Sweden stalks Julian Assange

As the Australian Government – in the form of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and Foreign Minister Bob Carr – is cooperating in the extradition of Australian citizen Julian Assange to Sweden, I thought it was time to put the spotlight on the plucky Scandinavian kingdom.

Most Australians regard Sweden as a shining example of modern social democracy, social justice and humanitarianism. This is mythology sustained by the hoopla surrounding the Nobel Peace Prize, Raoul Wallenberg, Abba and Bjorn Borg.

There’s nothing like some historical facts to establish a proper perspective on Sweden and its current quest to extradite Assange from the UK and then facilitate his rendition to the US.


Pro-Nazi war record

At the outbreak of the Second World War Sweden declared its neutrality. Other countries, viz Czechoslovakia, Poland, Holland and Belgium, didn’t have a choice: they were overrun and occupied by the Nazis.

The concept of neutrality towards Nazism is an immoral disgrace. No nation and no people can be neutral towards Nazism, then or now.

The Swedish Social Democrats (equivalent of the ALP) led the national government that upheld the neutral line on Hitler’s Third Reich for the duration of the war.

The reality was that Sweden’s ‘neutrality’ meant working cooperatively with Berlin. Under Social Democrat Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson, German troops and armaments were permitted to pass through Sweden to fight the Russian army (which was on our side) in Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa.

Sweden continued to supply steel and machinery parts to Germany throughout the war and 10 million tonnes of iron ore was shipped from Sweden to the Nazi weapons industry.

Left-wing Swedish newspapers were closed on the insistence of the Nazis and Swedish volunteers joined the Waffen SS to fight on the Russian front.


Betrayal of Norway

While Sweden stayed neutral in the war, neighbouring Norway was among Hitler’s first conquests. Norwegians have always suspected that the Swedish government played a treacherous role in their wartime ordeal. A newly published book, Blodsporet or The Blood Track, by journalist Espen Eidum shows how Sweden allowed the German army to use its efficient rail network to transport men and materials to the battle of Narvik, where British troops were deployed in a bid to stave off the Nazis.

Eidum spent three years sifting through Norwegian, Swedish and German archives to discover how the Nazis managed to get troops and supplies to the front lines in Narvik in 1940, enabling them to turn a losing battle into a decisive victory, which led to the occupation of the whole country.

According to the book, trains carried heavy artillery, anti-aircraft guns, ammunition, and communications and supply equipment. And once the swastika flew over Narvik, Sweden allowed German trains to run to the ice-free port, taking Swedish iron ore back to Germany.

The rail network was also used to send Norwegians to Germany, many of them bound for concentration camps. Eidum writes, ‘And hundreds of thousands of Germans passed through Sweden on their way to the eastern front. This made a great deal of money for Swedish rail operator SJ over a three-year period.’

Indeed, by the end of the war, Sweden was one of the richest countries in Europe because of its trade with Nazi Germany. Every deal was negotiated in cash.

In his wartime reflections, Winston Churchill accused Sweden of ignoring the greater moral issues and playing both sides for profit.

In Scandinavia, the treachery and moral cowardice of the Swedish upper class and the social democrats has never been forgotten nor forgiven.

In a 1940 letter to Anders Frihagen, his envoy in Stockholm, Norway’s prime minister, Johan Nygaardsvold, asked him to convey his anger to the duplicitous Swedish prime minister:

If you can arrange a private conversation with Per Albin Hansson, tell him there are two things I want to experience, and those are: that the Germans get hunted out of Norway and, secondly, that I get to live long enough to give him and his entire government a proper dressing down.

There is nothing, nothing, nothing I hate with such passion and wild abandon as Sweden – and it is his fault.

Sweden’s far right

The late Stieg Larsson (1954–2004), author and journalist, spent his career exposing Sweden’s corrupt and degenerate state and the far right. He concluded there were more Nazis, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, gun nuts, skinheads, Islamaphobes and anti-Semites per head of population in Sweden than anywhere in western Europe.

