Who knew WWII neutral Sweden had so much going on?!

Pat DiGeorge did an extensive amount of research to pull together the true story of her parent’s experience in neutral Sweden during WWII in Liberty Lady: A True Story of Love and Espionage in WWII Sweden

Excerpt from 1st Lt. Herman Allen, bombardier of Liberty Lady, writing about mission 5 on 31 December 1943:

There are really no words to describe what one goes through each time he hits the air. It leaves its mark, its sear, and only God Himself knows the price eventually to be paid. All that matters is to have faith in Him, and in the end it will prove itself. I still remember what we once said, to the effect that as long as we do our best to the utmost of our ability that is the most that can be expected. Is is our own mind, our own conscience we have to live with, and there lies the story.

Her father began his involvement as a bombardier executing raids over Germany, later to be interned in neutral Sweden after an emergency landing. He went on to meet Hedy, his future wife, while they both worked at the OSS (later to evolve into the CIA).

Sweden during WWII was a fascinating hotbed of activity on all sides.

Because of its neutrality, wartime Sweden had quickly become a natural spot for clandestine activities. Many countries maintained legations there including the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Poland, Norway, Italy, China and Japan. In additional to these diplomatic centers, most countries set up covert intelligence operations, all trying to learn each other’s secrets.

Representatives from the belligerent nations traveled back and forth, stayed in the same hotels and ate side by side in the restaurants. Wartime Stockholm has been described as the “Casablanca of the North,” with a social scene right out of Rick’s Cafe in the legendary 1943 movie. Discreet conversations, off-the-cuff questions, eavesdropping – all had the same purpose, to gather useful information and pass it along.

In preparation for the Allied invasion on the beaches of France, did you know:

One false notion transmitted to the Germans was that the Allies would first send forces to Norway, and then the main attack would come later at Pas-de-Calais, the shortest route across the English Channel. This location was where most of the German high command thought the invasion would take place.

The OSS was disbanded effective October 1, 1945. William Donovan gave his staff a very complimentary sendoff:

We have come to the end of an unusual experiment. This experiment was to determine whether a group of Americans constituting a cross section of racial origins, of abilities, temperaments and talents could meet and risk an encounter with the long-established and well-trained enemy organizations… You can go with the assurance that you have made a beginning in showing the people of America that only by decisions of national policy based upon accurate information can we have the chance of a peace that will endure.

This was a page-turner for me. I love learning about history, and had no idea of the critical role Sweden played in their neutrality.

Passion vs. stability?

Think of a society that is genetically-engineered, where drugs are used to erase any kind of human discomfort, sports are the major distraction and every person is conditioned from an early age to accept it all without question. It might sound familiar, but this story, Brave New World, was written by Aldous Huxley in 1931!

Huxley creates a futuristic world where the purpose behind every aspect of society is stability, by keeping each person content in their role.

“that is the secret of happiness and virtue – liking what you’ve got to do. All the conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.”

One concept is this society’s promotion of promiscuity over monogamy (Looking back, I can’t believe this was required reading at my high school!).  This excerpt describes the high pressure of monogamy vs. promiscuity as many slow trickles –

“Think of water under pressure in a pipe.”  They thought of it.  “I pierce it once,” said the Controller.  “What a jet!”

He pierced it twenty times. There were twenty piddling little fountains.

Mother, monogamy, romance. High spurts the fountain; fierce and foamy the wild jet. The urge has but a single outlet.

A drug called soma is used by everyone, at any time, for the smallest mental discomfort. Here Huxley explains how drugs are used to cover any gap in activity to keep people content –

“Work, play – at sixty our powers and tastes are what they were at seventeen. Old men in the bad old days used to renounce, retire, take to religion, spend their time reading, thinking – thinking!”

One of the sources of societal instability in this world is art. Therefore, it must be eliminated. Here, the Savage, an illegitimate child raised in the natural world, argues this point with Mustapha Mond, Resident World Controller of Western Europe –

“Because our world is not the same as Othello’s world. You can’t make flivvers without steel – and you can’t make tragedies without social instability.”

The Savage was silent for a little. “All the same,” he insisted obstinately, “Othello’s good, Othello’s better than those feelies.”

“Of course it is,” the Controller agreed. “But that’s the price we have to pay for stability. You’ve got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art.”

The God they worship is Ford, in the image of Henry Ford – the creator of the Model T and mass production.

“Our Ford himself did a great deal to shift the emphasis from truth and beauty to comfort and happiness. Mass production demanded the shift. Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can’t.”

In this excerpt, we have Mond, arguing with the Savage, further defending this brave new world

“We prefer to do things comfortably.”

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin.”

“In fact,” said Mustafa Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

It makes the reader question the price of passion, choice and human suffering vs. contentment and stability. Anxiety can bring a great deal of suffering, making you wonder – would living in a world like this be worth it?

“Happiness is a hard master – particularly other people’s happiness. A much harder master, if one isn’t conditioned to accept it unquestioningly, than truth.”