“Our main aim is to reveal the problematic nature of Sweden’s role during the war and raise questions about it,” said Helene Lööw, head of the Living History Forum, which set up the exhibit.
The exhibition, Sweden and the Holocaust, displays photographs, texts, and films depicting medical experiments conducted in Sweden, commerce with the Nazis and indifference to reports of Jewish suffering.
Despite its official neutrality, Sweden delivered railway tracks and ball-bearings to Germany and was paid for the deliveries in gold. It also helped transport German soldiers on its railroads up to the north to the border of occupied Norway.
“There is a lot of forgotten history … I think it’s important to remember, especially when it comes to our own history,” Lööw said, acknowledging that some might find the exhibit controversial.
“Some might think that some parts are too graphic … This is not an exhibit for children,” she said, adding that others might think it gives too much of a negative picture of Sweden’s role in the war.
“But we also show how Swedes helped save Norwegians and Danes fleeing from the Nazis. What we wanted to cast a spotlight on was the complexity of this,” Lööw said.
The exhibit opened on Wednesday evening, coinciding with the anniversary of the 1938 Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, when Nazis roamed Jewish neighbourhoods in Germany breaking windows of businesses and homes, burning synagogues, looting and physically attacking Jews.
The exhibition is scheduled to run through 2007, after which it will go on tour throughout Sweden, and is made up of a permanent exhibit and a rotating show.
The Living History Forum, which focuses on the Holocaust and raises issues of tolerance, democracy and human rights, was founded by the government in 2003 following a campaign to raise awareness of the genocide.