Sweden has enjoyed a longstanding reputation as a model social democratic society. Although the standard of social welfare remains relatively high and the economy has recently experienced an IT-related boom, a combination of the effects of the recession of the early 1990s including rising unemployment, drastic cutbacks by successive governments, changes necessitated by European treaties and a growing disparity between rich and poor has seen some degree of societal deterioration and an increased awareness of social disharmony.
The situation might appear to be an opportunity for nationalists or xenophobes but, to date, the Swedish population has shown itself to be highly tolerant of the Others in its midst. Furthermore, the Swedish far right has been unable to capitalize on whatever favourable conditions might exist. The most mainstream of the far-right parties, the Sverigedemokraterna, is the only group at present with any potential for electoral success and it has - since coming under the wing of the French Front national - been building a more 'respectable' image.The extraordinary spate of high-profile violent crimes and murders perpetrated by Swedish neo-Nazis that began in the summer of 1999 - and, before it, the growth of neo-Nazi, skinhead and racist music movements throughout the 1990s - has provoked a wide-ranging debate on its causes and a serious consideration of the possibility of criminalizing such groups, a move that would mark a dramatic break with the country’s longstanding commitment to the widest possible interpretation of freedom of speech. The past decade has also seen the implementation of a great many measures to counter neo-Nazi activities, both educational and legal. Indeed, some observers of the neo-Nazi movement in Sweden believe that the recent increase in individual acts of extreme violence is itself a sign of the movement's growing desperation and descent into pure criminality as a result of more effective countering measures and greater awareness. The much greater pressure on far-right groups from the authorities as well as from an increasingly well-organized anti-fascist movement has arguably had the twin effects of causing some to bid for greater `respectability' and others to escalate a commitment to armed struggle. Of continuing concern, however, are the huge profits generated for the movement (particularly in Sweden) by the White Power music industry.
population: 8.9 million (2000)
Jewish population: 18,000 (mainly in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö)
Other ethnic minorities: 17,000-20,000 indigenous Sami (Lapps), settled primarily in the north-west of the country; a sizeable Finnish minority (Suomi), representing approximately 4 per cent of the total population (between 220,000 and 300,000), domiciled all over Sweden; 35,000-45,000 indigenous Tornedalian Finnish (Meankieli), residing mostly in the north (about 10,000 in the south); 12,000-15,000 Gypsies spread throughout Sweden; approximately 11 per cent of Sweden's population are foreign-born, the largest groups being from Finland, Iran, former Yugoslav republics, Denmark, Norway, Greece and Turkey.
In January 2000 the Swedish government announced that it would ratify the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The decision implies the recognition of the Sami people, Swedish Finns, Tornedal Finns, Roma and Jews as national minorities.
Religion (1999): about 85 per cent of the Swedish population belong to the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden (7.5 million); other Christian denominations include Roman Catholic (166,000), Orthodox and Eastern, the largest being the Syrian Orthodox Church (98,500), and non-conformist Swedish Free Churches (243,000); Islam (250,000, most of whom are immigrants from Turkey, the Middle East and former Yugoslav republics); Buddhism (3,000); and Hinduism (3,000) (Fact Sheets on Sweden: Religion)
Political system: constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy with a unicameral legislature (Riksdag)
Head of state: King Carl XVI Gustaf (since September 1973)
Government: Socialdemokratiska Arbetarepartiet (SDA, Social Democratic Party), headed since March 1996 by Prime Minister Göran Persson. A 2000 poll showed SDA support at its lowest ebb (33.9 per cent) since the 1994 general election (45.3 per cent); in the 1998 general election, the party received was returned to power with its worst result in years (36.4 per cent).
Other major political parties: apart from the SDA, the six other parties represented in parliament are Moderata Samlingspartiet (MS, Moderate Party), Folkpartiet Liberalerna (FP, Liberal Party), Centerpartiet (CP, Centre Party), Kristdemokraterna (KD, Christian Democrats), Miljöpartiet de Gröna (MpG, Green Party) and Vänsterpartiet (VP, Left Party).
The results of 1998 parliamentary election and the new composition of the 349-seat Riksdag::
Far-right and anti-immigration groups won 78,000 votes in the 1998 general election: 20,000 to SD, 25,000 to DNP, 8,000 to NyD, and some 25,000 to SV.
Next general election: September 2002
GDP: 1,905 million SEK (Swedish krona) (US$228.6 million) (1998); 1,995 million SEK (US$239.4 million) (1999); 2,083 million SEK (2000) (US$250 million) (Statistics Sweden)
GDP growth: 3.6 per cent (1998), 4.1 per cent (1999), 3.6 per cent (2000, after slowing in the final quarter) (Fact Sheets on Sweden: The Economy)
Inflation: 0.5 per cent (1999, down from 2.1 per cent in 1997) (Financial Times, 4 December 2000); 1.4 per cent (2000) (Statistics Sweden)
Unemployment: 6.5 per cent (1998), 5.6 per cent (1999) (Financial Times, 4 December 2000); 4.7 per cent, the lowest rate in nearly a decade (2000) (Statistics Sweden)
In the 1930s and up to
the end of 1942, anti-Jewish attitudes influenced Sweden's policy concerning the
immigration of Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution. In 1938 fear of
large-scale Jewish immigration, exemplified in student protests at Uppsala and
Lund universities, led Sweden virtually to close its borders to Jewish refugees.
In 1938, in response to Swedish and Swiss demands, the German authorities began
stamping a red-coloured 'J' in the passports of Jews.
Sweden's war-time policies towards Jewish refugees underwent a change of heart when the country began actively to rescue Jews. Notable examples are the escape of Danish Jews to Sweden in October 1943, Count Folke Bernadotte's activities, as the war was ending, in bringing Jews and non-Jews out of the concentration camps, and, especially, the attempts of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat in Nazi-occupied Hungary, to save Hungarian Jews by issuing them with Swedish passports. In June 1999 a 4-metre statue of Wallenberg was unveiled in his home town Lidingo, a Stockholm suburb. Wallenberg's fate after being arrested by the Soviet army in 1945 has ever since been a matter of dispute. But, in November 2000, Alexander Jakowlew, president of the Russian 'vindication commission', admitted that the previous Russian official explanation - that Wallenberg died of a heart attack in 1947 - was wrong and that he was in fact shot by the Russian military, a victim of political persecution.
A January 1997 report
in the national daily Dagens Nyheter - suggesting that the Swedish
government had instructed the country's war-time central bank (Riksbanken) not
to question the origin of gold emanating from Nazi Germany - prompted the
government to set up a commission to investigate the allegations. The report,
based on 1943 Riksbanken memoranda and written by journalist Göran Elgemyr and
ambassador Sven Fredrik Hedin, stated that Sweden received some 38 tons of gold
from Nazi Germany, far more than previously thought. The World Jewish Congress
estimated in their October 1997 report that US$23 million worth of looted gold
ended up in Sweden, and that about US$8 million was returned after the war. The
interim report of the Swedish commission, published in 1998, confirmed that
Nazi-looted gold, stolen from Jews amongst others, was received by the
Riksbanken from the German Reichsbank.
SKF, a Swedish ball bearings manufacturer, one of the largest in the world, acknowledged in February 2000 that it had made use of slave labour in its war-time German factories and agreed to contribute to a German fund for the compensation of those exploited as slave labour during the war.
In January 1998 the Projektet
Levende Historia (Living History Project) launched its website. The project is a Holocaust
education campaign established by the government in November 1997 following a June
1997 poll that found that only two out of every three Swedish teenagers were
'absolutely certain' that the Holocaust had happened.
A three-day high-profile international conference on the Holocaust was held in Stockholm on 26-8 January 2000, organized by the Swedish government as part of the Living History project. It attracted some 600 delegates from over 40 countries, amongst whom were over 20 heads of state and government - including President Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair, Ehud Barak, Gerhard Schröder - various NGO-representatives and Holocaust survivors. The conference was both directed towards the past and the future, and discussed means of Holocaust remembrance, methods for Holocaust education, as well as means of enhancing the struggle against contemporary racism and fascism and the prevention of future genocides. The common declaration resulting from the conference called for, among other things, archives related to the Second World War to be opened and war criminals to be prosecuted.
A week before the forum
began, Prime Minister Persson made a public statement about the country's
behaviour during the Second World War: 'We will always have to bear a moral and
political responsibility for what happened, or didn't happen, on the Swedish
side during the war.' His statement indicates a shift away from the more
defensive traditional position that emphasized the fact that Sweden was a
neutral country during the war and played down more uncomfortable matters: such
as the Swedish request that the Germans place a 'J' in the passports of German
Jews or that Sweden allowed German troops to cross the country in order to reach
Also coinciding with the conference was the statement by the government that 27 January, the anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation, would henceforth be a national day of remembrance. Prime Minister Persson also announced an inquiry into Sweden's war-time history that will focus on Sweden's official relationship to Nazi Germany as well as the activities of Swedish individuals. In addition, Alf Svensson (leader of the KD) proposed that an investigation into Swedish membership of the SS be launched initially emanated from Alf Svensson's, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party; this followed the broadcast of a television documentary - based on a book by journalist Boss Schon - that revealed that more than 250 Swedes had served in the SS during the war (42 of whom are still apparently alive). The investigation could lead to the prosecution of Swedish war criminals, and the Prime Minister vowed to change current Swedish law, according to which crimes committed more than twenty-five years ago no longer can be brought to justice. The Wiesenthal Center harshly criticized Sweden some six months later for not having made progress in re-working the relevant legislation.
Immigration to Sweden was insignificant until the Second World War, when refugees arrived mainly from the Baltic and other Scandinavian countries. During the first post-war decades, demand for labour increased sharply and workers were recruited from other European countries, first from other Nordic countries and later from Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, Poland and Italy. Since the 1970s, when economic conditions changed and the need for labour all but disappeared, immigration to Sweden has become increasingly restricted and those that have come have largely been political refugees and their families. In the process, Sweden has gone from being a largely monolingual and relatively ethnically homogeneous society into a multiracial and multilingual one with several large ethnic or national minority communities. Today, in addition to Sweden's own indigenous ethnic minorities, about 20 per cent of its population are immigrants or have at least one foreign-born parent, including persons from other Nordic countries.
Citizens of Nordic countries are eligible for Swedish citizenship after two years' residence in Sweden, and citizens of non-Nordic countries after five years' residence. Foreign nationals who marry Swedish citizens do not automatically acquire citizenship, nor do children born in Sweden to parents who are foreign nationals.
