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

Thursday, July 21, 2011

From Wehrwolfs to U-boats

In September 1945 the Karesuando police raised the alarm about German guerilla bands. The Karesuando police station was also central to Norwegian police troops, the monument is for them.

My 2011 Arctic summer research trip started with Wehrwolfs and ended with U-boats. Great company, finds and superb weather made it another very memorable tour.

The first week of July two friends and I drove up to the point where Sweden, Finland and Norway converge. In Swedish we call the place Treriksröset, which translates as Three Realms Cairn.

Our first stop was in Karesuando, i.e. just before Finland. Karesuando is Sweden's northernmost town but not only has a frontier shop that boasts "We have everything, almost", it even has an Asian Restaurant that serves good reindeer dishes.

It was in Karesuando, in the old police building called "The White House" and seen above, that the local head of police raised the alarm about "German werewolves" on the Swedish border in a report dated the 15th of September 1945. This report would seem to be verified by a report from the Swedish defence attache in Oslo, written some weeks before the Karesuando police report. Also Swedish newspaper reports from the time seem to support the existence of German guerilla or werewolf groups, in German Werwolf and also Wehrwolf (the latter being Third Reich spelling, wehr means defence).

A German staff car in a stream, still there in 2011, in the area of the reported werewolf activity. Some Wehrmacht dunkelgelb paint still remains on it. I believe it is an Opel Olympia but not at all sure from which year. Any suggestions?

Now, there definitely were groups of German SS-Wehrwolfs operating in Arctic Norway, under the project name Silberfuchs. The last group turned themselves in on May 19, 1945. But these groups operated around Kirkenes, not around the Three Realms Cairn.

Not least thanks to research by my friend Simon Orchard (whose knowledge about German units in Arctic Norway is just amazing), I was able to pretty much prove that the "werewolves" by the Three Realms Cairn were basically German soldiers hunting reindeer. A few may have been escapees from a feared future in Soviet captivity, but that did not make them into werewolves.

I have written about this theme in my latest book in Swedish, that I have described in English in this previous post. In a future book in English I will write even more about this and hopefully also provide some photos from the last and very real Arctic werewolf operations, i.e. around Kirkenes.

In one of the valleys of the German Lyngen line in Norway we befriended this local who showed us his WWII skis from Murmansk. He still uses them, but only once or twice a year.

Speaking about the Kirkenes area, we were shown a pair of skis with an amazing background, in one of the most isolated valleys of the German Lyngen line in Norway. These US Army skis were manufactured in Pennsylvania during WWII and sent via some convoy to Soviet Murmansk. Then, through Soviet or Norwegian troops coming from Murmansk to Kirkenes, the skis eventually reached our new friend.

Might the Allen company in Pennsylvania still be in business? Then please send me some money for this advertisement...

Naturally, we also visited the Troms Defence Museum in Setermoen, although I have been there something like a dozen times before. But it is always good to see and has some new finds too, this year e.g. two German (Czech-made) tank turrets that had been used on top of bunkers of the Atlantic Wall.

I was once a tank commander, but not in one of these, the Germans called them Panzerkampfwagen 38(t). BTW I am wearing a surplus Norwegian army shirt bought for almost nothing but it is one of the best shirts you can find.

On the final day we realized that the Arctic u-boat base we had heard of has more remains than we had anticipated. As we only had just enough time to drive there and take a few photos I will end this report with a teaser photo. More about this base next year or perhaps I will save it all for my coming book in English...

The perfect location for a u-boat base. I would say that this fjord is the most "Tolkienesque" I have visited so far. To fully appreciate this one, see it in slightly larger size by clicking on the image.

Thank you guys, and see you next year!

I forgot to mention that after Karesuando we revisited the "Sturmbockstellung" with its modern museum. Always worth seeing if you are in the area, especially when the museum is open.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

SS Ahnenerbe and Sweden

Herman Wirth, the first leader of the SS organization Ahnenerbe, spoke at this medical society in Stockholm in 1935. I recently wrote the first detailed article about this visit.

In late June I decided to relax with some fiction, but I found it hard to treat the book in question as fiction when I realized how much it was about a dimension of the SS that I have a special interest in, and recently wrote about, the Ahnenerbe.

