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Sweden, the Swastika and StalinThe Swedish experience in the Second World War$
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John Gilmour

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780748627462

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748627462.001.0001

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Looking Back in Anger? The Assault on ‘Small-State Realism’

Looking Back in Anger? The Assault on ‘Small-State Realism’

(p.270) 12 Looking Back in Anger? The Assault on ‘Small-State Realism’
Sweden, the Swastika and Stalin

John Gilmour

Edinburgh University Press

A debate has developed between two main schools of historiographical interpretation of Sweden’s wartime conduct which can briefly be summarised as ‘small-state realism’ and ‘moral interpretation’. ‘Small-state realism’ rested on propositions such as that the welfare and survival of the Swedish people were at stake. This interpretation would dominate discourse until the 1990s. Maria-Pia Boëthius’1991 book attacked the moral basis of ‘small-state realism’. The shift in emphasis from ‘small-state realism’ interpretation to moral interpretation meant that the Coalition Government could be portrayed as ‘running errands for a tyrannical butcher’. Two paradigms are suggested to aid interpretation. Cosmopolitanism and communitarianism lie at the core of the argument on ‘right’ or ‘wrong while Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ helps to clarify why the post-war generation has had such difficulty understanding the rationale of a wartime policy that was approved by most Swedes. Following Boëthius’ book there was a new, revelatory wave of disclosure about those aspects of Swedish-Nazi contacts which had previously been ignored.

Keywords:   small-state realism, morality, Maria-Pia Boëthius, Alf W Johansson, SUAV, Cosmopolitanism, Communitarianism, Maslow, Holocaust

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