Published by Humanity in Action in 2013, Civil Society and the Holocaust: International Perspectives on Resistance and Rescue examines the different ways that European countries and the United States responded to the Holocaust. This anthology was created as part of “Civil Society: Reactions to the Holocaust,” a series of events in Copenhagen commemorating the 70th anniversary of the flight and deportation of Danish Jews in October 1943.
“Regardless of how the various escapes proceeded, whether they were organised on an ad hoc basis by family and networks of friends, or were organised beforehand, we are dealing with individuals who displayed a significant spirit of civilian engagement and a huge amount of bravery.”
Around 60 per cent of Norwegian Jews managed to escape to Sweden during the Second World War. This means a total of around 1100 people. About 35 per cent (772 people) were deported to Auschwitz, of which only 34 returned home again. An unknown number survived by remaining in Norway and hiding in hospitals or other places. Some changed their identity and kept this new profile after liberation. Not one woman or child survived the first round of selections at Auschwitz (Bruland, 2008).
Around 60 per cent of Norwegian Jews managed to escape to Sweden during the Second World War.
However, this chapter looks at the people who helped Jews to escape. As is well known, giving assistance to Jews during the war meant the death penalty. How then did Jews manage to escape from Norway? How were they rescued? By whom? Were organized groups involved, or did individual Jews organize their own escape?
On the 26th of October 1942, all male Jews over the age of 15 were arrested.
In comparison with Denmark, the major Aktion against the Jews in Norway happened much earlier in the war. On the 26th of October 1942, all male Jews over the age of 15 were arrested. At the same time, all Jewish women were ordered to report to the nearest police station on a daily basis, and Jewish financial assets and property were confiscated. Exactly a month later, on the 26th of November, the general arrest order was expanded to include all Jewish women and children. The subsequent deportations were carried out using four transport ships, of which the Donau shipment on the 26th of November 1942 was the largest, with 532 people on board. The final deportation occurred on the 25th of February 1943 with MS Gutenland, which carried 158 Jews. In addition to this, MS Monte Rosa carried male Jews bound for Auschwitz on two occasions (Mendelsohn, 1986).
This book deals with the flight from Norway and the role of civil society. My first question is whether Norway actually had a functioning civil society with people willing to help during the war years?
Civil society or civilian engagement?
Civil society exists in the nexus between the state, commercial markets and the family unit.
What do we mean by the phrase “civil society”? According to Håkon Lorentzen (2007, p. 9), finding a satisfactory definition for the term “civil society” is no easy task. Sometimes, we might use a narrow definition like “non-profit” (that is to say outside of the commercial market), or “non-governmental” (outside, of the state) in order to indicate an absence of state involvement (Lorentzen, 2007). Overall, the concept of civil society has a broader and more positive tone and suggests the idea of actions and activities carried out for the general public good. In this context, civil society is posed as being in contrast to the state body. Thus, civil society exists in the nexus between the state, commercial markets and the family unit. Civil society is often described as being more caring and has warmer connotations than the state – something that has a heart, as opposed to the state body, which is often portrayed as being cold and impersonal.
Lorentzen’s definition of civil society refers to that situation in peacetime. But what about wartime? In Norway, the state was taken over and administered by the Nazis, and the government was in exile in London. Clearly, the Nazified Norwegian regime had a different attitude to civilian alliances than the Norwegian government in exile. In fact, the Nazi regime carried out an extensive analysis of popular and voluntary organizations.
If a member were to pull out, this would possibly raise suspicions about loyalty and betrayal.
A key element within the concept of civil society refers to civilian engagement; that is – when civilians engage with some body or group that is larger and exterior to themselves (Lorentzen, 2007, p 9). In this context, one might ask whether the more organized resistance struggle throughout the Second World War can be seen as an example of activity engendered by civil society? This is difficult to answer where Norway is concerned, because we soon get into the question of the voluntary nature of the resistance movement. For example, was membership in the resistance organization, Milorg, voluntary? Of course, it is true that there was a voluntary element at play. But at the same time, members were obliged to submit to a military command structure running along hierarchical lines (Kragelund, 2013). Were individuals free to cancel their membership just as in any normal civilian association? Presumably, this would have been frowned upon given that those involved were in possession of very sensitive information that could not be shared outside the group. If a member were to pull out, this would possibly raise suspicions about loyalty and betrayal. Some people solved this dilemma by getting over the border to Sweden, but even as a refugee in Sweden one was expected to support the overall goal: Norway’s liberation (Kragelund, 2013).
