Johs. Andenaes, Olav Riste and Magne Skodvin
Tanum-Norli are to be congratulated for producing this fine book, which is one of the first books of its kind to be written in English at the time of its publication in 1983. Previously, Norwegian history and specifically war time history had only been available to people who could read Norwegian, so people from overseas often got distorted accounts of what happened in Norway's history, with almost all of it being inadequate and inaccurate. At the time, it was the only comprehensive book written about Norway and its involvement in the Second World War. Even today, it is still more than a valuable resource for the historian who wishes to study the effects of the War on Scandinavia in general or on Norway specifically. Generally the book was quite an interesting and enjoyable read. Part of the reason why the book is interesting is the fact that it has a clear and logical structure from beginning to end.
So what happened to Norway during the Second World War? The answer to this question is to be found in 173 pages of text. The book is split into four broad sections, the first titled; 'War comes to Norway' by Olav Riste, the second titled; 'Norway under Occupation' by Magne Skodvin, the third titled; 'Norway in Exile' by Olav Riste, and the fourth titled, 'The Post-War Proceedings against Enemy Collaborators' by Johs Andenaes. This review will discuss what is covered in these four sections and how it all relates back to Norway's reluctant and/or forced involvement in the Second World War, despite declaring itself a neutral country when the war started.
The first section discusses how and when the 'War comes to Norway'. Riste discusses both the allies (Britain and France) and the German plan for what to do with Norway and her neutral stance. He begins though, by discussing the essential aspect of Norwegian neutrality, which begins with the dissolution of Norway's Union with Sweden in 1905. From that point on, Norway became neutral, remaining that way throughout the First World War and up to 9 April 1940 when the German assault on Norway began. But this whole concept of Norwegian neutrality is indeed a complex one, for once Britain knew a war was imminent, it wanted Norway to switch to the allies' side. One way of attempting to coax them across, albeit reluctantly, was to cut the trade of Scandinavian iron ore from the port of Narvik to Germany. But as Riste's discussion states, this trade embargo on the iron ore never really got going, and Norway still remained neutral, much to the annoyance of Britain and France. This problem for Britain and France in Scandinavia became more unstable once the Soviet Union began attacking Finland in what became known as the 'Winter War, for it was not totally sure what the Soviet Union had in store for the rest of Scandinavia once it defeated Finland.
Germany on the other hand, planned to takeover Norway to firstly put themselves in a better position to attack the superior British navy by acquiring several bases, and secondly to provide another angle of attack on Russia when that eventually came. As Riste discusses, these plans were fast-tracked once it was evident that the Blitzkrieg attack on Poland was nearly over, with Grossadmiral Raeder and Admiral Carls the high ranking Naval officers behind the plan. Their means of attaining their goal depended on whether Norway resisted, but ideally they preferred to obtain these bases without the use of force. Vidkun Quisling emerges at this point as the key collaborator with the German Nazis, as he was the leader of the Norwegian fascist party, called Nasjonal Samling (NS). As Riste points out, the Germans hoped to use the help of Quisling in order to swing Norway over to an ally of Germany. Quisling provided inside information about a secret agreement between the British and Norwegian Governments, as Riste points out whereby
In the case of war between Norway and a great power, the English would be permitted to land near Stavanger and establish a base at Kristiansand.
Quisling stressed the danger to Germany from such developments, and subsequently pushed forward the role his party could play in stopping or hindering such a proposal by
The National Party wished to forestall such an English step, by putting corresponding bases at the disposal of German forces. There were already men in important positions (railways, mail, intelligence) in coastal areas that had been engaged for the cause.
As Riste points out though, was Quisling being highly co-operative to push his own interests, and did he really have the German interests at heart.
The Germans themselves came to the conclusion following the numerous discussions with Quisling that Norway must be conquered by either peaceful means with Norway allowing German troops into their country or by forceful means. The latter method was enforced in the end, with the operation code named Weserubung. Riste explains that the planning for Weserubung began when the British navy boarded the Altmark on 16 February 1940. From that point on until the attack on 9 April 1940, Germany was puffing a plan into place to conquer Norway. The southern half of Norway was captured fairly quickly by the Germans sudden assault, but the northern half proved more difficult. This also eventually fell to the Germans as the British, French and Polish forces had to retreat as the war on mainland Europe escalated. Norway was officially defeated on 10 June 1940.
