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This page is about the effects on Sweden, during and following Operation Weserübung.
For articles about the operation itself:

On the 9 April 1940, Germany successfully launched Operation Weserübung - a daring operation with the objective of simultaneously occupying Denmark and Norway, and staging a Coup d'état, in those nations. This had several far-reaching consequences for Sweden, which was in effect cut off from trade with the western world and therefore more dependent on German goodwill. It eventually led to commencing the permitenttrafik, and the transition of the Engelbrecht Division; it also lessened the immediate risk of Sweden being a theatre of war between the Axis and the Allies.

Background[edit | edit source]

Allied background[edit | edit source]

One of the Allies main strategic goals in the north was to disrupt the Swedish-German iron-ore trade. When Norwegian and Swedish reluctance to allow Allied troops onto their territory halted the original Allied plan, the Allies decided nevertheless to try a "semi-peaceful" invasion. On 12 March, troops were to be landed in Norway, and proceed into Sweden to capture the Swedish mines. However, if serious military resistance was encountered they were not to press the issue. But, Finland sued for peace on 12 March, so the revised version of this plan had to be abandoned.[citation needed]

With the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, as a mayor proponent, the Allies decided to commence Operation Wilfred and mine the Norwegian waters close to Narvik. This would force the ore transports into international waters, and expose them to attack by the Royal Navy. On 5 April Norway and Sweden was notified by the United Kingdom of British intentions to place mines in Norwegian territorial waters. On the morning of 8 April, British destroyers began laying mines close to Norway. By then the German invasion was already on its way.[1]

German background[edit | edit source]

The strategic goals of Germany's campaign in Norway were both offensive and defensive. In 1928 the German Admiral Wolfgang Wegener had pointed out the necessity for Germany to occupy Norwegian naval bases to threaten British sea lanes in an eventual war with the United Kingdom. The defensive aspect of an occupied Norway was to secure access to Swedish iron ore.[2]

Strategically, Denmark's importance to Germany was as a staging area for operations in Norway, and of course as a border nation to Germany, which would have to be controlled in some way. Given Denmark's position in the Baltic Sea, the country was also important for the control of naval and shipping access to major German and Russian harbours.[citation needed]

Swedish background[edit | edit source]

During the Winter War, Sweden mobilized 100,000 men, who were deployed along the Finnish border in northern Sweden. The war ended with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 12 March 1940, but when Germany invaded Denmark and Norway on 9 April, this force was under demobilization.[citation needed]

Before World War II, Sweden had no plans for defending Norway or defending against a German invasion from that direction. Moreover, an agreement from the 'Dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden in 1905', stated that no fortification was allowed along the common border.[citation needed]

Operation Weserübung[edit | edit source]

9 April 1940

The goal of the German operation was the simultaneous occupation of Denmark and Norway through a strategic Coup d'état. Denmark was considered vital because its location facilitated greater air and naval control of the area.[citation needed]

In Norway, the plan called for the capture of six primary targets by amphibious landings in Oslo, Kristiansand, Egersund, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik. Supporting paratroops (Fallschirmjäger), were to capture other key locations such as airfields at Fornebu (outside Oslo) and Sola (outside Stavanger). The plan was designed to quickly overwhelm the Norwegian defenders and occupy these vital areas before any form of organized resistance could be mounted.[citation needed]

Surprise was almost complete in Denmark, while in Norway the invasion resulted in the 62-day Norwegian Campaign and massive naval losses.

After the operation Hitler wrote in a letter to Sweden's King Gustaf V, dated April 24, 1940:[citation needed]

"I have no doubt that our action, (the invasion of Norway and Denmark), which at the last moment forestalled the execution of the Allied plan and which under all circumstances will stop France and England from getting a foothold in Scandinavia, will have consequences which will be a blessing to the Scandinavian peoples."

German demands on Sweden[edit | edit source]

In a note to the Swedish government Germany demanded strict neutrality, no mobilisation, the right to use the Swedish telephone network, continued shipments of ore and no marine activity beyond Swedish territorial waters.[3]

In the following note, Sweden declared it would maintain its neutrality, but reserved the right to all actions necessary to maintain it.[4] Sweden organized its mobilization system so that a personal order by letter was possible as an alternative to official proclamations, which led to 320,000 men being raised in a few weeks.[citation needed]

Effects on Sweden[edit | edit source]

Evaluation of German capabilities[edit | edit source]

The impressive and successful operation led to a Swedish tendency to overrate the German capabilities in staging coup-like invasions.[5]

This led to the Swedish government being a lot more responsive to the Supreme Commanders requests for heightened readiness. It also resulted in discussions, and evaluations, over how to respond to an hypothetic German demand to transit troops to Norway.[6]

Changes in strategic conditions[edit | edit source]

Encirclement of Sweden and Finland[edit | edit source]

The speedy conduct of the operation was most likely beneficial to Sweden. It made eventual German demands on Sweden, to transit invasion forces, unnecessary. Furthermore, the outlook of Scandinavia as a long-time theatre of war lessened considerably.[7]

As a result of Denmark and Norway falling into German hands, Sweden and Finland became strategically encircled by the German-Soviet pact. Since the Baltic states; Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania; had been forced to accept limited Soviet forces on their soil, in the autumn of 1939, they were de facto more or less in a state of occupation. For Sweden and Finland, this meant that the only possible trade route to nations other than Germany and the Soviet Union, was through Petsamo harbour, in the far north of Finland. This seriously hampered the supply situation in both these nations. It also meant that an invasion of Sweden could be launched from almost any direction. Sweden therefore started to build fortifications at the Norwegian border and along the coast of Scania.[8][page needed]

See also Swedish overseas trade during World War II.

Effects on Swedish politics and relations[edit | edit source]

By choosing neutrality towards the conflict in Norway, the relations between the two nations worsened. On 12 April, King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav of Norway, with some members of their government, were denied entrance to Sweden. Allowing them to do so, and not interning them, would have been a crime against international law.[9]

Neutrality also meant that neither economic nor material aid would be sent to Norway. It was the Finland situation in reverse, in that it rendered the policy somewhat unpopular, both domestically and abroad. When the organiser of the National fund for Finland wanted to extend the fund to include Norway; the request was immediately dismissed by the Swedish government.[10]

Carl Hambro a member of the Norwegian parliament, and an active organiser of the Norwegian resistance movement, had fled to Sweden. He was prevented from speaking on the radio, by the Swedish Foreign Office.[11]

Sources[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Linder, 2002; p41
  2. Linder, 2002; p40
  3. Linder, 2002; p46
  4. Linder, 2002; p 46
  5. Linder, 2002; p48
  6. Linder ,2002; p48
  7. Linder, 2002; p60
  8. Wangel 1982
  9. Linder, 2002; p.48
  10. Linder, 2002; p49,50
  11. Linder, 2002; p49

References[edit | edit source]

  • Linder, Jan (2002) (in Swedish). Andra Världskriget och Sverige. Stockholm: Svenskt militärhistoriskt bibliotek. ISBN 91-974056-3-9. 
  • Wangel, Carl-Axel (1982) (in Swedish). Sveriges militära beredskap 1939-1945. Stockholm: Militärhistoriska Förlaget. ISBN 978-91-85266-20-3. 

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