Counter-Reactions 2: The Jews of Sweden

Cover photo: Malmö Synagogue (1903)

Getting back to our earlier discussion, here is more from M.G.

You offer a quote from a Swedish Jew regarding multiculturalism, but Sweden’s Jewish population stands at a numerically tiny 18,000 people ; in terms of demographics the real issue isn’t why a couple thousand Jews in Sweden, a European country with a relatively high percentage of Middle Eastern immigrants, may support immigration, it’s why millions of ethnically Scandanavian Swedes do, and why millions more are either indifferent or otherwise didn’t choose to vote for the anti-immigration Swedish Democrats this last cycle. 

In 1774 a seal engraver and haberdasher named Aaron Isaac was offered Swedish citizenship if he would convert to Christianity.  Isaac’s profession of faith — “I would not change my religion for all the gold in the world” — impressed Stockholm’s mayor and Sweden’s King Gustav III.  Isaac became the first Jewish citizen of Sweden, and was allowed to bring in enough Jewish families for a minyan at religious services.  By 1782 there were observant Jewish communities in four major cities. But to keep out itinerant Jewish peddlers and vagrants, prospective Jewish emigrants were expected to show their purpose in coming and provide proof of funds. This meant that while Sweden’s Jewish community was not large it was well-educated and well-heeled.  Today around 20,000 Jews — around 0.5% of the country’s population — call Sweden home. 

In 1837 a 17 year-old Jewish bookseller’s son opened Albert Bonniers förlag in Stockholm. Today Albert Bonniers is one of Sweden’s largest book publishers and part of the Bonnier Group, a privately-held firm which owns over 175 companies in 15 countries.  The Bonnier Group controls three of the six national Swedish newspapers (Dagens NyheterExpressen, and Sydsvenskan) and many of Sweden’s regional papers, as well as the various channels under Sweden’s TV4 umbrella.  Another Swedish Jew, Peter Hjörne, publishes another national paper (the Göteborgs-Posten) as well as several regional and free Swedish publications.  

Sweden’s media outlets have been strongly critical of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, and strongly supportive of refugee resettlement.  Attacks on ethnic Swedes by refugees are downplayed or ignored altogether, while immigration skeptics are tarred as xenophobic bigots.  Iain Channing, a British author who lived in Sweden during the 1980s, described the situation in 2014:

Things aren’t quite as bad as East Germany, as dissident Swedes are wont to say, but this country no longer has full freedom of speech. The far left – that is to say, the Swedish media and establishment – is not interested in “debating” mass immigration. They are ideologically committed to imposing it, come what may, for the greater good, and anybody who disagrees is a “hater,” a “fascist,” a “nazi” or a “racist.”

I’m not exaggerating. You see those words over and over in the Swedish media. Which is to say, Sweden itself has become the closest thing western Europe now has to a fascistic, Nazi-like, hate-based regime – only it is wrong-thinking ethnic Swedes who are its victims, at risk of assault, home-trashing and media humiliation for voicing opposition to state immigration policy.

To be fair, Gentile-owned Aftonbladet and Svenska Dagbladet have also been enthusiastic promoters of open borders for Sweden.  And a fair number of Sweden’s Jews have at best tenuous links to their Jewish heritage.  Åke Bonnier, one of the Bonnier Group’s leading stockholders, is a bishop in the Church of Sweden:  I’m not sure how he could get any more assimilated into Swedish society.  (I suppose we could discuss “crypto-Jews” sent to infiltrate Goyish society, but that veers perilously close to Jim Goad’s “men who taste Jews in their sandwiches.“)  Swedish Jews, like their American co-ethnics, are disproportionately  represented in the media industry  and lean Left.  But it is not clear how far their opinions deviate from those of ethnic Swedish journalists or the greater Swedish population. 

One interesting factoid arises when we examine the history of Sweden’s Communist Party.  The connections between Jews and Communism have been examined at length by people on all sides of the political spectrum.  Yet Sweden’s Communists have been drawn largely from blue-collar Swedes.  Looking back on the role the Thing (community assembly) played in pre-industrial and pre-Christian Scandinavia it’s easy to see how  Swedes might find the idea of worker’s collectives appealing.  And given the prosperity of Sweden’s Jews it is understandable why few of them were agitating from factory floors.  The Nordic Model has long been lauded as a system which combines the best of socialism and capitalism.  Many, including many Swedes, have failed to recognize how much this Nordic Model relies on a relatively homogenous society of Nordic peoples. 

