Norwegian officials were intent on maintaining the country's neutrality as they had done in World War I. Norway had no professional army and only a poorly trained militia. Officals had seen the German newsreels of what had happened in Poland and were intent on maintaining the country's neutrality. In fact they persued this course even after the NAZI invasion was underway (April 1940). German sea and airborne units while their comrads rolled into Denmark, launched their invasion of Norway (April 9). The Germans in a single day launched multiple seaborn ar airborn attacks to the complete surprize of the completely unprepared Norwegians. [Greene and Massignani] The Germans targeted Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger, and Narvik. The Norwegians were stunned by the German invasion, but managed to organize some resistance. Three German cruisers and four troopships were sunk. The Allies land an expeditionary force landed in southern Norway (April 16–19), but were eventually forced to withdraw (May 3). When the Germans took the key rail center of Dombas, organized Norwegian resistance rapidly ceased. A British ground force retook Narvik (May 28), but was eventually withdrawn. The superiority of the Luftwaffe and developments in France were the deciding factors (June 10). The NAZIs placed a Reich-commissar in charge of Norway which took over the legal administration of the country. The Reich-commissar dissolved all Norwegian political parties except the pro-NAZI Nasjonal-Samling (September 25). The occupation regime was run administered by 13 commissars. Control of Norway ptoved useful to the NAZIs as naval and air bases made it difficult for the Royal Navy to bottle up the U-boats in the North Sea. Norway was also an important source of raw materials. Later after the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Germans were able to launch devestating raids on Allied convoys delivering war materials to Murmansk and Archangel. The NAZIs much admired Norway as a rich source of Nordic Aryan breeding stock. The Resistance was active in Norway. The resistance aided by the British staged some important raids and kept the Allies informed of German military movements. They also saved about half of Norway's small Jewish population from the Holocaust. The Germans maintained a substantial army of occupation. Later in the War, the Allies tried to convince the Germans that they were planning an invasion, to discouraging the Germans from drawing down the occupation force to strengthen the Atlantic wall in northern France.
Norway declared its independence from after a referendum (1905). This was a reflection of the rising nationalism in Europe. The kings of the three Scandinavian countries met in Malmö to make a joint declaration of absolute neutrality (December 1914). Norway like the other Scndinavian countriesc remained neutral in World War I. The Royal family had ties to the British royal family, but there was some public sympathy for the Germans. Norway being the most westerly Scandinavian countr with a North Sea coast was most exposed to the War. Norway was an important maritime nation and its shipping industry was heavily damaged.
Vidkun was the son of noted Lutheran minister and genealogist Jon Lauritz Quisling. Both parents came from distinguished families in the northern town of Telemark. Their son was notable as the country's highest scoring war academy cadet. He upon graduation). He helped save lives in Russia, working with Fridtjof Nansen, to help alieviate cthe famone following the Revolution and Civil War. He also reached the rank of major in the Norwegian Army, but served as defense minister in the agrarian government (1931-33). Despite is Christian upbringing, Quisling was very impressed with Hitler and the rise of the NAZIs in Germany. His experiences in Russia had made him intensely anti-Bolshevik, but thisxdoes not explain his anti-democratic orientation. Quisling and state attorney Johan Bernhard Hjort formed the Nasjonal Samling (National Unity--NS) Party (May 17, 1933). This was Constitution Day in Norway. The NS was the Norwegian National Socialist (NAZI) party. Nasjonal Samling was in all respects a Norwegian clone of the NAZI Party. The NS was anti-democratic and this was reflected in the Party structure which was based on the NAZI Führerprinzip.
The party at first had some modest success It polled nearly 30,000 votes (1933). This was a respectable showing in a country with a very small electorate, but this was before Norwegians understood just what Quisling represented.
Quisling was supported by the religiously rooted Norwegian Farmer's Aid Association which he had worked with during his gime in government. As the NS developed, however, support dwindled. Quisling closely followed Hitler and NAZI policies in Germany. The NS shifted from aparty with religious roots to a clearly pro-NAZI party with hard core anti-Semitic beliefs rejecting democracy and with little in the way of Christian foundation. As a result, support from the Church dwincled. Still the NS received about 50,000 votes (1936). After this support rapidly declined as Norwegians read more about developments in Germany. Hitler met with Quizling after the War began (December 1939). Hitler was apparently impressed with Quisling. It was at this time Hitler began to consider a possible Norwegian campaign.