Sami (see also Fact
Sheets on Sweden: The Sami)
The indigenous Sami (Lapps) have inhabited the north of Scandinavia, Sápmi (Lapland), since ancient times, a region that now is divided between Russia, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The area of Sami settlement extends over the entire Scandinavian Arctic region and stretches along the mountain districts on both sides of the Swedish-Norwegian border.
The rights of the Sami to their culture and language did not receive particular attention until the 1960s and 1970s when many immigrant groups in Sweden began calling for the government to help preserve their culture. Although the Sami population now enjoy some political autonomy, Sweden was the last of the Nordic countries to allow the formation, in 1994, of a Sameting, an elected Sami parliament that represents Sami affairs to the government, and the Swedish body is still less independent than its Finnish and Norwegian counterparts. And it is only recently that the Sami, in accordance with Council of Europe conventions, have been officially declared a national minority.
However, in Sweden, the Sami language - spoken by about 70 per cent of the Sami - has not been granted the same legal status as it has in Finland and Norway. As the number of Sami speakers does not exceed 10 per cent in any municipality, the language does not benefit from any special municipal provisions, and Swedish is the only language Sami-speakers may use with public authorities.
The Sami themselves continue to struggle for greater recognition of their rights. Sami organizations include Svenska Samernas Riksförbund (SSR, National Union of the Swedish Sami People), set up in 1950, and the Sámiráddi (Sami Council), set up in 1965 to foster co-operation among the Sami of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. The Sami still face discrimination in the housing and employment sectors, though the government is attempting to address these issues.
In August 1998 the Swedish government - in a statement by then agriculture minister Annika Ahberg - finally expressed regret and apologized to the Sami people for the discrimination they have been subjected to over the centuries.
The Finnish language has since December 1994 enjoyed a 'special status' in Sweden, although how this is implemented is left to local administrations. Tornedalen Finnish has been designated by the government as a distinct language. The Tornedal - about three-quarters of whom live in the North - have for years been regarded as an indigenous population, and have recently been recognized, in accordance with Council of Europe conventions, as a national minority.
Gypsies have lived in what is now Sweden since at least the sixteenth century, and have always been considered immigrants. At least three discernible groups of Gypsies are in Sweden: Kalé Gypsies, a group of Sinti who have been in Sweden for centuries, many with Finnish as their mother-tongue; a group of Rom Gypsies who immigrated to Sweden in the nineteenth century; and a group of refugees from Central Europe who have immigrated to Sweden in the past fifty years.
Swedish policy towards Roma and Sinti has always aimed at assimilation, a policy that has had some success with Gypsies of long standing in Sweden, but not with newer arrivals, and unassimilated Gypsies suffer high levels of discrimination.
Immigration and refugees
According to Statistiska centralbyrån (Statistics Sweden), the number of immigrants to Sweden in recent years is as follows:
From other Nordic countries
From non-Nordic European countries
From non-European countries, including:
to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Sweden received
12,844 applications for asylum in 1998. The largest groups were Iraqis (3,843,
mainly Kurdish refugees), those from Yugoslav republics (3,466, mainly Kosovar
Albanians) and Bosnians (1,331). Approximately 40 per cent were
In 1999, 11,231 asylum applications were received, of which 34 per cent were successful. The largest groups, again, were from Iraq (3,576) and Yugoslavia (1,812). At the height of the war in Kosovo, between April and August 1999, 3,752 Kosovar Albanian refugees were given temporary residence permits; by September 1,000 of these had returned to Kosovo. At the close of 1999, according to UNHCR, there were 159,500 refugees and 7,860 asylum-seekers in Sweden.
In 2000, Sweden received 16,370 asylum applications, corresponding to 3.6 per cent of the total number of applications lodged in Europe. Again, the largest groups were from Bosnia (4,254), Iraq (3,518) and Yugoslav republics (1,880). There were 157,217 refugees in Sweden at the end of 2000.
Two Eurobarometer polls have been carried out in recent years in an attempt
to measure the levels of racism and xenophobia in European member states. The
first - carried out in the spring of 1997 by the European Commission - found
that 42 per cent of Swedish respondents described themselves as 'not at all
racist', while 40 per cent described themselves as 'a little racist', 16 per
cent as 'quite racist' and only 2 per cent as 'very racist'. The Swedish score
in the final category ('very racist') - the same as in Luxembourg - was the
lowest in Europe (where the overall average was nearly 33 per cent). Other
results were as follows: 89 per cent tended to agree that 'people from minority
groups are discriminated against in the job market', the second highest score in
Europe; and 60 per cent agreed that Sweden had already 'reached its limit' in
terms of the number of people from minority groups.
Three years later, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) commissioned a follow-up survey, which was carried out in the spring of 2000 by Eurobarometer; about 1,000 interviews were conducted in each of the 15 member states of the European Union. The results showed that, on the whole, Swedish respondents displayed generally positive attitudes towards minorities and a similarly high level of acceptance of immigrants. The vast majority of Swedes said that they were not disturbed by the presence of those of another nationality (88 per cent), another race (87 per cent) and another religion (81 per cent). On the prevalence of fears that immigrants bring social conflict and loss of welfare, Swedes were more similar to other Europeans.
In terms of an overall attitude towards minority groups, a typology of individuals ranging from tolerant to intolerant was used in the 2000 survey: in Sweden, 76 per cent held generally positive attitudes towards minorities (33 per cent were 'actively tolerant' and 43 per cent were 'passively tolerant', i.e. they held positive attitudes towards minorities but did not support anti-racist initiatives), way above the European average; 15 per cent were ambivalent in their attitudes; and 9 per cent were 'intolerant', way below the European average. On the question of whether or not discrimination should be outlawed, the Swedish sample felt more strongly than all the European countries except Luxembourg that it should (40 per cent thought it should, against a European average of 31 per cent). The Swedish sample also scored the highest of all the European member states on the question of whether minority groups enrich the cultural life of Sweden: 75 tended to agree that they did, against a European average of 50 per cent.
Swedish respondents also showed the highest level of acceptance of all the groups of people asked about: 35 per cent accepted people from Muslim countries without restrictions (against a European average of 17 per cent); 44 per cent accepted people from Eastern Europe without restrictions (against a European average of 20 per cent); 47 per cent accepted refugees fleeing serious conflict without restriction (against a European average of 28 per cent); 42 per cent accepted those seeking political asylum without restriction (against a European average of 25 per cent); and 58 per cent accepted citizens of other European countries settling in Sweden (against a European average of 39 per cent).
On questions designed to measure the degree to which minorities are blamed for social problems, 71 per cent of Swedish respondents tended to agree that the presence of minority children lowered educational standards (higher than the European average of 52 per cent), and 17 per cent tended to agree that minority groups were given preferential treatment by the authorities (way below the European average of 33 per cent).
Some questions from the 1997 poll were repeated in 2000 so that some
comparisons over time are possible. In Sweden, the change that was registered
was extremely small on all the questions. For instance, in 1997, the mere 9 per
cent that tended to agree that extra-European immigrants should be repatriated
had risen, in 2000, to 12 per cent; and the number that tended to agree that 'in
order to be fully accepted members of society, people belonging to minority
groups must give up their own culture' decreased from 21 per cent (1997) to 19
per cent (2000).
There are a number of
xenophobic and neo-Nazi groups in Sweden. Some of these groups operate as
political parties within the parliamentary system and others try to influence
public opinion as well as the mainstream parties more or less covertly, while
those on the extreme fringe reject the political system utterly. These groups
frequently split, reform and change names, and the boundaries between them are
In recent years the far right in Sweden has established an underground subculture that has seen a remarkable growth during the 1990s in relation to the size of the population. Although Swedish society was initially slow to react to the growth of this movement, the judicial system has now begun to adopt measures to counter it (see Legal matters).
Out of a total population of nearly 9 million, according to Swedish security service estimates, there are some 1,000 active members of far-right organizations. However, a much larger number are probably influenced by the far right via White Power music, print publications and Internet sites.
The most significant purveyor of xenophobia among the Swedish parliamentary parties continues to be Sverigedemokraterna (SD, Sweden Democrats), an ultra-nationalist party that opposes non-European immigration into Sweden, and its youth wing Sverigedemokratisk Ungdom (SDU, Sweden Democratic Youth). SD's leader, Mikael Jansson, is a former member of the mainstream CP. SD was formed in 1988 as a direct continuation of Bevara Sverige Svenskt (Keep Sweden Swedish) founded in 1979. In the 1994 general election, the first it contested, it received 14,000 votes. Thereafter the party began to experience an internal conflict between those who wished to create an image of greater respectability and those who resisted such a move. As a result, since 1995, SD has suffered from the defection of members to more radical groups, such as the NSF and, particularly in 1997, the KP. SD's membership was estimated at 500 in 1997 (earlier estimates were between 1,000 and 2,000). In the run-up to the 1998 general election, the party's campaign emphasized the fact that Jansson, its new leader, was a former member of the mainstream CP rather than a longstanding activist on the far right. Jansson, furthermore, banned the wearing of political uniforms at public meetings. The change in leadership reflects a wider change in SD as a whole, since new members are less and less likely to be neo-Nazis or far-right skinheads, or to have any previous links to that milieu.
SD's website offers the
following statement of the party's position: 'Sweden is on its way to become a
criminal and multicultural infested cesspool. The security and welfare the
nation had a few years ago will never be experienced again if we,
Sverigedemokraterna, don't put an end to the decline and correct the mistakes. .
. . We call ourselves national-democrats and dissociate ourselves from all forms
of totalitarianism and antisemitism. Today we have contact with other similar
nationalist movements in Europe. Parties such as Vlaams
Blok and Front
national are some that deserve to be mentioned.' The party's anti-Europe,
anti-globalization, pro-family and law-and-order manifesto includes the demand
that immigration be stopped and 'extra-European immigrants' be repatriated, as
well as calls for the protection of animal rights and the
Indicative of the party's turn towards 'respectability' are two important recent recruits: Johan Rinderheim and Kenneth Sandberg. Rinderheim was one of the founders of SD, but left the party soon thereafter. He rejoined SD late in 1997 and helped to create a strong SD branch in Haninge, a suburb of Stockholm. Rinderheim has become SD's leading ideologue, strategist and media contact. Kenneth Sandberg is a former member of the mainstream Left Party (VP), the former leader of Kommunens Väl, a local populist party in the southern Swedish town of Kävlinge and one of SV's member organizations, and the former chairman of F&M. Sandberg has become SD's leading figure in the southern region of Scania which is the party's best organized region.
