The Shmooze

Swedish Queen Decides Father Wasn’t a Nazi

By Nathan Burstein

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The Swedish queen has wrapped up an investigation into her father’s alleged Nazi past, concluding — perhaps a bit conveniently — that one of his 1939 business deals was helping, not exploiting, a desperate German Jew.

Rumors have long swirled about the history of German-born Queen Silvia, whose father, Walther Sommerlath, was said by some to have joined the Nazi party in 1934. The queen reacted angrily last year to the Swedish broadcast of a documentary about her father, which suggested that he had participated in Hitler’s so-called “Aryanization” of seized Jewish assets. She changed course in May, saying she would look into the allegations.

The results of her investigation, released today, suggest that her father acted nobly — at least in her interpretation. In findings released to the Swedish media, the queen says her father purchased a Berlin factory owned by a German Jew, Efim Wechsler, so that Wechsler could flee Germany for the safety of Brazil. The deal included giving Wechsler ownership of property, including a coffee plantation, owned by the Sommerlath family in Brazil.

While the Shmooze would love for this to be a new example of gentile heroism in the lead-up to the Holocaust, the queen’s version of history is at best ambiguous, raising at least as many questions as it answers. “After six months in [Wechsler’s] new homeland, the coffee plantation returned to a relative of Walter Sommerlath’s wife,” reports a Swedish news site — suggesting that the deal may have been more about opportunism and profit than an about charity on behalf of a terrified refugee.

The queen herself noted that this topic was never discussed in her own family — an omission that could also mean several things. “Our father never said anything about this time, and we kids did not ask either,” the queen said, in a phrase that brings to mind the willful silence that descended on many German families after the war.

The Shmooze curiously awaits the reaction of the Swedish public, wondering whether these latest revelations will provoke more scrutiny, or effectively close the book on Silvia’s family history.


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