• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Sweden's 'dark legacy' draws crowds to museum

Paul O'Mahony · 9 Jan 2007, 18:33

Published: 09 Jan 2007 18:33 GMT+01:00

In 1922 Sweden became the first country in the world to establish a National Institute for Race Biology. The establishment of such an institute was supported by all major political parties.

Under the leadership of Herman Lundborg, the institute soon began gathering copious statistics and photographs to measure the racial make-up of 100,000 Swedes.

This first round of analysis was completed in 1926 and provided the basis of Lundborg's textbook for upper secondary schools entitled 'Swedish racial studies'.

But the grandfather of Swedish race biology gradually fell out of favour as his vision of Nordic supremacy and his emerging anti-Semitism grew increasingly untenable in the light of developments in Germany.

In 1936 he was replaced by Gunnar Dahlberg as head of the National Institute for Race Biology. He died in 1943.

In subsequent years the institute distanced itself from its racial profile, moving gradually into the emerging field of genetics. In the 1950s it was integrated into Uppsala University and eventually developed into what is now the university's genetics centre.

Herman Lundborg's name re-emerged in the 1990s in the controversy surrounding Sweden's forced sterilisation programme, which affected 63,000 people and continued until 1975.

His theories on the need to actively combat degenerate elements in Sweden's racial make-up were regarded as central to the creation of this shameful chapter in the country's history.

But it was not Lundborg who sought in Dalarna the roots of a dying breed. Rather it was a competitor by the name of Bertil Lundman, who had it on good authority that the last strains of the Aryan race were likely to be found in that region.

"Lundman had tried to gain employment at the National Institute for Race Biology but was not accepted," Maria Björkroth from the Museum of Dalarna told The Local.

When the museum discovered 11,000 photographs of local people in its archives, dating back to the 1930s, it decided to look into the matter, resulting in the current exhibition, "The dark legacy".

"The idea that you learn could about hereditary illnesses by measuring people's heads was very racial," said Björkroth.

Bertil Lundman employed photographers in the area to gather data on any interesting racial characteristics to be found in the villages of Dalarna.

He did not discover any traces of the Aryan race in Dalarna. On the contrary, he found that the area was composed of quite a mixture of races.

He did however develop a habit of measuring people with unusually prominent physical features, on the basis of which he would extrapolate wildly.

"In Dalarna he found the biggest heads in Europe. He also found the longest heads, the tallest people and the shortest people on the whole continent," said Björkroth.

Notions of racial hygiene, that the stock of the population could somehow be bettered as a result of such studies, were strong in the 1920s and early 1930s. As a result, Lundman could count on the assistance of organisations in the region.

"The Association of Heritage Societies supported him for approximately ten years. After World War II however this type of study was not considered politically correct," said Björkroth.

The exhibition takes a closer look at "The dark legacy" of race biology.

"A lot of racial ideas are still alive today, often at an unconscious level. But they are there when you penetrate the surface.

Story continues below…

"When, for example, people criticise newcomers to the country for not speaking good Swedish they are sometimes carrying on the idea that they are somehow better than these people," said Björkroth.

The exhibition began in mid-November and was due to end on Sunday. But the Museum of Dalarna has decided to continue the exhibition for another six weeks in response to continuing demand.

"Teachers bring their classes here because it fits in with the curriculum, when pupils are learning about the Holocaust and the eventual outcome of racial theories.

"It is also interesting for pupils to learn about people's faith in the authorities, how they accepted being measured in this way," said Björkroth.

Bertil Lundman continued his studies after the Second World War. In 1977 he published a book, The Races And Peoples Of Europe, classifying Europeans along racial lines. He died in 1993.

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Police close Facebook thread after call for help derails
A file photo of police cars on Gotland not related to the article. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The Gotland Police Facebook post asking the public for information about an unprovoked attack on two boys had to be closed because the comments section spiraled out of control.

