Katrya Louise Layton
There are many differing views about Quisling, especially about his ideologies. To most writers and certainly a large percentage of the Norwegian population, prior to and immediately after World War II (WWII) he was regarded as a traitor.<1> The variation in views about Quisling largely stemmed from considerations of why he took the actions he did and the motivation for them. A common feature contained the information on this topic is that Quisling's intent was not to harm Norway; rather that he was doing what he thought was best. He was portrayed as an intellectual who had many insecurities, including that he felt that everyone was about to betray him, and that he could not interrelate with people very well. His ideologies were considered shallow and he was seen as politically naive.<2>
The fact that Quisling, during WWII, committed many crimes against Norway was enough for him to be charged and executed for treason. He implemented his own government with himself as leader, he also produced lists of names of Norwegian Jews<3> and gave them to the Nazi Germans who subsequently deported them to concentration camps.<4> Quisling was anti-Semitic and very pro-Nazi which meant that his actions in Norway would affect the population. The question as to whether or not Quisling betrayed Norway can be answered briefly - he did. However, the subject deserves to be studied in greater detail, with particular regard to his own qualities and motivations as well as those of Nazi Germany.
Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Jonsson Quisling was born on 18 July 1887. He commenced study at the Norwegian military academy in 1905 and upon graduation received the highest marks ever at that academy. Ever since he was a child he had been a loner with an obsession that everyone was intent on betraying him.<5> He went to various postings in World War I (WWI) and then was ordered to go to Russia. When Norway broke off relations with the Soviet Union he went to Helsinki to deal with exiled victims of the Russian Revolution. He saw the effects of the famine of 1921-22 in Russia and he did much humanitarian work with Russian refugees in the Balkans and in Bulgaria.<6> When he returned to Norway he developed a strong desire to lead a crusade against communism and halt the possible Soviet expansion into Norway.<7> He felt that Germany was the only country which had a possibility of achieving this.<8>
Quisling joined a facist group as he was in sympathy with its political aspirations. He then formed his own political party called Natsjonal Samling which followed the ideals of the German Socialist Party<9> and later the tactics of the Nazis.<10> He was an adamant anti-Communist based upon his experiences in Russia but it was difficult to understand exactly where his ideals lay as he was involved in the Labor movement and later moved to fascism.<11> His ideology seemed to change to suit his desire for the moment.
Prior to the days when Quisling turned to Nazi Germany for guidance, he had stated that stronger national defence was necessary due to the Russia-Finland situation.<12> Following this statement he received much support from many officers who did not support or sympathise with the Nazis, and had no intention of supporting them or their government against Norway. Quisling saw this as support and wished to use it afier he came in to power, however, in many cases he was misguided.<13>
Quisling's first days in parliament were very unpleasant as his lack of political clarity was made public. He was given the position of Minister of Defence from 1930-33 when the government of the day was ousted. It was following the fall of that government that he set up the Natsjonal Samling (NS) (National Union) party.<14> Quisling proclaimed throughout this time his intention of fighting communism and with his oratory and organisational skills it seemed that his party was moving to the 'right'. The Party's outspoken anti-communist ideals, including the move to the 'right' alienated the public which caused the party to suffer two crushing defeats.<15>
Norway had been neutral throughout WWI and had the intention of remaining so. This, however, was compromised in WWII due to the British planting mines in Norwegian territorial waters to halt iron-ore supplies from Sweden reaching Germany and by both England and Germany having plans to develop a strategic position in Norway.<16>
Norway did not want to enter the war and this may explain why the government and King acted so slowly in calling for general mobilisation of the armed forces. In fact they were so slow that German war ships were entering the Oslofiord when they started to send messages that there would be a possible mobilisation. The situation was made more difficult as the government, King and parliament were escaping Oslo at the same time.<17> The military managed to sink one battleship in the fiord, but their response was too slow and Germany was able to take over Norway with relative ease. Quisling was now head of the self-proclaimed government and he undermined mobilisation orders which made the messages even more distorted.<18> The Norwegians disliked the Germans and the Norwegian government refused to submit to them but the Norwegian military was too weak to resist. England as a potential ally in defending Norway was unable to help being appallingly ill-prepared for Norwegian conditions, as well as having a lack of sufficient planning, communication and available forces.<19>
With the fleeing of the King and the Norwegian national government, Oslo was left without influential guidance. At the time of the German attack the national government and the King made a decision that they could best serve Norway whilst in exile in Britain.<20> This resulted in uncertainties and difficulties about how the process of government might operate. Quisling who had pro-Nazi sympathies saw this as an opportunity to step-in, proclaim himself the national leader and form a new government in Norway. This action was subsequently determined as illegal at his treason trial in 1945.<21> Some views held that the Germans had declared him Prime Minister, others that he did not have any support Whatever the process, Quisling was able to help institute a general nazification of Norway including in the institutions of education politips and organisation and the general mobilisation of Germany in the country.<22>
When Quisling declared himself Minister President on 1 February 1942, he spent considerable time building up his imitations of the Nazi machinery in Norway. This extended to the recruitment of suitable social misfits into positions of power, the establishment of an equivalent force to the Gestapo, and the planning of Norway's role in the New Order of Europe.<23> He also ordered that all children between the ages often and eighteen join the NS youth organisation which was modelled on the German socialist party. All teachers had to join an official teacher's organisation so that the control of education could be instituted. <24> Those who refused to comply were arrested and many were deported.<25> The making of lists of Norwegian Jews was a demonstration of his anti-Semitic views.<26> Whether or not he had the support of the Germans, he certainly did not have the support of the the majority of Norwegian population.
