Stavanger City Archive

I visited the Stavanger city archive this morning. After signing in I was given a tour when I said I was interested in finding out what they had. The main reading room is well lit and has a few rows of shelves with books on local issues, some of which can be found down the street at the library. In addition, it has a set of books with municipal government meeting minutes going back over a century, and bound volumes of city budget books etc. Although I didn’t request anything, they apparently have all sorts of other documents available for request but there was no computer database or catalog to search. They also have complete copies of all the local newspapers, some both in original and microfilm.

There was no photocopy machine and I was told merely to take pictures of non-copyrighted materials with a digital camera (such a huge contrast from Japanese archives, for example, as well as I’m sure many other places where they are horribly and unnecessarily strict about digital cameras).

While I looked through some of the materials looking for information on the aftermath of the war and especially the handling of traitors and collaborators, I was able to find lists of people who had been removed from their municipal government posts, and some information on the history of the police services in Stavanger during and after the war.

The greatest find of that morning, however, was a visit from the city’s archivist herself. She emerged from her office to show me around and ask what I was interested in. When I said I studied treason and traitors and was interested in looking at things related to the aftermath of the war in Stavanger, she said, “As a matter of fact, I did my thesis [hovedoppgave] on the [fascist] Nasjonal Samling party in Stavanger from 1933-37.” She then produced a copy of her dissertation. This is the political party of Quisling and its members, without exception were convicted of treason after the war, mostly without any trial or chance to defend themselves. While she is working on their early prewar development, when they were a completely legal and marginal party, it is great to have my own city archivist working on a topic so close. She recommended some other books, most of which I already had checked out from Stavanger’s library.

She also told me about a friend of hers who wrote hers on some kind of non-governmental organizations who worked with convicted traitors in the aftermath of the war! What a find (given my interests)! She found a copy, which I think was her own, and offered to let me borrow it. This is definitely on my reading list for the next few days…


HålandsvatnAfter a night and morning of heavy rain, the sun emerged from the thinning clouds this afternoon, long enough for me to put my reading aside for a few hours and go out to enjoy it. I hunted down my young cousin, borrowed his bicycle and went on a short bike ride to one of the two lakes nearby, Hålandsvatn. Both lakes have nice trails around them and are absolutely wonderful when the weather is good, whether is it for a walk, a picnic, or some swimming in the summer.

The area surrounding the lakes are mainly residential areas and a few farms. On my hour and a half or so bike ride around the lake and back to the apartment, I passed all sorts of creatures, some pictures below.
Continue reading Hålandsvatn

Sacks of Flour

I have finally gotten around to reading a book for youth written by a family friend, Gunnar Skadberg about Rogaland (the county I’m currently in here in Stavanger) during WWII, «Livet er å velge: en bok om andre verdenskrig i Rogaland – skrevet for ungdom».

In his opening descriptions he recounts a bizarre but ultimately tragic little anecdote (page 40) about some sacks of flour. German troops took the local airport here, the largest in Norway at the time, within an hour of dropping troops onto the runway and within a few hours controlled the entire area. When they arrived at the military base located in Madla, only about a 10 minute bicycle ride from where I’m writing this posting, they found it deserted of its 800 troops. Their commanding officer decided that being caught facing Germany’s invasion on Stavanger’s “rat hole” of a peninsula with untrained troops newly arrived from the east was probably not wise. He moved all the troops south to the more mountainous Sviland, Ålgård, and Oltedal off the peninsula.

Two volunteer truck drivers returned to the Madla military base to try to pick up sacks of flour to supply the Norwegian troops but when they arrived they found that German troops had already occupied it. Apparently, the German troops had instructions to be friendly towards any Norwegians who showed no resistance so, when the truck drivers explained they had come to collect sacks of flour, the soldiers helped them load the flour onto the trucks. The truck drivers then proceeded to deliver this flour to the, still resisting, Norwegian forces further south.

The story ends tragically when the trucks get to Sviland and are stopped by trigger-happy Norwegian guards and one of the truck drivers, for some reason, ends up fatally stabbed by a guard’s bayonet.

Politics in Downtown Stavanger

I came to the library this morning to pick up a book I had requested on the early postwar treason trials in Norway. The library building is housed along with the town’s movie theater, public art exhibition space, a children’s museum and a coffee shop in a well lit glass and steel complex known as the “culture house.” In front of this we have other important mass gathering places such as McDonoalds and an open space covered in cobblestones. Last week this housed a massive book selling frenzy amongst high school students eager to sell textbooks to younger victims.