The central motivation, therefore, for any kind of “peoples movement” is civilian engagement. In other words, when separate individuals, based on an “inner conviction that an important issue is at stake are moved to form an alliance, civilian engagement has been established” (Lorentzen, 2007, p 10).
The term civilian engagement also has the advantage that we are not obliged to link the various activities to one particular sector of society. Civilian engagement transcends the civil society framework and can thus be located in a wide variety of social scenarios.
During the war, many citizens were involved in various forms of civilian engagement. The fact that civilian engagement was present does not rule out the possibility that this involvement was politically motivated. However, the motives could have arisen from religious convictions via Norway’s state church congregations, for example. Even though the church is part of the state structure, genuine civilian engagement cannot be ruled out. And it is precisely in this concept of a public spirited civilian engagement, it seems to me, that we find the motivation for the help given to fugitives and refugees, rather than from civil society as a whole. The term civilian engagement also has the advantage that we are not obliged to link the various activities to one particular sector of society. Civilian engagement transcends the civil society framework and can thus be located in a wide variety of social scenarios. In what follows, we will examine the way civilian engagement proved to be a decisive factor in the escape of Jewish people from Norway as their situation worsened.
Different forms of escape
The deportation of Norwegian Jews took place between October and November 1942. The war had not yet turned against the Nazis at this point. In this period, the Jewish community in Norway was just at the beginnings of an integration process (Banik and Levin 2010). There had been Jews in Norway since 1851, but at the beginning only very few Jews settled in Norway (25 per year). (1) Jewish immigration did not become numerically significant until 1880-1890, and the largest number came in around the year 1905. By the time the Second World War broke out, the integration process was well under way. There can be no doubt that Jews welcomed this process. The ability to speak fluent Norwegian was highly valued amongst Jews resident in Norway. In fact, those speaking with a marked gebrokkenpronunciation were even ridiculed by their own kinsmen. Norwegian Jews followed the cultural customs and practices observed by most Norwegians – they adopted Norwegian values like a love of the great outdoors, rambling, hiking and similar pastimes. They also changed their surnames so that Norwegians would find it easier to pronounce them (Banik and Levin, 2010). However, despite these attempts at integration, Jews did not have a high profile in wider Norwegian society. They were too few in numbers and had not established sufficiently deep roots in society for that to happen. (2)
Escape routes were not always sharply delineated and civilian engagement manifested itself in slightly different ways depending on the form of escape chosen.
When the situation became much more fraught in the late autumn of 1942, Jews resorted to four main types of escape. These escape routes were not always sharply delineated and civilian engagement manifested itself in slightly different ways depending on the form of escape chosen, which can be summarized as:
- Unaided escape
- Escape organized on an ad hoc basis by family units and extended family networks
- Escape routes organized beforehand by, for example, the “Carl Fredriksen Transport”
- Escape routes organized to save particular groups – for example, children from the Jewish Nursery School.
Most Jews in Norway got across to Sweden via one or more helpers. But a number of them made their own way there – either because they did not have the necessary resources, or because they lacked the right contacts (Tangestuen 2004, Levin, 2007). In these instances, it was the Jews themselves who possessed the requisite civilian engagement and courage.
In order to be part of an organized escape, one had to pay
In order to be part of an organized escape, one had to pay. There is precious little record of what Jews actually paid for escape operations. Presumably these sums were calculated on the basis of ability to pay. There is an example of a well to do family that paid NOK 6000 for each person included in the rescue operation. In all, this involved seven persons who in total paid NOK 42,000. Whilst others had to hand over between NOK 600 and 1000 per person, all according to how their financial situation was assessed. In Skien, there was a ship’s captain who demanded 15,000 Swedish kroner to ship a mother and her three children across to Sweden. As the family involved could not pay this kind of money, the Norwegian helper resorted to threatening the captain with his gun so as to get the family across to safety. Mats Tangestuen (2012) has described how the rescue operation called the “Carl Fredriksen Transport Operation” required NOK 150 from each participant, but that nobody was refused because of an inability to pay (see below for more on the Carl Fredriksen operation). Thus, no Jew was refused participation in the Carl Fredriksen operation because of a lack of funds. However, Jews were not aware of this fact. Moreover, the Carl Fredriksen plan was not put into effect until after the MS Donau had departed from Oslo quay on November 26, 1942 and many Jews had already managed to get over to Sweden by that point.
