740.00112 European War 1939/7667: Telegram

The Minister in Sweden (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

209. Sveadrott arrived in Göteborg January 17. Two Norwegian ships have not yet left. Foreign Office states there has been no definite abrogation of agreement for Göteborg traffic with Germany. Nevertheless in addition to steps mentioned second and third paragraphs my 148, January 14, 4 p.m., German Admiralty has informed [Page 749] appropriate Swedish shipping officials that no ships will be granted passage from Göteborg through blockade. As ships never are given free passage by Great Britain to come in through blockade unless same number come out it is obvious that Göteborg traffic is suspended de facto.

Boheman yesterday afternoon said he felt very bitter because of position forced on Sweden by Great Britain and United States in connection with Göteborg traffic and release of these ships and also because now that they are released they do not leave Swedish territorial waters thus making possible over a continued period some serious incident. He foresees no way in which Göteborg traffic can be reopened now that it has been closed by Germans as was anticipated and he does not see that cargoes of two ships whose arrival in England is very questionable could balance rapidly deteriorating power of Sweden to resist German pressure in future. He also feels some resentment at crude method of approach to problem by British Foreign Office. Although latter is of secondary importance it indicates existence of a lack of concept of rights of small nations for which Great Britain and United States are constantly criticising Germany.

It was also mentioned that someone in State Department had spoken to Ribbing19 within a day or two apparently questioning that ships had been released, implication being that this would make it easier for Germans to sink ships while at sea. Fact that Germans were informed was considered a point of honor by Foreign Minister as he had at an earlier date said that ships would not leave. This has no bearing on action of German naval command as anyone in Göteborg can see movements of ships and any notification to German Government by Sweden would have no practical significance.

Now that Göteborg traffic has been stopped by Germans, Swedes are at a loss as to what to do. Threat of restrictions in shipments of iron ore (see paragraph 3 Legation’s 109, January 11, 6 p.m.) too dangerous and it is learned that closing of transit traffic might result in German agreement to reopen Göteborg traffic only on condition that Swedes would assure continuation of transit traffic indefinitely thus making effect of that weapon very dubious. German claim that release of ships was an unneutral act (see final paragraph Legation’s 148, January 1 [14], 4 p.m.) has been answered very strongly by Sweden as release of ships is in opinion of Swedish Government in no sense an unneutral act.

  1. Herbert de Ribbing, Counselor of the Swedish Legation.