Picture text translated to English see below. (click on the image to get it bigger)

                                           BYRINGE INTERNMENT CAMP 1941–1944

                                                          This sign was produced by the Länna local history society.

  An internment camp with about 20 barrack huts was constructed in 1940–1941 on land owned by the Swedish Forest Service (a public authority at the time), at Rönntorp Farm in the province of Södermanland. Its purpose was to intern unreliable Swedes if necessary if Sweden were drawn into the world war. The camp was never used for that purpose. After an inspection by the diplomat Folke Bernadotte in July 1941,
the Defence Staff decided to appropriate the camp in the event of a need to intern foreign military personnel. The Internment Detail designated it the 3rd Internment Camp, but it was commonly called the Byringe Camp.

BACKGROUND

After Operation Barbarossa began in June 1941 (see the section GREATER CONTEXT), the Swedish Government began planning for the possible internment of Soviet military personnel who might flee to Sweden.
As one step in the preparations, the Byringe Camp was surrounded by a 2-metre high and 3-metre wide barbed wire fence in the summer of 1941.

THE ESCAPE TO SWEDEN

On the morning of 21 September 1941, two Soviet minesweepers (remodelled tugboats) with a total of 60 men entered Swedish territorial waters at Huvudskär.
They had managed to breach the German naval blockade of the Estonian islands Hiiumaa and Saaremaa under cover of night. The crews were transported with the Swedish destroyer Remus to Nynäshamn for questioning and internment.

After questioning in Nynäshamn, the Soviet sailors spent the first night in the internment facility on Brännkyrkagatan in Stockholm. On the morning of the next day (22 September 1941),
after passing through a decontamination facility in Ropsten, the group was transferred to the Byringe Camp in the evening.

That same day, Swedish staffs for the camp as well as military guards were called to report in immediately. The Swedish guards (4th Guard Company) numbered 160 men. The interns were housed in the existing barrack huts, while the Swedish guards initially lived in tents. Special barrack huts for the guards were erected later. The staff were billeted at the nearby Länna Bruk, a former ironworks.

By 11 November 1941, another 104 Soviet soldiers and officers had come to Sweden by sea and were transferred to the Byringe Camp.

THE CAMP

During the first year, internment regulations were strict and the guards also patrolled with dogs. The camp was illuminated at night – electricity was drawn to the camp in December 1941.

The interns were counted in morning and evening roll calls. No visitors were allowed.

Due to internal fighting, the camp was divided into Camp A and Camp B in September 1942 (see picture 8).

Beginning in the latter half of 1942, the restrictions were eased and it became possible for interns to move about in the nearby area under Swedish guard (see map, picture 6). Later, interns were also allowed to work outside the camp.

GREATER CONTEXT

January 1933

Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party come to power in Germany.

August 1939

Germany and the Soviet Union enter into a non-aggression pact, often referred to as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

September 1939

Germany attacks Poland and the Second World War breaks out.

June 1941

Operation Barbarossa begins – Germany attacks the Soviet Union.

January 1943

The German army capitulates at Stalingrad.

February 1944

The siege of Leningrad ends after 900 days.

June 1944

Allied troops land in Normandy. Soviet offensive on the Eastern Front.

September 1944

Armistice between Finland and the Soviet Union.

May 1945

End of the Second World War in Europe.

 

1. Swedish guard at the entrance to the camp.

2. Roll calls were held morning and evening to count the interns. The interns wore Soviet uniforms the entire time.

3. Staff from the Soviet Embassy visited the camp several times. Ambassador Alexandra Kollontai visited the camp on two occasions in 1942. The third man from the right is the camp’s first Swedish commandant,
Cavalry Captain Baron Carl Rosenblad. The man on the far left is the head interpreter, Captain Rudolf Rasch.

4. Left: the commandant from 1944, Cavalry Captain Hadar Egnell. Right: the head interpreter Captain Rudolf Rasch.

5. Barrack huts 5 and 6, with Rönntorp Farm in the background and a picture from the camp’s grounds.

6. Map of the location of the camp in Länna (for A and B, see under the heading THE CAMP). The red line indicates the area in which the interns were allowed to move more freely once restrictions were eased.
The area stretched from Lake Salvaren with its swimming area in the south-east to the shop at Länna Bruk in the north-west (Military Archives, Stockholm).

7. The interns had to wear an armband with a red star, or a star sewn onto their clothes, when outside the camp and not in full Soviet uniform.

8. Map of the area of the camp before (left) and after (right) it was split into Camp A (I on the map) and Camp B (II on the map). Two of the buildings (nos. 9 and 13) are still standing and are now private homes (Military Archives, Stockholm).

