Three generations of enterprise



Darkness and fog

The safe conduct agreement gave Swedish shipowners some limited access to freight for their ships. For Sven Salén it was a huge relief. He had recently formed a company with banker Jacob Wallenberg and Helge Norlander to purchase seven small ships from a man called Andersson, an engineer in Karlshamn. The boats were cheap but also rather elderly.

In the northern winter of 1941/42, Sven Salén was finally forced to shut down operations because of the threat from mines. Ships inside the blockade were berthed in Sweden. Those outside the blockade were either in the Pacific or in Atlantic convoys.

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Shipowners knew how to entertain and Sven Salén was no exception. Business was almost always combined with pleasure and the legendary Salén’s spirit spread among employees. Pictured from the left: Dagmar Salén, Captain Wilhelm von Schewen, Ulla Westman and Kalman Lauer.

It is certainly the most ancient fleet in the world

Sven Salén
The boats were named after the six days in ‘women’s week’. Sweden’s calendar has name days, and ‘women’s week’ has six female names. The seventh boat was named after singer Evert Taube’s daughter, Ellinor. Margareta was torpedoed by a Russian submarine in 1942 off Arkö island on Sweden’s Baltic coast. Fourteen seamen died when it sank.
Sister ship Lillie Matthiessen transported refugees and supplies for the Red Cross.
During World War II, Sven Salén (left) had many foreign contacts to further his and Sweden’s interests. Here with two British Air Force officers.
Few citizens of neutral Sweden experienced the reality of the war the way seamen in the merchant marine did. Ships travelling in convoy were clearly marked with name, nationality and flag on the sides of the hull. Sven Salén’s Sandhamn in winter weather.

A day at work in the 1940s

… “All accounted for, the day can begin. All we need is the boss. We hear quick footsteps on the stairs – as usual, the lift was occupied. The rush of air from the open door feels like suction. Sven Salén has arrived, bulging briefcase under his arm, bag of fruit in his hand. The whirlwind speeds by.

… The list of visitors for the day includes people from all over the world, from every field of life. Today as well, that Portuguese diplomat is here, always in black silk socks despite the cold. But we have not seen young Raoul Wallenberg for some time. Evert Taube is expected but probably will not show until later in the day.

… “The productive afternoon hours commence. Evert Taube makes his flamboyant entrance, stepping in to greet Mrs. Pettersson in the telephone exchange with a chivalrous bow, he gets a little help to spruce himself up and is placed in a corner with a lit candle for inspiration as he jots down notes for ‘a commission’.