SD publishes the
bi-monthly magazine SD-Kuriren (SD Courier), the occasional youth
magazine Ung Front (Young Front) and the membership newsletter
SD-Bulletinen (SD Bulletin), and also maintains a website. The party was
the prime mover behind Nord-Nat - an umbrella organization of Nordic parties,
including the Isänmaallinen Kansallis-Litto/ Fosterländska Folkforbundet
(Patriotic National Alliance) in Finland, and the Fedrelandspartiet
in Norway - established in 1997 in Malmö.
In August 1998 French anti-fascists made their Swedish counterparts aware that SD was receiving financial and logistical support from the French Front national (FN). SD received £35,000, mostly in printed election materials, to support its general election campaign from Euro-Nat, a network of European far-right parties. While the funding was obviously welcome, acceptance into the ranks of Euro-Nat is even more significant for SD, allowing it now to play an international role. SD has remained non-committal on the subsequent split of the FN into two separate parties in January 1999.
In the September 1998 general and local elections SD received just under 20,000 votes and managed to increase its number of seats in local councils from five to eight: two in Haninge, one in Sölvesborg, two in Trollhättan, two in Dals-Ed (held previously), one in Höör (two held previously). It was three votes away from winning one in Tierp, and it lost its previously held seat in the Stockholm suburb of Eckerö. That SD was capable of moving forward in the elections, despite the poor shape of its party organization, is due most likely to the financial support it received from the FN and the fact that the name Sverigedemokraterna is gradually becoming more well-known and established.
SD was the only Swedish far-right party that stood in the European elections in June 1999. It received 10,000 votes, not enough to win any seats in the European parliament.
September 2000 SD held its annual party congress in the Stockholm suburb of
Gubbängen in a school building hired under false pretences. About 200 delegates
The once successful Ny Demokrati (NyD, New Democracy), formerly Sweden's most successful right-wing populist party, founded by millionaire Ian Wachmeister and record producer Bert Karlsson, lost its parliamentary representation in the 1994 general election. The party was founded in 1991 and in the general election of that year it won 20 seats in parliament after securing 6.7 per cent of the vote.
In 1997 John Bouvin - notorious for racist comments made during his time as a NyD MP (1991-4), and for his support of US extremist Lyndon LaRouche - was elected leader. In April 1998 he announced that NyD had entered into an electoral coalition with the then newly created neo-fascist KP, which led to a series of internal disagreements. Bouvin nevertheless decided to proceed with organizing a common NyDKP May Day march in Östermalms Torg, a bourgeois neighbourhood of Stockholm, at which Bouvin and others were arrested. The incident was widely covered in the media, and Bouvin was expelled from the party, thereafter joining the KP executive. In the 1998 election NyD won just over 8,000 votes. Following the 1998 elections the party more or less disappeared from the political scene. After experiencing frequent changes of leadership and internal turmoil, it gradually transformed into a far-right party with an openly xenophobic programme, and has now virtually ceased to function as an organization. In the past, NyD has published the occasional magazine NyDemokraten (New Democrat) and the monthly bulletin NyDt i politiken (NyD News in Politics).
Det Nya Partiet (DNP, The New Party), is an anti-immigration party established in 1994 by Ian Wachmeister after he broke away from NyD. Jan Elwesson and Ingrid Björkman - ideologues associated with F&M and Fri Information - were hired by Wachmeister to formulate DNP's immigration politics. Since DNP was too small to feature in opinion polls in the run-up to the 1998 election, Wachmeister took matters into his own hands and hired a small polling institute to produce `improved' facts and figures, including the prediction that the DNP would receive 4 per cent of the vote and obtain a seat in parliament. In the event, like NyD, DNP went through the 1998 elections largely unnoticed. Afterwards it ceased to function, and Wachmeister withdrew from public politics altogether.
In April 1997 the Hembygdspartiet (HP, Heimat Party), which was founded in 1995 by an splinter group of the SD, became the Konservativa Partiet (KP, Conservative Party), based in Stockholm. The party's leader, Leif Larsson, a veteran Swedish neo-Nazi, is amongst the most militant and violent of Swedish extremists. KP's membership consists largely of a handful of young activists gathered around Larsson and its publication is the occasional magazine Grindvakten (The Gatekeeper). In the autumn of 1997 KP began to co-operate with Daniel Friberg's Alternativ Media group in Gothenburg, and Friberg (22) became the leader of KP's Gothenburg branch. An attempt to enter an electoral coalition with NyD through its leader John Bouvin in the spring of 1998 led to Bouvin's expulsion from NyD and the latter party's subsequent demise. In the 1998 general election, KP announced that they were going to concentrate on the Stockholm suburb of Huddinge, but its campaign never materialized. In the autumn of 1998, the party organized two concerts together with the White Power music organization Nordland, purportedly in order to recruit new members. A May Day rally organized by KP in 1999 was held in Sandviken, north of Stockholm, although the meeting was successfully sabotaged by anti-fascists.
In April 1997 the regional coalition party Skånes Väl (SV, Scania's Welfare) was formed by the merging of five right-wing populist anti-immigration parties in the southern region of Scania: Centrumdemokraterna (Centre Democrats), Framstegspartiet (Progressive Party), Skånepartiet (Scania Party), Kommunens Väl (Community Welfare) and Sjöbopartiet (Sjöbo Party). Sjöbopartiet, the leading party of the coalition, controls the municipality of Sjöbo and its leader, Per-Ingvar Magnusson, also heads the SV. Most of the coalition members were formed as local parties in the 1970s and developed xenophobic programmes during the 1980s. SV is supported by many other extreme groups and there are plans to establish a similar coalition party on a national level. Total SV membership is estimated at 800 and, although it has never published a party newspaper, it maintains a website. In the 1998 elections just over a dozen parties stood candidates under the coalition's umbrella, winning nearly 50 local council seats throughout Scania and approximately 25,000 votes.
Although the various anti-immigration lobbying groups continue to consolidate their activities and act in concert, they have a much lower profile than they did in a few years ago. The principal organization, Folkviljan och Massinvandringen (F&M, Will of the People and Mass Immigration), was officially formed in April 1997, although its roots date back to 1992 when the anti-immigration magazine Fri Information was launched. Its foundation was laid in 1996 when the lobbying group Samfundet för nationell och internationell utveckling (Society for National and International Development, SNID) - formed in 1994 as the main Swedish anti-immigration think-tank, and consisting of academics and members of mainstream parties critical of Sweden's immigration and refugee policies - was dismantled in response to an exposé published in 1996 in the anti-fascist magazine Expo, and re-organized as four separate district organizations. In its final newsletter, the leaders of SNID stated that the network was so vast that no central organization was needed.
Some of F&M's members and supporters have been recruited from established parties, such as Riksdag member Sten Andersson (MS) or former F&M leader Kenneth Sandberg, now the leading member of SD in Scania, was formerly a member of the mainstream Left Party (VP). F&M publishes a membership newsletter and maintains a website. Since it was founded it has organized meetings and lectures, and recruited members through advertisements in the mainstream media and leaflets. Its current membership is estimated at 800.
Blågula Frågor (BgF, Blue–Yellow Questions, referring to the colours of the Swedish flag) has been active since 1994 as a small anti-immigration and nationalist organization. BgF’s main activities are the publication of the magazine Blågula Frågor (Blue–Yellow Questions), under Jan Milld's editorship, and a website. Its two leading figures are Milld, a member of the mainstream SDA, and Anders Sundholm, who was a long-time activist in the Green Party (MpG), but was expelled in 1996 due to his anti-immigration position; a number of its members are also former leftists. Membership is estimated at 100 and BgF has a close relationship with F&M. BgF calls itself a democratic nationalist organization and defends itself (as well as, incidentally, Jean-Marie Le Pen and the French Front national) against charges of being on the far right. Its anti-immigration policy focuses on the economic costs of immigrants and the difficulties of integration and multiculturalism.
Swedish neo-Nazi groups form an extra-parliamentary network of militant activists known as the NS-rörelsen (N[ational] S[ocialist] movement). Its number of hard-core activists is estimated at 100, with perhaps an additional 1,000-2,000 active supporters nationwide. The number of passive sympathizers and consumers of so-called White Power music - Swedish neo-Nazism's principal medium of propaganda, recruitment and fundraising - is certainly much greater. Many activists in the movement belong to more than one grouping and some members maintain regular contact with like-minded persons and groups in other countries. While neo-Nazi groups operate legally there have been serious discussions recently about the possibility of outlawing them.
The number of neo-Nazis dropped significantly in the years after 1995, when it was estimated that there were some 1,000 hard-core neo-Nazi skinheads in Stockholm alone (an estimate that had dropped by 1998 to a few hundred). More recent estimates put the number at 1,000-1,300 in the whole of the country. The decrease was due in part to measures taken by the authorities, including arrests and raids, the banning of rallies, the policing of concerts, and restricting the entry to Sweden of those coming from abroad to attend rallies, meetings or concerts. Despite this, the number and intensity of high-profile violent acts committed by neo-Nazis has increased rather significantly, particularly in 1999 (see Incidents).
Some observers of the neo-Nazi movement in Sweden believe that this increase is not a sign of the movement's growth or potency but rather one of its growing desperation and descent into pure criminality. The much greater pressure on these groups (not only from the authorities but from increasingly well-organized anti-fascist groups) has caused some to attempt to become more `respectable' (NSF and AB) and others to escalate their commitment to armed struggle (B&HS).
There are a few historical moments
that are annually commemorated or marked by the neo-Nazi movement, including
Hitler's birthday (20 April), May Day (1 May), Rudolf Hess's suicide (17
August), Kristallnacht (9 November), and, in Sweden only, the anniversary of
King Karl XII's death in battle in 1718 (30 November). As counter-demonstrations
and other measures by anti-fascist groups have become more successful, many of
these commemorative gatherings, particularly the August Hess marches, are held
during the weeks before or after the actual date so as to avoid disruption. On
12 August 2000, for instance, a 'surprise' Hess demonstration by some sixty
neo-Nazis took place in Stockholm's city centre, an event claimed by far-right
Internet sites as a victory since neo-Nazis have not been able to demonstrate
openly in the capital since 1994. On the same day, in the town of Sollebrunn, a
Hess commemoration attracted about thirty neo-Nazis, all of whom were eventually
arrested by the police.
At present the fastest growing section of the neo-Nazi movement is the network of both large and small groups that has formed under the umbrella of Ragnarock Records, including the Nationalsocialistisk Front, Blood & Honour Scandinavia, NS Stockholm, Ariska Brödraskapet, info-14 and Gula Korset.
