The Swedish authorities have pivoted on a book by Jewish comedian, journalist, and writer Aron Flam about Sweden's problematic relations with Nazi Germany during World War II.
All the remaining copies have been confiscated at the warehouse of the publisher, and now Swedish prosecutors are seeking permission to destroy the books, including copies already sold, the news outlet Nyheter Idag reported. Court orders to destroy books are extremely rare in Sweden.
The very name of Flam's book, "Det här är en svensk tiger" ("This is a Swedish tiger"), is an allusion to a war-era propaganda campaign encouraging secrecy, similar to the "Loose lips sink ships" in the US. It is based on a pun and can be understood as "A Swede keeps silent" and "a Swedish tiger", and features an iconic image of a tiger. As opposed to the original tiger image by Bertil Almqvist, Aron Flam's tiger makes a Nazi salute and wears a Nazi armband.
The privately owned Military Readiness Museum, which owns the copyright to the original "A Swedish tiger" artwork, reported Flam to the police for copyright infringement. The museum is asking for SEK 500,000 ($53 000) in fines and damages. The graphic designer who made the cover and the publisher are also facing the same penalty. In addition to the fines and damages, the books are also to be destroyed.
According to the museum, the so-called "parody exception" of the Copyright Act, which allows for satirical remakes, doesn't apply here.
"The prosecutor writes that I’ve 'disfigured' Bertil Almqvist’s artwork. That’s just not true. I have done my own artwork. A parody. It shouldn’t be that hard to figure out", 42-year-old Flam told Nyheter Idag, stressing that he regularly uses satirical images, including in his podcasts.
Swedish Comedian @AronFlam’s publishing house was raided by Swedish police two days ago and seized all copies of his book “DET HÄR ÄR EN SVENSK TIGER” in Eng “This is a Swedish Tiger”, because of what prosecutors deem as a trademark-infringement case. Background info below: pic.twitter.com/mN21HORqHd— Skeptic Mohamed (@SkepticMohamed) June 13, 2020
According to Flam, the prosecutor has obtained a European investigation order, which gives it the opportunity to destroy books that have already been sold. How this will be accomplished, however, is unclear. Flam described the whole situation as absurd.
"The very idea that there is a prosecutor who is seriously pushing to track down and destroy books is Kafkaesque. If they would’ve been satisfied with tearing off the front cover, but no. The height of irony is that my book, which is an antidote to Nazism, could be the next book to be destroyed", Flam said.
In Sweden, the country's role in World War II is a controversial and sensitive topic. While remaining formally neutral, Sweden nonetheless maintained close ties with Nazi Germany. For years Sweden remained the only major supplier of iron ore to Germany, fuelling Hitler's war machine with tens of millions of tonnes per year. Sweden also allowed German troops to transport freely through the country and lent Germany railway wagons.
In the years leading up WWII, Sweden had several Nazi parties, including the National Socialist Workers' Party (NSAP), which even maintained a list of local Jews to be sent to concentration camps. The party elite rubbed elbows with King Gustav V, whom many described as Nazi-friendly due to his pro-German stance. Gustav V even penned a letter to Adolf Hitler, congratulating him for taking care of the "Bolshevik pest" upon the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The letter was ultimately stopped by Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson.
Aron Flam is a Swedish stand-up comedian, screenwriter, author, television host, podcaster, and actor, known for his penchant for topics considered sensitive, controversial, and even taboo.