Hitler launched World War II with the invasion of Poland (September 1939). Norwegian officials were intent on maintaining the country's neutrality as they had done in World War I. Norway had no professional army and only a poorly trained militia. Officals had seen the German newsreels of what had happened in Poland and were intent on maintaining the country's neutrality.
Norwegian officials persued the policy of persuing neutrality even after the German invasion was underway (April 1940). The one Allied offensive in the first year of the War was planned to secure Norway. The Germans responded with an offensive north on April 9, invading Denmark and Norway. It was a rapidly organized invasion to counter a planned British attempt to move into Norway to cut off iron shipments. The German Krriegsmarine suffered severe losses, especilly of destroyers. The British fough on in northern Norway for 3 weeks, but the superiority of the Luftwaffe finally forced them to withdraw. The loss of Norway not only provided access to raw material, but meant that the U-boats could not br bottled up as they were in World war I. It also mean later in the War that supplying Russia would be very difficult.
Norwegian King Haakon VII was evacuated with the Allied forces (June 6). He set a Government-in-exile in London. The Norwegian Storting in an emergency session after fleeing Oslo had granted full authoruty to the King and his ministers. They were able to finance operations with with the Norwegian gold reserves that been removed for safe keeping. The Norwegians and the other governents-in-exile were at first unsure about the future given a German invasion of Britain was widely expected. The RAF's victory in the Battle of Britain made that impossible and the Norwegians could plan their contribution to the War. A few Norwegian servicemen escaped with the Allies. They were reconstituted in Britain and armed.
King Haakon became the leading symbol symbol of the Norwegian people’s struggle for independence during 5 long years of German occupation. King Haakon broadcast from London. It was illegal to listen, but mazny did and drew inspirtation from the King.The Government-in-exile led and coordinated Norway's war efforts from London.
Operations began to support the resistance which was organized in Norway. Norway had a substantial merchant fleet and the captains of the vessels not seized in port by the Germans, mostkly took their ships to Britain and supported the Government-in-exile. The Norwegian merchant fleet played an important role in supplying Britiain during the Battle of the Atlantic was Norway's primary contribution to the Allies. Half of the Norwegian fleet was sunk during the war,
The resistance was supported from the Shetlands. Despite the efforts of Maj. Gen. Vidkun Quisling to promote collaboration with the German occupiers, most Norwegians remained loyal to the King and the Government-in-exile.
The Government-in-exile in London appointed Crown Prince Olav Chief of Defence (June 30, 1944). He thus took command of the Norwegian armed forces.
Eventually the Government-in-exile
began to address the problem of how to deal with colaborators like Major General Quisling. Several decrees were issued defining treasonoable acts. The situation was different in Norway than France whwre Vichy was the legitimate government. The Government-in-exile defined treasonable acts and increased the penalties, including reving the death penalty. A new measure was enacted--"loss of public confidence," (tap av almenn tillit). Conviction resulted in depriving the individual of specified civil privileges and honors. Included in the decress was declaring membership in the collaborationist Nasjonal Samling a crime. These war-time decrees were finalized in the Landssvikanordning (December 15, 1944). By this time it was clear that liberation was only a matter of a few months.
At the time of the German invasion, the NS had about 2,000 members. Quisling was ready for the invasion. He became the first person in history to announce a coup on a news broadcast. He announced the formation of a new government withb himself as prime-minmister. Because of his links to Hiller, he hoped tht the Germans would recognize his government. Hitler while personally impressed with Quisling, had aracgical side and realized that Quisling had virtually no support in the country. Hitler thus established the post of Reich-commissar to govern his newest conquest. Reichskommissar Josef Terboven took over the legal administration of the country (1940). Hitler chose Terboven who was the NAZI Gauleiter of Essen because of his reputation for toughness. Reich-commissar Terboven dissolved all Norwegian political parties except the pro-NAZI Nasjonal-Samling (NS) (September 25). The occupation regime was run administered by 13 commissars. The NAZIs installed a puppet Government under Vidkun Quisling. The name Quisling became synonamous with "traitor". Quisling as leader of the NS had tried to convince Hitler that he could form a government which would support a German occupation. Hitler was not at first interested. Quisling attempt to fom a government immediately after the invasion. The German occupation authorities did allow him to become the nominal leader. The actual authority was in the hands of Reichskommissar Terboven. He attempted to negotiate with members of parliament that had not fled the country and form a governmental cabinent that might have some legitamcy. This effort failed as the parlimentarians showed little interest in colaboration. As a result, Reichskommissar Terboven turned to Quisling who was appointed head of state. Quisling while head of state had to rely almost entirely on the Germans.