The author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy argued that the far right used its tiny but noisy political influence to pressure the major parliamentary parties into passing authoritarian legislation and that it enjoyed protection from the state.

He also ridiculed the media presentation of race hate crimes as the actions of ‘one-off madmen’ when they represent the actions, directly or indirectly, of organised Nazi terrorist groups.

This week in the Swedish city of Malmo, Peter Mangs was convicted of two counts of murder and four of attempted murder during a wave of sniper attacks targeting immigrants.

Before his sentencing in September, the court has ordered a psychiatric evaluation to decide whether he is insane or not.

If the great Stieg Larrson were alive today there is no doubt he would be actively campaigning in support of the WikiLeaks founder and exposing his country’s depraved and corrupt judicial system.

Alex Mitchell

Alex Mitchell is former state political editor of Fairfax Media's Sunday newspaper in Sydney, The Sun-Herald, and author of Come The Revolution: A Memoir (NewSouth Books, 2011).

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  1. Seems to me that in the process of representing Sweden as other than perfect, you’ve gone too far in the other direction…

    Steig Larsson’s belief that Sweden had the most extremists of the racist and xenophobic variety of any nation in Western Europe is dubious, because Sweden currently has some of the most welcoming immigration and integration policies in Europe.

    Back in 2007: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7043878.stm

    Highlighted as an example here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/economics-blog/2012/jul/24/europe-immigration-challenge?newsfeed=true

    Just a few months ago, the Eurovision Song Contest was won by originally Moroccan, ‘New Swede’ Loreen, and when one of the ABBA members requested that his image was removed from Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport because he disagreed with an urban planning decision, the picture of ABBA came down and Loreen’s image went up instead. Things have changed since WW2.

    Not that they don’t have a long way to go though. There’s no doubt that racism is deeply ingrained into the fabric of society, in a way that I find strange and off-putting as an Australian (and one with a Bulgarian background, at that). Sweden would benefit greatly from learning from Australia, Canada and the US when it comes to multiculturalism, and I believe that it will, however slowly.

  2. I have to agree with the first comment here – this really is a clumsy, half-baked attempt to ‘put the spotlight on the plucky Scandinavian kingdom’.

    The only thing missing is the IKEA reference.

    Seriously, I could conduct a similar hatchet job on just about any country in Europe: 1) reference a current event in Australia to make it seem topical and relevant to your readers 2) mention the war (and while many of the claims about Sweden’s complicity are true, recent analysis of the behaviour of people in European countries occupied by the Nazis is not exactly flattering either) 2a) mention the war again, and again 3) talk about the far-right, via a book you’ve just read on the subject 4) throw in a reference to a popular author you really, really admire … and 5) sit back and wait for the comments to roll in.

    If you’re going to make predictions about the Swedish government’s supposed plans for Julian Assange, then just come out and do so.

    PS it’s Björn Borg.

    PPS Loreen rules.

    1. My purpose wasn’t to tarnish every Swede with racism or Islamophobia. That would be absurd. Not all Australians are racist and Islamoohobic either. I was irritably responding to the lazy, smug and ahistorical presentation of the Swedish government, and in particular the Swedish Social Democrats, as models of high principle. Apart from the wartime complicity with Nazism – un the cloak of “neutrality – we have the Swedish Government’s more recent high-level cooperation with the CIA policy of rendition. Two asylum seekers were handed to the CIA in Stockholm in 2001 and they were flown secretly to Cairo where they were tortured.
      The UN Human Rights Committee has subsequently condemned the Swedish Government’s action. Julian Assange and his lawyers cannot obtain a guarantee from the Swedish authorities that if he returns to face questiong in relation to sex charges he won’t be handed to the US Government. They have invited the Swedish legal authorities to travel to London where Assange has undertaken to cooperate fully with their investigation. So far that invitation has not been accepted. If you were Assange, would you go to Stockholm? My purpose is simply to highlight Assange’s fraught predicament and make sure Australians are not put to sleep by the bromides from Gillard, Roxon and Carr that “she’ll be right, mate, there’s nothing to worry about.” There is a lot to worry about.
      – Alex Mitchell

  3. I totally get that, and I guess my comment was meant to suggest that I would have preferred to read an article along those lines. Seems like your irritation got the better of you.

