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

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.


  1. The first picture = Deutsches Jungvolk and not HJ ?

  2. Deutsches Jungvolk, yes - which was the junior branch of the HJ, I will add that.



  3. I think, Lars, that the roots of this are much deeper. I don't think it has much to do with the military culture promoted in Eastern Europe (was it not also promoted in Central and Western Europe?), but more with severe social problems (unemployment, broken families etc.), general apathy among the population that nothing will get better but only worse, general feeling that everything and everyone is doubling down on them (where was UN with there human rights resolutions during 1945-1990?), lack of order and discipline, lack of basic moral values (you can steal and get away if you know the right people), radicalisation of the political life (did Mrs. Lisa included in her book anything about the anarchists, anti-globalists and other Che Guevara T-shirt wearing groups who in the last decade demolished Prague, Genoa, Seattle and Gothenburg), total collaps of a jurididal state and many other causes. So people go for these unfiromed societies because they feel not only security, discipline, camaraderie but also stability. It is either that or drugs, alcohol and computer. Not so uncommon alternative if we are to judge the behaviour of Swedish youth on the Mediterranean.

    KL., ex-Pioneer :-)

  4. Hi Lars, I have Koehl's book, I found it by chance a few years ago in a bookstore. I particularly like his analysis of how the SS splintered in the last years of the war, as each sub-group aligned itself with the larger equivalent in the German society of the time.

  5. Dear Klemen,
    Thank you for your feedback! Sure, stability is aslo something these people long for. However, I do believe that military culture was promoted more in Eastern Europe. Aside from pioneer movements in several WP-counries there were summer youth camps with uniforms and weapons, school books glorifying the Red Army and the stressing military history, promilitary posters and parades. In Western Europe there were the scouts but they never were affiliated with the military after WWII. Inschools and in the media in West Germany and in many other western countries there was after 1945 not only a lack of propaganda for things military, there was a propaganda against things military in general.