After their belly landing on the Swedish island of Gotland, the crew of my Dad’s B-17 “Liberty Lady” was sent to the village of Rättvik for their internment.
When I was planning my May visit there I originally made a reservation for my son Johnny and I to stay at the Turisthotellet, located in the small downtown area. I knew that many of the internees lived there during the war, and it is still open for business today.
Then I discovered a letter that had been written to my Dad’s pilot Charles W. “Smithy” Smith. It was addressed to him at the Hotell Lerdalshöjden. After studying the photographs in my Dad’s scrapbook, I knew that this had to be where his crew stayed. I couldn’t believe it. The Hotell Lerdalshöjden is still a thriving hotel so I quickly switched our reservation.
I’m a little fuzzy on its history so I hope my readers can help. According to the Lerdalshöjden website in 1943 a gentleman named Sten Hagberg bought the hotel, originally begun in 1927. At that time it had eleven rooms and a kitchen with a wood stove. Sten built an addition and made improvements. In fact I have just learned that some of the first Americans who lived their helped him with the construction.
When my son and I were in Rättvik Karin Hessel, a beautiful lady who “was there” during the war, met us at the hotel and shared her photographs. When I showed her the picture of “Sten” from my Dad’s scrapbook she knew exactly who he was. She told us that he was living in Falun when he bought the hotel. Three weeks later he was contacted (by the Swedes, by the Americans, I’m not sure) with the proposition that he allow the American internees to stay there. Karin said that of course it was an excellent arrangement for all concerned.
The Hotell Lerdalshöjden is located just a short distance from town, perhaps a kilometer, and it is uphill. I asked Don Courson, the Liberty Lady waist gunner, about that. He said he would have to walk his bicycle on the very end of that little trip.
Once we got up there the view just took my breath away. There is a panorama of Lake Siljan, the Rättvik pier, the famous old church or “kyrka.” I couldn’t believe that there were no pictures in my Dad’s scrapbook of that fabulous view.
Below are some THEN and NOW pictures of the hotel. More Rättvik photos will be posted on the Facebook Group “American Internees in WWII Sweden.” Please join our group if you’re interested!