How did Sweden manage to support the Nazis with iron ore for their war machine, which kept Sweden "Neutral" and still retain good relations with the Allies post WW2? Does doing trade with an enemy in war not constitute collaboration?

  • 2
    What's with the Random upper Case abuse?
    – DaG
    Jun 28, 2016 at 8:32
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    Enemy State and Neutral used in the same phrase? Since Sweden was neutral, that means Nazi Germany was not their enemy state. Thus they were doing trade, not collaboration.
    – NSNoob
    Jun 28, 2016 at 9:20
  • Please present facts and citations to bolster the question.
    – MCW
    Jun 28, 2016 at 10:58
  • Its true that everyone loves ABBA. I used to drive a Volvo tractor and trailer combo and I loved it. My guess is by way of inference is because the Red Army attacked Finland for no good reason forcing Russia out of what was left of the League of Nations. It's interesting that the World did sign up for a "United Nations" after World War 2. I don't think anyone believes in that Organization anymore sadly. So maybe History has Sweden instead? Jun 29, 2016 at 3:46

2 Answers 2


By the tone of your question, you're seeing WWII as a crusade against evil where there can be no neutrals, and in hindsight I agree. The laws of war didn't use these categories at the time. Being neutral can mean trading with both sizes equally, or with neiter one. If one of the belligerents is closer and trades more, that happens.

  • The US transported lend-lease supplies to Vladivostok because Japan and the Soviet Union were neutral towards each other. It was not in the Allied interest to question that legal concept of neutrality at the time.
  • It was to the advantage of the Allies to have Spain neutral. By denying Sweden the right to remain neutral, they might have pushed Franco into taking Gibraltar. As it was, he sat the war out.
  • Forcing Sweden into abandoning neutrality might have pushed them into the war against the Soviets, which was a rather popular notion worldwide until the Uncle Joe propaganda.
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    Additionally, Sweden was physically surrounded by Axis members. Forcing them into conflict would lead to another quickly victory for Germany or (more probably) another German ally. And there was the category of non-belligerant, which mean that a country favored a side but was not part of the war (for example Spain).
    – SJuan76
    Jun 28, 2016 at 7:05
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    A good answer.... except for the first sentence. Even if "right" and "wrong" might seem absolute / obvious (and I would contest that notion with regards to WWII), staying neutral is a valid option. Switzerland stayed neutral, and defended its airspace against either Luftwaffe, RAF, or USAAF infractions. Ireland stayed neutral, and interred both Luftwaffe and RAF pilots that went down over its territory. And declaring WWII as "a crusade against evil where there can be no neutrals", IMHO, shows a worrying amount of ignorance concerning the time period.
    – DevSolar
    Jun 28, 2016 at 8:52
  • @DevSolar, it might not have been clear with regard to hindsight. I believe that "genuine" neutrality in the face of genocide is complicity. I can understand that people did not fight out of fear for their loved ones. I can understand that people did not fully understand what was going on. I can understand that people were more afraid of Communism. But what the West didn't do about Rwanda or Srebrenica will taint our souls forever, because we knew.
    – o.m.
    Jun 28, 2016 at 14:24
  • @o.m.: That is a very slippery slope you are on. Wars are not fought for moral reasons, or "doing the right thing". They are fought for power, and resources. The US did not get involved in Europe because of the holocaust either... but this isn't the place to roll out a discussion. I just wanted to say that your first line, as well as the OP's question, are displaying a much too simplistic view on how things came to be, are coming to be, or will be coming to be.
    – DevSolar
    Jun 28, 2016 at 14:30
  • @DevSolar, I realize that many states act or fail to act for realpolitik reasons. But some deeds are so evil that there can be only temporary truces, not acceptance.
    – o.m.
    Jun 28, 2016 at 14:41

"Sweden emerged physically unscathed from World War II." That was the whole point of its neutrality. Other Scandinavian countries suffered more because they were "involved." In Sweden's case, there was no fighting, no occupation, nothing related to war, hence "unscathed."

How did Sweden emerge morally unscathed? First, even Germany and Japan were forgiven and rehabilitated after the war. Although Sweden "tilted" toward the Axis, her culpability was far less than the other two. She didn't commit any atrocities (although her iron ore and other exports were used in their commission).

Sweden even did a favor or two for the Allies; a Swedish-American spy,Eric Erickson operated from Sweden while spying on the German oil industry.

  • "Other Scandinavian countries suffered more because they were 'involved'" -- To be fair, Norway was (formally) neutral as well, actually leaning towards the Axxis in that they turned a blind eye to infractions of their territorial waters by the German navy (Altmark Incident). Denmark was neutral. Finland turned Axxis-friendly because the UK and Sweden were not interested in aiding Finland against Soviet pressure after the Winter War.
    – DevSolar
    Jun 28, 2016 at 12:11
  • @DevSolar:That's why I put scare quotes around "involved." The others' "lack" of neutrality was forced on them.
    – Tom Au
    Jun 28, 2016 at 13:43
  • The reason for Germany to occupy Norway, was that Norway otherwise might have been occupied by the allies in order to stop the iron ore export from Sweden. So, ironically, Norway was occupied for the very same reason Sweden remained free. Jun 28, 2016 at 14:03
  • A Franco-British invasion of Norway was imminent, or at minimum the British and French intended to mine Norwegian waters, thereby violating their neutrality. Britain and France wanted to secure the North Sea and prevent the shipment of Swedish iron ore through the northern Norwegian port of Narvik, and the first step of mining Norwegian waters was only days away. Had Hitler waited a short time (even less than a week), the British and French would have violated Norwegian neutrality to isolate Germany. - sourced from B. H. Liddell Hart.
    – Smith
    Jun 28, 2016 at 17:55

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