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Sweden Was Neutral During WW II but Many Swedes Enlisted in the Waffen SS

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College, and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters

sweden-was-neutral-during-wwii-but-many-swedes-enlisted-in-the-waffen-ss
Sven-Olof Lindholm (08.02.1903 – 26.04.1998)

Sven-Olof Lindholm (08.02.1903 – 26.04.1998)

Introduction

When war broke out in 1939, Sweden remained neutral. At that time it was a small underpopulated country of 6.5 million people. Sweden was not on the radar of Adolf Hitler as a strategic asset. He felt Norway was more important to capture as it would be a springboard to counter the Royal Navy. Besides, Norway was important because iron or was transported from Narvik to Germany.

Sweden had not fought a war since the 19th century when it took part in the Napoleonic wars but it had an inherent apathy to communism. When the Soviet Union invaded Finland in 1939, 1,500 Swedes volunteered to fight for the Fins. They were also attracted to the Nazi philosophy because of its inherent opposition to communism.

Despite this, there was no official recruitment center in Sweden for the Waffen SS. The German legation in Stockholm had thought off enlisting Swedish nationals even before operation Barbarossa. There was quite a lot of opposition to communism in Sweden and once operation Barbarossa commenced a plan was drawn up by the Swedish high command to recruit officers for the Waffen SS to fight in Russia but the government did not allow it.

Despite the clampdown by the government recruitment was done on an individual basis. The Swedish anti-communist political parties such as the "Svensk Socialistisk Samling" (Swedish Socialist Union or SSS for short).led by the former Swedish NCO Sven-Olof Lindholm began a drive to recruit Swedes to fight for Germany. He lived on after the war and died in 1998.

Hans-Gösta Pehrsson (10.10.1910 - 16.03.1974)

Hans-Gösta Pehrsson (10.10.1910 - 16.03.1974)

The Swedish Company

Due to restrictions by the government, not many Swedes could escape and join the German armed forces. Despite this, 2,000 to 3,000 were able to circumvent the restrictions and joined the Waffen SS. Many of those who joined had already served in the Finnish army.

The Swedes who joined the Waffen SS saw action at various places and it is estimated that around 50 of them were killed in action. There are reports that they fought battles in Ukraine, the Caucasus, the Baltic States, Pomerania, and during the final Battle of Berlin. All the Swedish volunteers only fought on the eastern front and did not take part in any action on the Western front against the allies. They were earlier part of the SS Division "Wiking". After mid-1943 many served in the SS Panzer Grenadier Division "Nordland". The corps commander was SS-Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner. Many of the Swedes served in different formations of the SS. In addition, Swedish volunteers were to be found in many other SS units also. One of the men who distinguished himself was SS-Oberscharführer Sven-Erik Olsson who served in the SS division "Frundsberg" and was decorated with the German Cross in Gold for bravery.

There was also SS-Untersturmführer Hans-Gösta Pehrsson who was the highest decorated Swedish volunteer. He was decorated with the Iron Cross 1st Class and the Ehrenblattspange des Deutschen.

A fact not mentioned these days is that 20 of the Swedish soldiers attended the SS Officer’s School at Bad Tolz and at least two of them passed with distinction.

Ulf-Ola Olin (18.07.1917 - 11.01.1995)

Ulf-Ola Olin (18.07.1917 - 11.01.1995)

Swedes with the ˜SS

The Swedes opted to join the Waffen SS. They were also part of the last stand in Berlin against the Russian army. The remnants of the "Swedish Company” were surrounded and destroyed in April 1945 while facing the Russian army. They were also part of the last guard along with the French Legion in the defense of the Reich Chancellery and fought with determination but they suffered needless casualties.

It must be mentioned that the biggest group of volunteers along with the SS was the Finnish-Swedes who also spoke German. They constituted about 15 to 20% of the entire force of Swedes that joined the SS.

One of the more prominent soldiers who made a name was SS-Ostuf Ulf Ola Olin. He was born in 1917 and died in 1995. He was a "Wiking” tank commander was to become the most decorated volunteer. He received his medal for bravery on 28 February 1945, while commanding a platoon of the 7th Company during the heavy battles at Warsaw in mid-1944.

All said and done the Swedes were only a drop in the ocean as far as their contribution to the Nazi war effort is concerned. However, it is a disconcerting thought that so many Swedes were ready to throw their lot with the Nazis even when they were in retreat; this shows a commitment that is difficult to explain now.

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 08, 2020:

Thank you Sp Hershey for sparing time and commenting.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on December 08, 2020:

It is disappointing to learn that a number of Swedish citizens joined the Waffen SS. It just shows you that a country can never predict the actions of its citizens.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 07, 2020:

Tom, This is a very interesting subject. Jean `Bernadotte became one of the 18 marshals of Napoleon and later was crowned king of Sweden. Must write an article on this fascinating man

tom on December 07, 2020:

napoleons marshal bernadotte became king of sweden

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 07, 2020:

Tom, Battle of Poltava, resulted in the victory of Peter the Great. Yes, I agree fascism was much in fashion in the 30s and many even in England were enamored of it.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 07, 2020:

Thanks, Tom, William Holden was a Great Star.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 07, 2020:

Tom, thanks. I might have seen this movie but I don't recollect it now.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 07, 2020:

Yes, Tom, The Swedes had always detested communism and joined in operation Barbarossa.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 07, 2020:

Thank you Pamela so nice of you to have commented.

tom on December 07, 2020:

800 swiss mercenaries fought in barbarossa

tom on December 07, 2020:

movie counterfeit traitor

tom on December 07, 2020:

swedish oil merchant erik erickson was spy,he destroyed german oil,movie on him william holden

tom on December 07, 2020:

swedes fought in winter war and war of continuation,fascism was fashionable.charles 12th was beaten in northern war ,battle of poltava

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 07, 2020:

I'm glad to be able to comment, MG. This i an interesting article as I had to idea that the Swedes fought with the Germans, and some attended the officers school. It is surprising to me, and I agree that it is difficult to explain.