Two violent anti-Jewish incidents were recorded in Sweden in 2000, one during a pro-Palestinian demonstration following the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada. There was much less violent racist activity than in 1999, but the public debate and official initiatives in 2000 were influenced by the events of that year. Sweden remains one of the world’s largest producers of White Power music, race hate videos and CDs, and neo-Nazi skinhead merchandise.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
Sweden has a Jewish population of about 18,000 out of a general population of 8.9 million. The majority, approximately 10,000, belong to the major communities in Stockholm, Göteburg and Malmö. Smaller Jewish communities can be found in Boras, Uppsala, Norrköping and Helsingborg. The various communities are independent, but linked through the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities.
Several of the major international Jewish organizations have affiliates in Sweden. A Stockholm-based magazine, Jewish Chronicle, appears bi-monthly, as well as Tachless, the magazine of the Jewish Congregation. Shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) is prohibited and kosher meat is imported from abroad.
By hosting the January 2000 Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, attended by forty-five heads of state, who declared that the Holocaust “challenged the foundations of civilization,” Sweden became a leading force for raising awareness of the Shoah. Its Living History Project has become a model of Holocaust education. As an outcome of that parley, plans were announced to establish the European Institute of Jewish Studies in Sweden, Paideia. In January 2001, Stockholm was the venue for the Second International Forum for Combating Intolerance, which had as its goal “counteracting and preventing xenophobia, racism, antisemitism and other extremist ideas and movements.”
POLITICAL PARTIES AND EXTRA-PARLIAMENTARY GROUPS
In 1999 and 2000, the Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats – SD), led since 1995 by Mikael Jansson, cemented its position as Sweden’s leading xenophobic party, after the 1998 election left it as the single surviving such party with a nationwide organization and the potential to expand its electoral base.
The SD is focusing on making a further breakthrough in the upcoming 2002 national election, and much of the party activity in 2000 was directed at building organizational machinery. The party is vocally against Swedish membership in the European Union, and also calls for Sweden leaving the UN. It has been particularly successful at the local level with an aggressive anti-immigrant campaign, which highlights the responsibility of all immigrants for the crimes of individuals. It claims, for example, that gang rape was “an unheard-of phenomenon” before immigrants began arriving in Sweden.
Although the SD have been careful not to voice antisemitic sentiments, the party homepage has carried articles “exposing” Masonry and “illuminati” conspiracies, drawing upon antisemitic conspiracy theoreticians such as David Icke and the Swede Lars Adelskog (see below).
The SD have been connected to Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Euronat since 1998. However, exposure of their relations with Le Pen during the period of the FN split (see ASW 1999/2000 and France, in this volume), as well as SD’s relations with other Euronat parties, began to damage the party’s image. In summer 1999, it left Euronat and made international relations the task of its youth organization, Sverigedemokraterna Ungdom (SDU), claiming it was only an “observer” at international meetings. However, the French Front National de la Jeunesse homepage noted that the SDU had rejoined Euronat as a full member in fall 2000.
The SD is composed of a number of closely related anti-immigration propaganda groups, including Blågula Frågor (Blue-Yellow Questions – BgF) and Medborgerliga Studiegrupper (Citizens Study Groups – MSG). Although both BgF and MSG are small groups, they are important components of Swedish xenophobia. The BgF is led by Jan Milld, a former member of the mainstream Social Democratic Labor Party, and Anders Sundholm, a former member of the Green Party. In contrast to most xenophobic groups, they define themselves as “leftist,” or “progressive,” rather then “nationalist,” a tactic they use in order to appeal to a different public. A third anti-immigrant propaganda organization is Fri Information (Free Information – FI), led by Eva Bergqvist, which splintered from the Conservative Party.
Following its initial success as a regional and anti-immigrant alliance on its formation in 1997, Skanes Väl (Scania’s Welfare – SV) was plagued in 1999/2000 by defections and bitter infighting, with one faction arguing for a merger with the Sweden Democrats.
Extra-parliamentary Groups and Racist Activity
Since the mid-1990s, Sweden has been one of the world’s largest producers of White Power music, race hate videos, CDs and neo-Nazi skinhead merchandise. Throughout the 1990s, much attention was focused on the bitter internal warfare between the two largest White Power production companies, Ragnarock Records and Nordland, mainly over the funds generated by the industry. Hostilities came to an end in 1998, with Ragnarock as the dominating factor.
Ragnarock Records, and the video division NS88, is led by Norwegian-born veteran Nazi Erik Blücher and, until his death in February 2001, the German born Marcel Schilf. Together they reshaped Ragnarock into the political organization Blood & Honour/Scandinavia (B&H), aligned with the British terrorist organization Combat 18 (see UK and ASW 1999/2000). B&H is headquartered in Helsingborg in south Sweden.
