German Refugees and Swedish Furniture

“Maria Helene Francois Izabel von Maltzan…he daughter of a German count who had been raised on a beautiful 18,000-acre estate, had not been surprised by the roundup of Jews in Berlin. In fact, she wasn’t surprised by any of Hitler’s actions against the German Jews. Because she was a count’s daughter and closely related to several Nazi officers she was at first considered above reproach and was able to obtain useful information from elite Nazi social gatherings. But eventually she came under suspicion of assisting the enemies of the Third Reich. When called in for questioning, however, her cool demeanor, her Nazi connections, and her excellent acting skills always led to her release.”

Maria…also smuggled people out of Germany and into Sweden in a system that was called schwedenmöbel (Sweden furniture). Sometimes she would use a vegetable cart to transport refugees out of Berlin and into the woods...When (the train arrived], a group of men, hidden in a different part of the woods, would rush to the train and open one of the boxcars. (The conductor and train workers had been previously bribed with food and money.) Inside the boxcar would be crates of furniture. The men would remove the furniture and replace it with the refugees, seal the box back up, and eventually destroy the furniture. The crates of people would then be loaded onto a freighter and later unloaded in Sweden, where it would finally be safe for the refugees to come out of hiding.”

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action) by Kathryn J. Atwood

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