The Swedish Whopper: Donald Trump's Long-standing Struggle With the Truth

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Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Vandalia, Ohio, March 12, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Vandalia, Ohio, March 12, 2016.Credit: AP

Donald Trump's indifference to the truth began long before he hit the campaign trail, according to an article in the Daily Beast. There's even a whopper in his book "The Art of the Deal," in which he writes that his immigrant grandfather “came here from Sweden as a child.”

The truth, as the Daily Beast points out, is that Frederich Trump arrived at Ellis Island from Kallstadt, a small town in the Rhineland-Palatinate district of Germany.

After a stint as a barber in New York and a longer period as a restauranteur and/or whorehouse owner (there are conflicting versions) in Canada during the Klondike Gold Rush, he returned to his native Germany with a lot more money than when he left.

Back in Kallstadt, he married a young woman named Elizabeth Christ, who had little desire to leave her hometown. Donald may well have been born in Germany were it not for an eagle-eyed bureaucrat who noticed that Fredrich had left Germany just before he was due to begin compulsory military service and returned just after he passed the age limit for service.

Frederich, the Daily Beast notes, "became that very rare person who is deported from his own country." He returned to New York with a very unhappy Elizabeth in tow. After Frederich died in at the great influenza pandemic of 1918, aged 49, Elizabeth used the remainder of his fortune to found E. Trump & Sons, a real estate firm.

She was joined in the real estate business by her son Fred, who had married Mary Anne MacLeod, an immigrant from the town of Stornoway on the island of Lewis in Scotland. Together, mother and son built homes and apartment buildings, many of them for Jewish customers.

Fred, for a reason that has never been disclosed, began telling people that he was Swedish. He also became a big-time backer of Israel bonds. The Swedish fiction was adopted by his son Donald, who perpetuated it in his book "The Art the Deal."

Asked in 1990 by a Vanity Fair reporter whether his family's country of origin was not in fact Germany, Donald responded by dissembling even more.

“Actually, it was very difficult,” Donald replied. “My father was not German; my father’s parents were German Swedish, and really sort of all over Europe and I was even thinking in the second edition of putting more emphasis on other places because I was getting so many letters from Sweden: Would I come over and speak to Parliament? Would I come meet with the president?”

The truth was more mundane. As the New York Times put it in an obituary after Fred’s death in 1999: “[Fred] Trump would tell friends and acquaintances that he was of Swedish origin, although both his parents were born in Germany.”

Donald later owned up to the truth in his own particular way.

“I love Kallstadt!” he declared.

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