11 – WARTIME SWEDEN

This week we are talking about my new novel An Absolute Secret which is in editing and due out in April. This is a spy thriller set in wartime Sweden that tells the story of British SIS officer Peter Faye who is sent to the British Legation in Stockholm in 1943 to spy on the famous German Intelligence Officer Karl-Heinz Kramer. It is based on a true story. And believe it or not, it has a connection to Canada!

Some of you may remember the film noir movie The Third Man directed by Carol Reed and written by Graham Greene. It starred Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli, Orson Welles and Trevor Howard. It told the story of Holly Martins who was given a job in post-war Vienna by his friend Harry Lime, but when he arrived in town he found Lime dead. He then met with Lime’s friends and tried to investigate the murder. The movie came out in 1949 and was an immediate hit. It showed the dark streets of Vienna at the start of the Cold War where opportunist racketeering thrived in the black market.

Greene researched his script by travelling to Vienna and was given tours of the city, its sewers, and its less reputable night clubs. He also met with Peter Smolka, the Eastern European correspondent for The Times who told him stories about the black market. Smolka was an interesting character, an NKVD agent code-named ABO born in Vienna who was recruited by Kim Philby (The Cambridge Five) in 1933. So if you have seen the movie, this is what Stockholm looked like during the war years.

The novel takes the spectator on an exciting ride through the minefield of wartime intelligence operations when Stockholm was a bourse for foreign intelligence and German war booty. As you know, Sweden was a neutral country during WW2. Many people have said that Sweden actually benefitted from the war just like Switzerland. When the war broke out in 1940, the Swedish government was actually quite pro-German. A Waffen SS contingent was formed under the name Wiking and Nordland and a number of Swedes and Scandinavians joined the war against the Soviet Union starting in 1941.

The major contribution of Sweden to the German war effort was the transportation of iron ore across Northern Sweden from Norway to the Baltic seaport of Lulea where the iron ore was shipped to Germany. This was a huge advantage for German industry since the iron ore did not have to travel the North Sea route to German ports which were exposed to allied bombing. In addition, the Swedish government allowed German soldiers to travel across Sweden by rail from Norway. Of course, it is highly likely that Hitler would have invaded Sweden if the Swedes had not been so helpful.

But Sweden was also very useful to Nazi Germany in its currency exchanges (exchanging gold, silver, diamonds and artworks for hard currency). As the war wound down, Sweden and Switzerland became extremely important to German trade.

Don’t hesitate to leave some comments below. Have you watched The Third Man movie? What is your favorite spy movie?

Next time we will talk about the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union.

Talk to you soon,

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