Nationalsocialistisk Front (NSF, National Socialist Front) - a grassroots neo-Nazi organization, whose motto is ‘Discipline’, advocates a return to the 'traditional' national socialism of the 1930s, including antisemitic propaganda, the use of flags and political uniforms - is at present the fastest growing neo-Nazi organization in Sweden. It has increased its number of branches and (with the financial support of B&HS) its international contacts with like-minded groups abroad, particularly the NNSB in Norway and the DNSB in Denmark. NSF was formed in 1994 in Karlskrona in the south of Sweden - where it is still based - under the leadership of Anders Högström (25). It has an estimated membership of 400 and its principal publication is the bi-monthly magazine Den Sanne Nationalsocialisten (The True National Socialist), printed by Ragnarock (now called Den Svenske Nationalsocialisten (The Swedish National Socialist), edited by Björn Björkqvist).
The NSF branch in Klippan, founded in 1998, is the largest and most active group. It produces the magazine Vit Offensiv (White Offensive) and probably also produces the weapons fetishist magazine Ariskt Motstånd (Aryan Resistance). Klippan has been associated with racist violence ever since September 1995 when the asylum-seeker Gerard Gbeyo was stabbed by two neo-Nazis, an incident that received national media coverage. In 1998 NS-Klippan member Jesper Ekberg stabbed an immigrant and then fired shots through the same individual's windows. Particularly active NSF branches have also appeared in the towns of Trollhättan (led by Andreas 'Carrot' Johansson, 23), Örebro (led by Jonas Persson, 24) and Ludvika (led by Mikael Byman, 23).
In 1998 the NSF (often in partnership with Ragnarock Records and/or B&HS) was very active: it organized five concerts and about two large political meetings per month (mostly in the south of Sweden) and produced 10–15 issues of various neo-Nazi publications. Amongst the most significant events was a celebration of Hitler's birthday in Bromilla on 20 April and an illegal May Day demonstration held in the central Swedish village of Nora after a march in Örebro, west of Stockholm, was banned; during the latter, the entire 80-strong NSF contingent was arrested after rioting broke out, and seven of the leaders were sentenced to between two and six months in prison. The first joint venture of NSF, the Danish DNSB and the Norwegian NNSB was a march to commemorate Rudolf Hess, held in Greve (Denmark) on 15 August 1998.
There were hints of some internal difficulties in the NSF during the course of 1999. Den Sanne Nationalsocialisten appeared only twice throughout the year, compared to six times in 1998, although the NSF website has shown no signs of decreasing activity. A (legal) May Day rally was held in the centre of Ludvika, north-west of Stockholm, which was attended by about 100 supporters. Anders Högström announced at the end of December 1999 that he was leaving the organization in order to lead a `normal life'. He even apologized to Björn Fries, a SDA councillor in Karlskrona, for the terror campaign NSF had waged against him following Fries's successful attempts to persuade NSF's Internet servers (only one of which was Swedish) to withdraw services from the organization. The new NSF leadership includes Björn Björkqvist (21), Anders Ärleskog (24) and Hans 'Himmler' Pettersson (33). Pettersson - a member of NSF's national council and responsible for the party's security force Skydd och Säkerhet (Safety and Security) - acts as the all-important link between NSF and Ragnarock Records.
More recently, relations between NSF and B&HS have broken down to some degree, as evidenced by NSF's decision to establish contacts with Nordland.
Blood & Honour/Scandinavia (B&HS), the pan-Scandinavian branch of the international Blood & Honour network originally founded in the United Kingdom by Combat 18, is based in Helsingborg in southern Sweden (there is also nominally a Blood & Honour/Sweden). Formed in 1996 its principal link in Sweden is with the NSF (in Denmark it is linked with the DNSB and in Norway with the NNSB). The prime movers in the enterprise are Erik Blücher, the financially successful White Power music producer and director of Ragnarok Records, and his associate Marcel Schilf. Because of the financial success of Ragnarock, B&HS has become probably the most important (and influential) member of the international Blood & Honour network, possibly including Combat 18 in England. B&HS publishes several magazines in English, including B&H/ Scandinavia and Route 88 (the international Blood & Honour magazine), and is one of the groups associated with info-14. Its propaganda has increasingly supported the strategy of leaderless resistance, encouraging members to 'take up the armed struggle against the system' and to engage in individual, commando-style acts of violence, and its publications offer bomb recipes, information about weapons and addresses of anti-fascists.
During the summer of 1997, a group of neo-Nazi skinheads, with Stefan Andersson in the lead, formed a Combat 18-style group called NS Stockholm, which received support from the group around former Nationella Alliansen leader Robert Vesterlund (24) and his publication info-14. On the eve of Kristallnacht in 1997, NS Stockholm organized its first action, an anti-Jewish demonstration in Stockholm.
In January 1998 Stefan Andersson sold Sweden's leading tabloid Aftonbladet pictures of neo-Nazis threatening two well-known anti-fascists - police press officer Clas Cassel and television journalist Alexandra Pascalidou - outside their homes with a pistol. As a result of their publication, five neo-Nazis were sentenced to protective custody by the lower courts, but were later acquitted on appeal. Before the pictures were published, NS Stockholm ordered forty passport photos - publicly available documents in Sweden - of other anti-fascists.
In April 1998 NS Stockholm attempted to open a space called Varghaket in a Stockholm suburb. Varghaket was meant to be a boutique for the sale of Ragnarock materials as well as a meeting space for NS Stockholm, NSF and info-14. Anti-fascists destroyed the space before it could open, and the landlord threw NS Stockholm out of the building. During the course of the autumn and winter, however, a conflict erupted between NS Stockholm and Ragnarock over the fact that the latter never received compensation for goods delivered in good faith to Varghaket.
Ariska Brödraskapet (AB, Aryan Brotherhood) was formed in 1996 by militant neo-Nazis Niclas Löfdahl (26), Daniel Hansson and Johan Billing, with the support of Ragnarock Records. It publishes the occasional magazine Berserker and an internal bulletin. In past years, AB has been accused of being behind several violent acts, including the sending of letter-bombs (to Swedish Minister of Justice Laila Freivalds and another to a leading Nordland activist), arson attacks, robbery and murder.
Gula Korset (GK, Yellow Cross) was formed in 1996 in Gothenburg as a self-styled 'Aryan war prisoners' solidarity fund', a subsidiary of the now-defunct Nationella Alliansen. It survived the mother organization's demise in the same year in the aftermath of a raid on their headquarters by Stockholm police. Today GK is based in Ale, and it is one of a consortium of groups close to the magazine info-14.
There are also a few neo-Nazi groupings associated with Nordland, Ragnarock's rival in the White Power music industry. One is a group of younger activists gathered around Nordland's Linköping group that calls itself Östgöta NS. With financial support from Nordland, they publish the magazine Gripen (Griffin) in the small village of Åtvidaberg. In the towns of Kalmar and Nybro, there is a similar group called Smålands SA, with close ties with both NSF and Östgöta NS, as well as the magazine Gripen. Smålands SA's magazine Stormpress has been taken over by Kim Blomqvist (25) who is responsible for NSF propaganda.
In 1996 younger activists in the Nordland circle started Blod & Ära (Blood & Honour, not to be confused with B&HS), which has two functioning branches, one in Södertälje (south of Stockholm) and one in the university town of Uppsala. The group in Södertälje is closely allied to the Nordland band Germania, and publishes the magazine Blod & Ära. At the end of January 1998, it attempted to organize a concert with Germania and the English band Brutal Attack; the police stopped Brutal Attack at Stockholm's airport and sent the band back to England. The group in Uppsala, which consists of former Riksfronten and SD members, also attempted to organize a concert in March 1998 but it, too, was stopped by police. Both of these concerts were enormous financial setbacks for Blod & Ära. During the summer of 1998, the leader of the Uppsala group, the Englishman Richard Fawcus moved back to England and began working with the British National Party. During the winter of 19989, the neo-Nazis in Uppsala started an on-line magazine called Uppsala Nationella Tidning (The National Magazine of Uppsala).
Nordiska Rikspartiet (NRP, Nordic Reich Party), an old-style national socialist party, was established in 1956, and since then has been led by Göran and Vera Oredsson. The party has an estimated membership of 200. In the 1980s NRP's militant arm, Riksaktionsgrupp (RAG, Reich Action Group), was involved in violence against Jews, homosexuals, socialists and anti-racists. Today the party's main activity is the publication of the quarterlies Nordisk Kamp (Nordic Struggle), the occasional Solhjulet (The Sunwheel) and the NRP Bulletin.
Anti-AFA, named after the main militant left-wing opposition to neo-Nazism in Sweden, Antifascistisk Aktion (AFA, Anti-Fascist Action), was set up in 1995 as a neo-Nazi 'intelligence' organization. It formerly published Werwolf, a 'death list' of some 350 Swedish anti-racists, and in June 1997 moved its headquarters from Säffle to Ale in the west of Sweden.
Other extra-parliamentary groups
Nationell Ungdom (NU, National Youth) was formed in 1995 in Stockholm by a group of young people as the youth wing of SD, but soon went its own way. Headed by Martin Linde (21) and Johan Hartman, it differed from other far-right groups in that it had no roots in the neo-Nazi or skinhead movement, and its main project was the organization of outdoor activities including 'survival camps', track and field events, paint-ball games and educational activities. In May 1997, after establishing contacts with an older generation of neo-Nazis in Stockholm, NU founded the magazine Folktribunen (People's Tribune), published by Erik Hägglund (28) under the editorship of former VAM member Klas Lund (32). The December 1997 issue of the magazine announced the launch of a new organization, Svenska Motståndsrörelsen (SM, Swedish Resistance Movement), of which NU was to be the youth wing.
While SM/NU are different from neo-Nazi organizations in that they eschew the use of Nazi symbols and rhetoric, their theory and practice are the same. Reference is regularly made to a 'racial holy war', a world-wide Jewish conspiracy (ZOG) and to the need for blind obedience to a strong leader; instead of Nazi jargon, SM/NU appeal to a sense of 'nationalism' and 'Swedishness'. At the same time, however, they advocate revolutionary militancy and a hierarchical society and they openly disdain the SD's 'reformism' and parliamentarianism. In May 1998 Klas Lund travelled to Karlskrona in an unsuccessful attempt to convince NSF to join SM; NSF, however, did not want to part with its uniforms and its worship of Hitler. Despite the rhetoric about being a 'mass party', SM remains a largely theoretical notion.
