SWEDEN, kingdom in N. Europe, part of the Scandinavian peninsula. It is unlikely that there were Jews in Sweden in pagan times or in the Catholic Middle Ages, nor was their presence favored in Lutheran Sweden. Several regulations issued in 1685, directed against the presence of Jews in the country, seem to indicate that Jews had resided there illegally for certain periods. In the first ordinance, which referred to the Jews as "revilers of Christ and his communion" and justified their removal from the country in order to protect the pure Lutheran faith, permission to stay was granted in exceptional cases only. Some Jewish creditors of Charles XII, who had followed the king from Turkey, were allowed to stay in Sweden with their families for about ten years.
The position changed under the rule of the enlightened monarch Gustav III (1771–92). In 1774 Aaron Isaac, a seal engraver from Buetzow, Mecklenburg, arrived in Stockholm; in the following year he received the king's permission to settle there, along with his brother, his partners, and their families. A cemetery was consecrated with royal permission in 1776; subsequently it was named Aronsberg in honor of Aaron Isaac. In 1779 Parliament, with the king's support, granted Jews the right to settle in Stockholm, Göteborg, and Norrköping, under certain conditions and with a measure of religious freedom. Accordingly, in 1782 the royal office of trade and commerce issued "regulations governing those members of the Jewish people who wish to enter the country." The Swedish regulations were modeled on those of other European countries, especially *Prussia, but in certain respects they were more liberal, so as to attract potentially useful Jewish immigrants. Jews were allowed to settle only in the three cities mentioned above, where they could hold religious services, acquire real estate, and engage in industry and in those trades that were not subject to the guilds. According to the country's constitution, non-Christians were excluded from all government positions and were not entitled to vote. On the other hand, following the practice of other European countries, Jews were allowed autonomy in their own affairs, including religious worship and welfare activities, inheritances, guardianships, and marriages. Intermarriage was prohibited, with the exemption of a few wealthy Jews. While these laws were in force, Jews in the cities were regarded as rivals and intruders, while the predominantly liberal-minded officialdom came to their defense. The accusations against the Jews, as well as the arguments in their defense, were basically the same as those found on the European mainland. The financial crises which afflicted Europe after the Napoleonic wars led to antisemitic agitations in Sweden as elsewhere.
To those influenced by economic liberalism, including King Charles XIV John and his minister of finance, the 1782 regulation governing Jewish immigration appeared increasingly obsolete. It was repealed on June 30, 1838, and replaced by a royal decree by which the Swedish Jews, hitherto a colony of foreigners enjoying defined rights, were incorporated into the Swedish state. From then on they were to be called "adherents of the Mosaic faith," an appellation which remained officially valid. The former kehillot were termed Mosaic communities and Jewish autonomy was abolished. The restrictions on Jews contained in the constitution and the civil code could not be lifted without the approval of Parliament, but virtually all administrative practices detrimental to them were wiped out. However, the new decree aroused such strong and widespread opposition that in September of the same year the government was obliged to abrogate the regulation entitling the Jews to settle anywhere in the country. Henceforth, foreign Jews were permitted to reside only in Stockholm, Göteborg, and Norrköping as before, with the addition of Karlskrona. Despite these concessions to anti-Jewish feelings, no reform in the history of Swedish Jewry can compare in significance with the decree of June 1838, which marked the beginning of a development that led to complete political emancipation and basic acceptance as citizens and members of the community. This decree, albeit modified in a few points, governed the civil rights of Swedish Jews until 1951. Due to the conservative immigration policy of the government, the number of Jews in 1838 was still small, amounting to about 900 persons, more than 800 of whom lived in Stockholm and Göteborg.
During the 1840s, free trade principles prevailed in Sweden; this led to the lifting of almost all existing restrictions on Jewish occupations and, in turn, to the elimination of the conflict of interest between the Jews and the rest of the population. On the initiative of the government and liberal-minded members of Parliament, the emancipation of the Jews was completed during the ensuing decades. They were entitled to reside in any part of the country, to acquire real estate, to intermarry, and to participate in municipal elections. The last barrier fell in 1870. After long debates the Jews (and the Catholics) were given the franchise and entitled to hold political office. Nevertheless, until 1951 membership of the Swedish state church was a requirement for ministerial office. Paralleling emancipation, assimilation made rapid gains. Religious services were modeled on those of German Reform Jewry. The psalms were chanted in Swedish and sermons delivered in that language. The liturgy, although shortened, continued to be in Hebrew, but Swedish prayers were interpolated. The community of Göteborg led the way toward Reform and was the first to introduce the use of the organ in the synagogue (1855). Members of the Henriques and Warburg families were
especially active in favor of Reform, backed by the chief rabbi of Göteborg, Carl Heinemann (1837–68).
