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Judisk "ras" som äktenskapshinder i Sverige. Effekten av Nürnberglagarna i Svenska kyrkans statliga funktion som lysningsförrättare 1935-1945

Publiceringsår: 2006
Språk: Svenska
Dokumenttyp: Bok
Förlag: Sekel Bokförlag


The Effect of the Nuremberg Laws on impediments of marriage in the Church of Sweden, 1935–1945

From 1935 to the end of the Second World War, the Nuremberg Laws were considered by the clergy of the Church of Sweden in its state function of considering impediments of marriage for German citizens. As a civil authority, the Church of Sweden was responsible for all such decisions until 1991. In the 1930s, juridical commentators emphasized that the ministers in their civil administration had to follow civil law, even if it came in conflict with their understanding of Church doctrine.

According to the Nuremberg Laws, German refugees of so-called Aryan descent were prohibited from marrying Germans or foreigners (including Swedish citizens) of Jewish descent. This effect of German law in Sweden was in accordance with the Hague Convention of 1902, which was in force in both Germany and Sweden, in the latter country since 1904. Since the interest of the Nuremberg Laws was to protect ‘German blood’, Jewish refugees from Germany were allowed to marry foreign citizens, Jewish or non-Jewish alike.

From September 1937, Swedish citizens who wished to marry a German citizen of so-called Aryan descent were forced to sign a declaration that none of their grandparents had belonged to the Jewish race or religion. This was due to a strong recommendation from the Swedish Foreign Office, but without any historical or democratic legitimacy. Since 1863, Christian and Mosaic believers had been allowed to marry each other in Sweden.

Not all ministers of the Church of Sweden followed the recommendations of the Foreign Office, but public criticism was muted on this matter as on the Swedish effects of the Nuremberg Laws as such. There was no debate in Parliament. Some clergymen recommended the use of these declarations still in autumn 1942. Here I apply and develop Paul A. Levine’s theoretical model of ‘bureaucratic resistance’, sometimes nuanced as ‘reluctance’, emphasizing also the ‘bureaucratic acceptance’ shown by the largest group of clergymen, in connection with the international discussion of resistance.

A comparison to the situation in the Netherlands, where the 1902 Hague Convention was in force, shows that mixed marriages between German citizens were rejected there as well. However, Dutch authorities refused to use ‘Jewish’ or ‘Aryan’ as descriptions of Dutch citizens, and sometimes declined all use of German definitions of ‘Jewish’. The public climate was totally different, with debates in Parliament immediately after the publication of the Nuremberg Laws. When the Dutch envoy to Stockholm, in November 1935, asked the Swedish foreign minister how the new German law was applied in Sweden, he received the significant answer that the Swedish authorities had not taken any stance on this law, but accepted it in practice.

A detailed study is made of four examples, where mixed couples who were not allowed to marry in Sweden, got married in the United Kingdom (2), Denmark (1), or would have got married in Norway (1). These countries had not signed the Hague Convention, and in such cases they applied the ‘domicile’ principle. In one of these examples, the Swedish Foreign Office showed a change of attitude as early as in 1939, which confirms the results of Levine’s study, but modifies his chronology. Two of these marriages were later nullified by Landesgericht Berlin. In one of these cases, this had no effect, but in the other case, the Swedish Foreign Office declared (1940) that the Berlin decision should be in force in Sweden, and was to be entered into the Swedish Civil Register by the Church of Sweden. The change of attitude in the Foreign Office had not yet developed into active resistance. This example shows that while the law in itself (as far as it was in force in Sweden) was neutral in gender, the consequences of its application could be discriminating against women and children. In this very example, a young Jewish mother, who was a Swedish citizen, was suddenly declared unmarried, and her son illegitimate. When the war was over, this marriage was not considered as legitimate until 1955. Further, this example reveals the complex nature of the effect of the Nuremberg laws, since the personal situation in these cases could be worse for Swedish citizens of Jewish descent than for foreigners.

Some Swedish clergymen used different ways to solve the problem. They showed couples the possibility to get married abroad, or treated them falsely as stateless, which meant that they could marry according to Swedish law. To many Swedish citizens, their everyday contacts with the Church of Sweden in matters of civil registration and impediments of marriage created their strongest impressions of the Church. Thus, as an example of ecclesiastical history of everyday life (‘Alltagsgeschichte’), this study is of great interest from the point of view of Church history. It illustrates how the performance of the civil duties by the Church of Sweden was directed by Swedish governmental policies, often applied from an administrative level only, and without theological considerations.


  • Religious Studies
  • Church and National Socialism
  • Church of Sweden
  • Nuremberg laws


  • ISBN: 91-975223-1-7

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