The Swedish policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany went too far, history professor Klas Åmark argues in the book Living Next Door To Evil, which comes out in February. The book has come at a government commission.
Today, 27 January, is Holocaust Memorial Day. And although it’s exactly 66 years since Auschwitz camp gates opened to the public spotlight, it still throws a shadow over Sweden. The Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933 and terror against dissidents and racism began several years before the war. What did the authorities and the Government do? Could Sweden have made a difference? And what is it about this time that still fascinates?
“I think it’s about to put it all on the line. Existence. The ability to survive. Basic human rights. During World War II, it all hangs by a thread. It is dramatic and decisive,” said Klas Åmark, now retired history professor.
In 2000, the Socialist Government Research Council commissioned a research survey of Sweden’s relationship to Nazism, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Since 2006, Klas Åmark worked on the project to write and compile a work that is meant to be the first large, scientifically well-informed review of the history of Sweden both before and during World War II.
“For several reasons, Sweden chose silence in the face of violence and terror. But if you live next door to evil, it’s not enough for a democracy to remain silent,” says Klas Åmark.
The book shows the effects of government trade and press policy and how the Swedish refugee policy rapidly changed, going from string restrictiveness to large, active rescue operations.
“The new research on World War II shows that the Nazi policy was worse, more extensive and systematic than previous research indicated, and it’s not just against Jews but against other countries and peoples,” says Klas Åmark.
“But even our own policy of appeasement has been worse than I thought. When I put together various sources of previous research, we see a scheme which shocked me.”. Translated by Maribeth Barber. Swedish version at Dagens Nyheter