Obituary: Per Engdahl

Bjorn Kumm
Monday 23 May 1994 23:02 BST

Per Engdahl, writer and political activist: born Jonkoping, Sweden 25 February 1909; died Malmo 4 May 1994.

WHEN, as often happened, he was labelled an old Nazi, Per Engdahl, leader from the early Thirties of the 'New Swedish Movement', angrily used to protest that the label was incorrect.

No Nazi he - but he certainly was a Fascist, a believer in corporatism, and a long-time admirer of Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, whose posthumous triumph in the latest Italian elections Engdahl must have savoured, before he died on 4 May (his death was only made public in Sweden two weeks later, after the funeral).

Engdahl also vehemently disclaimed all plans and hopes he might have entertained to become the Swedish counterpart of Vidkun Quisling, had Nazi Germany occupied his native land during the Second World War. On the contrary, Engdahl used to say, if Sweden had been invaded, he would have emulated the example of Andreas Hofer, the Tyrolean peasant who led the rebellion against Napoleon in 1809; and so he often told his German friends during frequent visits from neutral Sweden during the war.

The Allied victory in 1945 left Engdahl and his minuscule Fascist movement high and dry in a country where there had been a considerable number of Nazi and Fascist sympathisers until the turning-point of the war with El Alamein and Stalingrad. He went on publishing the movement's magazine, Vagen Framat ('The Road Ahead') and often managed to make friendly contact with younger politicians, who initially did not know who he was or what he represented. He liked to point out what he saw as corporativist traits in the prevalent Social Democrat ideology, and tried, with limited success, in his autobiography, Fribytare i folkhemmet ('Freebooter in the People's Home' - ie the Swedish welfare state), to portray himself as a nice elderly statesman with ideas that might be somewhere off base but not necessarily out of date.

In later years, Engdahl became a passionate pro-European, in contrast to younger extreme right- wingers in Sweden, who tend to oppose Sweden's entry into the European Union.

Almost totally blind, Engdahl nevertheless participated - in so far as he was given space in the newspapers, more often on the radio - in Swedish political debates. His new Swedish movement was, like himself, reaching a ripe old age, but possibly getting some new recruits among clean-shaven youths with boots, who usually express their political leanings through immigrant-bashing and denying the fact of the Holocaust, an issue on which Engdahl wavered, while at the same time he praised the Israelis as great enterprising pioneers of the desert.

(Photograph omitted)

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