The bulk of the Norwegian population saw that Quisling was a traitor by his deals with the Germans during the war. He was seen as responsible for substituting the 'hiding' Norwegian national government with his own. This action was seen to have the approval and acceptance of many Germans. His choice of ally was very much opposed by the Norwegian population as they disliked the Germans so much. However, he chose them because he thought the Germans would be more beneficial and supportive of Norway. The English, he considered, were not helpful or supportive in any way.<27>
People in power in Norway during WWII were faced with a difficult situation. It was obvious that Nazi Germany had interests in Norway, the main one being the iron-ore route from Sweden through Norway. Also it was known that England had plans to protect Norway which would mean that their iron-ore supply would be seized. The leaders had the choice of fighting, capitulating or seeking the support of those countries which could be thought to be prepared to act in the best interests of Norway. Quisling happened to have a view that Nazi Germany would best fill the task.<28> It is also interesting to note that there were other leaders in Europe at the time who supported the Nazi regime in otherwise hostile countries, for example, the leaders of the Vichy French.
Quisling played a major role in the attack on Norway by the Germans. He had visited Germany on many occasions and used his contacts to set up a meeting with Hitler. Quisling also had meetings with prominent Nazi Germans and provided information on England's plans to invade Norway as well as statements that they would not respect Norway's neutrality in the long term. He was also adamant that Germany should send troops as the Norwegian government had supposedly had talks with the English which resulted in the English stating that they would protect Norway against any threat by the enemy.<29> In his initial talks with Rosenberg,<30> Norway's political situation was discussed, with regard to the split between the bourgeois parties and the Labor Party which Quisling stated was pro-Soviet.<31>
Quisling disclosed his knowledge of alleged various pro-British intentions in Devember 1939 during meegings with the Nazi personel Rosenberg and Raeder.<32> These included that 'The Jew Hambro' was leading the intensification of anti-German efforts in Norway, and that this warranted a concrete proposal for a German landing in the country.<33> Again, he alleged that an agreement had been reached between the British and Norwegian governments that in the event of war between Norway and another major power, the English would be permitted to land near Stavanger and establish a base at Kristiansand.<34>
Quisling's naivety and limited understanding of world politics led him to rash and ill thought out conclusions on many occasions. Despite Nazi Germany's track record in the events leading up to the declaration of war and the events in the early years, he held a strong belief that Norway's interests lay with Germany. He used many external events to rationalise this approach including what he claimed were the aggressive acts of the Soviet Union and its allies against Norwegians and Norwegian territory. This, he claimed should make Norway an ally of Germany, and that Germany's enemies were also Norway's enemies.<35>
Although Quisling's political party only represented a very small percentage of the voting population<36> he saw that he had sufficient strength and ability to assist the Nazi cause in Norway. He saw that the indigenous nazi party (Natsjonal Samling), although small and weak, was reliable and could spread sufficient contusion to be of considerable help at the time of occupation. These actions also took the form of countermanding the mobilisation orders given, albeit too slowly by the 'retreating' legitimate government.<37>
The very actions of Quisling, particularly including his radio proclamations, however, led to the institution of indigenous resistance which was to continue throughout the rest of the war. Initially this was haphazard but later had the important support and direction from the King and government in exile as well as British military forces, and remnants of a Norwegian military operating from Britain. The Norwegian populus saw Quisling's actions as an affront to Norwegian democracy and the firmly entrenched beliefs and traditions of independence and sovereignty.<38>
Whichever way Quisling became Prime Minister he was in a position to order the nation to stop its fight against the occupying German army. It seems that as Quisling suddenly came into prominence in Norway with the apparent support of Germans, he and his supporters must have known of the Germans plans for the invasion of Norway beforehand and also played a role in its success.<39>
It appears that Quisling also had views about his self importance and that he was indispensable to Hitler's cause in Norway. He considered that as a pro-Nazi leader he would play a significant role in the actual German take-over of his country.
It is also clear that Quisling wanted to deal with his paranoia and one way he saw to achieve this was through power and achievement in dealing with the issues which rightly or wrongly concerned him. The nature of these issues led him to leave more to the developments in Nazi Germany. However, Quisling failed to understand the full intentions of its leaders both in general terms and how they might affect Norway.
