Chapter 1 – Living History 1 – Sweden

by Peter Cohen

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

– Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, quoted in The New York Times, 26 November 2006

In the mid-1990s, the then prime minister of Sweden Göran Persson began orchestrating a publicity campaign designed to show that the Swedish government is in the forefront of the struggle against anti-Semitism in particular and racism in general. One of the main themes of the campaign was that people in Sweden and elsewhere don’t know enough about the mass murder of European Jews that is known as the Holocaust.

In order to enlighten them Persson launched a “living history project” that was described officially as “an information program about the Holocaust”. The project involved government sponsorship of a book called Tell ye your children… A book about the Holocaust in Europe 1933-1945 (Sw. Om detta må ni berätta… En bok om Förintelsen i Europa 1933-1945), written by Stéphane Bruchfeld and Paul A. Levine, published by the Swedish Government Offices early in 1998, referred to below as the Holocaust Book.

The book has been translated into several languages and has aroused enthu­siasm in the US and elsewhere. Persson’s government also held the first in a series of annual Holocaust Conferences in Stockholm in January 2000. These conferences were attended by international dignitaries, including the US Ambassador to Sweden.

Swedish government spokespersons have repeatedly underlined the urgent need to inform adults, schoolchildren and students about the Holo­caust.

On pages 82-83 of the official English version of the Holocaust Book, we read:

“The Holocaust must be a constantly sounding bell reminding us of what can happen if we fail to keep the debate about democracy and human dignity alive”.

“Living History is made up of three parts: Activities reflecting political agreement in expressing disapproval of those forces which deny that the Holocaust ever took place and defend the ideology behind the genocide…

“Information to parents and the public. A Web site has been launched containing information about the Holocaust…

“Information programs directed at schools as well as extra resources for research. Schools have been offered teaching resources including films. Teachers’ seminars have been arranged, and a national center for research and education on he Holocaust and genocide has been opened at Uppsala University”. (Emphasis added)

“Political agreement” refers to the endorsement of the Living History project and the Holocaust Book by the leaders of all the political parties represented in the Swedish parliament when the book was published.

Forum for Living History

The project was institutionalized in 2003 as the Forum for Living History (Sw. Forum för levande historia), a government agency at the same organizational level as the Swedish tax authority.

In June 2003 the director general of the Forum stated that its tasks are to spread knowledge of the Holocaust and carry out research on “the crimes of Communism”.
She also stated that distributing information to schools and universities in Sweden was one of the Forum’s highest priorities.

At the Forum states that “A knowledge of history is vital for understanding the current situation. And with the help of history the Forum creates (sic!) knowledge of the present”.