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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Nazi Was IKEA's Founder?

A photo of IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad that I took when I met him in 2008.

Today the Swedish media is focusing on the wartime years of IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad. Yesterday evening, secret-stamped Swedish police documents about Kamprad were shown in prime time Swedish TV (SVT) news.

The new documents, found by journalist/author Elisabeth Åsbrink, say that Kamprad was, at least in 1943, a full member (party member number 4014) of the Swedish-Socialist Assembly, in Swedish Svensksocialistisk Samling (SSS), and also active within its youth wing Nordic Youth, Nordisk Ungdom (NU). ADDED 8-31: However, this is not as sensational as it may sound. Ingvar Kamprad in 1998 stated himself that he in his youth probably became a full member of the SSS but that he could not recall when he did this.

There is one English-language book that provides some facts about what kind of party the SSS was. That book is Swedes at War, by yours truly and Lennart Westberg (see the above book cover). Our book describes the character and history of the party in the chapter about Swedes in German WWII uniform, as the majority of the 200 individuals that served in the Waffen-SS or Wehrmacht belonged to the SSS.

Just how Nazi was the SSS? As we state in our book the SSS was without doubt national socialist in character. However, within Nazism there were factions and even opponents to Hitler (or Hitlerism). So, although the SSS was close to the ideology of Hitler and his party (NSDAP), it also made some notable gestures such as dropping National Socialist in its name in 1938, replacing it with Swedish-Socialist (in Swedish a single word: Svensksocialistisk). The same year the party stopped using the swastika, replacing it with a Vasa sheaf (vasakärve). The brown shirts were replaced by blue ones.

Thus Ingvar Kamprad most probably never wore a swastika armband, swastika pin or SA-brown shirt.

The main newspaper of the SSS during WWII was "The Swedish Folk Socialist".

Perhaps more significantly, three members of the SSS movement fought against the Germans when Hitler invaded Norway in 1940. At least one of them also died there, killed in action by a German hand grenade. His name was Karl Lindström and he is also described in Swedes at War. While the German invasion of Norway was taking place these volunteers had the support of their party. BTW, zero Swedes fought for the Germans in Norway 1940.

In addition it can be mentioned that there existed other Nazi groups in Sweden, more radical and closer to the German NSDAP, such as Solkorset, meaning the Sun Cross.

Nevertheless, the SSS remained, also after 1938, basically a national socialist movement. Why was Kamprad attracted by it? Let us bear in mind that Kamprad's father was German and his German grandmother an ardent supporter of Hitler.

Also, let us not forget that during the 20th century no Nazi party won a single seat in the Swedish parliament. The latter fact also became apparent during WWII when only 200 Swedish citizens donned German uniforms - which can be compared with the more than 1,000 Swedish citizens that joined various military units on the Allied side (mostly for Norway). And one ought not to forget the about 8,000 Swedish citizens that served on merchant vessels on the Allied side. ADDED 8-31: Finally, and perhaps most important for today's perception of Ingvar Kamprad, it should be noted that Mr. Kamprad in the 1998 book about his life rejected both nazism, fascism and racism.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Black Sun Mystery in Hamburg

The 2009 version of "Schwarze Sonne" is slightly longer than the earlier editions and includes the DVD with the same title.

The Danish book "Nazimyter" (Nazi Myths) also features the black sun on the cover.

I have learnt some new things about the Third Reich's (especially within the SS) "Nordic" religion, but one of my major questions about the black sun of the SS remains.

Last year I blogged about the facts behind fictional SS units like the SS-division "Schwarze Sonne" and mentioned the best source about the subject IMHO: a book and documentary called Schwarze Sonne by German author & filmmaker Rüdiger Sünner. Well, since last year the book has not yet been translated (the documentary at least has subtitles in English). But I have gotten hold of the expanded version of the book, the 2009 edition, and want to here briefly review it.

The 2009 edition differs from the earlier editions basically in that it contains a 15-page supplement and the DVD, a high-quality documentary with bonus material such as a long interview with the author. Fans and critics of "Iron Sky" will be pleased to learn that the author also writes about that coming Finnish movie in the additional pages.

The new edition has a few more photographs, one of which is quite important and can be seen also on the web. The reason I think it is important is that it represents one of the likely inspirations for the black sun inside the Wewelsburg. However, I believe this artifact (scroll down to the lowest photo) is even more likely to have inspired the Wewelsburg design (count the reversed S-runes).

Alas, Rüdiger Sünner's book has not been translated to English. But if you are Scandinavian there are now some books in our languages on the subject. I will here only cover the first of them to be published, the Danish book Nazimyter ("Nazi Myths") by Dan H. Andersen, that came out in 2007. The book provides much of the same insights that The Master Plan and Schwarze Sonne provide but also has some interesting finds and observations that I believe are new. I found three of the photos in Nazimyter extra interesting as they perfectly illustrate how far the craze for runes went in Third Reich schools and in the Wewelsburg.

Although I recommend both books for many reasons I must also say that neither of them provided me with more information about the second known black sun depicted during the Third Reich, the one under the Bismarck monument in Hamburg, which is not identical with the Wewelsburg black sun, only similar to it. Thus I am still asking why there of all places, and who put it there?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Polish-German Battle on Aksla

On Aksla outside Narvik you can really see "the hand of history". Guess it is impossible to tell if this glove was worn by a German or a Pole? PHOTO: Oyvind Johnsen (and all below photos)

My friend and colleague Oyvind Johnsen in Narvik was kind enough to send me the below photos from a hike to Aksla on Saturday, August 20th. Johnsen is the author of Slaget om Narvik, Sydfronten, which I would translate as The Battle of Narvik: Southern Sector. It sure deserves to be translated not least for the many hike tips.