When, in 1999 Combat 18 formally moved its activities to a post box address in Denmark run by Marcel Schilf, Ragnarock/B&H became the center of C18’s international operations. Ronald Schröder, 25, a Berliner, has been named as Schilf’s successor and has moved to south Sweden.
Ragnarock/B&H stepped up its anti-Jewish and anti-ZOG (Zionist Occupation Government) propaganda in 1999 and 2000. Following a police raid on a B&H safe-house in Langeland, south Denmark, in late 1999, B&H published a statement on its Internet homepage denouncing “blue pigs and red scum.” B&H claimed that “ZOG police” and the “anarchist anti-racist movement” were working together to smash the nationalist movement. B&H stubbornly continued to defend killing police officers, bank robberies, bombings and neo-Nazi terrorist activities in a number of texts in 2000.
In 1999, William Pierce, a leading far right figure in the US (see USA) rescued Nordland, the loser in the feud with Ragnarock, by purchasing the record production part of the company. At the same time Nordland Magazine and most of the Nordland activists merged with Folktribunen (The Peoples Tribune), the mouthpiece of Nationell Ungdom (National Youth – NU), the Swedish Nazi organization closest to Pierce and his National Alliance.
NU is led by Erik Hägglund and Klas Lund, the latter a veteran skinhead convicted in 1986 for manslaughter of an anti-racist, and head in the early 1990s of the terrorist network Vitt Ariskt Motstand (White Aryan Resistance – VAM). Much of the NU core is made up of former VAM activists.
NU is closely aligned with the German neo-Nazi NPD, with which it exchanges visits. In summer 2000 the NU held a “survivalist training course” for members of the NPD youth organization. A key factor in the NU-NPD network is veteran Swedish Nazi Per Lennart Aae, who in 1964 emigrated to Bavaria where in the mid-1990s he emerged as a chief ideologist of the NPD.
Also associated with NU is Anti-Antifa (Anti-AFA), a neo-Nazi “intelli-gence network,” led by Robert Vesterlund, editor of the radical, pro-violence Info-14. Anti-AFA, which consists of a circle of hard-core neo-Nazi activists, has been responsible for much of the recent violence (see ASW 1999/2000). Anti-AFA’s function is to identify and track “ZOG agents,” such as Jews, journalists, police officers and anti-racist activists and politicians. Information on suitable targets for harassment campaigns is compiled and shared with local neo-Nazi organizations.
The fastest growing neo-Nazi organizaiSweden in the mid-1990s, the Nationalsocialistisk Front (National Socialist Front – NSF), began to decline in 2000. In late 1999 the party’s founder and permanent leader Anders Högström renounced extreme right ideology and began campaigning in schools with a sober anti-Nazi message. Högström was replaced by a troika leadership made up of Björn Björkqvist, a virulent antisemite heading the party propaganda department, Anders Ärleskog, one of the remaining original founders, and Hans Himmler Pettersson, head of NSF security and a close associate of Erik Blücher and Ragnarock Records. A fourth executive member named in 2000 was Bo Nilsson, a former local SD leader.
Svensk Hednisk Front (Swedish Heathen Front – SHF) is an emerging Nazi organization of increasing importance. Mixing Odinism, anti-Christianity and antisemitism, the organization was originally formed in Norway by the convicted killer and former Satanist Varg Vikernes. From his prison cell, Vikernes is also a key organizer of the so-called National Socialist Black Metal music scene, NSBM.
In early 2000 Vikernes moved his outlet in Norway for his black metal band Burzum, Cymophane, to Stockholm and changed its name to Cymophane Records–Nordland (Nordland being the name of the White Power company bought by William Pierce – see above). Evidence suggests that Cymophane-Nordland is an outlet of Pierce’s NSBM company Cymophane-Vinland, which he launched in the US in June 2000.
There was much less violent racist activity than in 1999, but the public debate and official initiatives in 2000 were influenced by the events of that year (see ASW 1999/2000). Nevertheless, a Hungarian immigrant working as a ticket clerk in an underground railway station in Stockholm was brutally beaten in December 2000 by a gang of youths, who, when caught, claimed to be neo-Nazis.
Violence and Vandalism
The most serious violent incident reported was the beating of a Norwegian Jewish businessman wearing a kippa, in September, in the town of Uddevalla in south-west Sweden. The man was hospitalized as a result of his injuries. The three skinhead attackers, who shouted Nazi and antisemitic slogans, were not caught. It should be noted that during that same weekend (9–10 September), 20 neo-Nazis attacked passers-by in the village of Nora, between Stockholm and Göteburg.
In Malmö, the old Jewish cemetery was vandalized in February. Gravestones were damaged and a swastika was carved on the synagogue door. A facility in the new cemetery was also set alight. Two months later the old cemetery was vandalized again. Some 50 graves were severely damaged or destroyed and 156 gravestones toppled.
