Question: In your December article you wrote that Switzerland and Sweden both turned away Jews trying to escape Hitler’s ovens. I am aware that the Swiss did just that, plus stole millions of dollars from the Jews. However, I lived in Sweden during all the war years and my family received a Jewish school teacher into our home. Other members of our family gave shelter to Jews. I remember one family of five, having left all behind, escaped in a small boat. A cousin of my father’s gave them a house to live in. I never heard of any government interference in any of this. Sweden also sheltered the children from Finland all the years of the war. I went to school with several of them....I have always loved the Jewish people and it was a great joy to me that my family had helped so many of them.
Answer: Thank you for writing. I owe an apology to you and all Swedes. I was going by memory in that statement (my memory is usually accurate but I shouldn’t trust it in something so important) and confused Finland with Sweden. For example, I was thinking of the boat with 53 Jews aboard, one pregnant woman, who sought asylum in Finland. They allowed the woman to give birth to her child in a hospital, then sent the boat back. In despair, three of the refugees jumped overboard on the way back and drowned. In spite of such incidents, however, Finland did provide shelter to several thousand Jews. And though Switzerland turned many back, about 6,000 were given refuge in that country. Of course, to turn even one back was heartless.
As for Sweden, however, she had one of the best records. The Nazis listed 8,000 Jews in Sweden whom they hoped to gather into their extermination program. So far as we know, none of those Jews was taken, and Sweden took in many escaping from other countries, including from Norway. Unfortunately, Sweden, which remained neutral during the war, allowed Nazi trains to pass through its territory into and out of Norway. Nevertheless, nearly 1,000 Jews were smuggled from Norway into Sweden and safety. In an amazing operation, nearly 6,000 Jews, 1,300 part-Jews and almost 700 Christians married to Jews were ferried by Danish sea captains and fishermen into Sweden, where they survived the war, leaving only about 500 Jews who fell into Nazi hands in Denmark. They were taken to Theresienstadt, but on April 14, 1945, a Swedish diplomat, Count Folke Bernadotte, negotiated the release of 423 back to Denmark and these all survived the war. Another 3,000 Jews had been taken in by Sweden from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia prior to outbreak of war.
Everyone has heard of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who came to Budapest specifically to save Hungarian Jews on July 9, 1944. Due to the protest of Sweden’s king, deportation of Jews had been halted by the Hungarian authorities the day before. Together, Wallenberg and the Swiss consul, Charles Lutz, were able to set up nearly 80 buildings under Swiss diplomatic protection where about 25,000 Jews were saved. They worked desperately while Nazis roamed Budapest slaughtering the Jews. Nearly 120,000 Jews were saved by the arrival of Soviet troops. Sadly, however, Wallenberg was summoned to Soviet military head7quarters and disappeared, fate unknown.
In spite of the great care that we all take here at TBC to be 100 percent accurate, we are not perfect and this error crept in and was not discovered. Thank you for pointing it out to us, and once again I apologize for the mistake.