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Värdering och skydd av kulturegendom i Sverige under andra världskriget, med en särskild utblick mot Gotland
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Art History, Conservation.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0870-390x
2018 (Swedish)In: GUSEM - Gutilandorum universitas scholarium et magistrorum, Vol. 9, p. 21-64Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

Cultural property protection in Sweden during the Second World War, with focus on the island Gotland

As cultural property became increasingly important to national identities in the early 20th century, European states strove to protect monuments and collections from damage and destruction. The most cataclysmic situation that cultural property could be subjected to was utter destruction. The First World War proved to be such a disaster not only to human life but also to property of importance to national identity and culture. The Second World War, however, was even more disastrous when it came to destruction in areas close to the sometimes fast-moving fronts. 

     This essay is based on new investigations of documents found in a number of archives in Sweden: the archive of the National Heritage Board, the Military Archives in Stockholm, Nationalmuseum and the county archive in Visby. It deals with a topic that has previously been completely ignored – namely how Swedish national treasures were to be protected in the event of war. The essay analyses how the National Heritage Board cooperated with the Military Headquarters in order to survey, evaluate and protect a substantial part of Swedish heritage before the outbreak of the Second World War and during the war years. Their measures were based on experiences from the First World War but also from observations of how other states had been organising their cultural property protection in the 1930s, most notably France. French cultural authorities were well prepared when Germany invaded in May 1940.

     Aerial bombardment severly damaged major cities as well as historic towns in the Second World War. Before the outbreak of war cultural and military authorities in different countries prepared by taking protective measures such as the moving of collections, the building of sandbag walls around architectural details, and removal of stained glass windows from churches. Also Swedish authorities foresaw the risk of Sweden becoming involved in the war, even though the country was to be formally neutral in an upcoming conflict. Protective measures were organised by making plans for how evacuation of the most valuable collections in museums, archives and libraries Stockholm should be carried out in the event of war. In rural areas people were to a large degree left to themselves to prepare for war by following instructions from the authorities. 

     Some of the attention of the National Heritage Board was directed towards the island Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Gotland was very rich in archaeological findings and medieval heritage. The island was running the risk of becoming invaded, alternatively bombed, if war broke out in the Baltic region. Due to the development of aerial warfare there needed to be more extensive plans for evacuation in the 1930s than earlier. Bombers could potentially strike almost anywhere but cities, industrial plants, main roads, bridges, railroads and harbours were especially at risk. Measures continued to be re-organised during the war depending on its development. 

     On Gotland there are 92 standing churches of medieval origin. Many of these were considered as potential targets of warships or bombers because of their visibility and proximity to the coast. Churches were documented in photographs, some protective measures were taken, and stained glass windows were taken down, stored and later conserved. Such measures were the responsibility of the parish and the diocese, but they were conducted under the watchful eyes of professor Johnny Roosval, an art historian specialised on the architecture and art of Gotland churches. Roosval, who also was an officer in the Reserve, worked closely with the Military Headquarters to inform local authorities about the need to protect cultural property.

     After 1945 a completely new civilian defense was organised in Sweden with cultural property protection as an integrated part. The new organisation was based on close observations of how the victorious countries in the war, most notable Great Britain, had treated cultural property in battle and territorial occupation.   

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Visby: Historiska föreningen på Gotland , 2018, 9. Vol. 9, p. 21-64
Keywords [en]
cultural property protection Second world war Gotland churches Medieval art Sweden Johnny Roosval
Keywords [sv]
Kulturegendom - skydd Andra världskriget Gotland kyrkor Medeltidskonst Sverige Johnny Roosval
National Category
History
Research subject
Conservation (HGO)
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-362549OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-362549DiVA, id: diva2:1253785
Note

This research was supported by Wilhelmina von Hallwyls Gotlandsfond. 

Available from: 2018-10-05 Created: 2018-10-05 Last updated: 2018-10-12Bibliographically approved

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