The last stage of World War II, with German forces scorching the earth in their retreat from the advancing Soviets, hurt northern Norway.
Recovery from the war in Denmark and Norway was set in motion by the Marshall Plan (1947-51). Neutral Sweden also accepted Marshall aid, and all three Scandinavian countries were caught up in the wave of economic growth that swept through post-war Europe.
The comprehensive “cradle-to-grave” welfare systems came into full being during the 1950s and 1960s. To begin with at least Scandinavians were happy to live with the high taxes needed to cover their cost, if only because memories of bitterly hard times without a social safety net were still so fresh.
Sweden’s international reputation, somewhat damaged by its questionable war role, was given a boost by the selection of diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld as Secretary-General of the UN in 1953. He threw himself into the role, enhancing the reputation of the UN and acting as peace-broker in international disputes from China to Palestine to the Suez Canal.
In 1961, Hammarskjöld was killed in a plane crash. He was the first person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously.
Feature image (on top): Dag Hammarskjöld
Peacetime Recovery in Scandinavia, written by Tor Kjolberg