The rise of political antisemitism in Central Europe was of little significance for the Jews of Sweden. Their relationship with the non-Jewish population remained harmonious, although there was a perceptible increase in antisemitic manifestations. The Jews played a major role in the cultural life of Sweden, out of proportion to their numbers, especially in the fields of music, painting, and literary criticism. However, Jewish activities declined. During that period, the chief rabbi of Stockholm, Hungarian-born Gottlieb Klein (1882–1944), was the outstanding representative of liberal theology. Immigration from eastern Europe proved to be one of the most significant events of the period between the 1860s and 1933. The new immigrants were more pronouncedly Jewish than the old Swedish-Jewish families that dominated the congregations founded during the 18th century. They supported the existing congregations and founded new ones in the provinces, for example in Malmö. According to official statistics, in 1880 about 3,000 Jews lived in Sweden. The 1930 census recorded 7,044 Jews in the country, 1,391 of whom were non-citizens. About 4,000 resided in Stockholm, and the majority of the others in Malmö and Göteborg.
The victory of National Socialism in Germany (1933) created in Sweden a Jewish and a refugee problem. Efforts by Swedish Jewish refugee organizations to save German Jews by transferring them to Sweden were impeded by the country's restrained refugee policy. The authorities feared that the refugees would increase unemployment, from which Sweden suffered badly as a result of the 1929 world crisis, and that antisemitism would grow because of an increasing Jewish population. The upper echelon of Swedish society had been pro-German from earlier days, and although the Nazis were never powerful in Sweden, antisemitism increased as Hitler's power expanded. In 1938, when it became publicly known that the Jews in Germany were in imminent physical danger, the Swedish Jewish and other refugee organizations increased their pressure on the Swedish government to develop a more liberal immigration policy. The consequence was sensational counter-measures in business circles, polemics in the press, and even denouncements, by various student organizations and other bodies, of the so-called "Jewish invasion." The motivations behind these measures were usually not directly antisemitic, but stressed in particular the dangers connected with unemployment. The consideration of the so-called "racial question" was undeniable, however. The government yielded to public pressure, and the fact that Sweden abolished the regulation allowing every alien to remain in the country for three months without a visa was of far-reaching importance. The obligation to have a visa was from then on dealt with very strictly, especially for Jews, and thousands of requests were denied, even when the required material guarantees were provided by Swedish Jews. Up to the beginning of the war, about 3,000 refugees were able to leave Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia for Sweden, in addition to 1,000 so-called transmigrants who traveled on from Sweden to other countries. After Kristallnacht (Nov. 1938), 150 adults and 500 children (without their parents) were granted entry permits. A Jewish immigration committee was charged with the painful task of choosing out of the many applications, so that the quota would not be surpassed. Among those who were unable to continue their trip because of the outbreak of the war were a few hundred ḥalutzim (members of Zionist youth movements intending to settle in Palestine) who – following the Danish example – were admitted temporarily to agricultural and other training centers (hakhsharah). During World War II public opinion changed in favor of the refugees, for several reasons. The crimes of the Nazis, which many circles had previously refused to admit, became publicly known. Instead of unemployment there now was a shortage of workers. Moreover, it was realized that, with some good will, it would be possible to receive many more refugees than was previously thought. The turning point in the history of Swedish refugee policy and antisemitism came in November 1942, when Jewish persecutions in German-occupied Norway began. These provoked a general feeling of disgust and angry protests throughout Sweden. About 900 Norwegian Jews who were able to escape to Sweden were readily admitted.
How decisive the change of mind was became obvious in October 1943, when Danish Jewry took flight in order to escape deportation. After a fruitless démarche to the German Foreign Office, the Swedish government officially offered asylum to the fleeing Jews, setting an example of humane policy.