Escape organized on an ad hoc basis by family and extended family networks
This form of escape developed spontaneously when individual citizens came to recognize how dangerous the situation had become for Jews. The link person involved was often a friend or neighbor. He or she would then contact someone else who, in turn, would contact an appropriate person. Thus a contact chain, inspired by civilian engagement and courage, was established by a set of individuals. The exact nature of each chain depended on the individual situation. The person whom the neighbor or friend contacted on behalf of the escaping Jews would often be another immediate family member or relative who they could trust implicitly. For our purposes, we can talk of family and extended family networks.
Whilst seeking a hiding place, the helpers would invariably end up coming into contact with the resistance network. It is estimated that in order for one or two people to be rescued, a chain of 9 to 25 helpers would have been needed. All links in the chain were equally important in achieving a successful result. But, of course, the chain was completely dependent on someone starting it in the first place.
It is estimated that in order for one or two people to be rescued, a chain of 9 to 25 helpers would have been needed.
After the arrest order for all Jewish men was issued on October 26, 1942, Fanny Raskow was to be found pacing backwards and forwards across the floor of her little apartment in Oslo and crying. She was pregnant and her husband Herman had gone into hiding a couple of miles away. Then there was a knock at the door. It was Fanny’s neighbor Einar Follestad who asked: Do you know where Herman is?
“That’s the problem,” Fanny replied. “He could turn up here any minute and there’s nowhere for him to hide in this place. This apartment’s not safe.” Einar’s wife Agnes had contacted her parents the day before and expressed her concern about the fate of their Jewish neighbors. “Bring them here if things take a turn for the worse,” her parents had told her. In this way, Agnes Follestad had begun to prepare for what was to come next.
When Fanny and Herman arrived at the home of Agnes’s parents the next day, her father immediately telephoned Professor Kristine Bonnevie who was related to Agnes sister, Alfhild Bonnevie. “We have two bags of turnips for you” were the code words used. When the Jewish couple got to Kristine Bonnevie, she rang her nephew Harald Bryn who, accompanied by his wife Nanti, left a dinner party to join them immediately. After an hour of questioning (they could have been spies) Harald Bryn slammed his hand down onto the table and said: “They arrested my good friend Professor Goldsmidt at the border. I’m going to help you.” Harald Bryn contacted his close friend and art critic Finn Nielsen who was himself an artist. The Raskows were then hidden in the ceiling of Finn Nielsen’s studio. After a week passed, Nielsen returned to say that he too was being sought but that he had found a hideaway for them at a place belonging to some friends across the street.
In this new place of concealment, Fanny and Herman had neither food supplies nor fuel to warm the apartment. Nor had the contact who was supposed to knock on the door three times ever shown up. In the end, Fanny telephoned a doctor with a made up story that her husband was on the verge of suicide. The doctor understood right away what was really going on and placed Herman into a psychiatric hospital.
One day, when Fanny went to visit her husband, the head doctor warned her that she should make plans to escape because “they did not know how much longer they would be in control of the hospital.” The warning from the doctor seemed to present Fanny with an impossible task as she did not have the kind of contacts that were required. But as soon as she got back to her mother’s apartment, where she was staying at the time, she received a telephone call: “I know you are in difficulties. Bring 1000 kroner per person and your ration cards with you tomorrow and stand outside the entrance to the psychiatric clinic at 6pm.” It was clear that the doctor had arranged this contact with these helpers. The next day, Herman was discharged and they stood waiting for a taxi at the agreed time of 6pm. No taxi came. Nor was there a taxi at 7, 8 or 9 pm. They understood that something had gone wrong. But what about Herman who had now been discharged from the hospital? The Nazis rang the hospital every day to get the names of those who had been admitted or discharged. Showing huge courage, the doctor allowed Herman to sleep overnight in his office and the taxi finally arrived the following day.
At this point, Harald Bryn re-enters the story. For the taxi driver was Bryn’s friend and Harald Bryn had chosen their escape route. However, they got no further than a kilometer – to Kirkeveien – before they were stopped at a mobile checkpoint that formed part of a general raid in the area. The street was full of State Police and Gestapo officers. A Norwegian police officer asked the driver for his «Schein» (license), but the driver did not actually possess a driver’s license. Suddenly the driver said:
“Is Thoresen on duty tonight?”
