Swedish TV4’s investigative programme “Kalla fakta” last night again set focus on the Nazi past of Queen Silvia’s late father, Walther Sommerlath. At the time of her wedding in 1976 the Queen’s father denied in an interview with Expressen’s Ulf Nilson that he had ever been a member of the Nazi party, but eight years ago the newspaper Arbetaren was able to prove that he had indeed joined the Nazi party in 1934.
At the time Queen Silvia refused to comment, but in the documentary “Familjen Bernadotte” earlier this year she finally broke her silence to say that her father was not “politically active”, that it was all a “machinery” which one had to be part of and that the factory that he owned was not part of the war industry, but produced electronics such as toy trains and hair dryers, but that it was ordered to produce a membrane for gas masks.
Walther Sommerlath moved to Brazil in 1919 and was still living there at the time he joined the Nazi party in December 1934. In a telephone interview with “Kalla fakta” his eldest son, 81-year-old Ralf Sommerlath, claims that all Germans living in Brazil joined the party and that this was more or less common courtesy.
However, Ana Maria Dietrich, an expert on Nazism in Brazil interviewed by “Kalla fakta”, points out that only 2,900 out of 80,000 Germans in Brazil, joined the Nazi party. These 3.5 % she considers the “convinced” Nazis.
Walther Sommerlath returned to Germany in April 1939, a month before the Nazi party was outlawed in Brazil. He settled in Berlin and on 24 May 1939 he took over the company “Wechsler & Hennig”. His son Ralf later asked him if he bought it from Jews, which Walther Sommerlath firmly denied.
Documents found by “Kalla fakta” show that Sommerlath took over the firm from Efim Wechsler, a Jew, and that this was part of the so-called “Arisieriung” (arification) process after the Kristallnacht, when Jews were forbidden to own companies and thus forced to sell. The documents also show that his factory produced items which were used by the Luftwaffe. It thus seems increasingly clear that Walther Sommerlath misled not only the journalists of 1976 but also his own children about his past.
In a statement on the royal website (external link) Queen Silvia, who was born in 1943, says that she she regrets her father’s membership of the Nazi party, which she did not know about until adulthood and never had the chance to discuss with her father.
Her brother Ralf, on the other hand, says to Expressen (external link) that the Queen is “terribly upset” and he calls the documentary “lies and slanders”. He fumes that if all Swedes are like Mats Deland, one of the three documentary makers, he will never again visit Sweden and tell his sister to “come home”.
The documentary may be watched in its entirety on TV4’s website (external link). The second part of the documentary will be broadcast the coming Sunday.