Military Administration of Norway
Flag of Germany 1933 Reichsadler
Location Norway
 -  Reichskommissar Josef Terboven
 -  1940 census 130,000 
Currency Reichsmark

Template:Norway during World War II Template:Campaignbox Nazi occupation of Norway Template:Scandinavia in World War II Starting with the invasion of April 9, 1940, Norway was under military occupation of German forces and civil rule of a German commissioner in collaboration with a pro-German puppet government. The occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany ended May 8, 1945, after the capitulation of German forces in Europe.

This period of occupation — usually referred to as the "war years" or "occupation period" in Norway — had defining significance for Norwegian society, and it is only recently that Norway considers itself as having passed out of the "post-war era."

Background Edit

See also Plan R 4

Having maintained its neutrality during World War I, Norwegian foreign and military policy since 1933 was largely influenced by three factors:

  • Fiscal austerity promoted by the conservative parties
  • Pacifism promoted by the Norwegian Labour Party
  • A doctrine of neutrality, on the assumption that there would be no need to bring Norway into a war if she remained neutral

These three factors met resistance as tensions grew in Europe in the 1930s, initially from Norwegian military staff and right-wing political groups, but increasingly also from individuals within the mainstream political establishment and, it has since come to light, by the king, behind the scenes. By the late 1930s, the Norwegian parliament had accepted the need for a strengthened military and expanded the budget accordingly, even by assuming national debt. As it turned out, most of the plans enabled by the budgetary expansion were not completed in time.

Although the principle of neutrality had been held sacrosanct until the invasion was a fait accompli, it was known throughout the government that Norway, above all, did not want to be at war with the United Kingdom. By the autumn of 1939, there was an increasing sense of urgency that Norway had to prepare to not just protect its neutrality but indeed to fight for its "freedom and independence." Efforts to improve military readiness and capability, and to sustain an extended blockade, were intensified between September of 1939 and April of 1940. Several incidents in Norwegian maritime waters, notably the Altmark incident in Jøssingfjord, put great strains on Norway's ability to assert its neutrality.

Norway managed to negotiate favorable trade treaties both with the United Kingdom and Germany under these conditions, but it became increasingly clear that both countries had a strategic interest in denying the other access to Norway.

Invasion Edit

See also Operation Weserübung

Through folly both on the part of the Norwegian foreign minister Halvdan Koht and minister of defense Birger Ljungberg, Norway was largely unprepared for the German military invasion when it came on the night between April 8 and April 9, 1940. The first hostile action by all accounts was the sinking of the German vessel Rio de Janeiro on April 7th by Polish submarine "Orzel"; Norwegian forces were only partly mobilized to meet the threat.

Norway had claimed neutrality as in World War I, but had been pressured by Great Britain to direct increasingly large parts of its massive merchant fleet to transport British goods at low rates, as well as to join the trade blockade against Germany (See books by E.A. Steen, Gudrun Ræder, Johan O. Egeland). In April 1940, the British also mined Norwegian territorial waters. According to The Race for Norway, an account by Francois Kersaudy, in March–April 1940 France and Britain also had made plans for an invasion of Norway.

On the pretext that Norway needed protection from British and French interference, Germany invaded Norway for several reasons: strategically, to secure ice-free harbours from which naval forces could seek to control the North Atlantic; to secure the availability of iron ore from mines in Sweden, going through Narvik; to pre-empt a British and French invasion with the same purpose; and to reinforce the propaganda of a Germanic empire.

Consistent with the doctrine of Blitzkrieg, German forces attacked Norway by sea and air in Operation Weserübung starting April 9, 1940. On establishing a foothold in Oslo and Trondheim, they launched a ground offensive against scattered resistance inland in Norway. Allied forces attempted several counterattacks, but all failed. While military resistance in Norway had little military success, they had the significant political effect of allowing the Norwegian government, including the Royal family, to escape and form a government in exile, primarily due to the sinking of the German cruiser Blücher in the Oslofjord on the first day of the invasion, and the pitched battle fought between German forces and an improvised Norwegian position at Midtskogen.

Norwegian mobilisation was hampered by the fact that much of the best equipment was lost to the Germans in the first 24 hours of the invasion, the unclear mobilisation order by the government and the general confusion caused by the tremendous psychological shock of the German surprise attack.

The Norwegian Army rallied after the initial confusion and on several occasions managed to put up a stiff fight, delaying the German advance. However, the Germans proved unstoppable due to their superior training and equipment. Allied reinforcements came too little, too late, and the British and Norwegian Forces were ground down in the Gudbrands valley. The campaign in Southern Norway came to an end on the 2nd of May with the evacuation of British forces and the surrender of the Norwegian 2. Division in Gudbrands valley, 4. Division in Valdres and 5. Division north of Trondheim.