While analyzing the role Jewish groups play in Sweden’s refugee policies, we cannot neglect the role of Jewish history.  As Hitler came to power in Germany Sweden, like many other European countries, placed limits on the number of refugees it could accept.  But when Denmark’s Jews were threatened with concentration camps neutral Sweden offered refuge to over 7,000 Jews who crossed the narrow Øresund strait in one of World War II’s most celebrated rescues.  National pride at that operation — and guilt about those turned away in the War’s early years — leads many Swedes to sympathize with those escaping war-torn countries, and to identify unsympathetic Swedes as Nazi sympathizers.  As Ingrid Carlqvist, a conservative Swedish writer, says: 

Swedes now tend to view all immigrants as victims of totalitarianism and refuse to acknowledge that not all immigrants think like Swedes. They cannot comprehend that people would flee unless they were hated and threatened.

Swedes have a minimal knowledge of the Jew-hatred that is part and parcel of Islam, and the authorities and politicians refuse to acknowledge that Jews are now fleeing the southern city of Malmö due to its steadily growing Muslim population. Quite simply, most Swedes have never realized that one minority group may expose another minority group to violence and intimidation.

Much as Americans are bombarded with accusations of racism and held accountable for historical sins,  Swedes are castigated for their country’s history of “Nazi collaboration.” The fact that their country’s cooperation with Hitler was minimal at best is forgotten: their kindness in saving thousands is used as a goad to increase immigration as atonement for those they did not save.  And in Sweden as in America, these efforts at creating a multicultural utopia have made Jews less, not more, safe. 


One thought on “Counter-Reactions 2: The Jews of Sweden

  1. A few thoughts:

    1). It certainly looks as though the Swedish Question (henceforth known as the “SQ”) – namely, why do the formerly homogenous Swedes welcome diversity in ways certain to profoundly transform their demographics forever – is largely a Swedish Scandanavian cultural matter. Among Sweden’s tiny Jewish community, one can point to a few Jews in prominent media positions, but you’ve acknowledged that their opinions seem in line with Swedish Scandanavian culture. (Interestingly, there’s a Jewish Swedish Democrat Parliamentarian in the Riksdag, Kent Ekeroth, showing at least some diversity of opinion on the issue of immigration among Swedish Jewry.)

    It’s somewhat interesting to me the extent to which Swedish Jewry seems to support views not alIgned with the obvious Jewish group interest – as you suggest, there’s compelling evidence that Swedish anti-Semitism is heavily a function of its immigration policies.* Combined with their high degree of assimilation into Scandanavian society, it certainly looks to me like Swedish Jews act in ways exactly opposite to the alt-right stereotype, itself informed by Kevin McDonald’s writing ; that is to say, far from pursuing internal ethnic cohesion and fighting for group interests in opposition to majority national values, Swedish Jewry seeks assimilation and largely mirrors the politics of the country of their residency – even when doing do endangers their own interests! This is very much in keeping with Nathan Cofnas’s own writing, which I think effectively rebuts a lot of alt-right beliefs about Judaism.**



    2) It’s worth asking how much of the SQ is a function of Scandanavian Swedish culture specifically. I am not an expert on, or an especially well informed observer of, contemporary Sweden. The country is known for its left-capitalist models, one who’s lavish social welfare programs must surely make it an appealing location for migrants and refugees to seek residence even independently of Swedish Scandanavian opinion. You cite two conservatives regarding Sweden’s supposedly stifling left political climate ; that’s interesting and possibly relevant, but I’d want to at least hear a Swedish leftist and moderate response, or better yet, read a non-partisan media and politics study on the matter before drawing conclusions.

    3) In terms of the SQ and contemporary Swedish responses to WWII narratives, I’d aask whether Sweden has unique cultural or historical qualities which make it likely to judge itself unusually harshly for its humanitarian record during that conflict. This is anecdotal, but one Swedish friend has cited Swedish royal cooperation with Nazis as a source of great national self-doubt.*** I’d personally speculate that Sweden, with its cultural commitment to social welfare, simply holds itself to an exceptionally high national standard of moral conduct as compared to other nations in ways that may almost seem naive to Americans.



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