Since I wrote my blog post SS-Division "Schwarze Sonne" I have written an article about some previously unknown details about a lecture in Stockholm by Ahnenerbe leader Herman Wirth. The visit has not been unknown, already back then in 1935 papers wrote about it, but several details were until this summer unknown. Thanks to a recent Norwegian book, Jakten på Germania (The Hunt for Germania), and some research of my own e.g. in the Royal Library in Stockholm, I was able to write that piece, alas yet only in Swedish.

I reckon I may eventually write a proper article about the Stockholm lecture in English too, but I can immediately divulge that the lecture by Wirth was presented by the Manhem Society, a kind of club for both Swedish ultranationalists and national socialists. However, the locale of the meeting is pretty surprising, the main office of the Swedish Society of Medicine - in the very city centre.

Although Wirth's Stockholm speech is missing in Heather Pringle's Ahnenerbe book The Master Plan there are more Swedish aspects in that book that to my mind by now should have caught the attention of Swedish thriller writers. Thus I was a bit disappointed by the new and very hyped novel Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin, a Swedish journalist and now also author.

Jan Wallentin has chosen to make up a drama largely taking place in Sweden. A drama largely connected to the Ahnenerbe, but Wallentin has made very little use of the real Swedish aspects of the Ahnenerbe. This confounds me.

Strindberg's Star has some good qualities, I would say that the diving scenes that the book starts with are simply brilliant thriller writing. I also like the way that Wallentin almost plausibly connects Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition of 1897 with WWI and the "black sun" of the SS.

I think it is no wonder that the book has already been translated into several languages, e.g. German (not yet English AFAIK). Here is a video in German presenting the basic plot of the book:

Sadly, IMHO the author overdid things, mainly by moving away from the realism of the first parts into some kind of new age fantasy of his own. I mean, the novel already had enough esoteric stuff on the pages about the really existing Karl Maria Wiligut and the Ahnenerbe.

Jan Wallentin has a really good point though, about the only known real black sun, the one in the Wewelsburg. Why on earth is so little known about why this symbol was chosen for such a significant spot within the Wewelsburg? Wallentin provides an answer to this riddle but can not be in earnest. His reply is just pure fiction. But why no other black suns before 1946? That is, aside from the one under the Bismarck monument in Hamburg, which is not identical with the Wewelsburg black sun, only similar to it. BTW why the black sun under the Bismarck monument? And who put it there?

Speaking about Nils Strindberg's star I might add that his relative August Strindberg did have a very strong relationship to a symbol, but it was not a star. His tombstone reads "O Crux Ave Spes Unica" (O Cross, Be Greeted, Our Only Hope).

There is another modern novel focused on the Black Sun of the SS. The title is simply The Black Sun and it was written some years ago by James Twining. I read it with some satisfaction but must confess that I do not recall much of the plot.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Band of Bruders"?!

In "Band of Brothers," there is a scene where one of the paratroopers is passing a group of German POW's and shouts to them "Where are you from boys?!" And one of the POW's responds in perfect English "I'm from Eugene, Oregon." What the...what's an American doing in the German Army?

Well, guess what, a fan of the famous TV series has made a small but impressive film about one of the Americans in the German Army: Fred Treiber (1922-2008). The name of the production is "Project Edelweiss". May I humbly suggest another name, half in jest: "Band of Bruders" ;-)

Fred Treiber was assigned to the Gebirgsjägers (mountain troops) and ended up fighting in the Caucasus. But the above scenes take place during a Gebirgsjäger training climb in the alps.

I don't understand if there is more coming, I would like to know more about Mr. Treiber, like if he returned to the US after the war and if he during the war perhaps also served in Scandinavia? Here is a longer version of the film and here a slide show of the same hike. Still, I hope a yet longer one with more info about Mr. Treiber will be made. Perhaps the film's director, Patrick Kiser, might read this and could inform some more? Well done, Mr. Kiser, hope to see some more films from your camera.

As I have stated earlier, these kind of films both impress me and make me a bit worried, not least as they are getting so similar to the wartime newsreels that some viewers, especially in the future, may take them for the real thing, clips from the German Wochenschau.