While Reichskommissar Terboven appointed Vidkun Quisling to serve as head of state. Quisling had very little public support. The NS itself was very small. Some additiojal members joined after the occupation, but not very many and membership tapered off when the War turned against the Germans. And the NS did not have a substantial party militia. Any substantial act of force required the German security forces. Quisling was well aware of the limited support for him and the NS. He was convinced that the Germans would win the War and thus Norway's future lay in his relationship with Hitler and the NAZIs. Quisling believed that by overseeing a degree of economic stability and by persuing Norwegian interests with the Germans that he and the NS would gradyally be accepted by the Norwegian people. Quisling remained in power until the German surrender (May 1945) after which the Germans withdrew from the country.
The famous Norwegian writer, Knut Hamsun (1859-1952), who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1920, and who lived in the United States for a while, became a Nazi sympathizer. He admired Hitler so much that he proclaimed "Hitler was a warrior for mankind" and that on May 7 1945!
The NAZI occupation authorties banned all political parties except the NS. They appointed leaders and local officals. NS leaders were appointed to head labor unions and other organizations.
Reichskommissar Terboven ordered several important security operations. He imposed martial law on Trondheim in the north. He destroyed the village of Telavåg.
Norway was the most heavily occupied country during World War II. The Germans commited severl hundred thousand men to occupying Norway. The ratio was an incredible one German soldier for every eight Norwegians. It was a huge strategic miscalculation. There were several important advatages to hilding Norway. NAZI Germany was, however, heavily outnumbered by the Soviets and Allies. It simply did not have the manpower reserves to garison a country like Norway that did not play a central role in the war. World war II was lgargely decided on the Eastern Front. his meant that the substantial Norwegian garison played no important role in the War. Nor did they play a role when the Allies invaded France af began the drive toward the Reich. As part of the planning for Overlord, the Allies tried to convince the Germans that an invasion of Norway was being planned. This was not very convincing, but it apparently helped prevent the Germans from drawing down the Norwegin garrison. That garison included 6,000 SS troops commanded by Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Rediess.
Norway played an imoortant partbin the German atomic bomb effort. There was only one place in Europe capable pf producing large quatities of heavy water needed to produce the plutonium needed for an atomic bomb. That was Telemark in Norway. And the NAZIs had occupied Norway (April 1940). The Norwegians had constructed the Vemork hydroelectricity power plant outside Rjukan in Tinn. The 60-MW Vemork plant was named after a waterfall, but is often referred to as Telemark which is the name of the county. The plant was constructed for Norsk Hydro (1911). The primary purpose was to produce hydrogen needed to manufacture fertilizer. Norsk Hydro built the first commercial plant at Vemork specifically to produce heavy water (1934). It had the capacity to produce of 12 tons of heavy water annually. Just before the German invasion, Deuxième Bureau (French intelligence) successfully removed 185 kilograms of heavy water from the plant. Norway was still neutral at the time. The plant's managing director, Aubert, agreed to loan the heavy water to the French for the duration of the war. The French secretly transported it first to Oslo and then on to Perth, Scotland and finally to France. Of course the French could not conceive of Frebch capitulation to the Germans. Many Norwegian scientists fled Norway when the NAZIs occupied the country. Professor Leif Tronstad, designer and construction supervisor of the Vemork plant, remained with his family in Norway. He managed to inform the British of German plans to increase production of heavy water. A double agent informed Tronstad that the Germans had learned of his illegal transmissions and he had to flee to Britain (September 1942). RAF reconisance flighs provided additional information. (A HBC reader is trying to acertain if the RAF used thecAmerican P-51 Mustangs fitted with extra fuel tanks (150 gallon) in the ammo/gun bays during 1942-43. [Bybee]) British and Resistance attacks prevented the Germans from getting much of the plant's production back to the Reich. Norwegian resistance damaged the plant. The attacks were code named Freshman, Grouse and Gunnerside. The Gunnerside attack targeted the fuel cells and destroyed the plant woks (February 1943). The Germans attempted to repair the damage and had the plant opersational agin (August 1943). The resistance kept the Allies informed of German activities. The Americans bombed the plant (November 16, 1943). The plant was so severly damaged that Göring, responsible for the bomb project, ordered the heavy water production effort moved back to the Reich. About 14 tons of heavy water survived the bombing. The Germans attempted to transpoort the drums of heavy water protected by SS guards by rail and ferry (February 20, 1944). The resistance blue up the ferry. The Germans were only able to salvage three drums. [Drummond] This ended German efforts to get Norwegian heavy water to the Reich.
