When you think of World War II, you're likely to imagine one of the areas we see in movies about the conflict - London during the Blitz, an occupied France or even Japan filled with turmoil and ultimately partially destroyed. However, how much do you know about World War II in Norway? This year is the 70th anniversary of victory, and Norway has heroes to be remembered just as much as any other country that was involved. On a Norway cruise, you can visit sites important historical moments and get a guided and personal look at what life was like under German occupation. From the work of Lutheran bishops to keep the church free of Nazi influence to famous saboteurs who derailed Nazi plans for nuclear weapons, Norway in World War II was full of heroes. Here, we'll take a look at what World War II brought to Norway and how its people mounted an unlikely resistance.
Norway was occupied by Germany starting on April 9, 1940. The 75th anniversary of this date quickly approaches - and it's important to remember this is something that happened not at all long ago. There are Norwegians now living who remember the occupation, and there are certainly many Norwegians who grew up hearing stories about it. During the occupation, Norway was ruled by the Reichskommissariat Norwegen, which collaborated with a Norwegian government that was rigged to be pro-German. However, the legitimate Norwegian king and his government continued to work from London in exile throughout the occupation. The Norwegian government had wished to retain its neutrality in World War II, just as it had in World War I, but the German occupation ended this possibility. Indeed, British and French forces were planning to invade Norway to access vital resources in Sweden and hopefully create a front of the war there, as well as to place mines in the sea off the Norwegian coast - it seemed as though Norway's hopes for neutrality were doomed entirely. Germany invaded first, for many of the same reasons, and with the additional hope of showing itself to be a true pan-Germanic empire.
Though the German forces may have expected to coexist with Norwegians for reasons of ancestry, the Norwegians' sense of patriotism and honor had them participate instead in a robust resistance.
Norway's resistance fighters were numerous and, unlike those in other occupied countries, almost completely united. There were no divisions within resistance fighters and there was a fierce sense of patriotism, directed toward the country of Norway itself and toward its king, who continued to be honored even as he lived in exile. The Norwegian secret army was known as Milorg, and it originally focused on collecting intelligence. The British Special Operations Executive wished for Milorg to participate in sabotage, though the Norwegian organization originally refused based on the harm activities of this kind had caused to civilians in other occupied countries. Eventually, Milorg did engage in sabotage - including the destruction of a heavy water factory and destroying a ferry boat transporting heavy water in 1943 and 1944. Heavy water was a necessary part of the Nazis' nuclear aspirations, and Norway played a serious role in preventing these from coming to fruition.
The church in Norway also played an important role in encouraging and sustaining resistance. Lutheran officials were, at the time, civil servants, which put them in the position of being expected to follow government mandates. Instead, ministers and bishops resisted the attempt of the Nazi government to change their liturgical practices. At one time, officials even asked ministers to violate confidentiality with their parishioners and disclose what people had confessed to them. Bishops and preachers were also warned not to preach against the regime and to take what the Nazis told them and preach along those lines only. The church was not compliant. Indeed, Eivind Berggrav, then the bishop of Oslo, flatly refused to comply with Nazi orders. He was arrested and lived in exile from 1942 to the end of the war, but met secretly with resistance fighters to offer hope, encouragement and strategies.
As the war drew to a close, Russia helped to liberate Norway. Unfortunately, this led to German forces burning and destroying stretches of Finnmark and northern Troms as they retreated. In the wake of this destruction, occupants of northern Norway had no choice but to evacuate - or to hide and hope for the best. For this reason, many northern Norwegians ended up in the southern part of the country at war's end, and some stayed. Others, however, made it back home and rebuilt - which you'll see ample evidence of on your Norway cruise that takes you through the history of Norway's occupation years.