The only sign of NU being active in 1998 was an attack on the art exhibition 'Soft Core' at Sweden's historical museum. The exhibition contained child pornography and NU's attack was to some degree generally applauded. In the autumn of 1998 NU virtually ceased to function as many of its members began their military service.
SM/NU co-operates closely with the Gothenburg-based Alternativ Media, and together they produce the Internet newsletter Nationell Information (National Information); in late 1998 and early 1999, a spate of SM posters appeared in areas of Gothenburg.
In June 2000 about 30 NU activists attended a summer training camp in Germany with about 70 members of the German Die Jungen Nationaldemokration (JN) - the youth wing of the NPD - in Harzbergen (south of Hanover). The two groups regarded the camp as the first of many co-operative ventures, and hope to collaborate in the establishment of a `Nationalist North European Alliance'.
In late 2000 it was reported that
Folktribunen, following a conviction for incitement to ethnic
hatred earlier in the year, merged with the glossy White Power music magazine
Swedish branches of the Church of the Creator (COTC) have seemingly disappeared; none appear on the COTC website’s list of international branches. The ‘church’ was founded in 1988 - as Kreativistens Kyrka (Church of the Creator) - by the ‘reverend’ Tommy Rydén as the 'religious' wing of the Swedish neo-Nazi movement.
More explicitly neo-Nazi forms of New Age
religions have also appeared in Sweden. The extensive website of the 14 Ord
Press Sveriges (14 Word Press Sweden) is the Swedish off-shoot of the US 14 Word
Press, a publishing company founded by the American white supremacist David
Lane, former member of the violent group The Order and now serving a long
prison sentence. The eponymous 14 words - ‘We must secure the existence of our
people and a future for White children’ - are described by Lane, their author,
as the only thing that matters to ‘any sane white man’. The 14 Word Press is
associated with the Odinist Wotansvolk movement, ‘the incarnation of WOTAN, Will
. . . Of . . . The . . . Aryan . . . Nation’.
There is also a Swedish branch - Svensk Hednisk
Front (SHF, Swedish Heathen Front), based in Stockholm with branches in Gothenburg
and elsewhere- of
the Allgermanische Heidnische Front (Pan-Germanic Heathen Front) network,
which calls for the creation of a pan-Germanic state, reuniting all
Aryan/Germanic/Nordic peoples under one common leader. The ideology is a mixture
of traditional national socialism and Odinism,
according to which the right to vote is accorded either to those with a military
rank or to those women who have borne a child. The group
claims not to be ‘white supremacist’ or ‘racist’ in that it does not call for
the destruction or overpowering of other races, only for the end of the
cohabitation of races, the rejection of ‘multiculturalism’ (which it sees as
destructive of all ethnic difference), so that ‘our people
can live free from alien influence, reliving its Germanic heritage and
being’ and the ‘ethnic pride’ of other races as well can ‘have a solid
White Power music
Sweden is the leading distributor of so-called White Power music to the rest of Europe. A 1997 poll found that more than 12 per cent of Swedish youths listen at least occasionally to racist music. Furthermore, a report published by Interpol in 1999 claimed that the manufacture, distribution and sale of neo-Nazi music has become a US$3.4 million per year enterprise.
Nordland, one of the two leading Swedish producers and distributors of neo-Nazi music and paraphernalia, was founded in 1994 and is based in Linköping and Stockholm. Nordland, directed by Peter Melander, runs the record company 88 Musik and produces the glossy colour music magazine Nordland. Nordland was one of the first neo-Nazi groups in Sweden to make use of the Internet. In 1997 it established a website, and started publishing a weekly on-line newsletter, Frihetsbrevet (Freedom Letter), which became one of its most important propaganda tools.
In the early months of 1998, as a result of a series of concerts that were either disrupted - particularly the Brottby concert - or cancelled, Nordland began experiencing financial difficulties. Further difficulties ensued in March 1998, when police raided three Nordland locations in Linköping - one the home of leading Nordland figure Mattias Sundquist (28), who was subsequestly charged with and convicted of incitement to ethnic hatred. In May 1998 a journalist exposed the fact that Nordland's magazine was being printed in Tallin in Estonia by the government-owned press Printall Shop; after an intervention by the Swedish foreign ministry, the printing contract was cancelled.
Another incident in the spring of 1998 wrought further damage when Nordland 'spammed' all of the customers of the Swedish Internet provider Algonets with an electronic letter of propaganda. This resulted in many providers establishing a block against Frihetsbrevet. Furthermore, as a result of the defection from the organization of its Gothenburg-based mail-order department Midgård, Nordland lost its most technologically competent members, and its website and newsletter disappeared from the Internet altogether. Although this proved to be temporary and they reappeared in November 1998, the once influential Frihetsbrevet is now no more than an occasional advertisement for Nordland's products.
A year after Nordland's crisis, in the spring of 1999, William Pierce, leader of the US National Alliance, purchased Nordland's stock and band contracts. This move was calculated to help Nordland with its financial troubles and ensure Pierce's domination of the international White Power music industry (Pierce already owns the US Resistance Records). Pierce acquired the record label Cymophane-Vinland, a Black Metal label originally established in 1993 by the Norwegian Varg Vikernes. Cymophane shifted its base to Stockholm in early 2000, and became Cymophane Records-Nordland. The label is expected to act as the European distributor for, among others, Vikernes's band Burzum.
Pierce's influence is already apparent in recent issues of Nordland, a magazine that had often in the past played down the role of violence, advocating instead a `revolution of values'. As well as adopting a more militant rhetoric, the magazine has recently begun publishing translations of older German Nazi texts as well as Pierce's classic texts of leaderless resistance, The Turner Diaries and Hunter.
Ragnarock Records, founded in 1993 and based in Helsingborg, has, in contrast to its rival Nordland, been growing in importance. Its former director was the veteran national socialist Lars Magnus Westrup, who died in 1995. The leading figures are the Norwegian Erik Nilsen (47, usually known as Erik Blücher), former leader and founder of the now disbanded Norwegian far-right group Norsk Front, Marcel Schilf and the Swede Hans `Himmler' Pettersson. Blücher, born in Norway to German parents and resident in Sweden since 1983, has been involved in the neo-Nazi movement for thirty years and is, arguably, the most significant figure in the Swedish movement. Schilf resides in the southern town of Klippan, a ferry-ride from Denmark. In early August 2000 a Finnish 'comrade' visiting Schilf was shot by local farmers, reportedly angry about the increasing presence of neo-Nazis in the town. The town council subsequently purchased Schilf's rented farmhouse and cancelled his contract.
Ragnarock Records is linked to the British Combat 18
and its Blood & Honour network - Blücher and Schilf are the prime movers
behind the establishment of the now extremely influential Swedish branch of the
- and has become a kind of umbrella organization encompassing a section
of the Swedish neo-Nazi movement. Ragnarock Records has made Helsingborg an
international meeting place, and neo-Nazis from the United States, England,
Austria, Germany, Denmark and Finland have also worked on Ragnarock's various
projects for short periods of time.
The company, together with Schilf's Danish mail order company NS88 and record company NS Records, has virtually cornered the extremely lucrative German market in neo-Nazi music and other propaganda material. Ragnarock Records has invested heavily in music equipment, as well as a printing press and colour copy machines, making it able to supply produce its own propaganda as well as that produced by others. The company produced over thirty CDs and numerous publications, including Segerrunan (Siegrune) and the magazine Viking Order, which first appeared in 1997 (in an almost identical format to its predecessor Nordic Order). Blücher's own mail order company is called Wasakaren and its catalogue is entitled Victory Rune.
In propaganda produced by Ragnarock's allies (especially Blücher's B&HS) there are regular condemnations directed at its rival Nordland for opportunism and cynicism, for producing 'Hollywood Nazis', 'pop starts' and profiteers. White Power music, the line goes, is of no value if it does not provoke action, if it is not a means to a national socialist end.
Following a series of police raids in November 1996, Blücher, Pettersson and another Ragnarock partner Bert-Ove Rasmussen were charged with incitement to ethnic hatred for the production and distribution of seven racist CDs and a video. The long trial finally came to an end late in 1998 with their conviction and sentencing to three months in prison, reduced on appeal to a fine.
In October 1998 the Swedish police again raided the Helsingborg premises of Ragnarock and NS88, as well as the homes of their leading figures, and were able to arrest Blücher and Schilf on the evidence found, which included, amongst other things, a customer database including the names of 8,000 individuals, 6,000 of whom live in Germany. All of NS88's master videotapes were confiscated but later returned. Despite this police effort, Ragnarock's and NS88's operations have continued as usual. Blücher, Pettersson and Schilf have again been charged with incitement to ethnic hatred.
In recent years the band Ultima Thule - whose members have links to SD - built and developed its own recording studios in the town of Nyköping, working with its own record companies, Ultima Thule Records and Attitude Records. Ultima Thule's 'niche' is the grey area between White Power music and apolitical 'Viking rock', and therefore attracts much less attention from the media and anti-fascist organizations. In 1998 it launched Attitude Records in order to broaden the appeal of neo-Nazi rock music, and to produce the music of so-called 'Nazi-punk', Oi and 'apolitical' punk bands. The group have been involved in recent years in organizing the annual Holmgång music festival, held outside the western Swedish town of Borås. On 10 February 2000 Ultima Thule's recording studios were completely destroyed by fire.
In early 1998 Nordland's Gothenburg-based mail-order department, Midgård, led by Per-Anders 'Pajen' Johansson (30), split off from the organization and established its own neo-Nazi 'boutique', which experienced enormous growth. Johannson has set up a lucrative mail-order business, established a website, started publishing and distributing a four-colour magazine/catalogue and released a number of new White Power records. In collaboration with Mark Parland from Finland, Midgård even started its own video magazine. The organization also collaborates with Ultime Thule and its Attitude Records. Furthermore, many of those who work on Midgård's projects are involved with the Gothenburg-based Alternativ Media. In order to launch Midgård in the summer of 1998, Johannson released a number of mini-CDs, all using the same musicians. In September 2000, as a result of a campaign by anti-fascists to expose the 'boutique', Midgård was evicted from its premises by the owner.
Concerts and bands
Sweden has about forty active White Power bands. Concerts are usually attended by at least 75, but audiences can number more than 300.