9. After a while, an infirmary was erected outside the camp area at Björklida Farm. The building still stands and is a private home today.

10. Excerpt from a roll call list of interns numbered 1 to 164. In addition to name and rank, it lists cap and shoe size.

WORK AND LEISURE

WORK

During the first year, the interns worked to make the barrack huts completely liveable. Initially they lacked insulated floors and roofs.

During the second year, the interns were allowed to work outside the camp. To begin with, they worked on the construction of the new national road 55, in forestry and in agriculture. They earned SEK 1.50 per hour.
The roadwork covered a new stretch of road across the heath east of Länna Bruk and connection to the new motorway bridge over the station area in Byringe. Later, interns were also offered work in the town of Åkers Styckebruk.
Local hauliers in Länna and Strängnäs were hired to transport interns between the camp and their places of work. All interns were under guard when working outside the camp.

LEISURE

During the first year, internment regulations were strict. Some interns spent their free time building model boats – including a model of the Swedish frigate Rättvisan, which was given as a gift to King Gustaf V.
Other models of Swedish warships were also built, as well as a model of the merchant ship the Kalmar Nyckel. The Swedish Lloyd Line ordered a model of its passenger vessel the S/S Saga.

Through Swedish donations, several board games were delivered to the camp. The Soviet Embassy provided the camp with newsreels and Russian literature. The interns could also borrow books in Russian from the Länna ABF library. The Royal Swedish Academy of Music lent out sheet music.

Later in the internment period, interns were allowed to take day trips under guard. They could use the money they had saved from their work and allowance (the Soviet Embassy granted the interns an allowance of SEK 50 per month) to buy bicycles, musical instruments and so on.

The interns socialised with the local population as much as time and regulations allowed. They held music and dance performances. Later, they were granted excursions to Merlänna to go to the shops and attend church. At least one football match was arranged between the camp and Länna GIF. Chess players came to the camp from Strängnäs and tournaments were held.

A trip to Stockholm was made in 1944 with visits to the Skansen open-air museum and the Maritime Museum.

WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS?

After the armistice between Finland and the Soviet Union in September 1944, plans were made to decommission the camp. On 10 October 1944, 50 men left the camp by lorry to Byringe station, continued on by rail to Gävle and by boat to Turku, from which they could take a train back home. Two weeks later, another 70 men returned to the Soviet Union by boat via Stockholm. Thirty-four interns from Camp B chose to remain in Sweden and were granted asylum at the end of the war.
Of those 34, two later returned to the Soviet Union (1951–1952), while the others stayed in Sweden, most of them starting families here.

It is not clear what happened to those who returned to the Soviet Union. In his book The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote that returning prisoners of war were indicted for "anti-Soviet agitation due to their suggestive portrayals of freedom and well-being in the capitalist Sweden". The group Solzhenitsyn wrote about in the book was called the Kadenko Group after a former Byringe intern, Nikolai Gregorovitch Kadenko.

The journalist and author Hans Lundgren states that many of those who returned to the Soviet Union from the Byringe Camp were sentenced to 10 years in a labour camp.

After the Soviet soldiers left the camp it became a transit camp for civilian war refugees. After the camp was no longer needed, all of the barrack huts were torn down, except for two laundry buildings which are now summer homes. The guards’ barrack huts became a Home Guard headquarters in Strängnäs and were later moved to the grounds of Mälsåker Castle, where they serve as a café. The infirmary in Björklida still stands and is now a private home.

 

All photographs except numbers 6–8 come from the Länna local history society archives. The photographers are unknown, but were among the interns. The camp’s activities were classified and photographs were not allowed. However, interns were allowed to take, develop and copy pictures within the camp.

 

11. Returning to the camp after a day at work, probably on Road 55.

12. A work team on Road 55 receives a visit from their interpreter, assistant vicar Christofer Klasson.

13. Some of the Soviet interns were good at basket weaving.

14. Many of the interns bought bicycles, and several who couldn’t ride a bike, learned.

15. Socialising among the interns.

16. Trip to Stockholm in autumn 1944 with a visit to the Maritime Museum.

17. Some of the interns were skilled model builders. Pictured is a model of the Swedish frigate Rättvisan, which was given to King Gustaf V and is now in the collections of the Maritime Museum.

18. Visit to Länna Church.

19. Football match against Länna GIF at the Ålunda football pitch (NW of Merlänna).

20. Russians and guards together with the local population at the shop at Länna Bruk.