US election
What Americans in Sweden think of Trump and Clinton
The Local spoke to Americans in Sweden after the first US presidential debate. Photo: David Goldman/AP/TT

The Local spoke to four US voters based in Sweden about who they are planning on voting for in the November election, and it looks like it's complicated.

Presented by Emirates Center for Strategic Studies
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
File photo: sanjitbakshi/Flickr

As Sweden prepares to take a seat on UN Security Council next year, Abu Dhabi-based scholar and author Dr. Jamal Sanad al-Suwaidi argues for a greater UN role to fight extremist ideologies like those that fuel Isis and other terror groups.

Video
Why Swedes want Nasa to send a condom into space
Should a condom be sent into space? It's the burning question some Swedes have posed. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT & Craig Rubadoux/AP

'We can't be sure what alien sex organs look like.'

Mum gives birth on toilet after being told to take paracetamol
File photo of a baby not related to the story. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

A woman has described how she was told to take a painkiller when she phoned a hospital in Ystad, southern Sweden, in pain. Just moments later she gave birth to a baby in the toilet.

Indians in Sweden told to be wary of travel document scam
File photo of a man using a phone not related to the story. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The Embassy of India in Stockholm has urged Indian citizens in Sweden to be wary of scammers who ask for money to fix fabricated errors in travel documents.

Swedes shell out for season's first lobster
Meet Pontus Johansson and his lobster. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT

Best not to look at the price tag.

Witnesses 'afraid to talk' to police about Malmö shooting
Police investigating the shooting in Malmö. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

Police are appealing for witnesses to a shooting which killed a man and injured three in a residential street of Malmö – but it is an uphill battle.

Opinion
Swedish leaders need to be prepared for tech challenges
Will robots take over your jobs? Photo: Eric Piermont/AP

Will your job still exist in ten years' time? How will society and businesses adapt to the advancements that are on their way?

Opinion
'If Sweden really wants startups, drop the red tape'
Tech star Tayyab Shabab, who is being threatened with deportation. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Swedish politicians are keen to talk up the country's startups – but their migration rules threaten to strangle them, argues The Local's managing editor James Savage.

Sponsored Article
Let's Talk: a personal Swedish language tutor in your pocket
Analysis & Opinion
'If Sweden really wants startups, drop the red tape on migration'
Sponsored Article
‘I view the world in a different way now’
Gallery
Property of the week: Gotland
National
Trump an 'embarrassment' Springsteen tells Sweden
Blog updates

27 September

Cutting your nose …. (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Last week, Jeremy Browne, the Special Representative for the City of London, visited Sweden. Jeremy was…" READ »

 

7 September

Svensk or svenska? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! My inbox is full of questions :-). Here’s one about when to use “svensk” and…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
'Creating a sense of home': Collective living in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching: September 23rd-25th
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Politics
Russian Sweden Democrat aide resigns over suspect deal
National
Muslim teacher leaves job after not shaking male colleague's hand
Travel
Why we adore autumn in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: 'So much more than beaches'
Gallery
People-watching: September 21st
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Stockholmers hunt killer badger after attack on neighbourhood hipster cat
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
National
Six key points in Sweden's budget plan
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
The Local Voices
How a Swedish name finally made recruiters notice this Iranian's CV
Gallery
Property of the week: Luleå
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: September 16th-18th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Culture
Why Swedish TV has given these kids' trucks a sex swap
Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ’a-kassa’
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Gallery
People-watching: September 14th
Politics
Why Sweden is putting troops on holiday dream island Gotland
The Local Voices
'What I mean when I say: I came here to blow myself up'
Society
VIDEO: Are Swedes that unfriendly?
Features
INTERVIEW: How Arthur the jungle dog opened hearts and minds
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen, Västra Götaland
Society
Sweden's ancient forest tongue Elfdalian fights for survival
National
Where Sweden's foreigners are from
Gallery
People-watching: September 9th-11th
The Local Voices
'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
2,961
jobs available