STOCKHOLM – Sweden’s most influential opposition leader demanded August 26 that the government investigate a four-decade policy under which 60,000 people deemed genetically inferior were sterilized.

Swedes, long proud of there social welfare system, have been forced to acknowledge an unflattering chapter in their past since a newspaper series recently looked at the 1935-76 involuntary sterilization program.

Some have said robbing fellow citizens of the ability to have children reminds them of Nazi Germany’s brutal human engineering.

“Swedish society risks being injured if we do not make a serious thorough and non-partisan probe of this period in Swedish history,” Carl Bildt, leader of the opposition conservatives, said in a letter to Prime Minister Goeran Perrson.

Persson’s office had no comment on the demand. This issue is particularly sensitive for Perrson, whose own Social Democrats eagerly backed the sterilizations.

In Norway, health officials say that during the same period as Sweden’s program, about 2,000 Norwegians were involuntarily sterilized, most because they were deemed insane or mentally handicapped. The report was published August 25 in an Oslo newspaper.

Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister, made his demand for an investigation after the respected newspaper Dagens Nyheter detailed Sweden’s policy of sterilizing people. Victims regarded as having undesirable racial characteristics, congenital handicaps or other “inferior” qualities were pressured by doctors or officials to consent to the procedure.

Although the sterilizations were public policy, they are not mentioned in current schoolbooks and are given only glancing attention in reference works, the newspaper said. It added that historians who have written about the sterilizations got cold responses when publishing their research.

Bildt’s demand for an investigation could spark new attention. He is noted as an administrator of the Bosnian peace accord and he is much more popular in the polls that Prime Minister Persson.

The sterilization program stemmed from the pursuit of eugenics, a once-popular movement to improve humanity by controlling genetic factors in reproduction.

The Dagens Nyheter report hits Swedes at a time when they already were examining some painful history from World War II. The government, under increasing international pressure, is looking into whether property looted by the Nazis from Jews in other countries ended up in Sweden.

-Associated Press via Pro-Life E-News Canada