Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mats Deland’s New Book Deals with Sweden’s Betrayal of the Jews.

In a new book written by Mats Deland called “Purgatorium – Sverige och andra världskrigets krigsförbrytare” (Purgatory: Sweden and World War II War Criminals) the author unearths many controversial topics and facts about the Swedish state’s reluctance to try Baltic war criminals that came to Sweden after WWII. While almost 70 years have passed since the end of the war, many mysteries are still unsolved and many questions are still unanswered—which makes this book highly important and relevant.

After the Second Wold War, Sweden became an important sanctuary for Baltic war criminals that were able to escape trials under Swedish jurisdiction. The book was reviewed in the Swedish daily Aftonbladet, which cites that these war criminals;
 “were responsible for crimes such as contributing to the elimination of the Jewish population in Latvia and Lithuania. In Lithuania alone, it is expected that some 130,000 Jews were murdered; in Latvia some 70,000; and in Estonia some 1,000 people were killed, including a number of gypsies and Russian civilians.”

The Swedish daily Expressen in its review points out that Deland makes it clear in his book that Sweden completely avoided the issue of war criminals residing in the country. It was not only the Swedish state but also the Swedish intelligence agencies who ignored the facts and, in fact, took advantage of some individuals who had excellent networks from back home.

Furthermore, Svenska Dagbladet notes that Deland has based his book on real, hard factual studies from a research project within the framework of the “Svenazprogram” dealing with Sweden’s relationship to Nazism. Deland is also connected to the historical institution in Uppsala (historisk-filiosofiska fakulteten) and has a history in dealing with right-wing extremism in Sweden. He has published previous works concerning war criminals in the country such as for example the anthology “Brunt!” which deals with right-wing extremists in Sweden and the world. He has also written in the Swedish Daily Aftonbladet about the trouble he has faced when getting access to the Swedish Secret police.

His latest book is divided into two parts. The first deals with the crimes committed in Latvia during the war and war criminals that were effectively sheltered in Sweden. The second section concerns international efforts to deal with WWII war criminals, and compares these efforts to how Sweden has deal with the situation.

The book contains very descriptive material of the violence the Jews were subjected to; Deland included this material to force Swedes to understand what took place—and to arouse interest. Svenska Dagbladet also comments on Sweden’s prior lack of interest: “This is partly what the book is about-- Sweden’s lack of interest in bringing to trial the criminals that ended up in our country- it boils down to our lack of understanding of the horrors that took place.”

This is also why this book is so relevant.

An interesting acknowledgement is made in Aftonbladet; “by bringing this sensitive subject to the forefront, Deland’s new book, brings down the false image that Sweden portrays of itself.”

Sweden is today seen as a strong upholder of international rights as well as a worthy humanitarian model.  Therefore, it is not surprising that many are unaware of the historical facts. As documented in the chapter written by Efraim Zuroff  in the book “Behind the Humanitarian Mask” (edited by Manfred Gerstenfeld):

On 18 November 1986, the Simon Wiesenthal Center submitted a list
of twelve suspected Latvian and Estonian Nazi war criminals who the Center had reason to believe were residing in Sweden.  In an accompanying letter to Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson, the Swedish government was asked to
fully investigate these individuals and the overall question of how many Nazi
war criminals may have made their way to Sweden after World War II.

Efraim Zuroff continues this line of inquiry in his essay in the book Behind the Humanitarian Mask that:

“A careful reading of the report prepared for the government by the three undersecretaries for legal affairs affords interesting insights into the basis for the refusal of the Swedish government to take action against Nazi war criminals. And in fact, it reveals Swedish officials who are oblivious to the trials of Nazi war criminals being held elsewhere in the world, ignorant of the history of the Holocaust in the Baltics, and basically dismissive of the moral significance of the prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators. Thus, for example, they consider the prospect of being able to conduct a “meaningful” trial of the suspects “unlikely”even though they openly admit that they were unable to verify the accuracy of the allegations against the suspects.”

As a consequence of Zuroff’s findings, it is therefore not surprising to find that:

“In a letter dated from 12 February 1987, the Swedish prime minister at the time Ingvar Carlsson also informed “that the government had decided that day at its cabinet meeting not to take any action in response to the Wiesenthal Center’s request, primarily because of the existence in Sweden since 1926 of a statute of limitations of twenty-five years on the prosecution of the crimes alleged.”

Today the question does not concern prosecution but rather about creating clarity. As noted in Svenska Dagbladet: “There is still a need for the Swedes to understand the wrongs conducted at the end of WWII so that future generations will be able to live in a country which is not weighed down by unsolved problems from the past. Sweden therefore needs to assume its share of responsibility.”


  1. History repeats itself. Sweden is betraying the Jews today as well.

  2. Thanks for a good post on my book. However, the illustration that you have chosen portrays Swedish police deporting German soldiers to the Soviet Union after the war, and hardly has any relation to my book.
    all the best
    Mats Deland