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1940-1945 - Norway Under Germany

The word 'Quisling' is used all over the world as a synonym for 'traitor' or 'treachery'. As Benedict Arnold is to the United States, Vidkun Quisling is to the Norwegians.Known as a vicious traitor, he was a major in the Norwegian army and had been forced toresign as Minister of Defense for the Agrarian Government after two quarrelsome years.

Vidkun Quisling was the leader of the Norwegian National Union Party (Nasjonal Samling) modeled on the German Nazi Party. Founded by Quisling in May 1933, the National Union Party was small and had little influence in Norwegian politics; but Quisling claimed to have well-placed contacts in the Norwegian Government and the Army. He was also a protege of Reichsleiter Alfred Rosenberg, head of the Foreign Political Office of the Nazi Party. With Rosenberg's support he had attempted, without much success, in the summer of 1939 to drum up interest in a German occupation of Norway. Quisling was fearful of a takeover of his country by the Russians.

Immediately after the outbreak of war in September 1939, Norway, jointly with Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, announced its neutrality. In that action the Scandinavian states were following a policy they had adhered to consistently, if not always with complete success, since the middle of the nineteenth century. But Norway's location served the dual purpose of supplying much-needed iron ore and providing a means to attack the British navy. Passive exploitation of Norway's neutrality did not exhaust the German strategic interests in the Norwegian area. After World War I an opinion had developed in the German naval command which held that if the German Fleet had had bases in Norway and had not been bottled up in the North Sea that war might have gone differently for the Navy. It was a return to this line of thought which brought forward a proposal for a shift to more aggressive action in Norway.

Norway, in 1940 a nation-state for less than four decades, was initially stunned and then overwhelmed by simultaneous events in the Baltic and North seas as it became the setting for a clash of Great Powers. Norway's long standing peace had resulted in few forces with which to match the German air, land, and sea forces. Before the war in central Europe began, Norway tried to increase her military standing, but was not successful. The main goal and belief in Norway was that she could remain neutral, regardless of what happened in central Europe.

But on April 8, 1940, Germany invaded Norway. After Norway had been occupied by Nazi Germany on 9 April 1940, and the King and the Government had left the capital together with central civil servants. King Haakon VII and his cabinet escaped to London and formed a government-in-exile there. The leader of the National Socialist party Nasjonal Samling (National Unity, NS), former councillor of state Vidkun Quisling, declared himself head of government that same evening, and appointed a government. Quisling's government did not manage to gather before it was forced to resign by German occupation authorities on 15 April. Several members resisted being appointed by Mr. Quisling, while some arrived at ministry offices, acting as ministers. The name Quisling became synonymous with traitor and was entered as part of the lexicon of World War II.

Denmark had capitulated to German forces immediately on 9 April 1940, and until 1943 the Danish government attempted to cooperate with the German occupying forces. In Norway the German occupation started only after a short war with Germany. Inability to grasp what was happening on 7 April 1940; slow mobilization; a centralized, bureaucratic command authority; lack of combat experience; archaic weapon systems; and delayed appreciation ofthe speed at which modern combat occurs put Norway at a fatal disadvantage. Courageous and often effective fighting by Norwegian forces late in the campaign was too little, too late. In two months Norway, despite receiving the assistance from Anglo-French forces, was defeated.

Norwegian Armed Forces abroad totaled just under 15,000 men. With the German take over, the Norwegian Air Force had to look for another country to provide training to its pilots and crews. Toronto, Canada proved to be up to the task. After months of training, the first operational Norwegian air squadron was established in Iceland on April 25, 1941. The first fighter squadron was established late in 1941 and was stationed outside of London. The Army, training in Scotland, had continuous manning problems due to many men being transferred to the Air Force and the Navy. It did not reach its initial goal of 2,500 men until 1943. These men were used in protection of the British home front and trained for participation in the liberation of Norway. A brigade of soldiers wasearmarked for use in the liberation of Norway.

While Norway's Navy did not necessarily impress anyone, the merchant shipping fleetdid. At the time of the war, Norway had the fourth largest shipping fleet in the world. The importance of these wartime assets were known from the beginning and soon the Government in exile had complete control over the merchant navy. Only one-sixth of the fleet ended up falling into German hands. The merchant marine was Norway's most important contribution to the Allied war effort.

The Germans made Norway a Reich Commissariat under the rule of Josef Terboven. Reichskommissar Terboven took over the central power, and in September 1940 Terboven abolished all political parties except the pro-Nazi National Unit party, headed by former Norwegian Minister of War Vidkun Quisling. On February 1, 1942, Terboven named Quisling Minister-President [ministerpresident]. Among his first acts were to abolish the country's constitution and make himself dictator.

Although the Germans at first did not significantly exploit Norway, Norway increasingly suffered during the occupation. As the war increased so did German exploitation of Norway's resources. One-third of the national income went to pay occupation costs. About 40,000 Norwegians were imprisoned or put in concentration camps; 8,000 sent to camps in Germany, where about 2,000, including at least 700 Jews, perished.

In June 1942 Jewish businesses were placed under the control of commissioners and that September a roundup of Jews began. Quisling's followers instituted a reign of terror against Norway's 1,800 Jews, 300 refugees from Central Europe; seizing their businesses for themselves. In October Quisling ordered the confiscation of all Jewish property. Some 800 Jews were deported, most to Auschwitz, and a smaller number to slave-labor camps in Germany. Most of the remaining Jews fled to Sweden.

Vidkun Quisling as the head of the executive branch in 1940 urged the Supreme Court to implement a statute of his. The court made a judicial review and found - due to Hague convention of 1907 - that the statute was invalid as it gave the Quisling government authority to interfere in the composition of the courts incontravention of the Constitution. The Reichskommissar, however, responded that the Court had misinterpreted their right to review an international convention in relation to the statute he and his council had decided. The judges found that theyoperated as "power politicians" and decided to "stand together and fall together". The full court decided to step down from the bench in December 1940. Instead the Commissary Supreme Court was commissioned in January 1941 and functioned until the end of the war in the spring of 1945.

Quisling, in a prime example of his ineptness, tried to get the church, bishops, and clergyto fall under Nazi rule. Bishops and priests refused to bow to Nazification of theChurch. Although they were threatened by the new Quisling governmentand their pay was stopped, the bishops and priests held fast. The Norwegians found other means to defy the Germans even though they were unable to put up military resistance. For example, many Norwegians wore a paper clip on their lapels and refused to support the Nazi government of Quisling.

It was not until May 1945 that the Germans surrendered in Norway. Norwegian historiography and pride had ascribed defeat in 1940 to the Fifth Column represented by Quisling. The Norwegians wasted no time convicting theirwar-time Minister President, Vidkun Quisling, for betraying his country to Hitler and executed him by firing squad on 10 September 1945.

On 05 August 2009, the government officially initiated a "Hamsun Year" observing the sesquicentenary of the birth of Knut Hamsun, the 1920 Nobel laureate in literature, who was a prominent Nazi sympathizer and collaborator during World War II. The government emphasized the celebration paid tribute to Hamsun's literary achievements; however, the observance led to a public debate about the darker side of his legacy. Two prominent international Jewish organizations strongly criticized the observance and called on the country to relinquish its chairmanship of the international task force for Holocaust education, remembrance, and research.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:03:18 ZULU