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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

More Swedish Citizens Have Died For Jihad Than For Hitler

Our new book "Swedes at War 1945-2015" is the first history of the post-WWII volunteers from Sweden in foreign units.

At the end of 2015 I am pondering the fact that since our book Swedes at War 1945-2015 was published this fall yet more Swedish citizens have died for jihad and the latest statistics from Sweden´s security agency Säkerhetspolisen mean that more Swedish citizens have now died for jihad than for Hitler.

As Lennart Westberg and I wrote in our previous and also translated book, 28 Swedes died in the service of Hitler´s Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht (26 in the W-SS + 2 in the Wehrmacht). In late 2015 it became known that about 40 Swedish citizens have died in various groups fighting for jihad in either Syria or Iraq. However, if one looks back at the very first Swedes who died for jihad in different states (not just in Syria and Iraq), as we do in our new book, the total figure today is no doubt above 40. Because already in 1993 Mikael Glinka from Stockholm died for the sake of jihad in Bosnia. In the 1990s there were also Swedish citizens who died in combat in e.g. Chechnya.

So, as 2015 moves fully into history, I wonder why my state and society has been so slow to pick up the implications of jihad. Well, not only jihad, but challenges to our security in general. How was it possible that we scrapped most of our security thinking and military and civil defence capability? To end this last blog post of the year with something positive I could of course add that the current Swedish government in late 2015 decided to bring back Swedish "total defence" planning in some way. But the very late hour and lack of extra funding also weigh heavily.

If you are wondering how many Swedish citizens died against Hitler - well, there is no exact figure but it is clear that many more died against than for. In the various Allied convoys (to Liverpool, Murmansk etc) some 900 Swedish seamen died. In addition there were Swedish citizens in US, British, French, Norwegian etc army, navy & air units and approx a hundred were killed in action. For more about the Swedes on the Allied side I again refer to our previous book Swedes at War 1914-1945, also available in English.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Wehrmacht and SS in Finnish Lapland

A German WWII sign post in Lapland has been recreated.

The exhibition "Wir Waren Freunde" i.e. "we were friends" in Arktikum in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland tells the story of the German military in Lapland during WWII in a new way. See it before it closes on Jan 10, 2016.

While not a large exhibition and with few objects it is still worth seeing, particularly if you already have a special interest in the Germans in the Arctic. It provides a great deal of new information, also in English, about the German military in and around Rovaniemi, making clear how much the German presence meant for the local economy. The local authorities even called the labour market in Lapland during the war years 1941-44 "the time of Babel". However, as the exhibition correctly points out, not only Finns worked in the machinery that kept the German military in Lapland functioning but also other Nordics as well as Dutchmen, Hungarians, Belgians, Russians and Ukrainians.

Tourist entrepreneurs in Finnish Lapland adapted their stuff to German military customers - two historical articfacts in the exhibition.

Of all the photos on display in the exhibition I had only seen one or two before and there is a great deal about the many local German installations and love affairs including many letters. There is also a special focus on the regional German military newspaper, the Lappland-Kurier.

The Germans in the Arctic actually had several newspapers, regional ones and for certain units. Lappland-Kurier must have been the largest of them. Here also a Finnish issue of the largest propaganda magazine the Germans made, Signal.

The exhibition booklet contains a lot of the amazing photos from the exhibition, and there is a booklet version in English/German.

There is another section in Arktikum that one should not miss, which is a permenent display. It was many years since I last saw it and I think it may have been improved as I do not remember it being as impressive as it is. It consists of two very large dioramas (scale 1:100?), one showing Rovaniemi before the war and one after the massive destruction in 1944. My photos here (below) both show the diorama of the just destroyed city. Click on them to see them in slightly larger size.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Can New Kill Level Trigger New Strategy?

Norwegian UN troops on their way up Sniper Alley in Sarajevo, November 1995. PHOTO: Paalso

Many argued against more western involvement. Resistance was strong within both the US and the UN. But close to three hundred thousand people had been killed. Am I talking about the war in Syria? No, I am talking about another and not that distant war.

In the former Yugoslavia about three hundred thousand people were killed in the fighting between 1991 and 1995. The other day I heard that the total number of killed in Syria has now probably reached three hundred thousand. In other words, the Balkan kill level from 1995 has now been reached in Syria. I do not believe that the 1995 Bosnian intervention is a step-by-step instruction for what should be done now in Syria. But this I do believe: it would be an enormous waste to now not study what brought the war in Bosnia to an end. Some of the bloody Balkan lessons are still relevant. Sure, there are many important differences, not least IS(IS) and the New Cold War. But consider also how many different groups were a part of the Bosnian puzzle and how unstoppable the wars seemed.

One starting point is to pick up and read a copy of To End A War by chief negotiator Richard Holbrooke. This is my simple message to you: read it.