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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Germans & Allies in Sweden

New photos and documents show that Sweden had a higher presence of German AND Allied soldiers than previously known.

The first series of photographs from the most hotly debated WWII incident in Sweden, the transition of a German division through Sweden in 1941. The shooting down of foreign aircraft by the Swedish armed forces - ten German aircraft shot down in 1940 alone. New details and photos of US and British bases in Sweden 1943-45.

These are just some of the ingredients in my new book, Germans and Allies in Sweden. Other highlights are secret prewar weapon projects between Sweden, Germany and the Soviet Union, the truth behind Swedish police reports of SS-werewolves on the Swedish border and something of a U-boat-scoop: Sweden in 1932 trained German submarine officers, of which at least one later sank a Swedish ship - a hitherto unknown example of naval blowback...

As indicated from the cover the book is today only available in Swedish. Here is the official book presentation in Swedish.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Party Soldiers Then & Now

The title translates as "Europe´s Shame". The men on the cover of this brand new Swedish book belong to the Hungarian Guard, one of several new uniformed political movements to appear in Europe in recent years.

The most political soldiers in Swedes at War are those who joined the International Brigades in Spain and those who joined the Waffen-SS during WWII. The majority of these Swedes were members of two political parties. Well, party soldiers are back in Europe.

Of the 540 Swedes on the side of the Spanish Republic 1936-39 about 340 belonged to SKP, the Swedish Communist Party which was the Swedish branch of the Comintern, the Communist International.

Of the 200 Swedes in German WWII service (approx. 180 in the Waffen-SS, 20 in the Wehrmacht) between 120 and 130 were members of SSS, the main Swedish National Socialist party.

In other words, Sweden definately had some party soldiers during the 20th century. In addition, on Swedish territory, there were Red Front fighters, SA-men and Sveaborg-men, affiliated to the same two parties. Although these were not openly armed units they too can certainly be said to have been political soldiers.

Since the 1940´s there have been some attempts by Swedish national socialists and similar groups to create new party soldiers, but all these attempts have been very small-scale, limited and unsuccessful.

Now, if you have not been in Europe for a while you might want to check out this clip from Hungary:

The depicted Hungarian Guard, now known as the Hungarian National Guard, is only one of several uniformed political movements to appear in Central/Eastern Europe in recent years. In contrast to attempts in Western Europe, like the Wehrsportgruppen in West Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, these new groups are more well-organized and vital. The most notable groups are in Hungary, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

Why the more successful revival of the party soldier phenomenon in these countries? My thinking goes something as follows, as I told researcher Lisa Bjurwald, author of the new book Europas skam ("Europe´s Shame"):

1. Apart from serious social problems in these countries they all have a common past of various pioneer movements and state-sponsored military "games" and youth training between 1945 and 1989.

2. In the case of Hungary the military has been radically down-sized, creating a vaccuum.

3. These groups offer cameraderie and a sense of "doing something" for society, protecting/preserving traditions/identity and not least increasing "security".

Here are some photos to illustrate my point about the military culture that was actively promoted in Eastern Europe, in comparison with national socialist youth culture:

Hitlerjugend as depicted in an issue of "Tyska Röster" (German Voices), the largest Swedish-language German magazine in Sweden during WWII. To be precise the boys are Deutsches Jungvolk (DJ), the junior branch of the HJ.

Pioneers in Eastern Europe 1945-1989 basically looked like these ones. The depicted pioneers are 1960s East German.

Rifle training for Hitlerjugend with army instructors. PHOTO: Deutsches Bundesarchiv

Rifle training for East German youth in 1967. The uniforms and Zeltbahns (tent parts) are from the Nationale Volksarmee (National Peolple´s Army). PHOTO: Deutsches Bundesarchiv (Ulrich Kohls)

Although the book Europas skam is far from only about party soldiers like the Hungarian National Guard, I still think it will be of great interest to many with an interest in radical political groups, nationalism, racism and the near future of Europe. So, if you read Swedish - check it out.

