They don't have Remembrance Day in Sweden. This makes perfect sense, since Sweden wasn't involved in either of the World Wars. But it's odd to come into November and not see any poppies.
Just like it's odd to go to villages with no war memorial in the centre, and it's odd to have to consciously break the assumption that people of my grandparents' generation will have service experiences. The phrase "in the war" has almost no referent here. I'm living in a society that didn't lose huge swathes of the entire male population in two successive generations. There was no baby boom here, but rather an economic boom when the rest of Europe was crippled in the post-war period and Sweden wasn't (that was the time when Sweden became a nation of immigrants, because the sudden expansion of industry created a huge labour shortage).
The Jewish community remember the war, WW2 at least, but for them the war is tangled with Nazism and the Holocaust. This week we marked the anniversary of Kristallnacht; there are proportionally more people here who were personally affected than in England, I think. Those who were already in Sweden by the 30s remember what it was like with Occupied Norway on one border, and Axis Finland on the other, and Occupied Denmark just across the water. And the Swedish government allowing the German trains to travel through their supposedly neutral country, and the general atmosphere of relative sympathy for the Nazis (did anti-Communism or anti-Semitism come first? It's hard to say.) But none of that is the stuff I'm accustomed to remembering on this date.
Facebook and LJ reminded me of the date, and having been reminded, made me feel I wasn't remembering on my own. So I am adding my post to what seems like a kind of virtual ceremony.
Sweden wasn't involved in either of the World Wars
Yes and no. About ten thousand Swedes volunteered and fought alongside the Finns during the winter war (Russia's invasion of Finland in 1939), with the full approval of the Swedish government; a further 1500 volunteered to serve in the Finnish army between 1941 and 1944.
They had good reason to: Stalin wanted all of Scandinavia, not just Finland and the Kola peninsula, and anti-communist sentiment was very strong in Sweden at the time.
Less well-publicised is the volunteer participation in the Waffen-SS: the Government did not permit Swedish citizens to serve on either side in WWII, but somewhere between 300 and 500 were recorded as Swedish nationals, and an unknown number under clandestine identities. They were recruited at the German Embassy in Stockholm, assisted by the SSS (the Swedish National Socialist Party) throughout the war. Most served in the SS freiwilligekorps Nordland, SS Wiking and SS Nederland. 11 are known to have been commissioned as officers in the SS.
Beware of websites run by leftwing 'anti-fascist' groups, who smear the Swedes by saying that 10,000 men served in the Waffen SS: they are conflating the Swedish assistance to Finland in the Winter War with active support to the Axis in WWII.
All in all, the Swedes have good cause to remember the war; but some, whose fathers and grandfathers died when the Swedenzug fought to the last man in the final battle for Berlin, have cause to keep quiet about it.