How mass killing changed lives in the 20th century

Written by IESB, Stockholm By Daniel Earls

As the European winter of the early 00s continues, IESB contributing editor Daniel Earls explains how the late 20th-century influx of migrants into northern Europe is beginning to bear into the modern day. Here, he tells the story of the first death toll he investigated in the 1940s, and why the numbers are still rising over time.

As winter wanes in Stockholm, a Swedish organization operates a bar in Malmo. Without its efforts, several thousand of these coffins would remain unopened in Malmo’s back streets.

Most people have heard about the Nazi concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Europe. That didn’t happen only in Nazi Germany. There was also the occupation of Norway and the surrounding islands by occupying Soviet troops. According to the Minister for the Administration of World War II in Norway, there were as many as 100,000 Jews shot and the bodies thrown into the sea. And what about concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Holland? In 1945, seven Jews were killed in a one-month period for the crime of being “socialist,” according to a coroner.

And this story was still all too common. I went back to Malmo in 1984 to research the first reported death toll from the deportations. The numbers were frightening: 7,288 Jews. The true figure was probably much higher than this. In the course of my research, I found that most of the documentary records about the atrocities, like the one above, had been expunged after the war. After the war, the Germans were accused of a witch hunt, and historians believed that everyone involved in the deportation was a German. Since there were no eyewitness accounts, the men who were executed for the crime of being Jewish never got due punishment.

The refugees who did come back to Sweden after the war were treated inhumanely, and nobody was punished for the mass murder of the Jews, some of whom were never even allowed back to Sweden after the deportation. In that respect, the Holocaust and its aftermath provided the perfect precedent for the murder of children and babies.

During the war, there were a number of Jewish women from Stockholm who had decided to go to India. They were usually first-class passengers in the Gothenburg-Amsterdam-Rome railway, though not always on the same train. Due to the sea crossing, the train was separated into several classes, often separating men from women, forcing women to change trains at night.

According to a statement made by Rosa Pannenberg, a Jewish woman from Stockholm who went to India, “to preserve our Jewish identity, we have one section of our carriage called the Jewish section, and we remained there during the whole journey.” Pannenberg always spoke about being fondly remembered by the crew. And that’s the best way we can keep remembering the Jewish Holocaust.

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