'Sweden needs a Stasi debate'
Published: 09 Oct 2007 17:34 GMT+02:00
Updated: 09 Oct 2007 17:34 GMT+02:00
In Finland there is an ongoing debate surrounding people who collaborated with the East German security service, or Stasi. The debate has thrown up a number of relevant questions. For example, what were the consequences of these relationships? What happened to the cultural figures who paid short visits to Finland and had details of their movements and opinions relayed back to East Germany? The answer is that they were barred from working, harassed and incarcerated.
In Sweden too there were people who supplied the Stasi with information. But here there is a clear reluctance to reveal the names of those involved. While this may be strange, it is not surprising that the collaborators themselves have elected to remain silent about their duplicity and treachery.
Seventy years on from the Nazi era, many people wonder today how Swedes in the 1930s could hide from the great challenges of their time and ignore the vulnerable situations in which Jews and other groups found themselves. In recent years, a number of books have been published speculating, with varying degrees of accuracy, on people's allegiances during that period.
But while we clearly consider it reasonable to expose the activities of people operating during the Second World War, there appears to be a general lack of interest when it comes to examining the misdeeds of the Gestapo's East German successor, the Stasi.
I was reminded of just how recent these atrocities took place when I visited an exhibition of works by Gustav and Ulla Kraitz at Waldermarsudde in Stockholm. The artistic couple, whose works include the very fine Raoul Wallenberg monument outside the UN building in New York, have been captured in a fabulous new book called Fertile Forms. There one can read about their different backgrounds. As a Hungarian citizen, Gustav was captured by Soviet troops in 1945 and sent to a forced labour camp. His "crime" was to have accepted a stipend. The result was five years in the coal mines. He also received harsh punishment for three escape attempts.
Justice Minister Beatrice Ask explained in a reply to a question I had posed that there was no list containing the names of 1,000 Swedish Stasi contacts. But she did say that security service Säpo had received "sporadic information" in connection with the opening of various archives. But Säpo claims that the period for prosecution for these crimes has expired and that there is no reason to expose these people after the event.
This is completely wrong. Even though their crimes may have run their course in a legal sense, there is also a moral dimension. Moreover, it is vital that people mistakenly accused of collaboration are given the chance to clear their good name before speculation grows and books are published in 50 year's time when they are no longer around to defend themselves.