740.0011 EW/4–1945: Telegram

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

1459. My 1457, April 19, 6 p.m.1 In giving me the copy of the Swedish reply of April 17 to the Norwegian request for mobilization Mr. Boheman told me that when the matter was up for consideration by the Foreign Relations Committee of the Riksdag there was unanimity amongst members of all parties that the Norwegian request was ill-timed. He said that it was almost equally unanimous (“only a few peasant members who understand nothing gave dissenting opinions”) that the entire committee desires to assist Norway in any practicable manner and that they are prepared for military action when that may be necessary. This desire and intention he said is very real and represents the Government’s views also. The Government however will be little influenced by outside foreign opinion and will not make its decision based upon emotional premises or estimates of necessity from non-Swedish quarters. Boheman was speaking very earnestly and said that it was his profound personal conviction that if Sweden in response to the Norwegian request should order now a total mobilization the results would be disastrous for Norway and would provoke German measures from which Norway would suffer cruelly.

It is my opinion, based on talks with Boheman and other responsible officials together with opinions which Colonel Rayens2 has gathered from military quarters, that the responsible authorities of this country believe that intervention in Norway would be justified if such action could in fact save Norwegian lives and property. As long as the chance remains that when the end is announced in Germany the Germans will evacuate Norway without widespread destruction [Page 77] the Swedes will not intervene. They probably believe it wiser to leave an escape corridor open to internment in Sweden than to close the door before the Germans make their decision. According to information which responsible quarters allege is in the hands of the Swedish Government, there appears to be an equal chance that the Wehrmacht (estimated strength approximately 150,000) will evacuate Norway via Sweden and Swedes consequently think it would be rash and unjustified to risk Norwegian lives and the destruction of essential facilities by wielding the big stick before the time is ripe. The Swedish view is that in order to accomplish the desired end of saving life and property, the Germans must be surprised and overpowered in a minimum time to prevent the demolition plans of the SS and Gestapo being executed. To count upon surprise is extremely hazardous since the approaches to Norway are through limited corridors where the Germans, already alerted by articles in the free Swedish press urging intervention, stand in prepared positions facing Sweden. As I am able to judge it here, the Swedish Government will not “rock the boat” as long as there is substantial hope for German withdrawal to Sweden. If the Germans do not withdraw and do commit excesses in Norway, indications are that the Swedes would intervene wholeheartedly if requested to do so; they are not however likely to make any prior commitment.

The Government is very interested in Russia’s attitude toward intervention and I have been informed that Madame Kollontay,3 sometime before she left Stockholm, told Mr. Günther frankly that the Russian Government did not desire Swedish military intervention in Norway.

Incidentally Boheman told me that according to Swedish information there are not more than 3500 SS and Gestapo personnel in Norway; the rest are Wehrmacht.

Repeated to London for Ambassadors Winant and Osborne as my 831, April 19, 6 p.m.

  1. Not printed; it transmitted the text of the Swedish aide-mémoire of April 17 replying to the Norwegian aide-mémoire of April 12 (740.0011 EW/4–1945). Regarding the Norwegian aide-mémoire, see telegram Norweg 50, April 12, from London, p. 66. For text of the Swedish aide-mémoire of April 17, see Norges Forhold til Sverige under Krigen 1940–45, vol. iii, p. 316.
  2. Col. Charles E. Rayens, Assistant Military Attaché and Military Attaché for Air in Sweden.
  3. Mme. Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollantay, Soviet Minister in Sweden until her departure in mid-March 1945.