Tuesday 11 January 2011

Nazi past of Walter Sommerlath, the Queen of Sweden father

Source: Sweden, Israel and the Jews (Queen Silvia of Sweden—Opponent of Democratic Freedoms?)

On November 28, 2010, the Swedish program “Kalla Fakta” (Cold Facts) on TV4 broadcasted a documentary about the Swedish Queen’s late father, Walter Sommerlath (1901-1990), and his Nazi past. The factual program raised some inconvenient truths—which the queen is now trying to suppress.

Queen Silvia’s father was a German national, who worked in the steel industry in Brazil in the 1920’s. There were many German expatriates in Brazil, and Sommerlath and his brother affiliated themselves with the German Nazi party in 1934. The Sommerlaths joined the National Socialists’ foreign division (NSDAP/AS) in Brazil. In 1938 Sommerlath returned to Germany where he was able, with the help of the National Social Democrats (Nazis), to expropriate a metal factory in Berlin from its rightful Jewish owner, Efim Wechsler. The factory was soon turned into an integral part of the war industry, producing tank parts and anti-aircraft guns for the German army.

Therefore, Queen Silvia’s father was, in fact, an active Nazi sympathizer who made his fortune by acquiring a factory owned by a Jew, Efim Wechsler. Wechsler, having had his property taken away from him by extortion, and left penniless by further Nazis taxes, was then destitute and forced to flee Germany. Perhaps this was new information for Queen Silvia, who has commented previously that “her father’s involvement in Nazism was neither politically active or as a soldier”. In fact she claimed that her father’s factory produced toy trains and hair dryers and civil defense items.

Yet, according to Swedish author Åsa Lindborg, the documentary has raised little attention in Sweden. It seems to be a common assumption in Swedish media and society that “it is inappropriate to follow-up the Queen in this manner”. Even more inappropriate—for free press advocates—is that Queen Silvia decided to write a protest letter to Jan Scherman, the producer of the documentary on TV4. In her complaint she questioned the investigation and essentially also questions allowing freedom of speech. As Lindblom remarks, this “should cause a stir in any healthy democracy”.

Jan Scherman himself comments in an interview with Aftonbladet that he is both surprised at and critical of Queen Silvia’s signed letter, which he received privately in an anonymous envelope. He states:

“The Queen can of course write what she wants to whomever she wants. The problem is that “Kalla Fakta” had been trying to reach her for a long time and she did not want to comment on the new leads”. He continues: “Is this a way for the Queen to try avoiding having her opinions reach the public? I think this awakens something unpleasant and alarming. I see that the royal family chooses openness when they want and not when they are being investigated.”

TV4 points out that, having returned to Brazil in 1947, “Sommerlath never went through a de-Nazification process, and never compensated the [original Jewish] owner for any losses he incurred as result of the sale of his property back in 1939”.

One of the main tasks of the royal family is to promote Sweden, and the values it stands for in a positive manner. No one is blaming the Queen for by her father’s past, and no one should. Nonetheless, as an official representative of a liberal democracy, the queen has no business opposing freedom of expression. It is time that Silvia—as well as Sweden—takes a serious look at the past.

Only by using our freedom of speech to investigate and learn from the past, can we avoid losing all our freedoms in the future.

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