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What did you do in the War, Sweden?

Pelle Neroth Taylor, "What did you do in the War, Sweden?: The roots of tolerance for mass immigration in Sweden's experiences of the Second World War"
2015 |ASIN: B00TNCZ99S | 45 pages | EPUB | 0,2 MB

In a world in turmoil, Sweden's openness and generosity towards refugees stands out. Sweden was the top recipient for asylum seekers in Europe in 2013, number two in 2014. The generosity has its price: the asylum centre industry is expensive. Sweden has seen a rise in ghettos. The unemployment rate among non-natives is very high. Sweden is seeing a rise in gang crime and a decline in social cohesion. It is questionable whether the nature of this immigration, from war torn countries in the Middle East where illiteracy rates are high, benefits Sweden economically, at least in the short to medium term. The recent murders motivated by hatred of free speech that took place in neighbouring Copenhagen highlight the clashes between the cultural values of secular modernism and those of a medieval religious worldview. Many say these clashes will only get more intense as Sweden and Scandinavia continue to receive large scale immigration from the Middle East. Sweden already has a greater proportion of foreign born individuals than any other medium-sized or large EU state. Some have praised Swedish people's selflessness. Others say Swedes are naive. By some estimates, Swedes will be a minority in their own country in the 2040s. In some towns, like Malmo, more than half the population is already of foreign background.
Yet generosity towards refugees is deeply rooted in Sweden's national identity, and is hard to budge. This pamphlet asks: what are the cultural origins of this generosity? How did Sweden come to be like this?
The pamphlet argues that the formation of the modern Swedish political identity has its roots in the Second World War. Sweden was a divided country, between Nazi sympathisers, some of whom wanted to join the German side in a war against Russia, and pacifists, who hoped the Allies would win but whose sacrifice in the battle to defeat Nazism was limited to small gestures. Meanwhile Swedish industry was selling crucial iron ore to the German war machine, paid for with stolen Jewish gold, right up to the end of the war. Dag Hammarskjold, later UN Secretary General, then a young Swedish government official, visited London near the end of the war. He was informed by British civil servants that Sweden was the most unpopular country in Europe.
The leading postwar political figure in Swedish life, Olof Palme, prime minister in the seventies, lived through the war as a young man from a military family. He helped reinvent Sweden as humanitarian superpower during his premiership, as a country where pacifism and humanitarianism were chief virtues. And neutrality was something no longer to be ashamed of. Not taking sides was no longer about sitting on the sidelines, but standing above everyone else and passing judgment on the less virtuous rich nations, nearly all of whom were locked into the Cold War as member of one or other bloc, and who put their own geopolitical interests ahead of humanitarian assistance for the planet's poor and disadvantaged people. Palme made Sweden the first country in the world to spend 1% of its GDP in aid, forcing bigger nations to follow. An army of writers, aid workers and documentary makers brought the poor world into Swedish people's living rooms; the reported gratitude of poor peoples towards the little land up north has left a deep mark in the Swedish psyche. Thirty years on, though, a growing number of Swedes are questioning whether the country can afford to be as generous as it is towards refugees from the developing world.
Sweden, a safe haven in Hitler's Europe, was accused, in the war, of being a “dictatorship of apathy”, not concerned about the world at all. But maybe the country has now gone too far the other way - too concerned about world events, at the expense of the national interest?