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IKEA, Bratteli, Jewish property…


In the archives of the Swedish security police there is a secret folder from 1943 marked «Memorandum regarding: Nazi».

In 1994, this file was opened by journalists in the newspaper Expressen. The content became the starting point for a series of articles that disturbed the image of a national hero. It concerned IKEA founder and owner Ingvar Kamprad, who had not only been a Nazi when Hitler lived.

Mens IKEA grew, Kamprad supported a movement that promoted a raging Europe. I own a signed copy of Trygve Brattelis Capture in the night and fog , published in Swedish in 1980. In the preface, Tage Erlander compares his own role as Prime Minister with the conditions for colleague Bratteli, who spent three years in German concentration camps: «Actually, it is fantastic that Trygve Bratteli, after his terrible experiences during World War II, managed preserve faith in the future of man. " For me, that comment captures a crucial difference between Swedish and Norwegian national opinion.

In a newly liberated country, the future demands a reckoning with the past. In a neutral country, war becomes a pause in development. The rails leading forward have already been laid out. Historians can ignore side tracks, such as Kamprad's past. The same limitation has affected the view of Sweden's role with regard to the Holocaust. A first piece of the puzzle was added in 1988 thanks to the American historian Steven Koblik, with the book The Stones Cry Out: Sweden's response to the persecution of Jews 1933-45 . A decisive settlement came with the journalist Maria-Pia Boethius' book Honor and conscience in 1991.

In 1996, when I was editor-in-chief of Dagens Nyheter, I took the initiative to review Sweden's handling of Jewish property during the war. The most important material was collected in a 62-page appendix with the heading "Who made money during the Second World War". This article is taken from the appendix, which was published in October 1997. At that time, the Swedish government set up a commission to make an investigation which has confirmed the basic facts established by the article.

Arne Ruth
Arne Ruth
Ruth is a former editor-in-chief of Dagens Nyheter.

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