Most people in NAZI-occupied Europe had no where to go to escape the Germans because most of the continent was occupied. Thus the refugee problem did not become a major problem until after the War. Norway was an outlier. Norway was across the Baltic from NAZI Europe. There was a long difficult to close border with neutral Sweden. In the north was a border with Finland, but most of the population was in the south. To the west was the North Sea and Britain. A sea escape was possible, but required a fairly substantial craft to cross the tempetuous North Sea. As a result, escsaping from occupied Norway was possible, especially reaching Sweden. The German occupation, largely for racial reasons was relatively light. So unless, except for the small Jewish population, the Norwegian people were not targeted by the NAZIs. There was labor conscription. Most refugees went to Sweden. There were also small numbers in Britain. At the beginning of the German invasion anf Throughout the War, Norwegians were able to cross the border into Sweden. These included Jews, political figures, resistance fighters, labor conscripteesd, and others who feared the Germans. The Germans establishef border patrols, but this was a virtually impossible task given the length of the border and Sweden refusal to return the refugees. Norewgian living along the border helped the refugees evade the German pstrols and became known as 'border pilots'. The Swedish authorities harbored the refugees, but did not encourage flight from Norway. They confined the refugees in camps. An estimsted 50,000 Norwegians escaped to Sweden. We are not sure about the number of children, but among the refugees were family groups. Some of the male refuf\gees wanted to join the Norwegian armed forces abroad otganized by the Londin government-in-exile. Some managed to travel through the Soviet Union and get to Britain. This became more complicated after the German invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). A few individiduals including officsers and pilots managed to get permissiion to exist Sweden on Swedish-flag vessels. The Norwegian government in exile after considerable effort got Swedish permisddion to form military formations among the refugees in Sweden (1944). They were called 'Police troops' so Sweden coukld retain its neutral stance. A number of Norwegians managed to make their way to Britain during the War. A few more were brought to Britain as a result of several British raids.
Control of Norway at first was useful to the NAZIs for both naval and air bases. The air bases proved of little use in the Battle of Britain because of the limted range of German fighters. They could not escort the bombers on raids. And the bombers sent on unescorted raids were savaged buy the RAF fighters alerted by the Chain Home Radio network. These bases did make it impossible for the Royal Navy to bottle up the U-boats and other commerce raiders in the North Sea as they had to an extent done in World War I. Norway provide the Germans vital naval bases. U-boats operated from Norway for 5 years (1940-45). U-boats began using Norwegian ports soon after the invasion (April 1940). U-boats operated from Bergen, Narvik, Trondheim, Hammerfest and Kirkenes. Initial planning for U-boat bunkers began (late-1940). The Todt Organisation began building bunkers in Bergen and Trondheim which were completed between 1942 and 1943.
