Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Swedish cousin and the German cigarettes

Last year my cousin Tolle related this childhood episode from the Second World War.  Prompted by the neutrality debate earlier this week, I asked him to remind me of it, and here's an email I got from him today which I have translated (eller läs Tolles meil på Svenska) :-   

The Luleå - Kiruna - Narvik railway. 
The iron ore is mined at Kiruna

As you know Germany had permission from the Swedish government to send military personnel by train through Sweden [to German-occupied Norway].  This has been heavily criticised both during and since the war.  What sort of neutrality?  

In Kiruna there were two railway stations, the central station, but also a small one which administered the iron-ore trains to Narvik.  The German trains, as we called them, always halted some hours at the small station.  We small boys (I was 11 – 12 years) were of course curious and used to collect beside these trains. Then it happened that the soldiers in the train wanted to have their water bottles filled with fresh water, and we had permission from the Swedish military who stood guard over the trains, to fill the bottles. For this we got cigarettes. All tobacco was rationed and the allowance was rather small. Since my dad smoked I thought he would be glad of an extra portion. But he wasn’t. He was absolutely furious.  He threw the cigarettes on the fire and forbad me to go errands for the Germans. As you perhaps know he was an engine driver, as was Albert [my grandfather] and drove mainly iron-ore trains between Kiruna and Narvik, where he had many good friends, which as a result he wasn’t able to meet. The ore trains were driven to Luleå instead. But he died in 1942, so it was only a short time he drove the Luleå trains.

He was anti-Nazi to his fingertips, so it’s easy to see why he burnt the cigarettes.

Tolle at the Luleå rail museum, 2005

Tolle's father and my grandfather (Albert) married two sisters.  

The map shows the railway line over which they drove engines such as the one in the photo pulling the iron-ore trains.  

Kiruna was where my mother was born, and Luleå was where she grew up, in this house.  

1 comment:

  1. That's fascinating to read something from someone who is genetically close to me, yet whose story seems so intruigingly unrelated to my own life. Clearly the latter point is not actually true, it's just that I never knew any of this.