“No Thoresen is not on tonight, but drive – and I mean quick,” the Norwegian policeman replied.
It transpired that this police officer and the driver just happened to be in the same resistance network. “Thoresen” was one of their codewords. It is true that this was pure luck, but it was also dependent on the fact that a number of Norwegians had decided to actively support the resistance movement and had shown great bravery, even when their own lives were at risk.
What also becomes clear is that the helpers knew each other, either via family or extended family connections. In certain specific instances, there was also a connection between close friends.
In the above story, the rescue chain was created by an ad hoc group of citizens, who all gave a large amount of support and showed no little bravery. All the links in the chain were equally important. What also becomes clear is that the helpers knew each other, either via family or extended family connections. In certain specific instances, there was also a connection between close friends. Harald Bryn was a member of the civilian resistance movement (Sivorg) and had responsibility for the escape routes in the “Østland” (South East) area of Norway (Ulstein, 1975). These were used for any Jew or Gentile who needed get out of the country. Even though the above type of escape operation was ad hoc in nature, it eventually linked into a more or less well established resistance network. The Raskow couple arrived at Sweden’s “Kjäseter” internment camp on the 15th of November 1942. At that point, they had been on the run just under three weeks.
Organized escape routes: the “Carl Fredriksen Transport Operation”
Another escape option was to avail of escape routes that had been set up from the very beginning. The Carl Fredriksen Transport Operation is one example of this. The “Carl Fredriksen” route was a cover name that played on the name of the Norwegian King Haakon VII, whose actual title was “Prince Carl”. Haakon was the son of King Fredrik VIII of Denmark – hence “Carl Fredriksen”. Understandably given their codename, those involved used the motto: We drive for the King! The Carl Fredriksen Transport Operation represented Norway’s biggest single transportation of refugees and fugitives during the Second World War. In all, 1000 persons were saved, of which around 400 were Jews. The whole operation took place within six weeks – from the end of November 1942 to the middle of January 1943 (Tangestuen, 2012).
In all, 1000 persons were saved, of which around 400 were Jews.
Alf Pettersen was from an area close to the Swedish border and had previously helped several persons to get across to Sweden before the situation became highly dangerous for Jews towards the end of 1942. Pettersen had already received a warning from the police because he had refused to obey the new rules and laws that had come into force such as giving a Nazi salute when in the presence of German officers. Once the deportation of Jewish men, woman and children had taken place on November 26, 1942, Pettersen was contacted by a gardener, Rolf Syversen, who proposed an expansion of escape route operations to Sweden (Tangestuen, 2012). Two days after this, on November 28, Pettersen was again contacted – this time by Reidar Larsen who carried a message from a somewhat peripheral Milorg leader, Ole Berg. The message was that they would soon have to start moving fugitives/ refugees across the border. This applied both to Jews and also other Norwegians who needed to get out as quickly as possible (Ulstein, 1970, 1975).
Deciding to get involved in such a dangerous venture was not easy. Alf Pettersen’s wife was pregnant with their first child. And from his wife Gerd’s point of view, it was perhaps more a case of not being able to say no. However, Gerd Pettersen was herself to become centrally involved in such operations, keeping a record of who was being moved across and minding the account books. In fact, she came to be known as the brains behind everything. Alf Pettersen made certain demands upon those who had approached him before he agreed to lead the transport operation. First of all, he himself would decide who was to be involved in the operations and nobody would be allowed to use a cover name because he wanted to know at all times whom exactly he was dealing with. The escape party should be armed but not be a part of Milorg (Tangestuen, 2012). The Jews that Pettersen and Syversen were meant to get across the border were those who had gone into hiding during the general “Aktion” against the Jews on the 26th of November 1942.
The transportation operation was very carefully planned and recruits for the job also included police officers. Pettersen was especially keen to get serving police officers involved as they offered a better chance of ensuring the success of the rescue operation. Amongst other things, they were able to get fuel for the vehicles at a time when this was not readily available. Policemen also had much easier access to weaponry and ammunition where this proved necessary. Syversen was entrusted with the responsibility of organizing the collection point at his market garden premises. Reidar Larsen meanwhile knew a lot of drivers and was able to procure a fleet of lorries. Pettersen was very precise in his planning of times and distances (Tangestuen, 2012, p 6). He then set up an effective modus operandi with scouts along the route. Thus, the operation was to start at 9:00 pm precisely. Pettersen had set up a whole system of signals involving branches, twigs and the like. These were to be placed along the route and would signal either danger or a free passage.
