Ett Svenskt Lejon
In the early evening of January 1st, 1936, a gentle snowfall slipped silently through the frigid Stockholm air and slowly began to inundate the recently cleared streets of Galma Stan. Despite the weather, numerous pedestrians moved about under the hot streetlights, which lined the city’s icy thoroughfares, many of them singing festive songs and raising glasses of champagne and glögg to toast the New Year. Meanwhile, from the opened windows of many houses, voices and shouts happily sounded out as if part of a vast disjointed chorus. But one could not help but notice that something was different. The enthusiasm over the previous night’s firework displays and other seasonal traditions was of the usual vigor but more bad news from the war in Abyssinia had decidedly tempered the mood the following morning; Italian aircraft had attacked a Swedish Red Cross unit in that country on December 30th. Moreover, the Anglo-German Naval treaty from the previous summer still lingered in peoples’ memories. The Germans had essentially won dominance over the Baltic through that agreement as well as Britain’s acquiescence to a substantial strengthening of the Kriegsmarine. The situation was all the more troubling given Versailles’ apparent collapse as a feasible restraint on German militarism and the League of Nation’s apparent impotence in halting wars of aggression. Nonetheless, Swedes celebrated. They held to their traditions.
A short distance away on the island of Helgeandsholmen, the political implications of these world events had to be measured. Within the towering confines of the Riksdag the future of Sweden’s policy of neutrality would be tested over the coming months, perhaps the coming years.