The Luftwaffe provided air cover to coastal shipping and mde it difficult fot the Royal Navy to lay the same effective minefields that they laid during World War I. The occupation of France, however, made this advantage less important that it seemed as the U-boats began operating from French Atlantic ports. Many units, however, also operated from Norwegian bases. The French and Norwegian bases were a huge advantage that the U-boats did not have in World War I. U-boats leaving from Kiel and other ports would usually call in at Norwegian based before venturing out into the Atlantic. The Norwegian bases were used to both extend the range of operations out into the Atlantic and to intercept the Artic convoys to Murmansk and Arlangel. Norway after the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941) took on greater importance. The British and than the Americans attempted to ger war material to the Soviet Union. The first convoys were dispatched to the northern ports of Murmansk and Archangel. The Germans were able to launch devestating raids on these convoys from naval and airbases in northern Norway. The fall of France meant that the U-bots primarily used the French Atlantic ports for the crucial period of Battle of the Atlantic (1940-43). The liberation of France mean that the Norwegian bases took on more importance, but by this time the Allied anti-submarine operations had defeated the U-bot threat ad it was increasingly dangerous for U-boats to venture into the Atlntic. More than 240 U-boats eventully operated from Norwegian bases for at least part of the War. They were primarily part of the 11th U-boat Flotilla. While the U-boat bases were tghe most important, some of the Kreigsmarine surface units were also based in Norway. While the Kreigsmarine destroyer force was largely destroyed in the invasion of Norway, several of its its major fleet elements were deployed to Norway.
Svalbard is in the Arctic Ocean, but in Word War II terms is ore associted with the Atlantic campaign. Norway obtained possession of Svalbard, an Arctic Archipelago at far nothern lattitudes after World War I. The largest amd main island is Spitzbergen. It is located at lattitudes well above the most northerly location in Alaska. Its remoteness and harsh climate left it beyond the normal European competition for territory. Mineral deposits on Svalbard attracted increasing interest by the turn-of-the 20th century. It was the Versailles Treaty after World War I that created the basis for settling national claims (1919). The Spitsbergen Treaty followed (1920). Svalbard was awarded to the Kingdom of Norway, but citizens of signatory nations were granted residence, property, commercial, and research rights. Norwegian and then German soldiers were stationed on Svalbard during World War II. There was only limited military action. The principal value of Svalbard was as a source of meterological data that would affect military operations in Europe. Weather fronts sweep east and south from the North Atlantic and Arctic affecting European weather. The Allies had a better fix on this as they had weather stations in North America, Greenland and Iceland. Thus weather reports from Svalbard were of great value, especiallt to the Germans who had limited advanced warning on developing weather fronts. The Germans invaded Norway (April 1940) and then deployed units to operate a weather station on the island (1941). Svalbard also continued producing coal. The Norwegian Government in Exile decided to evacuate the Island's civilian population (September 1941). The German invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941) increased the importance of obtaining weather information and thus the military value of Svalbard. The British began running the Arctic convoys to Murmamsk to help supply the Red Army. These Arctic convoys passed between Svalbard and northern Norway and the Germans were determined to stop them. The Allies deployed a small force on the ships Isbjørn and Selis to estanlish a base at Isfjorden. The Luftwaffe sank the ships in Grønfjorden. The survivors regrouped to Barentsburg. The Germans battleships Tirpitz and Scharnhorst which had been deployed to Norway to stop the Arctic convoys shelled Barentsburg, Grumant, and Longyearbyen (1943). A German U-boat destroyed Svea and most houses in Van Mijenfjorden.
Norway was also an important source of raw materials for the German war effort as well as a critical route to ger vital Swedish iron ore to the Reich.
NAZI authorities considered Norway to be a rich source of Nordic breeding stock. There were no organized kidnappings that we know of, but some sources say that Norway was not imune to occasional NAZI kidnappings. More importantly, there were extensive liasons between German soldiers and Norwegian girls. More than 0.5 million German soldiers were stationed in Norway during the War. Virtually all the off-spring would be racially acceptable. Himmler regarded as direct descendants of the Wikinger, and therefore German soldiers were incouraged to have affairs with Norwegian womem. Lenensborn homes were established throughout Norway. One source suggests that there were nine homes set up, almost as many as in Germany. The homes were very attractive. The women got excellent care and good food. Conditions were very difficult during the occupation and the community would have been very hostile to women having the children of the German soldiers.
The Resistance was active in Norway. The resistance aided by the British staged some important raids and kept the Allies informed of German military movements.