All the Jews to be transported were then brought to Syversen’s market garden premises at Økern, east of Oslo. They were shipped in lorries in groups of 20 per trip. They lay hidden under tarpaulins and each journey was fraught with risk. On several occasions, they were stopped by German border patrols, but miraculously managed to get through. On another occasion, Pettersen drove so close to a mobile German troop column that guards at a checkpoint believed his lorry was part of the column and so let him through unchallenged. Not even the Jews themselves knew which transport column they belonged to.
The main players in the Carl Fredriksen Transport were Alf Tollef Pettersen, Gerd Julie Bergljot Pettersen, Rolf A. Syversen and Reidar Larsen. In addition, a range of other people also played their part in ensuring that the rescue plan would be a success. Gerd and Alf Pettersen themselves were forced to flee to Sweden after their escape operations were compromised by two infiltrators during one of the missions in January 1943. Rolf Syversen was taken to Trandum Forest and executed in November 1944. There can be no doubt that the Carl Fredriksen group is an example of significant civilian engagement and courage and that its actions managed to save the lives of a large number of persons in the Second World War.
Escape routes in order to save particular groups – for example children from the Jewish Nursery Home
Norway had strict rules with regard to immigration ( Johansen, 1984, 2005) and Under Secretary Platou at the Department of Justice advised that these Jewish children should not be given temporary residence permits – or at least, not those children who were without parents, because these children might subsequently become a burden on the Norwegian state (Waal 1991).
Once the Anschluss had taken place in 1938, approaches were made to the Jewish congregation in Oslo requesting that Jewish children from Vienna and elsewhere be allowed to spend their summer holidays at a Jewish children’s holiday home at Bærum (Nøkleby and Hjeltnes, 2000) and then subsequently at a Jewish nursery home in Oslo. The proposal was for 21 Jewish children to stay in Norway for three months at a time during the summer. Norway had strict rules with regard to immigration ( Johansen, 1984, 2005) and Under Secretary Platou at the Department of Justice advised that these Jewish children should not be given temporary residence permits – or at least, not those children who were without parents, because these children might subsequently become a burden on the Norwegian state (Waal 1991). Once Norway was occupied by the Nazis on April 9, 1940, all the children’s parents were contacted to establish whether they wished their children to remain in Norway or be sent back home. Six sets of parents requested that their children be sent back. All these children were murdered. Another two children who were loosely connected to the nursery, and happened to be with their parents/foster parents when Aktionen were carried out, were also murdered (Levin, 2009). However, all 14 children from Austria and Czechoslovakia who were still based at the nursery in Oslo were rescued. This rescue mission was only possible because of clear planning and a large degree of civilian engagement, not to speak of the courage displayed by several people.
This rescue mission was only possible because of clear planning and a large degree of civilian engagement
In the interwar period, the head Nina Hasvold née Hackel from St Petersburg had met with the well known female child psychiatrist Nic Waal whilst attending the “Wilhelm Reich Kinderseminar” in Berlin. A very close friendship then developed between the pair – a friendship which would not only prove significant for themselves, but also in terms of the rescue operation at the nursery. Nic Waal brought Nina to Norway and when, in 1938, the Jewish Community in Oslo found a need for a headmistress for its newly established nursery, Nina was an obvious choice for the job.
In the period immediately after the arrest order for all Jewish men on the 26th of October 1942, Nina and Nic began to work out contingency plans in the event that a similar order was issued for Jewish women and children. Nic was active in the resistance movement (Ulstein, 1975) whilst Nina had a “J” stamped in her passport and had submitted the form given to all Jews in late January 1942. The fiancé of the cook at the nursery, Gudrun Fjeld, also had connections with the resistance movement. The eldest boy attending the nursery, Siegmund Korn (12 years), was given the job of bringing in NOK 10,000, which was hidden in his boots. This money was to be passed on to Gudrun’s fiancé, who lived in another part of Oslo. The money was to be used for the taxi transportation that would bring them over the border to Sweden in the event that immediate flight became necessary. Thus, a partial escape plan was already in place.
