Sweden’s Dodgy Past

From today’s Guardian, by a Swedish author:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/14/sweden-far-right-wartime-past?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0Jlc3RPZkd1YXJkaWFuT3BpbmlvblVLLTE5MDUxNA%3D%3D&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=BestOfGuardianOpinionUK&CMP=opinionuk_email.

This will be uncomfortable reading for many native Swedes, as it was for me as a ‘new Swede’; although, to be fair, I and most of my Swedish friends were already aware of most of it, and as a result had long shed our national self-image as the spotless goodies of the world. The Swedes that I know – mostly Lefties – are almost as historically self-critical as we Leftist Brits are (the Empire); and will be able to add to the list of failings that Elisabeth Åsbrink provides here: Sweden’s state-sanctioned ‘eugenic’ or ‘sterilisation’ policy, for example, which began before the war and continued until fairly recently.

It’s good for any country to be reminded occasionally of its past sins, as well as its triumphs; both of which are pretty evenly scattered amongst peoples over time. That’s because neither depends on national failings or virtues, but on ones that are common to humanity (male humanity, at any rate), and on circumstances at any given moment. Sweden’s vulnerable situation vis-à-vis Germany in 1939 clearly needs to be taken into account to at least partially excuse her collaboration, and what many Brits regarded as her ‘cowardice’, in World War II. Recognition of one’s own nation’s historical failings, and even atrocities, is a pretty reliable prophylactic against the sort of national pride which can trigger many of those atrocities in the first place. Yes, we – both Brits and Swedes – could have turned Fascist in the ’thirties, in only slightly different circumstances. Look at today.

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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2 Responses to Sweden’s Dodgy Past

  1. Tony Judge says:

    I agree, I thought the article covered stuff already well known (perhaps not to most English readers). There seems to have been a period of national amnesia in the 50’s and 60’s as Sweden tried to create a social democratic utopia.Once the cracks in that began to open up it became more common to confront the past, and surely Sweden has tried to make amends, perhaps naively, by being a ‘good’ state, and doesn’t Sweden have a healthier relationship to its past than the English with all the phoney patriotism based on myth and legend.

    Liked by 1 person

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