When World War II was at its worst phase in Europe, thousands of war refugees ended up in the small village Doverstorp outside Finspång in Sweden. The place was planned to be a shelter for inhabitants of the big city Norrköping, but instead became larger than a smaller Swedish city – and then disappeared almost without trace.
During World War II there was an imminent risk that Norrköping’s deep harbor would be bombed in a war outbreak in Sweden. They set up an evacuation site for women and children in Doverstorp, a few kilometers outside Norrköping.
Some bombs never fell over Norrköping and in 1944, came the first Estonian Swedes who were fleeing from Red Army’s advance in the Baltic States. The Estonian Swedes had a very bad reputation by the Soviet Union because a high percentage of these had joined the Waffen-SS as volunteers – at least compared with other parts of the Estonian population.
Many Estonian families arrived by boat across the Baltic Sea and approximately 6000 people were accommodated in Doverstorp.
Military barracks from Dalarna and own zip code
With the Estonians in place, a new small town had been created. They lived in between 100-150 military barracks made in the province of Dalarna. In addition to 20 toilets and other sanitary facilities that belong to a city, there was another community service. An employment agency was in the camp and also a dining room that seats 250 people at a time.
Water was obtained from cranes scattered in the area. Sewage, electricity, and water were not found in the barracks. The heat was created with stoves. If you were extra cold, there was a sauna.
It was estimated 13 people per barrack. All barracks were numbered and structured after a street network with names.
Concentration camp prisoners arrive
During the spring of 1945, the Estonian Swedes moved away. The “white buses” had begun to arrive in Sweden with prisoners from concentration camps. In World War II, violent outbreaks of contagious diseases occurred in concentration camps, which caused the camp in Doverstorp to be fenced with barbed wire. This is to prevent spreading.
On May 6, 1945, a train from Malmö rolled. The final goal was Norrköping for further transport to Doverstorp, or to any of the emergency hospitals depending on the medical condition of the individuals.
In the summer of 1945, Polish women formed the majority of Doverstorp.
Bosse remembers it as yesterday
In the old camp, I meet Bosse who passed the 80 years old. He lived near the camp and, as a little boy, he experienced it both exciting and scary. Often he took the bike and stood next to the barbed wire to watch the daily life
Many former prisoners were starved and his brother who drove potatoes had many times experienced raids of people against his truck with raw potatoes. It was important to internally follow a strict diet, which did not include eating large quantities of raw potatoes. According to Bosse, death occurred when people ate too fiercely.
The potatoes were emptied through a pipe that led to one of the area’s shelters (and combined potato cellars), which remains today.
Despite there were a total of about 8000 people here, not many traces are seen. Some foundations, some water faucets, and shelters remain. When the camp was dismantled in 1946, the wooden barracks were sent to Denmark.
Bosse also tells that on Sundays there was full activity. When the restraints for those in the camp began to be released, many came vid bicycles from the town Finspång with a flower vase and hope of finding a fiancé.
Many of the Polish women who stayed here for a short time stayed later in Finspång for the rest of their lives.
Doverstorp goes to history as Sweden’s largest refugee camp of all times.