Finally a book tip if you are interested to learn more about the party soldiering of the SS. More than often SS-books focus on the field operations of the Waffen-SS. One book that is very different is The SS: A History 1919-1945 by Robert Lewis Koehl.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Swedes Reviewed Again

Swedes at War has been reviewed in Journal of Military History by Professor Kenneth W. Estes of Seattle, with a long career in the United States Marine Corps.

According to Professor Estes the book "[...] provides us with much useful information and many unusual vignettes". He concludes with "The maps, photos, and endnotes prove highly satisfying and support the personal vignettes very well."

The review is not online, otherwise I would have linked to it.

Incidentally a relative of mine from Seattle was so kind to send me some original wartime photos from his grandfather who survived Pearl Harbor 1941 - many of his close friends died. I received these photos as a teenager and thus Pearl Harbor became somehow more real to me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Swedish American El Dorado

El Dorado and Sir Walter Raleigh will be in the news this summer, thanks to a Swedish American author. Here we see Raleigh´s final moment on earth (illustrator unknown).

Yes, I know that I have not yet written the promised piece about Gereon Goldmann. In due time... Right now I just have to mention a coming book that I am very excited about. I happen to know a bit about the real-life adventures behind the making of it.

Hitherto neglected documents in a Swedish archive will this summer lead to El Dorado and Sir Walter Raleigh being in the news. The coming Treasure, Treason and the Tower (July 2011) by Swedish American UCLA-Professor Paul R. Sellin will shake the widely-accepted view of El Dorado raider Sir Walter Raleigh.

Join up with Sir Walter Raleigh and Paul Sellin in the quest for fortune in the jungle!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Narvik 1945 Souvenirs Donated

Those of you who have been following this blog might recall the name of Lennart Engerby, he was one of the two Swedes who visited Narvik as soon as the war was over. Mr. Engerby has decided to donate these souvenirs from Narvik 1945 to the Defence Museum in Boden, Sweden.

Mr. Engerby recalls how he actually found this Iron Cross on the ground, just like that.

The helmet may not seem that special, but if you look inside it...

...the rank and name remains: "Uffz [meaning Unteroffizier] Reisinger". The helmet has been repainted but the name was saved.

The name can also be made out on the leather inside. Not sure what it says before Reisinger, any ideas? Click on the photo to see it larger.

Two bayonets that I have yet to identify. If you are a bayonet collector, please comment and save me some time.

The War Museum in Narvik might seem a more natural choice than Boden, but these items are not exactly missing in Narvik. In addition, these artifacts have a Swedish connection as they were picked up on a 1945 hike that started in Sweden. Also, many hundred thousand German troops passed through Boden on German troop trains during WWII.

Hopefully, information about Unteroffizier (NCO) Reisinger will surface, perhaps through this blog?

First Third Reich Board Game

I found this real 1938 board game from Germany in a temporary exhibition in the Defence Museum in Oslo. Here is some info in English and German about Wehrschach, as the game is called.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

European Volunteers in Vietnam II

Dieter Dengler with a portrait of his father, an NCO in the Wehrmacht.

Last year I wrote about Swedish volunteers in Vietnam and mentioned that the US forces in Nam also had at least one German volunteer: Dieter Dengler. Yesterday I finally saw the movie about his great escape.

I picked up a DVD of "Rescue Dawn", the movie about Dieter Dengler´s escape, here in my local supermarket. Real cheap too. But the movie was not bad at all. In fact, it made an unusually strong impression on me. To sum it up I´d say I found it utterly exciting, most well cast and visually captivating.

I wanted to know more about the reality behind the film and that was how I found the above clip on Youtube. I am puzzled by the omission in the film of the episode with Dengler´s father. But then a number of things did not make it into the movie. That is understandable, a movie cannot portray everything, not even everything important. However, judging by this website, the director may have taken too many liberties and also missed vital points.