- When Race Was Removed from Racism:Per Engdahl, the Networks that Saved Fascism and the Making of the Concept of Ethnopluralism
However false, the idea that victory over Germany in 1945 was synonymous with victory over the ideologies behind the war—Nazism and Jew-hatred—has lingered on in media narratives and the collective consciousness. Alongside new moral codes that emerged in the years following the peace—such as the legitimation of democracy, the Nuremberg Code on medical experimentation, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the prevalent slogan "Never Again"—ideologies of hatred developed across complex international networks. With particular attention to Sweden, in this article I will trace how personal and intellectual networks revived Nazi ideas using new words, such as culture, identity, and enthnopluralism.
"Swedish Fascism—Why Bother?" asked historian Lena Berggren in 2002, noting that the influence of interwar fascism had been ignored by scholars because the political ideology had indisputably failed in Swedish elections.1 In a notable 1980 article, Bernt Hagtvet focused on various groups (not the ideas) and their fracturing,2 but despite the historian Heléne [End Page 133] Lööw's groundbreaking 1990 dissertation, "Hakkorset och Wasakärven,"3 academic disinterest prevailed for another decade. Still, while it never became a political force within the Swedish party system, nor did it draw crowds of people to the streets, Swedish fascism played a major international role as postwar mediator. One man was particularly instrumental in the survival of Nazi and antisemitic ideologies: the Swedish fascist leader Per Engdahl, originally the leader of Sveriges Fascistiska Kamporganisation, SFKO (Sweden's Fascist Combat Organization), during the 1930s.
Engdahl was long gone from public consciousness when my nonfiction book And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain was published in 2011.4 The book offers the account of a Viennese Jewish boy, Otto Ullmann, who was sent to Sweden at age thirteen in February 1939 to escape Nazi persecution and, in 1944, applied for work at the farm estate Elmtaryd in Småland. The farm's owners were the Kamprad family and Otto soon became close friends with the son, Ingvar, who would go on to become the founder of the company Ikea.
The Kamprad family was partially Nazi. Ingvar's German grandmother had immigrated from the Sudetenland and rejoiced in its annexation by Hitler in March 1939. His father was "a Nazi in his heart and soul."5 Born in 1926, Ingvar became a member of the Swedish fascist movement before the war and was a great admirer of its leader, Engdahl. In spite of this, Ullmann was hired as a farmhand and friendships were built. When Ingvar started developing Ikea after the war, his best friend Otto was right by his side, working on marketing.6
In an interview published in And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain, Kamprad found it hard to answer the core questions concerning the anomaly of these relationships: How could the Ikea founder remain loyal to the fascist leader and Holocaust denier Engdahl, and, at the same time, be close to his Jewish friend, Otto Ullman? Otto, whose parents were murdered at Auschwitz? Kamprad finally replied: "There's no contradiction as [End Page 134] far as I'm concerned. Per Engdahl was a great man, and I will maintain that as long as I live."7
When I investigated the matter further, I discovered a file on Ingvar Kamprad from 1943 in the Swedish Security Service archive, labeled "Memorandum concerning: Nazi" and stamped "secret" in red ink.8 It states that Kamprad, then seventeen, was Member No. 4014 of Svensk Socialistisk Samling (the Socialist Unity), the leading Swedish Nazi party before and during the war. The Swedish secret police had kept him under surveillance for over eight months, confiscating and reading correspondence in which he wrote that he had recruited "quite a few comrades" and missed no opportunity to work for the movement. The memorandum about his correspondence reached the Sixth Division of the Stockholm police on July 6, 1943. (Six days later, Kamprad sent an application to the county administrative office in Vaxjo to register Ikea.)
When the information about Kamprad's membership in Socialist...