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Swedish queen's probe shows father was hero, not Nazi

The Local · 9 Aug 2011, 15:07

Published: 09 Aug 2011 15:07 GMT+02:00

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"I wasn't afraid of what I would find when I started searching in the archives. I knew there was no reason to worry," Queen Silvia said in an interview with local Gothenburg daily Goetheborgs-Posten published Tuesday as the royal court posted the report on its website.

The queen announced earlier this year she had commissioned a report, published Tuesday, concerning the activities of her father, Walther Sommerlath, in Brazil and Germany between 1930 and 1940, following reports about his controversial dealings with the Nazi regime.

While it has long been known that Sommerlath became a member of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) in 1934 while he was living with his family in Brazil, the queen has insisted he was not politically active and had, as many others, been forced to join to save his career.

But in May this year, commercial broadcaster TV4 reported that Sommerlath had taken advantage of the Nazi's "Aryanisation" programme to take over a German factory belong to Jewish businessman Efim Wechsler in 1939.

According to the 34-page report published Tuesday, written by Swedish historian Erik Norberg, archives indicate, however, that Sommerlath was doing Wechsler a favour and had traded part of a coffee plantation in Brazil for the Berlin factory in a move that made it possible for the Jewish business owner to leave Germany.

While historical research shows about 80 percent of Jewish properties taken over through the Nazi's Aryanisation programme were acquired by people aiming only to enrich themselves, Norberg refers to studies showing that about 20 percent were taken over by "well-meaning businessmen who tried to pay reasonable compensation to the Jewish owners."

"There is much to indicate that Walther Sommerlath belonged to the latter category," he concluded in the report.

According to the report, the transaction between the two men appears to have provided Wechsler, who had already been stripped of his German citizenship and whose properties were in the process of being confiscated, with the documentation he needed to leave Germany and establish himself in


Sommerlath went to Brazil in 1920, aged 20, where he met and married the queen's Brazilian mother Alice, whose family owned a large coffee plantation.

He moved the family back to Germany, taking over Wechsler's electrical appliances company in Berlin in 1939, but soon faced pressure to transform it into a military supplier company, which it did in 1940, according to Norberg's report.

However, the report stresses, "it might still appear that the company had been mobilised into the war economy at quite a late stage."

The factory was destroyed in a 1944 bombing, and the family returned to Brazil in 1947.

Story continues below…

In her interview with Goetheborgs-Posten, Queen Silvia stresses the report's author did not uncover any evidence that her father had been an active member of the Nazi party.

"I have not been able to find information about him being active in the party in archives in Brazil or in Germany," she said.

Silvia Sommerlath, who was born in Germany in 1943, met the future king of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, at the 1972 Munich Olympics where she was working as an interpreter.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:43 August 9, 2011 by catjones
Venn diagram please.
18:26 August 9, 2011 by marimay
sounds like BS to me
02:59 August 10, 2011 by vonSchwerin
"While historical research shows about 80 percent of Jewish properties taken over through the Nazi's Aryanisation programme . . . "

Only ONE Nazi had an Aryanisation programme? Because that what "the Nazi's" means.

My dear The Local, please use apostrophes properly.
18:09 August 10, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
Back then, taking over a business that was once owned by a Jew was legal after the Nuremberg laws of 1935. How these business people conducted themselves during the process of a takeover reflects on their character as a person, not as a "Nazi". It's amazing how this Nazi witch hunt affects even the royal family of Sweden. Swedes during the war provided medical services to Wehrmacht soldiers - now, are all swedes racists because they helped another human being with an ideological difference? Guilty by association. BS. The fact is, you cannot judge somebody who was following the laws of that time by people today with 20/20 hindsight on the situation. It's not like he was a concentration camp guard or anything!!
20:55 August 11, 2011 by Joshen
Well, my understanding of this is that it's more of a monarch hunt than a nazi hunt. I think one of the reasons why this story got so much attention in the swedish press was that the queen said that her father was absolutely not a nazi and that his factory made toys. That made the story even more "juicy" when it evidence showed that he was a member of the nazi party and that the factory was making war materials.

Even if the swedes in general are optimistic about the royal family these stories, like the story about the king and the pornclubs, are examples of (sometimes bias) critical journalism.
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