IKEA’s billionaire founder Ingvar Kamprad was a member of the Swedish Nazi party and was such a concern to secret service they opened a file on him, according to a new book.
By Richard Orange, Malmö
The 1943 file, revealed in a book published on Wednesday by Swedish journalist Elisabeth Åsbrink, will revive the long-standing controversy over the far right sympathies of the 85-year-old businessman.
It proves for the first time that Mr Kamprad was an active member of Svensk Socialistisk Samling – the successor to the Swedish Nationalist Socialist Workers Party – even detailing his membership number, 4013.
It quotes letters intercepted from Mr Kamprad, then 17, in which he enthuses about recruiting new members and says that he “misses no opportunity to work for the movement”.
The secret service concluded that, as Mr Kamprad received the party’s youth newspaper, he must have held “some sort of official position within the organisation”.
Ms Åsbrink accused Mr Kamprad of failing to come clean about the full extent of his Nazi past.
“He said in 1998 that he would get everything up on the table and that there would be nothing hidden. Why then didn’t he tell us that he was a member of the worst Nazi party, and that the police found it serious enough to create a file on him?” she said.
Mr Kamprad has long fought to escape the stain of his involvement with the far right New Swedish Movement, revelations of which first surfaced with the publication of the letters of the group’s leader, Per Engdahl, in 1994.
Those letters showed that Mr Kamprad gave money and recruited members, and that Mr Engdahl had been one of a select few invited to Mr Kamprad’s wedding.
Ms Åsbrink said Mr Kamprad’s feelings about Mr Engdahl remained mixed even today. “Per Engdahl was a great man, this I will maintain for as long as I live,” he told her last year in a two-hour interview recorded for her book.
In 1998, Mr Kamprad said he could not remember whether he had been a member of Nordic Youth, Sweden’s equivalent of the Hitler Youth, when faced by further revelations.
But he has never admitted to membership of the more radical Svensk Socialistisk Samling, which was so close to the German Nazi party that it had dropped the Swastika symbol only a few years before Mr Kamprad joined.
Ms Åsbrink’s book, And in Wienerwald the trees remain, details Mr Kamprad’s long friendship with a young Jewish refugee who came to work on his family farm and then played a key role in the team that launched IKEA.
“He came from a background where it was normal to speak badly about Jews, but when he met Otto, they became the closest friends,” she said.
A spokesman for Mr Kamprad downplayed the revelations as “old news”.
“Ingvar Kamprad gave a detailed account back in 1994 about what he describes as his ‘youthful sins’ and the ‘biggest mistake of his life’, apologising and asking for forgiveness from all parties involved. The IKEA he created is based on democratic principles and embraces a multicultural society.”