Winner of the August Prize, the story of the complicated long-distance relationship between a Jewish child and his forlorn Viennese parents after he was sent to Sweden in 1939, and the unexpected friendship the boy developed with the future founder of IKEA, a Nazi activist.
Otto Ullmann, a Jewish boy, was sent from Austria to Sweden right before the outbreak of World War II. Despite the huge Swedish resistance to Jewish refugees, thirteen-year-old Otto was granted permission to enter the country—all in accordance with the Swedish archbishop’s secret plan to save Jews on condition that they convert to Christianity. Otto found work at the Kamprad family’s farm in the province of Småland and there became close friends with Ingvar Kamprad, who would grow up to be the founder of IKEA. At the same time, however, Ingvar was actively engaged in Nazi organizations and a great supporter of the fascist Per Engdahl. Meanwhile, Otto’s parents remained trapped in Vienna, and the last letters he received were sent from Theresienstadt.
With thorough research, including personal files initiated by the predecessor to today’s Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) and more than 500 letters, Elisabeth Åsbrink illustrates how Swedish society was infused with anti-Semitism, and how families are shattered by war and asylum politics.