The dominance of anti-Jewish hostility propagated by the Lutheran Church prevented Jews from settling in Sweden until the late 18th century. King Gustav III, motivated by the need to accelerate Sweden's economic development, lifted the ban on Jewish immigration and granted Jews the right to settle in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Norrköping. The economic freedoms allowed to Jews were encouraging, but religious liberties were not generous.
In 1838, Jews in Sweden were granted nearly complete emancipation, and were recognized as Swedish subjects rather than “foreigners.” However, a negative reaction from certain sectors of the population forced the monarch to maintain limitations on cities of residence and on the holding of political office. The final restriction on Swedish Jewry, the right to hold ministerial office, was not removed until 1951.
From the moment of emancipation, when Swedish Jewry numbered perhaps 1,000 people, the community's size grew steadily to 3,000 in 1880 and to 7,000 in 1933. Religiously, the community tended to favor the liberal model of religious practice pioneered by the German Reform movement, and, in general, Jews were treated as peers by their non-Jewish countrymen at the turn of the 20th century.
World War I and the inter-war period saw a restrictive immigration policy that only allowed small groups of German, Austrian, and Czech Jews to immigrate to Sweden in the 1930s. During this time, a law banning Jewish ritual slaughter was enacted and remains in effect today.
Following World War II and the laudable efforts conducted by the Swedish people during the Holocaust, Sweden’s Jewish population continuously increased in the latter half of the 20th century. In 1997, the Swedish government established a committee to investigate the issue of Nazi gold transferred to Sweden during the war, and in 2000, it hosted a major international conference on the Holocaust, attended by political leaders from 50 countries.
In recent years, antisemitism has become especially problematic. The city of Malmö, with its large Muslim population, has earned a reputation as an especially inhospitable city for Jews and has been the scene of repeated anti-Semitic incidents. The legal system in Sweden generally allows the free expression of anti-Semitic, racist, and xenophobic ideas, including Holocaust denial. Right-wing extremist groups, often with neo-Nazi sympathies, have perhaps a few thousand members. Some of these groups have links to Europe-wide extremist networks. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has condemned anti-Semitic actions and sentiments and has vowed to confront anti-Semitism head on and root it out from Swedish society.