August 9, 2011
Swedish queen says father is hero, not Nazi
Sweden’s Queen Silvia says an investigation into her father’s links to the Nazis show that he is a hero.
A report commissioned by the queen determined that Walter Sommerlath helped at least one Jewish man escape the Nazis. The 34-page report was released on Tuesday.
Sommerlath exchanged his coffee plantation in Brazil for the Berlin factory of Efim Wechsler in 1939, which allowed Wechsler to immigrate to Brazil and escape the Nazis, according to the report.
The report also found that Sommerlath was a member of the Nazi Party, but apparently inactive.
Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, called the report “self-serving and lacking in credibility,” and said that Holocaust survivors reject it.
“The report was not an independent inquiry—it was commissioned by the queen with the participation of her cousin, a Brazilian lawyer. Such a probe can only raise suspicions of a whitewash,” Steinberg said in a statement. “The truth demands an objective and independent investigative process. What Queen Silvia has produced only raises further troubling questions.”
Walter Sommerlath died in 1990.
Silvia Sommerlath met Carl XVI Gustaf, who became the king of Sweden, at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where she was working as an interpreter. They married in 1976.
A Swedish television station aired an investigation last November into Walter Sommerlath’s alleged Nazi past, reporting that he took over a Jewish-owned German factory in 1939 as part of a Nazi program of Aryanization. The queen issued a denial following the report, saying her father joined the Nazi Party to save his career.