Journal Article

As the Holocaust escalated the Swedish press fell silent:: media and the normalisation of passivity and non-engagement in WWII Sweden

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Author
Ester Pollack

Abstract

How could the Holocaust happen – and why did the surrounding world not react? During the first decades after World War II, in Sweden as in many other countries, a common answer was “we did not know.” The argument is still used. However, today we know that testimonies about the mass murder in concentration camps were spread through both diplomatic channels and international news reports. To what extent did this information also reach the Swedish citizens, living in a neutral nation? In this article I present two studies. One study analyses Swedish news about Jews from January 1933 to the end of May 1945. The results show an interest in “Jewish questions” throughout the 1930s, culminating in 1938 (Kristallnacht), but with a decreased attention thereafter and with very limited reporting in 1940 and 1941. A second study analyses articles about the extermination camps in Germany and Poland in 1938–1945 and shows that bits and pieces of news information can be found, but the publications are at the same time limited in facts and restricted in coverage. Information control by Swedish authorities and selfcensorship contributed to the silencing of the German war crimes and the normalisation of “not knowing.”

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About the Author

Ester Pollack

Ester Pollack, PhD, is a Professor of Journalism Studies in the Department of Media Studies at Stockholm University and deputy head of the department. Her research combines sociological and historical perspectives on the relations between two of s... Read more

Reference

Pollack, E. (2020). As the Holocaust escalated the Swedish press fell silent:: media and the normalisation of passivity and non-engagement in WWII Sweden. Social Semiotics. doi: 10.1080/10350330.2020.1766195.