    I’m not sure why you’re focussing on the Social Democrats, though, as the right-wing Moderate Party (and its coalition partners) are the government in Sweden, and have been since 2006.

    I’m certainly not of the ‘she’ll be right’ brigade, but nor do I think Assange or anyone else is more likely to be extradited from Sweden than from the UK. Are you seriously claiming that the UK sits on higher moral ground than other European states in this respect?

  4. Hi, David, thanks for your further remarks. I specifically mentioned the Swedish Social Democrats since they were the architects of the “neutral” (pro-Nazi) policy in WWII and handled the CIA rendition policy after September 11. The government in office in 2001 when the two notorious renditions from Stockholm took place was the Social Democrat government of Hans Goran Persson (PM 1996-2006). The two asylum seekers who were rendered, Ahmed Agiza and Mohomed al-Zari, later received three million krona (about half a million Oz dollars) in compensation.I’m told by Swedish friends that the Social Democrats are pushing the conservative coalition government to force the Assange extradition issue. They are no doubt in touch with their Socialist International comrades in the ALP as well. I hope this explains why I am making such an issue of the social democrats. I am still waiting for an ALP MP to demand a debate on the issue or to make a declaration in support of his civil and legal rights. Alex

  5. >I’m told by Swedish friends that the Social Democrats are pushing the conservative coalition government to force the Assange extradition issue.

    I’m told a lot of things by my friends (Swedish or otherwise), but I usually take what they say with a grain of salt.

    I guess we just disagree on the credibility of these rumours.

    1. In my 50 years in journalism I never relied on the unsourced gossip of anonymous friends. When I wrote that “friends” had told me the Swedish Social Democrats were pushing the conservative coalition on the Assange issue it came from reliable sources following my inquiries. Here’s some additional information on what their leading lights are up to:

      Claes Borgström is a Swedish lawyer and leading Social Democrat politician. Between 2000 and 2007 he was the Swedish (Social Democratic) Government’s Equality Ombudsman. When the Social Democrats lost government he quit to form a law firm with the Justice Minister Thomas Bodstrom. Since 2008 he has been the Democratic Party’s spokesman on general equality. Wikipedia noted:
      Borgström has often attracted attention with a series of controversial proposals and moves. He claims that all men carry a collective guilt for violence against women, and has in this context supported Gudrun Schyman’s “Tax on Men”.[7]
      He also attracted attention in March 2006 when he demanded that Sweden boycott the 2006 World Cup in Germany “in protest against the increase in the trafficking in women that the event is expected to result in”.[8]
      In 2010 Borgström successfully appealed the decision to close the sexual assault case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and became the legal representative for the two Swedish women.
      I’m not sure what evidence I can unearth to convince you of the duplicitous role that the Swedish Social Democrats played with the Nazies, US rendition and now Assange. I think I’ll call it a day.

  6. Wow, Wikipedia? That’s a really reliable source. Looks like you’ve just cut and pasted too, if the dead hyperlinks are anything to go by.

    My point was that you seem to be basing your opinions about what the current Swedish government is likely to attempt wrt Assange’s extradition on the actions of the current Swedish opposition. Including actions by Swedish politicians over seventy years ago.

    Which is kind of like me using Wikipedia to investigate Australian Liberal Party politicians in an attempt to predict what the Australian Labor Party’s attitude is towards someone charged with an offence. Except for the Nazi bit.

    By all means, call it a day – I suspect we’re talking about two completely different things, and have been doing so all along.


  7. In reply to Davey. WIkipedia, like all publications, should not be read unlearnedly or uncritically. But to Julian Assabge. If Wikileaks is such an unreliable source then what was leaked is rubbish. So,why does US want Assange in the good ol’ U.S.of A.? Why are the homegrown US shock jocks going so far as to say he should be shot on sight? Uncle Sam caught with his freedom-loving pants down?

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