But several groups were aware of the threat that now hung over the children. The night before the general “Aktion” was begun by the Nazis, a telephone call was made to an executive officer of the Nansen Committee – Sigrid Helliesen Lund. «Yes, there’s going to be another party this evening – it’s the small parcels they are picking up this time» the caller said (Lund, 1981). After several moments of deliberation, Helliesen Lund realised that Jewish woman and children were now also going to be arrested (Wright, 1974). 1he first thought that came into her mind was the nursery. But she was also aware that Nic and Nina had the situation under control. 1hey had already been informed of what was about to happen. 1his gave Sigrid Helliesen Lund the chance to use the time to warn other Jewish families to find safe houses or hideouts.
Early in the morning of November 26, the children at the nursery home were roused from their sleep and told that things had become dangerous: “More serious than the events of April 9,” as Nina described it. They were told to dress quickly, putting on two items for each clothes part, instead of the usual one, and then to go out quietly via the back staircase. The procedure that then followed was not only executed with great proficiency but was also imbued with great care and love of the children in the situation where, once again, a huge element of civilian engagement was present and also a large element of courage. At no point were the children nervous. Their trust in their head Nina was total as they gravely and diligently carried out their part of the escape plan as per their leader’s instructions.
With their hiking boots in their hands, they went down to Nic Waal’s waiting car. As a doctor, Nic Waal had a special driving license and coupons for the purchase of petrol. In two round trips, she moved the children over to a safe house – a villa on the west side of Oslo. Gerda Tanberg lived at this address. After day or so, some of the children were moved to other addresses in Nic Waal’s extended family network. Meanwhile, Sigrid Helliesen Lund kept an eye on the children and managed to get enough ration cards to ensure that the children did not go hungry whilst in hiding.
A week later, the escape route was ready. Taxi driver Martin Solvang moved the first group of children to the border south of Elverum. Border guide and farmer Ola Rauken was the man who had been tasked with taking them across. However, he was due to help with slaughtering a pig on the agreed day. Ola was wary of arousing suspicion by putting the arrangement off, so the escape plan was temporarily delayed. The children stayed overnight in a log cabin where they took turns in tending the fire throughout the night. The following day they were placed into the hands of a different border guide, Ola Breisjøberget, who then led them across the last 3 km to the border. Nina Hasvold suffered a gallstone attack during this final leg of the journey and one of the boys carried her rucksack. “As far as I remember the escape operation, it was not that dramatic; presumably because it was so well planned and because luck was with us,” one of the children would subsequently recall (Levin, 2006, 2009). After a week had passed, Martin Solvang (3) moved the remaining children across via the same route. The children were housed at Alingsås outside Gothenburg for the rest of the war in a house which had been purchased by the Jewish congregation.
Why has the rescue of 14 children from a Jewish nursery in Oslo not gained the same status as a valued symbol of resistance against the Nazis?
Thus, this rescue mission was a complete success. Saving 14 Jewish children and getting them across to Sweden during the Nazi occupation of Norway is nothing short of a great and heroic feat and it is surprising that so little is known of this episode in Norway itself. In other words, the story has not entered the collective narrative of what happened during the occupation. By comparison, some of the stories of daring and great courage from the time of the occupation are so well known that key words from them have entered into general use in the Norwegian language. One needs only to utter just one of those words or phrases and everybody knows what is being referred to. For example, the expression “ni liv” (nine lives) serves as an immediate metaphor for the fairy tale rescue of Jan Baalsrud. This illustrates how Baalsrud’s story has gone into the collective folk mythology surrounding the war. But why then has the rescue of 14 children from a Jewish nursery in Oslo not gained the same status as a valued symbol of resistance against the Nazis? No doubt there are many different reasons for this. I would suggest that the combination in the story of women, children and Jews has contributed to the silence with regard to this story in post-war Norway (Levin, 2009). This may suggest that the rescue of the vulnerable, or groups that are seen as “weak” in society, is not given the same heroic luster. As far as I am aware, no resistance fighter has ever been bestowed with hero status because of his or her part in rescuing Jews in Norway – even though the awareness of what actually happened to Norwegian Jews during the occupation has grown in more recent times.
“The ordinariness of goodness”
“We didn’t really think we were doing anything that special. We just got on with it.”