Today the little open space housed some kind of political fair. While a band, dressed in typical Norwegian sweaters and old-fashioned pilot goggles (?) cracked jokes and sang songs in a mix of dialects that gave them a nice authentic sound of belonging to “the people.”

Surrounding the stage were three booths where political organizers could pass out brochures about their respective party positions in the upcoming September election. The scene struck me as somewhat unusual. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it in Japan or the US – multiple, quite antagonistic parties gathering in a single public space only a meter or two distance from each-other, all trying to reach the same crowd of passing people and strays listening to the band.

This was an especially interesting scene given the three parties in question: the Christian Democrats (KrF. polling at 5%, might be called a center-right party, currently trailing badly in the polls but in the current coalition government of the “Right” party the “Left” party, and KrF), the Forward Marching Party (polling at 20%, a semi-fascist populist party, but maybe I’m a little harsh), and the Red Alliance (1% which I think is a coalition of the Communists and other hard-core socialist parties).

There was no presence of the three parties who have joined forces to form what might be called the ASS coalition in the morning. These consist of the powerful Labor party (Ap., polling at 35%) which has dominated Norwegian politics in the postwar period, the Socialist Left party (SV) which has made a surprising rise in popularity in the last few years to become mainstream contender with over 15% support, and the Center party (Sp, polling at 5.6%), which traditionally was supported by the agricultural sector. However, the booth battle shifted to the Right party and SV in the afternoon.

Let's Kick Some Ruling Class ASSMy award for the most entertaining election poster so far has to go to a small crowd of Socialist Left youth campaigning in Sandnes last week, who held a banner saying, “Let’s Kick Some Ruling Class ASS”
Continue reading Politics in Downtown Stavanger

Paying for Sabotage

As I mentioned in an early posting, Norway’s resistance was very rarely a violent or military effort. One of the primary reasons was that, like anyone in the countless modern wars where occupying militaries collectively punished the local community for acts of sabotage, Norwegians feared reprisals from the occupying German forces. This is one of the many reasons why any closer look at tales of heroic resistance in occupied areas must face the darker and more complicated moral questions of this aspect of war.

Even without violent attacks directly on German forces, however, even more minor acts of sabotage got some kind of reprisals in relatively quiet occupied Norway. I was reading today through the notes and documents of the journalist Halvor Sivertsen today. He is from Stavanger, my hometown here, and spent 17 months in the Grini concentration camp 1942-3. In his wonderful little book Minneskrinet 1940-1945 he has put together his thoughts about wartime, concentration camp life, and resistance.

I was interested in how he shows how German occupying forces’ reactions to Norwegian sabotage, at least here in Stavanger, changed over time. During the first year of occupation, when the resistance in Stavanger committed various acts of sabotage including the cutting of German communication lines and telephone cables, communal punishment for these acts took the form of a fine of 3 kroner. The fine was approved by the mayor of Stavanger, county representative of Rogaland, and the Ministry of the Interior.

Sivertsen has kept his copy of the receipt of his 3 kroner “contribution,” (I was amused that, perhaps to clarify for confused locals, the word “fine” was put in parenthesis in the main text of the receipt after this euphemism) which for lack of time, I leave untranslated here:


Byskattsedlens løpenummer 6837 1940/41
Det kvitteres herved for at det er betalt kr. 3,00 – tre kroner i tilegg til byskatt utlignet med ovennevnte løpenr. for 1940/41, til dekning av en kontribusjon (mulkt) som Reichskommissar für die besetzten Norwegischen Gebiete har pålagt kommunen. Utligningsmåten er godkjent av ordføreren i Stavanger, fylkesmannen i Rogaland og Innenriksdepartemented.

Betalt Stavanger Kemnerkontor
Navn: Halvor Sivertsen
Adr: [Unreadable]

Sivertsen, Halvor. Minneskrinet 1940-1945 (Stavanger: Verbum, 1987), 13.