[Hugo Mauritz Valentin]
Almost all the Jews of Norway and Denmark who escaped to Sweden returned to their native countries at the end of the war. About half the refugees liberated from concentration camps who went to Sweden toward the end of the war or immediately afterward emigrated overseas, mostly to the United States and Canada or to Israel, while half remained and became citizens of Sweden. As a result, the 1970 Jewish population in Sweden was double that of 1933 and was estimated at 13,000–14,000. According to a 1961 estimate, approximately 1,500 lived in Göteborg, 1,500 in Malmö, 7,000 in Stockholm, 350 in Borås (almost all survivors of the Holocaust), 150 in Norrköping, and the rest were dispersed in smaller centers. Of the total number, over 5,000 were considered veteran citizens and their descendants, i.e. Jews who had come to Sweden before 1933; over 2,000 were refugees from Central Europe from 1933–39; about 5,500 were survivors of the concentration camps; and approximately 500 were refugees who fled from Hungary in the wake of the 1956 revolution. To these should be added about 1,500 refugees from Poland who went to Sweden after 1968.
The absorption of the many refugees presented Swedish Jewry with new and difficult problems. At the end of World War II the Jewish communities levied an additional income tax on their members. Half of the revenue from this tax was designated for aid to refugees. Fifteen special schools were opened for refugee children and over 700 students were enrolled in 1946. The aid granted by the Swedish government and the Jewish community was augmented by international Jewish funds, mostly from the American Jewish *Joint Distribution Committee, and later from the *Conference on Jewish Material Claims. Gradually a considerable degree of amalgamation of the refugees and the veteran Jewish community was achieved. In the late 1950s it was possible to state that the majority of the refugees were absorbed in Sweden, from an economic and professional standpoint, and some even socially and culturally.
The shock of the Holocaust, which nearly reached the gates of Sweden, and the experience of encounter with the refugees left a deep impression on Swedish Jewry, in contrast to the isolationist trend that had predominated until the war. The consciousness that they were part of world Jewry and responsible for their brethren found expression in increased participation in world and European Jewish organizations, such as the *World Jewish Congress, ORT, and later the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, as well as the Standing Conference of European Jewish Communities. Increased activity on behalf of the establishment of a Jewish state and support of the State of Israel after its establishment were also expressions of the new attitude of the Swedish community. The Zionist movement, which was supported only by a small minority before the war, expanded, and many refugees and veterans joined it. Even most professed non-Zionists participated in activity on behalf of the yishuv. A special appeal for the *Haganah in the winter of 1947–48 collected $300,000, the greatest amount ever reached by an Israel appeal in Sweden (with the exception of the emergency campaign during the *Six-Day War in 1967). A group of young Jews participated as volunteers in the *War of Independence in 1948. The movement on behalf of Israel was further strengthened by the attitude of the Swedish public, which supported the Jewish people's struggle for a state not only through moral and political support but also by providing material aid.
The law of freedom of religion in 1951 abolished the regulation of 1838 requiring that citizens affiliate with a religious organization, on the grounds that a citizen has the right to free decision. The new law aroused great concern among the Jewish communities, which feared that their economic position would be undermined. Apparently these fears were unjustified, for only 350 Jewish adults broke away from their communities. In the postwar period Jewish life was characterized by considerable activity in comparison with the prewar period. Particularly noteworthy were the women's organizations (*WIZO and the General Organization of Jewish Women), in addition to increased activity on the part of the Zionists. Other organizations included that of the Nazi victims, the Scandinavian Organization of Jewish Students (SJUF), and the *Bnei Akiva youth movement. Chapters of *B'nai B'rith were founded in the three major cities, Stockholm, Göteborg, and Malmö. The
The economic situation of Swedish Jewry is generally healthy. Jews are active in business, industry, and the liberal professions; they do not hold key positions in the economy, however, with the exception of department stores, which developed mainly through their initiative. Jews occupy a respectable position in cultural and literary life, in the theater, and in the graphic arts. Ragnar *Josephson was a member of the Swedish Academy, which numbers only 18 members and awards the Nobel Prize for Literature. There were no Jews outstanding in Swedish political life, with the exception of Hjalmar Mehr, who served as mayor of Stockholm in the early 1960s. Antisemitism was not widespread; indeed, the extremist antisemitic group led by Einar Åberg had merely a marginal influence on society. Most of the Swedish people rejected antisemitism and were sometimes active on behalf of persecuted Jews. From the 1960s there were conspicuous Swedish efforts on behalf of Jews in the Soviet Union and Arab countries. Swedish Jewry not only enjoys equality, but finds few cultural barriers as well, which has resulted in an increase in the number of intermarriages. While the Holocaust experience and the absorption of the refugees strengthened Jewish identity, the small number of Jews and the openness of Swedish society have worked in the opposite direction.