Quisling was not only a victim of his own disposition; he was also a victim of his country's own actions and the uncertain times in which he lived. Although Norway protested its neutrality, its own actions, in addition to those of Britain and Germany compromised the situation. Not only did Norway allow Sweden to ship its iron-ore to Germany through Narvik, it was also of strategic importance for both the Allied and Axis military campaigns. It was therefore only a matter of time before Norway was formally brought into the war. Quisling's mistake was that he supported the wrong side, that he became hopelessly emmeshed in it and that the vast majority of Norwegians did not agree with him or support him. This could only lead him to be labelled as a traitor.
The majority of Norwegians considered that their country was at war with Germany for most of the war. They saw that Quisling had acted continuously against not only the national interest but also the well-founded traditions of Norwegian democracy and independence. He also acted unconstitutionally particularly through events such as the proclamation of himself as 'Prime Minister'. The nature of the German occupation only served to harden Norwegian attitudes and Quisling's role in it.<44>
The prosecution of guilt became a major issue afier the cessation of hostilities. This resulted in many arrests, imprisonments and the re-introduction of the death sentence. It is not at all surprising that Quisling was singled out in view of his leadership role. Along with some other of his governmental companions, death by execution was ruled. It remains clear that he was a traitor, and betrayed Norway, in the contexts of law and tradition. The question remains as to whether there were mitigating circumstances. To some degree, it could be argued that Quisling experienced 'bad-luck', but there is no doubt that his naivety and bad judgement led him in the wrong direction up to, and even after the war, when he continued to protest his good faith.
1 Ralph Hewins, Quisling Prophet Without Honour, London,
1965, p 9.
2 Hewins, Quisling, p 84.
3 This included the president of the Storting, C. J. Hambro as well as approximately 1800 persons who were sent to concentration camps in Germany. K Hoidal Oddvar, Quisling: A Study in Treason, London, 1989, p 303.
4 Oddvar, Quisling; William L Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 3rd Printing, London, 1965, pp 812-15.
5 Francis Kersaudy, Norway 1940, New York, 1987, pp 38-39.
6 Tony Griffiths, Scandinavia, 1st printing, Adelaide, 1991, pp 100-2.
7 Kersaudy, Norway 1940, p 39.
8 Hewins, Quisling, p 163.
9 Griffiths, Scandinavia, p 102.
10 Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p 812.
11 Oddvar, Quisling, p 82.
12 On 30 November 1939, Russia invaded Finland. Bernard Ash, Norway 1940, London, 1964. This, Quisling felt, was the beginning of strife for Norway as it was though by him that Russia would progress west to Norway Hewins Quisling, pp 190-1.
13 J L Moulton, The Norwegian Campaign of 1940: A Study of Warfare in Three Dimensions, London, 1966, p 126.
14 Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, pp 811-12.
15 Kersaudy, Norway 1940, p 39.
16 17 Kersaudy, Norway 1940, 78. T K Derry, The Campaign in Norway, London, 1952, pp 37-9.
18 T K Deny, A Short History of Norway, London, 1957, p 240.
19 Kersaudy, Norway 1940, p 93.
20 Richard Petrow, The Bitter Years: The Invasion and Occupation of Denmark and Norway, April 1940 -May 1945, New York, 1974, p 124.
21 Oddyar, Quisling, 733-4, p 747.
22 Ronald G Popperwell, Norway, 2nd impression, London, 1975, p 157.
23 24 Deny, A Short History of Norway, 245. Magnus Jensen and Adreas Holmsen, Norge's Historie Fra 1660 Til Vare Dager, Oslo, 1949, p 79.
25 Johs Andenaes, O Riste and M Skodvin, Norway and the Second World War: How the Invasion Came - Quisling and the German Authorities - Norway in the Alliance - The 26 Proceedlngs Against the Collaborators, 2nd edition, Oslo, 1966, 79. Hewins, Quisling, pp 326-37.
27 Kersaudy, Norway 1940, p 93.
28 Popperwell, Norway, p 152.
29 Andenaes, Riste and Skodviin, Norway ond The Second World War, pp 34-35.
30 Rosenberg was the head of foreign politics depantment of the Nazi party. Moulton, The Norwegian Campaign of 1940, p 52.
31 Petrow, The Bitter Years, pp 14-15.
32 Grand-Admiral Raeder was the German Naval Commander-in-Chief. Derry, The Campaign in Norway, p 11.
33 Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p 813.
34 Andenaes, Riste and Skodvin, in Norway and The Second World War, pp 34-5.
35 Andenaes, Riste and Skodvin, Norway and The Second World War, p 76.
36 According to Jensen and Holmsen, Norges Historie, p 575.
37 Deny, A Short History of Norway, pp 239-40.
38 Deny, A Short History of Norway, p 240.
39 Petrow, The Bitter Years.
44 Petrow, The Bitter Years.
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German Authorities - Norway in the Alliance - The Proceedings
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Bernard, Norway 1940, London, 1964.
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Griffiths, Tony, Scandinavia, 1st printing, Adelaide, 1991.
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