Who was Torgny Segerstedt?

Torgny Segerstedt was editor-in-chief of the Swedish newspaper Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-tidning (GHT) from 1917 until his death in 1945.

Earlier than most, Torgny Segerstedt understood the danger posed by Nazism and Fascism. After Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, GHT became the leading Swedish newspaper dedicated to the struggle against Nazism. In a famous column on February 3rd 1933, Torgny Segerstedt simply stated that “Mr. Hitler is an insult”, prompting an immediate and angry response from German Reichsminister Hermann Göring.

Torgny Segerstedt maintained this position also when other Swedish editors grew increasingly reluctant to criticize the Nazi regime. Throughout World War II, he remained the primary opponent to the Swedish coalition government’s policies of concessions to Germany.

Though Torgny Segerstedt never favoured Swedish participation in the war, he was very supportive of the resistance movements in Norway and Denmark and his writings became a great source of inspiration to them. The British also became acquainted with Segerstedt since his columns were translated into English and quoted by BBC.

On October 9th 1940, a few months after Nazi Germany’s occupation of Denmark and Norway, Torgny Segerstedt wrote a tribute to resistance that remains frequently quoted to this day:

 “Free birds plough their way through space. Many of them may not reach their distant goal. No matter. They die free.”

 

Read Anders Franck’s essay The Sharpest Pen about Torgny Segerstedt.