When my son Johnny and I were in Sweden this Spring we drove north from Stockholm to Falun and Rättvik. During World War II both towns housed Allied airmen in “internee camps.” They were nothing like what we think of “prisoner of war camps.” The men lived in small hotels or boarding houses. With some restrictions, they were able to travel around town, primarily by bicycle.
The Americans received their full pay while they were there, and it was significantly more than either what the British received or what the local Swedes were able to earn. In these little towns the Americans caused some local inflation as they spent their dollars on bikes, sports equipment, clothing, and girls. Johnny and I asked everyone we talked to who had been there then if that caused a problem. The ladies laughed, “No, we loved it.”
Our guide, Helen Engblom, had contacted ahead of time the owner of one of the pensions in Falun where internees had been housed. The current owners of the Solliden Pensionat are using it now as their private home but when they moved in they found left behind a large collection of photographs, documents and newspaper clippings. This is what they so generously shared with us.
According to a 1984 newspaper article (translated from Swedish) in the spring of 1939 the widow Kerstin Lindblad transformed the farm into a guest house. As more and more bombers were forced to make emergency landings in Sweden some of the Allied crew members were housed at Falun. 20 to 30 at a time stayed at Solliden. During the 2nd half of 1944 the Americans were sent to Loka while the RAF airmen remained.
When the war was over, the pension housed new guests from the war in Europe who came from the concentration camps of Belsen and Auschwitz. Many when they arrived were in very poor condition, a newspaper article reported. Some weighted only 25 to 30 kg.
In 1995 the British and American airmen who had lived at Solliden were invited to a reunion to celebrate the 50th anniversay of the end of the war. A jazz orchestra played songs reminiscent of Vera Lynn and Ulla Billquists (famous Swedish singer.) To mark the occasion the audience could drink coffee and cakes for 50 cents … the same price they were 50 years ago.
I’m not sure from the article how many internees came back for the party but the rest of Falun had a great time remembering when …
Below, photos from Solliden Pensionat. It would be wonderful if my readers can identify any of them.