By the mid-1990s, there were 18,000 Jews living in Sweden, a figure that remained stable. The main communities are Stockholm, Göteborg, and Malmö. There are also communities in Borås, Varberg, and Uppsala, and a number of Jews live in Helsingborg, Lund, Norrköping, and Växjö. A number of emigrants from the former Soviet Union have also settled in Sweden. The communities are linked by the Official Council of Jewish Communities in Sweden. Swedish Jewry is very active in international Jewish welfare and in supporting development projects in Israel. Stockholm has three synagogues (two Orthodox, one Conservative) and two rabbis. Göteborg has two (one Orthodox, one Conservative) and Malmö one. A Jewish primary school and a kindergarten operate in Stockholm. The community still publishes the bimonthly Judisk Kronka, and there is a weekly Jewish radio program. Göteborg has long had a Jewish kindergarten, Noah's Ark, which was relocated to new multi-purpose premises at a community center that also houses the Jewish retirement home and a kosher food store. In 2002 a Jewish primary school was opened in Göteborg, already doubling in size the following year. The Göteborg community also broadcasts a weekly hour-long Jewish radio program with music, interviews, cultural reviews, and news, repeated on the weekend.
The *Chabad movement established a small presence in Göteborg in 1991, and in 1992 opened a kindergarten, Gan Chaya Mushka, followed five years later by a primary school.
The Swedish legal system permits the expression of antisemitic, racist, and xenophobic ideas, including Holocaust denial, under liberal freedom of speech legislation. Right-wing extremist groups, often with neo-Nazi sympathies, number a few thousand members. The Palestinian Intifada in Israel in the early 2000s was accompanied by a sharp rise in antisemitic attacks in Sweden and a far harsher, less nuanced tone in both the Swedish media and among many of the country's politicians.
See also *Scandinavian Literature.
[Chaim Yahil /
Ilya Meyer (2nd ed.)]
Relations with Israel
The supportive attitude of most of the Swedish people toward the Jews also found expression in Swedish-Israel relations. Because of Sweden's neutrality, her representatives more than once filled important positions in connection with the Palestine question. In 1947, Emil Sandström served as chairman of the special United Nations Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), which recommended the partition of the country. Count Folke *Bernadotte was the first mediator on behalf of the United Nations on the Israel-Arab conflict in 1948. Dag Hammarskjöld, the secretary-general of the United Nations, was occupied with the problem of Palestine; General von Horn was chief of staff of the United Nations truce observers; and Gunnar Jarring was a special envoy of the UN after the Six-Day War. The assassination of Bernadotte in Jerusalem (1948) overshadowed Swedish-Israel relations for some time and contributed to a delay in the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries until 1950 (ambassadorial level, 1957). But this tragic affair did not alter the basic sympathy of most of the Swedish people toward Israel, and in the course of time regular, friendly relations were established. Swedish policy – traditionally framed by long-dominant Labor governments – has generally supported several principles which were the foundation of Israeli policy: the aspiration for peace, the principle of direct negotiations to solve the Israel-Arab conflict, condemnation of the Arab economic boycott, freedom of passage through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran. On
[Chaim Yahil /
Ilya Meyer (2nd ed.)]
GENERAL: H. Valentin, Judarnas historia i Sverige (1924); idem, in: YIVOA, 8 (1953); V. Jacobowsky, Göteborgs mosaiska församling (1955); W. Siegel, Mosaiska församlingen i Malmö 75 aʿr (1946). 17th TO 19th CENTURIES: M. Ivarsson and A. Brody, Svensk-judiska pionjärer och stamfäder … (1956); B. Tarschys, Chevra Kaddischa 150 år (1944). HOLOCAUST AND CONTEMPORARY PERIOD: L. Yahil, Rescue of Danish Jewry (1969); idem, in: Yad Vashem Studies, 6 (1967), 181–220; Adler-Rudel in: YLBI, 11 (1966), 220–41; H. Valentin, Judarna i Sverige (1964). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Mosaiska församlingen i Göteborg 200 år (1980); I. Lomfors, in: S. Scharfstein, Judisk historia från renässansen till 2000-talet (2002); F. Bedoire, Ett judiskt Europa – kring uppkomsten av en modern arkitektur 1830 – 1930 (1998); B. Moback, Livet är ingen banalitet – judiska röster (2001).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.