In early January 1998 314 neo-Nazis were arrested at a concert organized by Nordland in the Stockholm suburb of Brottby. The concert, at which many Nazi symbols were visible, as were Nazi salutes and racist slogans, culminated in a violent clash with the 100 police officers present and one of the largest number of arrests in Swedish history. Some of the bands playing were Svastika, Vit Aggression (White Aggression) and the US band Max Resist and the Hooligans. As a result of the incident, Vit Aggression, one of Nordland's most popular bands, broke up. A benefit concert for those arrested was organized a few weeks later but - with 300 police officers strategically positioned and numerous searches of neo-Nazis travelling to the concert - it failed to materialize and reportedly lost the organizers £10,000.
Nordland organized two concerts in the autumn of 1998 with KP, in an attempt by the latter to recruit new members. About 100 attended each concert, at which the Nordland band Heysel headed the bill.
During 1998, as the number of Nordland concerts was decreasing, the Ragnarock-affiliated groups, especially NSF and B&HS, began to organize their own concerts. NSF has two bands of their own: Hets Mot Folkgrupp (Incitement to Racial Hatred) - referring to the Swedish law against same, although in English the band calls itself Racial Hatred - from Trelleborg, and Nibelungen from Helsingborg. Amongst the bands controlled by Ragnarock Records are Totenkopf, Storm and Odium.
The largest music neo-Nazi music event in 1999 was the festival Holmgång 99, held in August outside the small Swedish town of Borås. English and German, as well as Swedish bands, performed. The annual festival is organized in part by Ultima Thule.
(SÄPO, Security Police) compile data on hate crimes. In 1998, 2,210
such incidents were recorded (compared to 1,752 in 1997). In 1999, there were 2,363: of
these 1,902 were described as being hate crimes whereas
the remaining 461 were classified as `uncertain'. In
2000, 2,896 hate crimes were reported of which 2,572 were committed by Swedes
against members of minority groups, and the remaining 324 were either directed
against Swedes or were committed both by and against members of minority groups.
This corresponds to a 65 per cent increase in hate crimes over a four-year
period. (Incidents are only counted if it is clear that the victim's ethnic background
or sexual preference was
the principal reason for the crime (although some crimes against political
opponents are also included).) The
number of crimes committed by individuals associated with the neo-Nazi movement
doubled between 1997 (469) and 1999 (966) and
peaked in 2000 with 2,092.
The rise in
numbers may be attributed to an increased willingness to report such crimes and
to the more active role being taken by police, prosecutors and the courts
regarding crimes with a racist motive.
The Brottsforebyggande Radet (BRÄ, Council for Crime Prevention) also reports on the number of recorded incidents of incitement to ethnic hatred and of acts of discrimination. In 1998, 591 incidents of incitement were recorded by the police (compared to 344 in 1997, and 281 in 1996) and 237 acts of ethnic discrimination (compared to 181 in 1997, and 218 in 1996). Only 210 cases of discrimination were cited in 1999, half of which concerned access to restaurants, shops or public transport. In 2000, a total of 865 cases of incitement were reported, a sharp increase in comparison to previous years, especially 1992-5 when only some 100 cases were reported each year.
The Ombudsmannen mot etnisk diskriminering (Ombudsman for ethnic discrimination) reported in January 2000 that complaints of ethnic discrimination in the labour market increased by 50 per cent in 1999 to 184 cases, compared to 122 cases in 1998 (which was itself double the 1997 figure of 59). However, the figure for the following year 2000 showed no change (185). The otherwise steady increase of reports of ethnic discrimination in the labour market over the past few years may, once again, be attributed to a greater willingness to report such incidents as a result of increased public awareness of ethnic discrimination.
SÄPO also compile data on those reported incidents that have a specifically antisemitic nature, including damage to both persons and property. These have increased every year between 1997 and 2000: 99 were recorded in 1997, 119 in 1998, 125 in 1999 and 131 in 2000.
The Jewish cemetery in Malmö was desecrated twice in 2000, once
on the night of 8 April and once on the night of 3 October. On the first
occasion, gravestones were overturned and damaged and some were entirely
destroyed, although no antisemitc graffiti were found at the cemetery. On the
second occasion, gravestones were damaged and the cemetery office was set on
In September 2000 a Norwegian businessman wearing a skullcap was severely beaten, robbed and verbally abused by a gang of neo-Nazi skinheads in Uddevalla in western Sweden. The police are investigating the case.
A Jewish man was severely beaten, assaulted and verbally abused by neo-Nazis in Vellinge (in the region of Skåne, southern Sweden) in August 1999. The man had previously received threats and abusive letters from neo-Nazis.
In September 1998 twelve AK-5s, bullet-proof vests and ammunition were stolen by two neo-Nazis (19 and 20) from army barracks in the small south-central village of Strängnäs. The then military guard Stefan Lans ( 22, formerly a Nationella Alliansen activist), who was unmasked, and his masked accomplice Erling Guldbrandzén (21) were caught a week after the raid as they were moving between hide-outs, and charged with theft. Only four of the AK-5s were found, together with a list of names of EU politicians, politicians involved in a local scandal and several police chiefs; the eight missing weapons are probably in the hands of a neo-Nazi organization.
At the end of May 1999 three neo-Nazis associated with the NSF carried out a bank robbery in Kisa (250 km south-east of Stockholm) and killed two policemen who were pursuing them in the nearby village of Malexander. After the incident, a NSF member was quoted in the German press as saying: `We don't get any state funds and have to get our money from other sources.' Andreas Axelsson (30, former editor of Småland SA's Stormpress) was wounded during the pursuit and was arrested immediately following the robbery. Jackie Arklöv (27, whose fingerprints were found on a weapon, was born in Liberia to a black mother and a white father, and adopted at an early age by a Swedish couple; after serving one year of a thirteen-year sentence for war crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims, he was exchanged for Bosnian Croat prisoners and returned to Sweden where he joined the NSF. Arklöv was arrested two days after the robbery. Tony Olsson (28), the third man charged with the killings and an Aryan Brotherhood associate, was already serving a four-year sentence at the time of the incident for conspiracy to commit murder; the day before the robbery, he had been released from prison to participate in a rehabilitation programme organized by the national theatre - in which the playwright Lars Norén cast convicted neo-Nazis to play themselves in a production of Norén's play 7:3 - and escaped. Olsson was arrested a week later in Costa Rica, and extradited back to Sweden; the police found £75,000 (out of the £250,000 stolen) as they searched the Costa Rican house where Olsson was arrested. The three were sentenced to life imprisonment. Five others who were also arrested on suspicion of involvement in the robbery - Mats Nilsson, arrested in August for handling the proceeds of the bank raid; Olsson's girlfriend, for aiding a criminal fugitive; Martin Axén, an NSF associate, for helping to plan the robbery; and two neo-Nazi friends of Axén's, charged with minor offences in connection with the robbery - were given lesser sentences.
A footnote to the
incident concerns Lars Norén's national theatre rehabilitation programme. When
it transpired that three of the eight people arrested - Olsson, Nilsson and one
of the other accomplices - were all involved in the 7:3 production, Norén
left the project. Subsequently it was reported that Axelsson also was employed
by the programme, and that it was he who had been sent to drive Olsson to and
from the prison.
Two car bombs, presumably related, were planted by neo-Nazis over a three-day period, in the Stockholm suburb of Nacka (28 June 1999) and Malmö (1 July 1999), respectively. The 28 June bomb was planted in the car of Katarina Larsson and Peter Karlsson, both anti-racist journalists. The investigation has shown that the bomb was intended to kill. Peter Karlsson and his eight-year-old son were in the car at the time and survived the attack since one of the car doors was still open when the bomb exploded. Larsson and Karlsson are both former reporters for the Swedish anti-fascist magazine Expo, and are known for their extensive knowledge of the far right, the White Power music scene and neo-Nazi infiltration of the Swedish army. The bombing, which made the front page of all the national newspapers, was forcefully condemned, particularly by journalists, the journalists' union and the organization Hasan vänner (Friends of Hasan, formed after Hasan Zatara was shot by the notorious racist John Ausonius who murdered one man and attacked ten other immigrants in Stockholm and Uppsala in 1991). The latter group also organized a public meeting during which a petition with four demands was drawn up: the establishment of a crisis centre for victims of racial attacks; acknowledgement of the threat of far-right violence; provision of appropriate security for those threatened; and the development of guidelines for dealing with far-right violence. During the course of one day, over a thousand people in the media signed the petition, which subsequently was passed on to the prime minister. The prime suspects in the case are the three neo-Nazis arrested for the murder of Björn Söderberg.
The second bomb, in Malmö on 1 July, injured two policemen who had been called out following an anonymous tip about a car theft. Once again, the investigation showed that the bomb had been made to kill, and that the police were the target. Local police are investigating various neo-Nazi groups who are suspected of involvement in the bombings.
In July 1999 four neo-Nazis, including the brothers Tom
and Roger Olsen, assaulted four Iraqi immigrants over a two-day period. The four
were beaten and threatened with rifles, and the following day chased by their
assailants who were brandishing knives. After the immigrants managed to reach
their flat and lock themselves in, Tom Olsen fired a shot through their window
with an air rifle. The four perpetrators were sentenced to
Björn Söderberg, a trade union activist, was shot dead outside his flat in the Stockholm suburb of Sätra by Neo-nazis on 12 October 1999. The murder, purportedly an act of revenge, received widespread national media coverage and was roundly condemned in all quarters. Söderberg had exposed his work colleague, Robert Vesterlund - who had been elected a shop steward - as a leading figure in NS Stockholm and the editor of info-14, was removed from his union position and, after pressure from the authorities, forced to quit his job. On the same day that Söderberg exposed Vesterlund, the former's passport photo was ordered and sent to the post-box address of Info-14 (under Swedish law, passport photos are available to the public). The police were able quickly to arrest three young neo-Nazis for the murder as they were under surveillance in connection with the 28 June car bomb, and had been seen in the area around Söderberg's flat in the weeks preceding the murder. Hampus Hellekant (24), Jimmy Niklasson (21) and Björn Lindberg- Hernlund (24) - all associated with NU and info-14 - were arrested but could not be charged with murder as it was impossible to determine who had fired the killing shots. They were accordingly tried as accessories to the murder. Robert Vesterlund (23) was also arrested on suspicion of having instigated the murder, but the police have been unable to prove his knowledge of the crime. On 23 October 1999 demonstrations protesting Söderberg's murder were held in some twenty towns across Sweden: 8,000-10,000 gathered in Stockholm (making it the capital's largest anti-fascist demonstration in a decade), 4,000 in Gothenburg, 1,200 in Malmö, over 1,000 in Gävle, 800 in Luleå, 350 in Trollhättan and 300 in Borås.