The second section discusses 'Norway under Occupation'. Skodvin begins by discussing firstly the German policy for Norway, which was centred around the Germans controlling all the major ports in an attempt to make the Norwegian Government give in to the occupying power and seek a working agreement. The major problem was though that there was no Norwegian Government as such to deal with, as most of the leaders had left for Britain immediately following the defeat. So a new form of political co-operation had to be put into place. However, this disorganisation gave members of Norwegian resistance groups an initial advantage, as well as giving Quisling the opportunity to again put himself in the spotlight. These are the two major themes explored in this section.
Norwegian resistance lasted throughout the German occupation of Norway, despite constant attempts to dispel the movement, it remained reasonably strong and united throughout the period 1940-45. When the new Government began to take shape under Terboven, Quisling was not in his plans. Quisling was deported to Germany, escaped and through Rosenberg and Raeder was able to make a partial return to Norwegian politics in September 1940 for the NS party.
So how strong was Norway's resistance? According to Skodvin, it was quite strong. It was organised through a period of Organisation followed by the forming of policy. Centres of political resistance were already well established by the summer of 1940, acting as pressure groups as well as distributing information to thousands of people. There were the usual protests/rallies, all in the aim of establishing a new organisational framework after the familiar political structure was dismantled. The NS party planned to take advantage of this situation, but the support for the party was lacking. This led to a number of recruiting drives in the latter half of 1941. Despite this increase in support, it was never large enough to be totally independent of German influences.
Quisling started off by providing military support to Germany, but he created division within his party when he tried to create his own army in the summer of 1943. This created a split in Quisling's cabinet, with most of the ministers saying he had exceeded his authority and was acting in a Fuhrer like fashion. Despite these objections, Quisling continued on in this vein, creating an even deeper division which culminates in his execution in 1945.
The third section discusses 'Norway in Exile'. Riste discusses how Norway survived during the period 1940-45, by doing what they had to, so as to keep the peace with Germany. It briefly discusses the situation in regards to a number of high ranking people, most notably King Haakon, Prime Minister Nygaardsvold, other Government officials and the entire Norwegian navy (12 vessels and 400 officers); as well as a small number of officers from the army and air force were on their way to Britain after abandoning Norway to Germany. This small sub-section partially repeats the latter part of Riste's first section, although it is still a useful summary in the context of this third section. The rest of this section discusses the relationship between these forces in Britain and their contribution to Britain and the allies war effort, as well as preparing for Norway's liberation and a brief excerpt of Norway going from war to peace.
According to Riste, Norway's contribution to Britain and the allies war effort was most noticeable in their navy's pre-war size of almost five million tonnes, amounting to seven per cent of the world's total tonnage. This ranked Norway the fourth largest shipping nation. There is little doubt that this extra fire power provided by Norway helped Britain hold of the German attacks on Britain. Also the small army and air force regiments were to prove invaluable as a spearhead for the liberation force for Norway, which as expected was a long process of getting the country back on its feet again after the long war. Peace then finally came to Norway officially on 7 June 1945, when King Haakon arrived in Oslo five years to day after his departure to Britain in exile.
The fourth section discusses 'The Post-War Proceedings against Enemy Collaborators'. Andenaes looks chiefly at a run-down of what happened in the war and why for a brief period at the start of this section, whilst the rest of the section looks at punishing people who collaborated with the enemy during the war, most notably Quisling.
Andenaes places special emphasis in this section on the role of Quisling during the war, and this is justified. Following the war, he went to trial to face the crimes he had committed during the previous five years. Sentiment from the people of Norway was that strong against Quisling that many only wanted him to go to a military court, and then be shot after only summary proceedings. However, he went through the Criminal Court, as did all the other cases of this nature. But as Andenaes points out, Quisling was by far the most serious offender for his crimes against Norway. Charges laid on Quisling concerned his activities during the war, his formation of a new Government in February 1942, his deportation of Jews costing several hundred lives, as well as many other counts. But perhaps the most important charge morally was the accusation that Quisling had been an accomplice of the Germans and helped them plan their attack on Norway.
Having pointed out the general aspects which are presented in this book, I have no hesitation in recommending it to any historian or other interested people who wish to gain an insight into the effects of the Second World War on Norway.