- Contributed by
- People in story:
- 1944/45 End of war in Sweden
- Location of story:
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 May 2005
THE END OF THE WAR in Sweden for a German Soldier Prisoner
Key words: Bernadotte buses, Concentration Camp Survivors, Främlingspass
After his extraordinary escape from Norway across the boarder to Sweden, Sugata was put into a Swedish prison, as a German prisoner of war.
‘After three months on the farm, with 'good behaviour' I was granted freedom in late July 1944. There were restrictions: travel was permitted only with passes and I had to stay where I worked. It would still be nearly a year to the end of the war, but by now the ambivalent Swedes could see which way the wind was blowing and became more lenient towards us German 'visitors'.
As refugees began arriving in the thousands, Mor Svea grew into her new, maternal role; it was certainly more comfortable than that of a friendship with Hitler. We were a family linked not by blood but by our destinies and determination. As idealists we were hungry to govern our vision and one common goal we rag bag of nationalities had, was to dissolve nationalism and national frontiers.
The white 'Bernadotte buses' carrying survivors from Auschwitz started arriving just before the war ended. On 1 May 1945 the first buses arrived in Denmark and soon afterwards came to Stockholm. These extraordinary transports were the result of tireless work by the Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, Vice-President of the Swedish Red Cross and his negotiations with Himmler.
These bags of bones, damaged and broken, once outwardly healed in Swedish hospitals, started arriving into the bourgeois drawing rooms of Stockholm. They came at the invitation of Swedish and foreign philanthropists, who were in part interested in the prickling richness of their struggle and extreme life experiences, and in part out of human compassion, a desire to help create new scaffolds on which to build new lives. I met them for the first time one summer evening at one such afternoon gathering arranged by an Austrian countess. It was in a smart suburb of Stockholm and the room was full of people. It was a hot summer evening, a shame to be inside, I thought, so I took my glass and went out onto the balcony.
In the spring of 1946 I received a letter from the Department for Refugees informing me that it was no longer dangerous for me to return to Germany; I was ordered to return my Främlingspass and to apply for a new German passport. 'Never!' I said to an Estonian refugee. 'I am a World Citizen with no nationality! The Främlingspass is sufficient for me.' Adamant, I made a bet with her. Such was my determination. Like most refugees at that time, I'd heard about the American ex-soldier, Garry Davis, who, at the end of the war, had thrown all his identity papers into the Seine proclaiming: 'I am a World Citizen! The Old Order is destroyed.
I travelled by bus to Paris. It was a wonderful journey, although in parts it was painful. We had to skirt the northern corner of Germany, and through the window, I saw the smouldering ruins of towns, the people grey and ragged. As I sat in my bus, a new World Citizen, with dry feet and a full belly, I thought then, at that moment in time: 'You have got what you deserve'. All those cheers and salutes to Hitler, all those people who had chastised and ostracised me for my counter stand, where were they now? Now everyone had the opinion that Hitler was bad. Nobody, it seemed, had ever called him 'my hero' and asked for more. Germany had robbed me of my youth. Yes, I must admit, at that time I felt the satisfaction of feeling that my judgement had been right. And I was happy never to be forced to greet with 'Heil Hitler' any longer.
Even when the Främlingspass arrangement was phased out, I continued to refuse to apply for a German passport. I went back to Rosenzweig, and said never would I get be a German national again. She told me that I could apply for Swedish nationality, but it would take time. There were others like me who rejected repatriation to their old country, and the Swedes could neither understand nor do anything about us. So I just lived there. There were only two restrictions: I had to obey the rules of the country and I could not go outside its boarders. It took five years before I was granted Swedish citizenship, and with it came the freedom to travel again. They were five difficult years in which I struggled to stay afloat in the new world. This time was one of bourgeois life, uninteresting to recall. Sometimes a Swede would come up to me and ask:
'Were you not born in Sweden?' with a sickly smile on his face.
'No', I would bark.
'Where were you born?' he would ask, annoyingly undeterred by my bark.
'I am a fish!'
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