Sweden seizes book by Jewish comedian criticizing war-time collaboration
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Sweden seizes book by Jewish comedian criticizing war-time collaboration

State claims cover of book violates a copyright, but Aron Flam says it’s satire and authorities are using it as an excuse to suppress free speech

A detail from the cover of Aron Flam's book that uses the image from a World War II Swedish propaganda poster (Aronflam.com)
A detail from the cover of Aron Flam's book that uses the image from a World War II Swedish propaganda poster (Aronflam.com)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — A book by a Jewish comedian over Sweden’s collaboration with the Nazis during World War II is at the center of a legal tussle in which Swedish prosecutors are calling for it to be destroyed, but which the author sees as nothing short of an attack against democracy.

Ostensibly, prosecutors are taking issue with the book’s cover, arguing that the image — a tiger sporting Sweden’s national colors of blue and yellow — infringes on the copyright of a war-time propaganda campaign, now owned by a museum.

But the author, comedian Aron Flam, who is known for his penchant for controversial and even taboo subjects, insists that his use of the image is satirical and therefore protected by freedom of speech.

“There is a lot at stake and it’s not actually about me, but our democracy,” Flam told AFP.

Aron Flam (Frankie Fouganthin /Wikimedia commons)

At the center of the legal battle is the image of the tiger originally used in a 1941 Swedish propaganda campaign under the slogan, “En svensk tiger”, or “A Swedish tiger”.

The word “tiger” in Swedish can denote not only the animal, but can also mean to remain silent.

In fact, the Swedish campaign very much resembled the “careless talk costs lives” and the “loose lips sink ships” posters seen in Britain and the United States during the war.

The original image was created by artist Bertil Almqvist and its copyright is currently owned by the Military Readiness Museum, which reported Flam to the police.

However, the comedian argues that the cover image of his book, entitled “This is a Swedish tiger”, shows the animal wearing a Swastika armband and performing a Nazi salute and can therefore be classified as satire.

The first two print runs of the book have been sold, but prosecutors have seized the subsequent run of 2,000 copies and, unusually for Sweden, want to destroy them.

In a statement, prosecutors said they would have to weigh the rights of the copyright holder against freedom of speech.

“The court will make the final judgment between these opposing interests,” prosecutor David Ludvigsson said in a statement.

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