Swedish extradition of Baltic soldiers

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Baltic and German soldiers being extradited from a detention camp in Eksjö. The Swedish officers in black are militarised Police/Gendarmerie, and the men in the foreground wearing tan are army soldiers.

The Swedish extradition of Baltic soldiers, in Sweden known as the Extradition of the Balts (Swedish: Baltutlämningen; although technically Estonians are not Balts), is a controversial political event that took place in 1945-1946, when Sweden extradited some 150 Latvian and Estonian former soldiers who had been drafted by Germany against the Soviet Union during World War II.

History[edit]

On 2 June 1945, the Soviet Union demanded that Sweden extradite all Axis soldiers. The government protocol from 15 June was kept secret until it became public on 19 November. It was supported by most of parliament and the Swedish Communist Party wanted to go further, by extraditing all civilian refugees from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The majority of the Baltic soldiers extradited were Latvians who had escaped from the Courland Pocket. When the refugees reached Sweden, those in uniform were detained in detention camps. The extradition to the Soviets took place on 25 January 1946 in the port of Trelleborg for transportation on the steamer Beloostrov. A memorial, "stranded refugee ship" (1999-2000) by Christer Bording, has been erected in Trelleborg.[1][2] On return they were briefly put in a camp in Liepaja and later released. According to one source at least 50 of the Latvians were arrested between 1947 and 1954 and were sentenced, often to 10–15 years in prison.[2]

Sweden also extradited about 3,000 German soldiers, according to laws on prisoners of war. The Balts were however more controversial since the Soviet authorities viewed them as Soviet citizens (the Soviet Union had occupied the independent Baltic states in 1940) and therefore regarded the Balts as traitors, and the internees feared death sentences. Two Latvian officers committed suicide and several of the Balts attempted suicide.

Of the prisoners, Lieutenant Colonel Kārlis Gailītis and Captain Ernsts Keselis were sentenced to death, but had their sentences changed to 17 years hard labour. Three others of lower ranks were sentenced to death and executed in 1946.[3]

There was no legal ground for the extradition.[citation needed] According to the Hague Conventions, after the end of a war a neutral power is not required to extradite warfighters to anyone. Furthermore, prisoners must be free to return home,[citation needed] but only if they wish to do so.

In 1970, Johan Bergenstråhle made a film, Baltutlämningen (English title: A Baltic Tragedy), about the subject. The film is based on Per Olov Enquist’s Legionärerna: En roman om baltutlämningen (1968) (English title: The Legionnaires: A Documentary Novel) which had won the Nordic Council's Literature Prize and Enquist collaborated on the script.

On 20 June 1994, 40 of the 44 surviving extradited (35 Latvians, 4 Estonians, and 1 Lithuanian) accepted an invitation to visit Sweden. They were received by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. The Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Margaretha af Ugglas said that the Swedish government agreed with the criticism of the decision and regretted the injustice. [4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Strandad flyktingbåt", at Christer Bording website
  2. ^ a b Flyktingminnesvård i Trelleborg. In: Fritt Militärt Forum, Nr. 1 (2000).
  3. ^ Baltutlämningen skildrad av de utlämnade
  4. ^ See Svenska Dagbladet 21 and 22 June 1994, and Dagens Nyheter 21 and 22 June 1994

Literature[edit]

  • Freivalds, O., Alksnis, E. Latviešu kaŗavīru traģēdija Zviedrijā. Copenhagen, Denmark: Imanta, 1956 (254 pp).
  • Freivalds, O. De internerade balternas tragedi i Sverige år 1945-1946. Stockholm, Sweden: Daugavas vanagi, 1968 (432 pp).
  • Landsmanis, A. De misstolkade legionärerna. Stockholm, Sweden: The Latvian National Foundation, 1970 (83 pp). (– Corrects Enquist’s The Legionnaires).
  • Zalcmanis, J. Baltutlämningen 1946 i dokument. Stockholm, Sweden: Militärhistoriska förlaget, 1983 (96 pp).
  • Ekholm, C. Balt- och tyskutlämningen 1945-1946. Uppsala, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Studia Historica Upsaliensia 136 (224 pp.), 137 (444 pp.), 1984.
  • Ekholm, C. & Schulze, H. Flyktingminnesvård i Trelleborg. Fritt Militärt Forum Nr 1, 2000.
  • Silamiķelis, V. With the Baltic Flag (ISBN 9984055590). Rīga, Latvia: Jumava, 2002 (316 pp).

External links[edit]