When the Sandman came to Bullerbü

Sweden and the GDR

TV premiere: Tuesday, December 12th, 21:00 CET at rbb & ARD Mediathek

TV premiere Sverige Television February 13th 2024

Sweden and the GDR – two countries that belonged to hostile political systems before 1989. Hardly anyone suspects close relations between the two states – and yet they had a lot in common. For example, a common Sandman from the GDR television studios in Berlin-Adlershof …

Many people know that Queen Silvia is German, but very few realise that she had family ties to the GDR. Her favourite uncle Ernst Sommerlath lived in Leipzig/Markkleeberg and, as a respected theologian, did not have an easy time of it in the socialist state. It is equally unknown that the Queen was friends with a mysterious Swede in West Berlin – Carl-Gustav Svingel. He was a colourful figure during the Cold War, acted as a mediator between East and West and helped many people out of the GDR. In the film, Swedish journalist and former Germany correspondent Ingrid Thörnqvist follows in Svingel’s footsteps. The Swedish queen spoke to Thörnqvist for the first time about her East German branch of the family and her connections to Svingel.

A film about secret and official relations between the GDR and Sweden, about moving love stories and unknown special paths when the Iron Curtain divided the world into East and West.
The historian and secret service expert Helmut Müller-Enbergs categorises Sweden’s special role as a top target country for the Stasi. Dozens of Swedes from the worlds of politics, business and culture cooperated with the Stasi. And the unmasking of GDR secret service chief Markus Wolf in Stockholm in 1979 made it onto the cover of Der Spiegel.

The documentary is an exciting and revealing search for clues about a little-known chapter of the Cold War, which has become frighteningly topical again today in its conflict situation. The film draws on previously unseen archive material from the Swedish television archives and the rich private cine film and photo collection of its main protagonists. The film questions Sweden’s special role as a neutral neighbour of the GDR and shows the complexity and contradictions of this relationship between the two countries.