Following the outbreak of the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939, the four biggest parties formed a wartime coalition government which lasted until the end of WWII. The neutrality policy in many cases led to directly repressive action against dissenters who criticised Nazi Germany or drew attention to its crimes, as well as opposition to the wartime government itself.
Notably, more stringent press laws were passed that enabled sanctions against publications that criticised Nazi Germany and the neutrality policy, as well as a law that could forbid publications from using public transportation for distribution, allowing the confiscation of issues that offended foreign powers. Between 1939 and 1943, over 300 issues of newspapers, books and pamphlets were confiscated. Oppositional left-wing publishers that did not support the neutrality policy were targeted by the law. In this way, it became a means for the coalition government to supress information on its concessions to Nazi Germany and stymied information on the persecution of minorities, especially Jews, in Europe.
Papers in Sweden targeted by the laws included papers such as Trots allt! and Arbetaren, which regularly expressed their criticism of the Nazis in anything but veiled terms.
Papers in Sweden targeted by the laws included papers such as Trots allt! and Arbetaren, which regularly expressed their criticism of the Nazis in anything but veiled terms. Arbetaren, for example, engaged in regular mockery of the Nazi party and its representatives and once referred to Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring as a “blood hound”, which resulted in a prison sentence for its editor Frid Nordin.
Sweden was also slow to accept refugees from Germany and other affected countries. During the 1930s, immigration policy became more restrictive and Jewish immigration was especially limited. This was only partially related to the neutrality policy and fear of German retribution. Border controls were informed that passports from Germany and occupied countries marked with a “J” (indicating that the holder was Jewish) should be turned away at the border, and calls to take even a small number of Jewish refugees from Germany caused heated debate. After more news of the atrocities in Europe spread, restrictions eventually loosened, albeit late, and by 1942 the number of refugees had started to grow rapidly and efforts were made to bring people to safety.
Antisemitism did, however, remain strong in Sweden and efforts to bring refugees from Europe as well as descriptions of the horrors of Nazi Germany, even by progressive publications, often focused on the persecution of dissidents and played down the suffering of Jews.