The Swedish Question
Though Hitler found himself dragged into Mussolini’s amateurish Grecian debacle in 1943, he refused to be side-tracked from his planning for another campaign: the conquest of Sweden. Tired of the foolishness of “continued neutrality,” and without fear of any other power interfering, Hitler finally decided it was time to draw Sweden into the Greater German Reich.
As a means of flexing his muscles, Hitler had Liechtenstein invaded and annexed in March in a campaign that lasted less than three days. Prince Franz Joseph II was publicly executed by beheading as an example after his refusal to cede his lands to the Reich. It was a powerful message for Switzerland and Sweden: neutrality meant nothing and resistance was futile.
Though Hitler had intended to attack Switzerland first, those in his inner circle were able to push him away from the idea due to the economic difficulties that would surely follow. Sweden, and its precious iron deposits, became the primary target for annexation.
Hitler sent an ultimatum on his very birthday, April 20, 1943, demanding the right to station soldiers throughout Sweden; the beginning of a series of phases that would see Sweden relegated to a gau. Sweden declined.
Angry at such impertinence, Hitler ordered the conquest of Sweden initiated. The campaign, dubbed Beowulf, called for invasion forces to drive out of Norway and Finland, while amphibious forces would sail from Denmark coupled with parachute forces. It was believed that the cities Gothenburg, Malmo and Vasteras would fall within a day, Stockholm in three.
Though Sweden had broken Germany’s codes and was able to decipher the entire battle plan granting it the ability to prepare accordingly, the Swedish High Command realized it was impossible to defend itself from all sides. At best, Sweden could hold out two weeks. Even then, hope of defeating the invasion was folly.
Rather than watch his people be slaughtered needlessly, Gustaf V met with the Prime Minister and the two agreed to acquiesce to the German demands.