Terboven was not just disliked in Norway. He encountered disapproval from Berlin as well. Terboven despite his reputation for toughness soon proved to be a disappointment to Hitler. This can be seen in Goebbel's diary. He writes, "Terboven intends to deliver a radio address bitterly attacking the Bishop of Norway, who has acquired notiriety because of a number of stupid remarks. I advised him most urgently to keep hands off. I consider it beneath our dignity and harmful to our authority for a Reich commissioner in an area occupied by us to attack a public personage without, at the same time, saying how we will punish him. You attack without punishing only when you have no power. If you have power, you arrest and ounish and give the reason why." [January 27, 1942--Goebbels, p. 52.] Goebbels becomes increasingly critical as time goes on, referring to him as "the most hated man in Norway" and "a bull in a China shop". THe cleric they were talking about was Dr. Eivind Josef Berggraf (1884- ) who was the Luthern Bishop of Oslo. He eventually resined to protest NAZI actions against Norwegian churches (1942). The Gestapo arrested him (March 1943)
Norway is a small country. It also had a small Jewish population. The Jewish population in 1940 totaled about 2,100 people, about 1,500-1,600 were Norwegian citizens. The Norwegian Jews were largely concentrated in Oslo and to a lesser extent Trondheim. The NAZIs after conquering Norway intalled Vidkun Quisling to head a puppet Government. Quisling also confiscated Jewish property and immediatey ordered the Norwegian police to begin arresting male Jews over 15 years old. The police took the male Jews of Oslo to Bredveit prison. They were then sent to the Berg internment camp near Tonsberg over the next 2 weeks. The women and children were arrested soon after (November 25). Virtuallyall those transported were killed, mostly at Auschwitz. About half of Norway's Jews were saved by the Norwegian underground, which helped them reach neutral Sweden which took them in. This saved about 900 Jews. The underground operation was conducted at great danger.
The Germans maintained a substantial army of occupation. Later in the War, the Allies tried to convince the Germans that they were planning an invasion, to discouraging the Germans from drawing down the occupation force to strengthen the Atlantic wall in northern France.
After the invasion of the Soviet Union (june 1941), the Allies attempted to supply the Soviets through the Atlantic convoys which delivered supplies to Murmans and Ark Angel. In addition to ferocious attacks on the convoys, the Germans launched an attack from northern Norway on Nurmansk. It would be the most northerly campaihn of the War, indeed of any war. The battle was conducted at 70°N, much further north than the Aletuian campaign in the North Pacific. Supplying units that far north was a serious problem and the campaign soon bogged down. The Germans with the Russians advancing in Poland and the Allies preoarin to lnd in France began to retreat from the Murmansk front (1944). They burned everything after them as they fell back in the area between the Russian border and the Lyngen fjord, as part of their scorched earth tactics. The Germans forced the Norwegian population to evacuate with them. Anout a third of the Norwegians decided to hide in the desolate wilderness instead. Anyone who the Germans found attempting to remain were shot.
A substantial German army was garrisioned in Norway. They were bypassed by the Allies and played no role in the defense of the Reich. German troops in Netherlands, Denmark and Norway surrendered (May 4). This was a few days before before the overall German surrender to the Allies (May 8, 1945).
The 1st British Airborne Division was still recovering from the heavy losses at Arnhem when it was ordered to Norway. Parts of the division had been detached to oversee the German surrender in Denmark. Advanced units flew into Oslo (May 9). They were assigned to oversee the surrender of the German troops. The main part of the division was delayed by bad weather. Their responsibility was to maintain law and order, secure the needed airfields, and oversee the German surrender. The division consisted of 6,000 men to duisarm the 350,000 Germans in Norway. The Division proceeded to repatriate POWs hrld by the Germans, find and arrest war criminals. The Germans were assigned to disable their extensive minefields.
Crown Prince Olav and five government ministers returned to a liberated Norway (May 13). King Haakon, Crown Princess Märtha. and the children returned (June 7). The day of course was especially chosen. It was exactly 5 years to the day that the King and Crown Prince had been forced to flee leave the country with departing Allied firce.
Bybee, John. E-mail message, April 5, 2011.
Drummond, John D. But for These Men
Goebbels, Joseph. ed, Louis B. Lochner, The Goebbels Diaries, 1942-1943 (Doubleday: New York, 1948), 566p.
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