Although reaction in Sweden to the al-Aqsa intifada was less extreme than in other European countries such as France and the UK, some anti-Jewish activity was recorded. A group of demonstrators broke away from a pro-Palestinian rally in Malmö and attacked a Jewish shop; also a police station in Malmö received an anonymous call on 2 October that a synagogue in the city would be hit.
Nordland and Ragnarock continued to disseminate antisemitism through White Power CD recordings, videos and various publications. The NSF, through its propaganda chief Björn Björkqvist and magazine The True National Socialist, leads much of the ideological antisemitic rhetoric.
Salt, a new up-market “radical-conservative” magazine published by yuppie philosophers Carl Johan de Geer and Peter Bolinder and financed by millionaire businessman Bertel Nathorst, has aroused concern because of its impressive circulation and its display in mainstream shop windows. The magazine was launched in late 1999 as a “voice of reason” against the “decadence of modern society,” targeting feminism, the gay community and left-wing radicalism. Salt’s definition of the latter is so broad that it includes almost the entire political spectrum, from mainstream conservatism to anarchism. Although an obvious propaganda vehicle of the extreme right for racist and antisemitic opinions, the magazine has attracted a number of mainstream conservative writers.
The spring 2000 edition targeted the Stockholm Holocaust conference, claiming for instance that the Holocaust had become “on official state religion.” It also alleged that the memory of the Holocaust is kept alive for economic reasons, since it forces European countries to pay large amounts of money to the State of Israel. Another feature was a lengthy interview with British revisionist historian David Irving, who defamed Deborah Lipstadt, the defendant in the libel case he lost in Britain in 2000 (see ASW 1999/2000).
A number of antisemitic Internet homepages are published by neo-Nazi organizations, including B&H, National Youth and the National Socialist Front. Ahmed Rami’s web page Radio Islam continued to slander Jews, although the page was down for large parts of 2000.
Although hard-core antisemitism is still mostly limited to the militant neo-Nazi scene, antisemitic conspiracy theories are also disseminated through various so-called New Age outlets. New Age bookstores in 2000 sold copies of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, books by David Icke and the conspiracy journal Nexus, which quotes from the magazine Spotlight, one of the most antisemitic publications in the US.
RESPONSES TO RACISM AND ANTISEMITISM
Public Activity and Holocaust Education
The Swedish Committee against Antisemitism (SKMA) continued to hold educational seminars on antisemitism, Holocaust denial, neo-Nazism and White Power music, focusing on teachers. Study trips to former concentration camps are part of a recent strategy to combat racism and antisemitism.
The Association of Holocaust Survivors, established in 1992, arranges visits to schools throughout the country, often coinciding with thematic weeks designated to learn more about racism and the Holocaust.
Much official activity in 2000 was centered around the January 2000 Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust (see ASW 1999/2000), which was followed by a January 2001 conference on general intolerance. Prior to the Holocaust conference, Prime Minister Göran Persson admitted before parliament that the Swedish authorities had failed in their dealings and responsibilities during World War II.
It was decided in 2000 that the government-sponsored education project Levande Historia (Living History), an initiative of the prime minister, designed to combat antisemitism and Nazi revisionism, would become a permanent government institution. Some of its sub-projects, including the book on the Holocaust by Stéphane Bruchfeld and Paul Levine, Tell Ye your Children... (which was printed in almost one million copies and translated into many languages), are produced in cooperation with the SKMA.
Much public attention was focused in 2000 on the aftermath of the neo-Nazi terrorist attacks in 1999 (see ASW 1999/2000), mainly the trials of the killers of two police officers in Malexander and the killers of trade unionist Björn Söderberg. The Malexander murders resulted in life sentences for the three neo-Nazi perpetrators and lesser sentences for four other activists who were part of the same group, known as the National Revolutionary Army. The three Söderberg murderers, all associates of Anti-Antifa leader Robert Vesterlund, were given lengthy sentences. Police also suspect that Anti-Antifa was involved in the car bomb attack which injured journalist Peter Karlsson and his son in June 1999. However, no arrests have been made.
The authorities have taken a notably tougher stand against neo-Nazi propaganda in recent years, although convictions have been few compared to the number of actual offenses. This is partly due to the fact that the judicial system and some prosecutors lack knowledge of extreme right politics and the White Power scene.
Much attention was focused on the trials of Erik Blücher for incitement to racial hatred and distribution of White Power records in 1996, and again in 1999. After an appeals court had reduced his three-month prison sentence to a fine, Blücher was again charged with racial hatred and tried in 2000, towith MarSchilf (who subsequently died) and Himmler Pettersson. A sloppy police investigation and the prosecution’s lack of knowledge of Blücher’s involvement in neo-Nazism, and his various businesses and front organizations, were undoubtedly factors in influencing the not-guilty verdict.