By ALLAN HALL
16th February 2009
Sweden made secret loans to Nazi Germany during World War 2, it has been revealed.
New documents show how the Swedish finance minister in wartime, Ernst Wigforss, approved bank credits to Berlin in 1941. The details were recently uncovered in a filing cabinet at the finance ministry. The loans served to increase Swedish exports to Nazi Germany, allowing it to prosecute its war on all fronts.
The new document is a letter received by Wigforss in April 1941 and undersigned by the director of Skandinaviska Banken, Ernst Herslow. It was never entered into Swedish official records but hidden away. The letter summarized a conversation concerning the approval of bank credits to Germany to enable them to pay Swedish shipbuilders for services rendered. For this the bank required state approval.
'The minister expressed his understanding, that it would be desirable for the credits to be provided,' Herslow wrote.
The loans amounted to around 40million kronor, around £3.5million in today’s money and an astronomical sum at the time.
Sweden had maintained neutrality in international affairs for over a century before the outbreak of the Second World War. But Nazi Germany had tested that stance severely throughout the 1930s. In June of 1941, the year that Germany launched its invasion of the Soviet Union, the Nazis asked Sweden for military concessions regarding logistical support.
The concessions were granted, but not after a political debate that has been termed the 'midsummer crisis'. These new documents are the first evidence of any financial support given to Nazi Germany by Sweden, however. Historians say the credits were the first breach in Swedish resistance to Nazi Germany's demands.
'The result of the approval of the bank credits meant that Sweden avoided demands from Germany for direct Swedish state aid and that Swedish boat yards could continue to build vessels for Nazi Germany's navy,' said one Swedish news website.