As can be seen from the below photos this site of a small Polish-German battle still has some German hand grenades (do not touch them) lying about and pieces of clothing like e.g. a life vest presumably from the "Gebirgsmarine" (perhaps it helped someone poorly dressed keep a bit warmer?).

Narvik WWII historian and author Oyvind Johnsen on Aksla.

There were 22 participants on the Saturday hike, among them one Polish visitor who perhaps was the first Pole up there since 1940. My friend Oyvind held a little lecture to the hikers at about 1000 metres. Wish I had been up there too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Unknown Arctic Airfield Discovered

By the just discovered airstrip. The petrol barrel is marked Shell. In the background the magnificent "Lapponian Gate". PHOTO: Björn Lundquist

Could this discovery be linked to the WWII Allied "Kari" or "Sepals" bases in northern Sweden? Or is it something to do with the early Cold War? Well, what seems pretty clear is that Björn Lundquist has photographed a previously undocumented airfield in a strategic area.

After a tip, Björn Lundquist of Kiruna, former commander of both northern Swedish ranger regiments, decided to check out an area between Abisko and Stordalen, places that are not that far from Norwegian Narvik.

What Björn Lundquist has just photographed resembles a simpler WWII or 1950s airfield. According to Lundquist's measurements it is 300 x 40 metres. He also found what seem to be field side markings and a field stop and the remains of a building.

No known Swedish military records have any indication of an airfield where the discovery was made.

Suggestions and other comments are very welcome.

Thank you, Björn, for letting me be first to publish this discovery and I hope some readers here can provide some clues or even unravel the facts behind these remains.

The remains of a building by the airfield. PHOTO: Björn Lundquist

Monday, August 15, 2011

Aviator of Disney Fame in Sweden

Victory Through Airpower Trailer 1943

One of the things I was most amazed about to discover when researching for Germans and Allies in Sweden was that one of the most influential personalities of the USAAF visited Sweden both before and during WWII. His name was Alexander de Seversky.

In my book I mention Seversky's bestselling book and the Disney film with the same name, Victory Through Airpower. Well, above is a 1943 trailer promoting both his book and film.

Friday, August 12, 2011

News From El Dorado

Here is a showcase example of how to start telling a story. I will quote from the new book by Paul R. Sellin Treasure, Treason and the Tower, that I received some minutes ago:

"A sharp medicine," said the last of the great Elizabethan heroes as he tested the edge of the headman's axe before laying his head on the block.

Now, that is what I call a head start.

I sure look forward to continue reading this study that I reckon will change the perception of both El Dorado and Sir Walter Raleigh, thanks to a remarkable discovery in a Swedish archive.

BTW, speaking about new facts, in case you have not seen the latest news about Raoul Wallenberg, read this and then this.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Small War in Moscow

Trailer for "Newsmakers"/"Polisstyrka X7".

"Newsmakers", a Russian-Swedish remake of the Hong Kong action film "Breaking News", has been released in Sweden as "Polisstyrka X7". Although the basic subject is crime the film is also about information warfare and therefore deserves some extra attention, like on this blog.

Also, the guys fighting the villians are not only the Russian militia (nowadays the Russian police) but also OMON (black berets) and other paramilitary units.

It is weird that a partly Swedish film that was shown in Russia in 2009 only should reach the Swedish audience two years later, directly to DVD. Still, the basic idea about the media version of a conflict being (considered) more important than the events themselves is probably more 2011 than 2009. The media-focused Oslo mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik has made the idea painfully relevant.

It would be a strong understatement to call this remake action packed. The problem with the film is that it has so much action - performed and filmed way better than in most Swedish films - that the highly interesting plot and three great main characters simply drown in all the bloody action. The high quality of the many (too many) action scenes I reckon is mostly due to its director, Anders Banke. Yep, the director of the SS Vampire movie "Frostbite".

Thus I am not able to generally recommend this movie, called "Newsmakers" in all western countries except Sweden (here it is "Polisstyrka X7"). But if you are a (former) Muscovite or have a strong interest in action movies or information warfare... well, then you might still want to see this movie. Another reason could be to simply watch the actor Andrey Merzlikin. IMHO he does not have to say a word to be brilliant. Yes, he is that soldier in "The Brest Fortress".

The Mysterious Pilot in Älvsbyn

This large-scale model of a "Mystery Ship" is exhibited in the Petrol Museum of Älvsbyn in Swedish Lapland.

One of the most motor nostalgia-filled museums I've ever seen is the Petrol Museum (in Swedish: Bensinmuseum) of Älvsbyn. The museum is small but well worth the visit if you are in northernmost Sweden. Military items are very few but there is a great model of a plane flown by Frank Hawks.

Hawks, famous from the movie serial "The Mysterious Pilot", was a WWI aviator who started breaking air records. In my opinion his "Mystery Ship" aircraft also known as "Texaco 13" is one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built. So, just to be able to see the large-scale (I reckon scale 1:10) model of his plane was a treat in itself.

The Petrol Museum of Älvsbyn has thousands of items related to old gas stations, I reckon most are from the 1930s to 1960s. Aside from these smaller items I also greatly appreciated the car wrecks outside, here are two of them: