About the donors

Spouses Torsten and Wanja Söderberg personally decided the direction of the Torsten Söderberg Foundation and gave their private capital to enable its activities.

About the donors

Donors Consul General Torsten Söderberg and Wanja f. Aminoff were both born in Stockholm, in 1894 and 1899 respectively.

Torsten was the eldest son of Olof A. Söderberg, chairman of the family business Söderberg & Haak, Sweden's largest iron wholesaler. Olof A. was also one of the founders of the Stockholm School of Economics, the initiator of SPP, the Norwegian Consul General, the manager of Stora Kopparberg and had a long list of other public and business assignments. Torsten's mother Otilia was the daughter of bookbinder Peder (née Moses) Herzog, who came to Stockholm in 1859 from the Grand Duchy of Hesse. In Sweden, he founded the company P. Herzog & Söner, which at the turn of the century was Scandinavia's largest bookbinder and manufacturer of office supplies.

Vanya's father was Lieutenant Colonel Iwan T. Aminoff, also an author of war and adventure novels and pioneer of the science fiction and crime genre (signature Radscha). Wanja's mother was Olga, née Wallerstedt, a merchant's daughter from Karlstad.

Torsten and Wanja married in 1920 and settled in Stockholm. When Torsten was 32 years old, the couple moved to Gothenburg. Torsten, who at that time had been on the board of Söderberg & Haak for nine years and vice president for five years, took over as head of the company's extensive Gothenburg operations. Torsten was a reserve officer and a law graduate with completed court service.

The spouses Söderberg remained in the city until Torsten's death in 1960. He came to strengthen Söderberg & Haak's operations there through company acquisitions and continuous range development. He thus had his own pastorate to manage at the same time as as an owner on an equal footing with his younger brother Ragnar, he retained his influence over and overall responsibility for Söderberg & Haak's extensive operations. Torsten became an appreciated person in business life. and was, among other things, chairman of the Göteborgs Köpmansförening, vice chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and member of the Port Board. He was Consul General for Romania Romania and was, among other things, president of the Gothenburg Rotary Club and chairman of the Börssällskapet.

Wanja, who converted to Catholicism, was heavily involved in Catholic parish work and was chairman of the local Red Cross. She was also vice-chairman of the municipal council in Kållered. In 1938 the couple bought the property Sporred Tvärgården in Kållered, where their sons Olof, Tomas and Edvard grew up.

Torsten Söderberg was very interested in family history, business history and bibliography. The couple shared an interest in culture and art. For ten years, Torsten was chairman of the Friends of the Röhsska Museum of Decorative Arts and was on the board of the Röhsska Museum of Decorative Arts. The couple had a strong sympathy for the affected neighboring peoples during World War II and seven Finnish war children were received in Sporred Tvärgården. A family who had fled Denmark also lived in the family's apartment on Götabergsgatan in Gothenburg.

When Torsten Söderberg became ill towards the end of his life, he was represented in the discussions on the establishment of the Foundation mainly by Wanja. The children also participated actively in these discussions.

Article from the front page of Dagens Nyheter, May 13, 1960. The image is cropped.

What did the donors want?

For Torsten and Wanja Söderberg, the purpose of the donation in May 1960 was philanthropic. By donating part of their private fortune, they wanted to strengthen Sweden and research in three main areas. They decided that their foundation should "promote scientific research and scientific teaching or study activities of national significance, whereby preferably the economic, medical and legal fields should be considered".

Torsten's younger brother Ragnar Söderberg simultaneously established a foundation with identical statutes. The news of the two new foundations was widely echoed on the front pages of the then national press.

The three main areas were chosen because Torsten Söderberg was a lawyer, his brother Ragnar graduated from the Stockholm School of Economics and medical research was of common interest. A further area was included in the discussions: cultural research. Over the years, the Torsten Söderberg Foundation has supported research in the humanities and related fields. The wording 'preferably' leaves some room for investment in areas other than the three listed, which can be an advantage even in the age of interdisciplinarity.

What did the donation consist of?

Torsten and Wanja Söderberg's donation to the Foundation consisted of 20 000 of their ordinary shares in the management company Ratos.

Ratos was the parent company of the former family business Söderberg & Haak. Haak and had been listed on the stock exchange in 1954 under the name Ratos (Ra as in Ragnar, to as in in Torsten and s in Söderberg). Torsten and Wanja Söderberg's donation documents were signed on May 5, 1960, a date with a family connection. Much earlier, on May 5, 1866, the trading company Söderberg & Haak was registered, which would develop into Sweden's largest iron wholesaler. The founder of Söderberg & Haak was Per Olof Söderberg, Torsten's grandfather. He was born in Åmål in 1836 as son of the merchant Gustaf Söderberg, born in 1799. The family's traditions in trade go back further than Söderberg & Haak.

The donors, Consul General Torsten Söderberg (1894-1960) and Wanja f. Aminoff (1899-1982), through their initiative, the Torsten Söderberg Foundation, have enabled extensive research activities since its inception in 1960. The Foundation has its legal seat in Gothenburg. The Foundation's office is located in Stockholm at Strandvägen 11.