Later however, this polite fine for damage to telephone lines, complete with receipts and bureaucratic checks gave way to other forms of reprisal. Stavanger police was called in by the fall of 1941 to draft labor for guard duty to watch over the communications network (In postwar Denmark, Danish who were “factory guards” protecting industry from sabotage were prosecuted for collaboration after the war, I’m not sure if they were mostly volunteers or were also drafted. Only in rare exceptions were Norwegian laborers prosecuted for collaboration)

Here, untranslated is the first part of one of his draft notices for 3 hours labor,

Halvor Sivertsen

Etter ordre fra det tyske Sikkerhetspoliti innkalles De herved til vakttjeneste ved tyske telefonkabler i Skankeholen
Torsdag den 16/9 1941 fra kl. 3 til kl. 6

De møter på politikammeret, Nytorrget 1, en halv time før tjenesten begynner. De vil da få nærmere instruksjon.

Den som unddrar seg fra vakttjenesten, vil bli dratt til ansvar av det tyske sikkerhetspoliti, som også selv kontrollerer at vakttjenesten utføres etter ordren…

Vakten plikter i den oppgitte tid å patruljere den oppgitte strekning, nøye å overvåke telefonkablene på strekningen og hindre ethvert angrep på dem. Han er berettiget og etter evne forpliktet til å pågripe eventuelle sabotører og øyeblikkelig melde av til politiet, telefon 20500…

ibid., 15.

Basically, the document says you have to show up at police headquarters for instructions, that you’ll get in trouble with the German gestapo (Or “security police” whoever they are) if you don’t,
and that you are required to patrol the lines, alerting the police by phone if there is any attack on the lines.

In this way, reprisal is combined with forcing local inhabitants to directly prevent sabotage, adding one more moment when local laborers might choose to comply and thus interfere with the resistance, or resist the occupation authorities and possibly land in Grini concentration camp, where you can enjoy (mostly) potato “storm” soup for the duration of your sentence.

As you can see, while things got worse than a 3 kroner fine, this was hardly anything to complain about. Reprisals can, of course, get much much worse. While rare in occupied Norway, whole villages (the houses) were burnt down on some occasions, and mass arrests and beatings also happened. Norway, however, did not witness anything similar to the kind of massive atrocities as reprisals for resistance attacks and sabotage that many other occupied areas of Europe were to see.

Remains Found of pro-German Norwegian Soldiers

According to today’s Aftenposten, the remains of 13 missing Norwegian soldiers, members of the so-called “frontkjempere” (Norwegians fighting for the Germans on the eastern front in WWII). They were found on the 20th of August by an expedition suspiciously named, “For the Fatherland.” They also found the remains of 9 Russian soldiers and some old ammunition, which led them to halt the expedition for security reasons for the time being.

Political Retribution in early postwar Denmark

I assumed that there hasn’t been much written on early postwar political retribution in Denmark, even in Danish scholarly literature. I found some mention in secondary Danish materials, but usually in the last chapter of books talking about the occupation of Denmark during WWII.

That was before I discovered the over 800 page book by Ditlev Tamm Retsopgøret efter besættelsen complete with excellent bibliography, a chapter on sources, and chapters on every category I could imagine…It is mostly a legal history but my first look indicates he has touched on many of the other related issues I’m interested in. Now, to find the time to read it…

Tamm has written several other monographs and papers on similar topics, and even an introduction to Jorge Luis Borges! I will have to see if I can get in touch…but only after I have made my way through some of his work….ack! So much to read…

Primary Materials on Norway During WWII

I have been collecting some materials on occupied Denmark and Norway in various languages from the Harvard libraries. I was flipping through a great book I found today called Parti og Plakat NS 1933-1945 which is a collection of some 250 propaganda posters from Norway’s Nasjonal Samling party (the Norwegian national socialists).

I told my mom about my discovery and she pointed out that you can find basically all of these posters and many more directly online through the Norwegian National Library’s database of propaganda materials. She then soon put me on to NorgesLexi, which is a site hosting a dictionary of wartime reference information, and pictures and documentary propaganda movies from the occupation period. Elsewhere on the Norwegian National Library’s online databases was a set of pages on humor in occupied Norway which is also the topic of the book Folklore Fights the Nazis: Humor in Occupied Norway, 1940-1945.

Finally, the National Library hosts dozens of RealAudio streams of English-language “Norwegian Information Service” wartime news/propaganda radio reports (see the list by topic). I can get my fill of 5-15 minute clips updating me on the latest valiant efforts of the “patriotic” Norwegian resistance fighters and the “treacherous plots” of the “puppet quislings” in occupied Norway. Lots of interesting material, not all of it news reports, which gives you a great look into 1940s life and times. For example, check out this 15 minute clip by a Norwegian talking about his 23 years in China.