Regardless of how the various escapes proceeded, whether they were organized on an ad hoc basis by family and friend networks, or were organized beforehand, we are dealing with individuals who displayed a significant spirit of civilian engagement and a huge amount of bravery. They risked their lives. Research on helpers and rescuers in the Second World War points to precisely this kind of special phenomenon, where individual citizens put their own lives at risk in order to save their fellow human beings. “We didn’t really think we were doing anything that special. We just got on with it.” is a typical kind of sentiment expressed by those involved. Without hesitating, without dwelling too long on the possible repercussions, they placed their own lives in danger. This is the highest form of civilian bravery and engagement with other citizens. In the literature that describes the helpers and rescuers during the Nazi occupation of different countries, the question has been raised as to whether these citizens really were heroes, or whether it was simply a case of “the ordinariness of goodness” (Rochat and Modigliani, 1995, p. 210). Thus, whilst Hannah Arendt discusses “the banal nature of evil,” Rochat and Modigliani assert the natural presence of a general form of human goodness (the ordinariness of goodness). Many of those who gave assistance had some kind of connection with the resistance network. But this simply proves that we cannot make sweeping judgments on people. For even though the resistance movement did nothing as a movement to save Norwegian Jews, there were individuals connected to the resistance who displayed a simple, human “ordinariness of goodness.”
• • •
Levin, Irene. “Oslo: The escape from Norway.” In Civil Society and the Holocaust: International Perspectives on Resistance and Rescue, edited by Anders Jerichow and Cecilie Felicia Stokholm Banke, 162-175. New York: Humanity in Action Press, 2013.
- Bruland, Bjarte, 2008. Det norske Holocaust, i Bernt Hagtvet (red) Folkemordenes svarte bok. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
- Banik, Vibeke Kieding og Irene Levin, 2010. Jødisk liv i etterkrigstiden. Integrering og egenart. I Anne Bonnevie Lund og Bente Bolme Moen (red) Nasjonale minoriteter i det flerkulturelle Norge. Trondheim: Tapir.
- Johansen, Per Ole, 1984. Oss selv nærmest. Norge og jødene 1914-1943. Oslo: Gyldendal.
- Johansen, Per Ole, 2005. 20 år for en jøde. Materialisten, 4.
- Kragelund, Ivar, 2013. Personlig samtale. Hjemmefrontmuseet i Oslo.
- Levin, Irene, 2001. Taushetens tale, Nytt norsk tidsskrift, 3.
- Levin, Irene, 2006. Barn på flukt. 26. november 1942. Barn Spesialnummer for Per Olav Tiller. 2.
- Levin, Irene, 2007. Flukten. Jødenes flukt til Sverige under annen verdenskrig. HL-senterets serie.
- Levin, Irene, 2009. Det jødiske barnehjemmet og Nic Waal. Tidsskrift for norsk psykologforening. 46.
- Lorentzen, Håkon, 2007. Moraldannende kretsløp. Stat, samfunn og sivilt engasjement. Oslo: Abstract.
- Lund, Sigrid Helliesen, 1981. Alltid underveis. Oslo: Tiden.
- Mendelsohn, Oscar, 1986. Jødenes historie i Norge gjennom 300 år. Bind II. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
- Nøkleby, Berit og Guri Hjeltnes, 2000. Barn i krig. Oslo: Aschehoug.
- Rochat, Francois og Andre Modigliani, 1995. The Ordinary Quality of Resistance: From Milgram’s Laboratory to the Village of le Chambon, Journal of Social issues, vol 51, 3.
- Tangestuen, Mats, 2004. «Også jødene kom for øvrig over grensen høsten 1942» jødiske flyktninger fra Norge til Sverige 1940-1945. Hovedopp- gave i historie.
- Tangestuen, Mats, 2012. Carl Fredriksens transport – krigen største redningsbragd. Uro/Koro hefte.
- Ulstein, Ragnar, 1970. Intervju med Alf Pettersen (interview with Alf Pettersen).
- Ulstein, Ragnar, 1975. Svensketrafikken. Oslo: Det norske samlaget.
- Waal, Helge, 1991. Nic Waal. Det urolige hjertet. Oslo: Pax.
- Wright, Myrtle, 1974. Norwegian Diary. 1940-1945. London: Friends Peace International Relations Committee.
- In the Norwegian Constitution of 1814, Jews had no access to the Kingdom (section 2). This was abolished in 1851.
- There were never more than around 2.200 Jews in Norway. The highest number was just before the Second World War.
- Martin Solvang continued to ferry fugitives/refugees across the border until February 1943 when he was arrested and sent to Grini prison camp.