New Book Addresses IKEA Founder Ingvar Kamprad’s Nazi Past

In a 2010 interview, Kamprad refused to denounce his friendship with Per Engdahl

A visitor takes a mobile photo of a picture of Ingvar Kamprad, founder of Swedish multinational furniture retailer IKEA, at the IKEA museum in Almhult, Sweden, on January 28, 2018. (OLA TORKELSSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A visitor takes a mobile photo of a picture of Ingvar Kamprad, founder of Swedish multinational furniture retailer IKEA, at the IKEA museum in Almhult, Sweden, on January 28, 2018. (OLA TORKELSSON/AFP/Getty Images)
By Bonnie Stiernberg / October 8, 2019 7:29 am

IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad’s Nazi past has been known for years, thanks in part to the reporting of Swedish journalist Elisabeth Åsbrink, but in her latest book, Made in Sweden: How the Swedes Are Not Nearly So Egalitarian, Tolerant, Hospitable or Cozy As They Would Like to (Have You) Think, she goes into new detail about her 2010 interview with Kamprad and his refusal to denounce his friendship with pro-Nazi fascist leader Per Engdahl.

Åsbrink recalls investigating Kamprad’s ties to the Nazi party and uncovering documents revealing his membership with the group. “After my interview with Mr. Kamprad, I continued to investigate —and there proved to be more,” she writes. “In the Swedish Security Service’s archive, I found his file from 1943, labeled ‘Memorandum concerning: Nazi’ and stamped ‘secret’ in red letters. Ingvar Kamprad, then 17 years old, was Member No. 4,014 of Swedish Socialist Unity, the country’s leading far-right party during the war. Sweden’s general security service had apparently kept him under surveillance for at least eight months, confiscating and reading his correspondence.”

The author notes that “no one so far has managed” to determine when Kamprad left the Swedish Nazi Party, noting that his involvement with the fascist and anti-Semitic movements in his country continued after World War II. “He invited comrades from the movement to his home in Elmtaryd and was regarded as their benefactor,” she writes. “There are letters where he is asked to donate or thanked for the latest contribution. Kamprad also acted as publisher for one of the fascist leader Per Engdahl’s books. The two had become close friends and called each other ‘BB’: best brother. Engdahl was invited to Kamprad’s first wedding in 1951, a quiet affair in a church outside Stockholm, at which he gave a beautiful speech.”

When Åsbrink published a book in 2011 with her findings about Kamprad’s Nazi ties, it took IKEA a month to respond, but the company ultimately made a $51 million donation to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, the single-largest donation in the history of the organization. But, as she notes in her book, Swedish citizens still haven’t been able to reconcile what IKEA means for their country and who Ingvar Kamprad actually was.

“How could he remain loyal to the fascist leader and Holocaust denier Per Engdahl, belong to a Nazi party and, at the same time, be so fond of his Jewish friend, Otto Ullman? Otto, whose parents were murdered in Auschwitz?” she writes. “When I repeatedly asked Mr. Kamprad for an answer in my interview with him in 2010, I finally received a shocking reply: ‘There’s no contradiction as far as I’m concerned. Per Engdahl was a great man, and I’ll maintain that as long as I live.'”

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