On the night before the demonstrations a bomb exploded in the headquarters of Söderberg's trade union (SAC-Syndikalisterna) in Gävle (a small town in central Sweden), partly damaging the building. As yet unidentified neo-Nazis are suspected of having planted the bomb. The building was also the birthplace of the legendary labour organizer Joe Hill.
In November 1999 Kurdo Baksi, editor of the anti-fascist magazine Expo was shot at through the window of his flat. Baksi, who was asleep, was not injured. The attack is thought to be in retaliation for his repeated public exposure of the neo-Nazi movement and for his support of its victims. Baksi was one of the main organizers of the public meeting held following the 28 June car bomb.
On the eve of the anniversary of Kristallnacht, 9 November 1999, neo-Nazi activists vandalized shops in the town centre owned by immigrants from the Balkans in the town of Tomelilla. The violence followed an increased neo-Nazi presence in the town.
On New Year's Eve 1999 Salih Uzel (19), a Turkish immigrant, was murdered in Skogas (near Stockholm) by a group of men, four of whom, according to a report in the national daily Dagens Nyheter in January 2000, are known to have 'Nazi sympathies'. One man, Anders Ekvall, was convicted six months later.
Two young neo-Nazi skinheads assaulted a subway employee in Stockholm in the early hours of 7 December 2000. The station clerk, a Hungarian immigrant, was severely beaten and kicked, and was taken to hospital to be treated for injuries that will leave him permanently disfigured. The two assailants were able to be arrested shortly after the attack by police following their bloody footprints. At a memorial demonstration held a week later the subway workers union called for safer working conditions.Both the authorities and anti-fascists are fully expecting further incidents arising from the 9 December 2000 death of seventeen-year-old neo-Nazi skinhead Daniel Wretström in Salem, just outside Stockholm. Wretström died after being stabbed during a fight with a group of Swedes and second-generation immigrants, none of whom are known members of political or anti-fascist groups. The incident is one of very few in which neo-Nazis have been the victims of violent crime. A week later, some 800 neo-Nazis, from all over Sweden and all factions of the movement, gathered for a three-hour demonstration in Stockholm, under police protection. The case has served to unite the often warring neo-Nazi groupings and turn Wretström into a martyr for the cause.
See also Opinion polls.
In the late 1950s and 1960s Fria Ord (Free Words), a
magazine mainly for older middle- and upper-class fascists and former Nazis and
their younger recruits, regularly published articles espousing Holocaust denial.
Questions about the authenticity of The Diary of Anne Frank began with an
article in Fria Ord in 1957.
In the late 1970s, with the emergence of Ditlieb Felderer, who was sentenced to ten months' imprisonment in 1983 for violating the law against incitement to ethnic hatred, and his Bible Researcher publishing house, material denying the Holocaust began to circulate again, especially in schools and public libraries.
Radio Islam, run by Ahmed Rami, has for years provided a platform for Holocaust deniers. In its radio broadcasts, which ceased in November 1997, Rami frequently interviewed deniers such as the Swiss Jürgen Graf and the German Germar Rudolf, author of the notorious so-called 'Rudolf Expertise'. A Holocaust-denying leaflet produced in 1993 by Radio Islam is still being distributed by various organizations. Radio Islam's extensive website, in English, is still available on the Internet.
Holocaust denial in Sweden is now promoted mainly by groups and individuals belonging associated with the neo-Nazi movement and the White Power music scene. For example, the opening lyrics to the song 'In the Claws of Zionism' (1995) by the neo-Nazi rock group Storm are: 'The so-called Holocaust, for how long will we have to suffer for it? A heap of lies that is kept alive about six million innocent lives.'
antisemitism and blatant xenophobia in the mainstream media are relatively rare.
When they do occur, it is mostly in letters to local newspapers or on radio
phone-in programmes. Such expressions, however, are a standard feature of
neo-Nazi propaganda, whether in print publications such as Nordland,
Framtid, info-14 or any of the other publications of far-right
organizations, or on Internet
websites, the recent growth of which has been considerable. In 1997 there were
an estimated forty Swedish xenophobic websites, most of them using American
service providers, and the number has grown significantly since then.
One exception to the neo-Nazi monopoly on antisemitism and xenophobia is the relatively new, bi-monthly 'quality' magazine Salt, edited by Jonas De Geer and Per Olof Bolander and financed by multi-millionaire Bertel Nathorst. Salt was published for the first time in October 1999, and launched as a radical-conservative magazine. It has succeeded in attracting some high-profile, mainstream writers to its pages, and eschews the blatant rhetoric of the far right. In its February 2000 issue, Salt claims that the Stockholm Holocaust conference held the previous month contributed to turning the Holocaust into a `state religion', thereby making those who object (including Holocaust deniers) into heretics. A later Salt issue featured a five-page interview with David Irving, in which Irving was provided a platform for his views. Salt also regularly fulminates against feminism, multiculturalism and homosexuality.
The Swedish anti-immigration movement began in earnest in 1992 with the founding of the bi-monthly magazine Fri Information (Free Information), under the editorship of physician Eva Bergqvist, based in Stockholm and originally entitled Fri Information om Invandringen (Free Informatiionn on Immigration). It continued to be published six times a year until 2000 when only three issues appeared. Bergqvist gained notoriety in 1990 when she actively opposed the establishment of a refugee hostel in her hometown of Kimstra. The journal has over the years published articles openly admiring of the French Front national as well as others with antisemitic overtones. Fri Information maintains an impressive website and is extremely influential in anti-immigration circles.
full-colour, glossy magazine Nordland - produced by Nordland - first appeared in early 1995, a descendant of magazines of the
1980s, such as Streetfight and Vit Rebell (White Rebel), and of Storm (the organ of VAM
in the early 1990s) and Blod & Ära (Blood & Honour), the
Power music magazine in Sweden, published in 1993. Today
Nordland largely consists of advertisements for neo-Nazi merchandise,
particularly CDs (an estimated 135 were on offer in 1998), political and
ideological articles, and interviews with White Power bands. Its circulation is
estimated at 5,000-10,000. Veteran neo-Nazi Peter Rindell (alias Peter Melander,
30) is the magazine's leading figure, and the magazine's funding typically comes
from White Power concerts. At the end of the year 2000, Nordland
reportedly merged with the SM/NU's magazine Folktribunen.
The Gothenburg-based Alternativ Media and the magazine Framtid (Future) are both run by Daniel Friberg. Framtid contains no swastikas and never uses the term'national socialism'. In fact, Framtid is a rather dry publication that mostly contains rewritten articles from the mainstream Swedish daily newspapers. During the spring of 1998, Framtid made a serious attempt to establish itself as a mainstream Swedish magazine: 7,000 free copies of the second number were printed and distributed nationally; 21,000 copies of the third issue were allegedly printed and distributed in a number of high schools in Gothenburg.
Alternativ Media's website contains, in most respects, the same content as the magazine. In the spring of 1998, Alternativ Media also distributed a newsletter entitled Pilgrimsfalken (Pilgrim Falcon). It was another flyer, however, that proved to be Alternativ Media's most successful campaign; entitled Operation Nordisk Kvinnofrid (Operation Nordic Women), it attempts to establish a link between the increase in the number of rapes ('of our white women') and immigration. According to Alternativ Media, 200,000 copies of this flyer have been printed and distributed, targetting areas where many rapes have occurred. The flyer has also been sent to a number of neo-Nazi groups across the country who have then distributed them directly. It has been described as one of the first neo-Nazi propaganda campaigns that has received a positive response from 'ordinary' citizens.
info-14, a monthly publication that first appeared in 1994, became the voice of the short-lived NA in 1995-6. Since then it has functioned as an umbrella publication for various neo-Nazi organizations, including Gula Korset, B&HS, NS Stockholm and NSF. It is based in Stockholm and edited by the leader of NS Stockholm, Robert Vesterlund. Its website is hosted by the Blood & Honour domain. Following acts of neo-Nazi violence in May and June 1999, info-14 published a tribute to the killers of two police officers in Malexander and a condemnation of car-bomb victim Peter Karlsson.
Mimer is an ideological and historical quarterly edited by Christian Josefsson, a former member of the old Swedish fascist party Sveriges Nationella Förbund (SNF, Sweden's National League), which first appeared in Malmö in 1989. It maintains a website and produces an extensive mail-order catalogue of neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denial and antisemitic material.
It is estimated that there are some forty or fifty neo-fascist, racist or antisemitic websites in Swedish, compared to only a handful a few years ago. Many of the xenophobic and neo-Nazi parties, organizations and movements maintain websites, and many of the articles in their publications can be accessed on-line. This means that that-way-inclined Swedish-speakers (especially young people), as well as accidental surfers, can be exposed to much more propaganda - calls to action, addresses of contacts as well as `enemies', listings of events, to say nothing of ideological `instruction' or bomb recipes - within minutes than was ever possible when groups had to rely on newspapers, leaflets and posters to proselytize or recruit new members. Furthermore, links to all these websites can be found on probably hundreds of websites originating not only in Sweden but also in other countries - and vice versa - so that, as is true with the medium of the Internet in general, the potential audience for any of these websites is many times larger than that for print publications. Attracting an international audience, however, will be hindered by the fact that very few of the Swedish sites offer an English (or any other) translation.
In response to a series of supreme court decisons a law on electronic mailboxes (i.e. discussion groups or news groups, and not websites) was adopted in 1998 that obliges the moderator - the individual who decides which messages are posted, as opposed to the technicians - to exercise diligence regarding the content of messages on pain of being held criminally liable.
In December 1999 the
IT-kommisionen (Commission for Information Technology) submitted a proposal to
the government for the establishment of an ombudsman for ethics on the Internet.
While the ombudsman would have no power to remove sites or impose penalties, he
or she would be able to promote dialogue between the various actors involved
with the Internet in order to find ways of effectively combatting objectionable
sites. The Commission is not in favour of drawing up codes of conduct. The
government has not yet reached a decision on the proposal.
Radio Islam, which has apparently ceased radio broadcasting, now exists only as a quite extensive website. The site, like the station before it, is virulently antisemitic and includes a large amount of Holocaust-denial material. On the site (which is available in eleven languages) the user can find numerous links to other Holocaust-denial and antisemitic sites in other countries. Classic antisemitic texts like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are available for downloading from the site.
