Ingmar’s family had become close to the German family that he had boarded with. His sister became engaged to the German student that Ingmar had been paired with. He became a pilot in the Luftwaffe and was shot down and killed at the beginning of WW II.

    I would also add that reading Bergman’s memoir seemed to me to shed new light on some of his best known films. I cannot avoid feeling, for example, that his film, The Seventh Seal, about the knight, Antoninus Block, who returns home to Sweden from the Crusades, thoroughly disillusioned, was reflective of Bergman’s own experience of becoming disillusioned with National Socialism and the Third Reich when they were defeated and Bergman became aware of how evil they were.

    Comment by Jim Farmelant — September 9, 2014 @ 3:44 pm

  2. Stieg Larsson was not a neo-Nazi as his picture above this excerpt of a book about him might suggest to the uninitiate, but an opponent of the Nazi and neo-Nazi currents in Sweden. This may be obvious to those in the know, but might not be to someone unfamiliar with Larsson. ’nuff said.

    Comment by Susan Barton — September 10, 2014 @ 4:44 pm

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