Radio Islam began broadcasting as a community radio station in the Stockholm area in March 1987. From the beginning, it - and its associated Svensk-islamiska föreningen (Swedish-Islamic Association - has been run by the Swedish-Moroccan Ahmed Rami. Due to accusations of antisemitism over the years, Radio Islam was on and off the air, and the station was convicted four times for incitement to ethnic hatred. Radio Islam ceased broadcasting in October 1992, as a protest against 'Zionist persecution', but resumed operations in April 1996, broadcasting thirty-five hours per week. The broadcasts ceased again in November 1997 - a month after the Foreningen Forintelsens Overlevande (Association of Holocaust Survivors) lodged a complaint with the attorney general about Radio Islam's frequent attacks on the supposed `Jewish takeover' of Swedish media, politics and cultural life - most likely due to the threat of further legal action.
Throughout 1997 complaints against Radio Islam's website were also lodged with the attorney general: in June the one made by the Svenska Kommittén mot Antisemitism (SKMA, Swedish Committee against Antisemitism) represented the first ever to be lodged against an Internet site in Sweden; in November the SKMA again complained, citing a particular page on the website entitled the `Jewish Encyclopaedia' that listed hundreds of public figures in Sweden on the grounds of their being `Jewish' (the page was removed from the website immediately). The attorney general decided not to take any action as the police investigation showed that US nationals were `responsible' for the site and not Ahmed Rami. The website states: 'This site is owned by a group of freedom fighters from different countries in support of A. Rami's struggle.'
Tommy Rydén (35), the founder of
Kyrka, is still one of the most important
ideologues of the xenophobic movement. He now exerts influence solely on the
Internet. He produces a website that acts as a portal to an extensive array of
articles and information promulgating a 1920s-style eugenics, and is linked to
most radical right websites in Sweden and many others outside Sweden. He also
‘publishes’ a website devoted to the New Age philosophy and meditation practice
Arya Kriya, developed in California by Joseph ‘Jost’ Turner (1946-96). According
to ‘Jost’, the Nordic European peoples are descendants of the Aryans, an ancient
race of ‘supermen’, and their pre-Christian religions of Odinism or Asatru a
version of the teachings of Kriya meditation, the path to enlightenment. Rydén’s
site shows no signs of engagement with the cruder forms of neo-Nazism.
The criminal code (article 10a, chapter 16) also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic
origin or religion, and provide for penalties ranging from fines to a maximum of
one year's imprisonment.
The Swedish constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, colour, ethnic origin or gender.
The criminal code (article 10a, chapter 16) also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic origin or religion, and provide for penalties ranging from fines to a maximum of one year's imprisonment.
According to a 1996 supreme court ruling - upheld as constitutional by the supreme court in 2000 - the display of Nazi symbols and paraphernalia constitutes incitement to ethnic hatred. Nazi salutes, symbols and uniforms are thereby prohibited although, in practice, the law is not always enforced: police rarely interfere in neo-Nazi demonstrations, for instance, where the whole range of Nazi paraphernalia is often on display. Neo-Nazi groups themselves are not prohibited by law, as such a prohibition has (until recently) been widely construed as a contravention of freedom of expression. However, after the spate of violent crimes committed by neo-Nazis in 1999, there has been much public debate about - and calls for - the outlawing of such organizations. The arguments against such a ban include - in addition to the worries about any weakening of the right to free speech - the more pragmatic fear that a prohibition would only drive these groups underground, making them more difficult to monitor.
In May 1999 a new law criminalizing direct and indirect ethnic discrimination against employees and job-seekers came into force.
A 1994 amendment to the penal code, making racist motives for a crime an aggravating circumstance, has not yet
been used with any frequency by prosecutors and courts. In December 1999 the
Swedish prosecutor-general distributed guidelines to prosecutors regarding the
countering of hate crimes which give special priority to crimes in which a
xenophobic motive is suspected.
Trials and prosecutions
Since the Brottby concert in January 1998 - when some 300 participants were arrested, about 34 of whom were non-Swedish - more than 60 who were charged, including 25 of the non-Swedes, have been found guilty, mostly of incitement to ethnic hatred. Two of the five Americans convicted were Shawn Sugg, lead singer of Max Resist, a US White Power band that had played at the concert, and the neo-Nazi 'folk singer' Eric Owens; all five were given one-month prison sentences. Among the Swedes found guilty, about half were imprisoned and half fined.
Heavier sentences were meted out in June 1998 to the seven neo-Nazis who were prosecuted after about 70 were arrested for rioting at the illegal NSF May Day march in Nora the previous month; they were sentenced to 3-6 months imprisonment. And, in September 1998, the eleven neo-Nazis arrested during a march near Linköping in December 1997 were convicted of incitement to ethnic hatred and given between one and six months in prison (three were merely fined).
AB leader Niclas Löfdahl
charged in August 1997 with conspiracy to commit murder and making illegal
threats; he was found guilty in April 1998 and confined to an insane asylum. He escaped in September 1998 and,
after a few days on the run, turned himself in to police in Stockholm. After his arrest, in interviews Aftonbladet and Swedish
television, he claimed that he had broken with his neo-Nazi past, a claim that
has proved to be untrue.
In July 1998 Dan Berner (25), associated with Nordland, was found guilty of incitement to ethnic hatred in connection with a speech he gave at Umeå University in the north of Sweden. Berner had been invited to address a group of students by Karoline Matti, a sociology doctoral candidate. Matti had argued that learning about national socialism was best done from national socialists, and that the speaker's freedom of speech should be respected; whether or not she in fact knew that Berner would take the opportunity to proselytize has not been proven (although Matti and Berner were reportedly planning to move in together). Berner was given a prison sentence, and Matti received a suspended sentence for aiding and abetting incitement to ethnic hatred, also a crime in Swedish law. She has been relieved by the university authorities of all her teaching duties.
In November 1998 the trial in Uppsala of Erik Blücher, Bert-Ove Rasmussen and Hans `Himmler' Pettersson of Ragnarock Records, Mattias Sundquist of Nordland and Peter Andersson finally came to an end. In an important ruling that may set a precedent for the illegality of the lucrative racist music industry, the five were found guilty of incitement to ethnic hatred for the production and distribution of White Power music. Blücher, Rasmussen, Pettersson and Andersson were originally arrested in late 1996 after a series of police raids. The first trial, in 1997, established after long deliberations that the three Ragnarock directors were responsible for producing the material and Andersson was responsible for selling it; the court rejected their protestations that, due to their lack of German language skills, they were ignorant of the content of the CDs.
Apparently unaware of the rivalry between Ragnarock and Nordland, the case
of Mattias Sundquist was included in the final part of trial. Sundquist was
given a three-month sentence for distributing The Flame That Never Dies - A
Tribute to Ian Stuart (produced in the United States by Resistance
Records, Nordland's sister company). Erik Blücher and his Ragnarock partners
were given three-month sentences for inciting ethnic hatred by distributing and
producing seven racist CDs and the videotape Kriegsberichter; and Peter
Andersson was sentenced to one month in prison for distributing the material. In
September 1999 Blücher, Rasmussen and Pettersson had their sentences
reduced, on appeal, to a fine on the grounds that the court believed that the offence was
unlikely to be repeated. No sooner than the appeal court's ruling was announced,
a Helsingborg judge requested that new charges be brought against Blücher,
Pettersson and Marcel Schilf, arising from further police raids on Ragnarock
headquarters in Helsingborg in the autumn of 1998.
Early in 1999 two neo-Nazi activists, Stefan Lans and Erling Gulbrandsen, were convicted of the theft of twelve AK-5s, bullet-proof vests and ammunition from an army barracks in Strängnäs in September 1998. They have been sentenced to four and five years, respectively.
The brothers Tom and Roger Olsen were sentenced to 10 months and 6 months in prison, respectively, for their July 1999 attack over two days on four Iraqi immigrants. They were found guilty of assault, illegal threats, molestation and persecution of an ethnic group. Two young accomplices received sentences of two months each.
In September 1999 Sweden's supreme court ruled that a supermarket in the city of Mariefred was guilty of discrimination. The owners had refused entrance to a Rom woman on the grounds that long skirts were not allowed in the shop in order to reduce the possibility of theft. The supermarket was ordered to pay 5,000 SEK (US$600) compensation to the woman in question.In January 2000 Andreas Axelsson, Jackie Arklöv and Tony Olsson were found guilty of the murder of two policemen in Malexander on 29 May 1999 and given sentences of life imprisonment; the police were in pursuit of three neo-Nazis after they had carried out a bank robbery in Kisa (250km southeast of Stockholm). Mats Nilsson was given a one-year sentence for his involvement in the case, and minor sentences were handed down to Olssons's girlfriend and another three neo-Nazis for complicity.
In recent years anti-racist demonstrations have attracted thousands of participants from all over the country, and the growing anti-fascist movement has reportedly made recruitment more difficult for the far right. Thousands demonstrated to protest the murder of Björn Söderberg and thousands again attended the Kristallnacht commemorations on 9 November 1999 that took place in fourteen cities. Such demonstrations and other activities are organized by organizations like the Nätverket mot rasism (Network against Racism), Antifascistisk Aktion (AFA), Ungdom mot rasism (Youth against Racism), the 5i12-rörelsen (Five Minutes to Midnight Movement) and the Flyktinggruppernas och Asylkommittéernas Riksråd (Swedish National Network of Asylum and Refugee Support Groups).
On 30 November 1999, in the wake of the extraordinary
of violence perpetrated by Swedish neo-Nazis during 1999, the country's four
principal daily national newspapers - Aftonbladet, Dagens Nyheter,
Expressen and Svenska Dagbladet - published an unprecedented joint article in which they denounced the far right, their activities and the
violence, and simultaneously requested a tougher clamp-down by the authorities.
The article included reports on the neo-Nazi movement and published names,
pictures and criminal records of sixty-two of the leading activists in Sweden
under the headline, 'They Threaten Democracy'. As a result of the article, five were expelled from their unions and one was fired from his
In 1999, the national police academy launched a training programme for incoming officers on immigration and a multi-ethnic society in order to give them a better understanding of ethnic minorities and xenophobic crimes as well as methods for investigating, preventing and combating them. Prison staff were given similar training.
In 1999 Projektet EXIT (Project EXIT), which began in 1998, was given government funding. The project is an organization providing support for people who wish to leave the far-right milieu, as well as working to prevent further recruitment. EXIT co-operates extensively with the social services, police, educational and other authorities, and has managed to help approximately eighty people in the 15-26 age-group.
Quick Response, a youth group linked to the Swedish Red Cross, has launched a website providing general information and data on immigration, refugees and ethnic minorities. It also posts the national media's daily coverage on related issues.
back to top of the page
© Institute for Jewish Policy Research 2001