The nature of the occupation Edit

Bundesarchiv Bild 101III-Moebius-029-12, Norwegen, Besuch Himmler, Terboven und Quisling

Heinrich Himmler visited Norway. He is shown here with Quisling and the Nazi gauleiter Josef Terboven who was the effective ruler of Norway during the German occupation. (The man on the far right is General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, the commander of the German forces in Norway.)

Prior to the invasion, Vidkun Quisling, the leader of the Norwegian Nazi party known as Nasjonal Samling (National Gathering) had tried to persuade Adolf Hitler that he would form a government in support of occupying Germans. Although Hitler was unreceptive to the idea, and Quisling's attempt to announce his ascension to power failed, the Nazis allowed him to early assume nominal leadership of the Nazi government in Norway.

Military forces such as the Heer and Luftwaffe remained under direct command from Germany during war years, but all other authority was vested in Reichskommissar Josef Terboven. He attempted to negotiate an arrangement with the remaining members of the Norwegian parliament that would give a Nazi cabinet the semblance of legitimacy, but these talks failed. After this, Quisling was instituted as head of state, though Terboven held the sole means to use violence as a political tool, which he did on several occasions, inter alia by imposing martial law in Trondheim, destroying the village of Telavåg, etc.

Quisling believed that by ensuring economic stability and mediating between the Norwegian civilian society and the German occupiers, his party would gradually win the trust and confidence of the Norwegian population. Membership in Nasjonal Samling did increase slightly in the first few years of the occupation, but never reached significant levels, and eroded towards the end of the war.

The Nazi authorities made attempts to enact legislation that supported its actions and policies, but they banned all political parties except NS, appointed local leaders top down, and forced labour unions and other organizations to accept NS leaders.

Although there was much resistance against most of the Nazi government's policies, there was considerable cooperation in ensuring economic activity and social welfare programs.

Norway was the most heavily fortified country during the war: several hundred thousand German soldiers were stationed in Norway, in a ratio of one German soldier for every eight Norwegians. Most German soldiers considered themselves fortunate to be in Norway, particularly in comparison with those experiencing savage combat duty on the Eastern Front. Approximately 6,000 SS troops were also garrisoned in Norway during World War II, under the command of Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Rediess.

The powerful battleship Tirpitz was stationed in Norway for most of the war, acting as a fleet in being in her own right and tying up huge Allied resources until she was eventually sunk in the last of many attacks.

Resistance, acceptance and collaboration Edit

See main article on the Norwegian resistance movement

It has been estimated that as many as 10% of Norwegians were supportive of the Nazi occupation, though this estimate is uncertain and the support varied throughout the occupation. It is clear that the vast majority of Norwegians were opposed to the occupation, and many resisted it in various ways. This was in large part reinforced by the activism of the government in exile in London, who made regular Norwegian language broadcasts, published news via the underground press, and sponsored commando raids against German targets.

Some Norwegians took part in armed resistance; others provided support for such activities; many Norwegians engaged in various forms of civil disobedience; and many took part in passive resistance efforts. Over time, an organized armed resistance movement was formed under largely unified command. A distinction was made between the home front (Hjemmefronten) and the external front (Utefronten). The home front consisted of guerrilla and clandestine operations; the external front included the operations of Norway's merchant fleet, the Norwegian Navy; Norwegian squadrons under the British Royal Air Force command; and several commando groups operating out of Great Britain and Shetland. The unified command structure was to play an important role in the orderly transfer of power in May 1945.

Of the Norwegians who supported the NS, relatively few were active collaborators. Most notorious among these was Henry Oliver Rinnan, who infiltrated the Norwegian resistance, and tortured and murdered many members. About 15,000 Norwegians volunteered for combat duty on the Nazi side; of the 6,000 sent into action most were sent to the Eastern front.

The Holocaust Edit

Main article: Holocaust in Norway

The arrest, detention, and rendition of Jews in Norway was carried out entirely by Norwegian police.

The Lebensborn and the war children Edit

Main article: Lebensborn

During the five-year occupation several thousand Norwegian women had children fathered by German soldiers in the Lebensborn program. The mothers were ostracized and humiliated after the war both by Norwegian officialdom and the civilian population, and were called names such as tyskertøser (whores of Germans)[1]. The children of these unions received names like tyskerunger (children of Germans) or worse yet naziyngel (Nazi spawn). The debate on the past treatment of these krigsbarn (war children) started with a television series in 1981, but only recently have the offspring of these unions begun to identify themselves.

Refugees Edit

Throughout the war years a number of Norwegians fled the Nazi regime, mostly across the border to Sweden. These included Norwegian Jews, political activists, and others who had reason to fear for their lives. The Nazis set up border patrols to stop these flights across the very long border, but locals who knew the woods found ways to bypass them. These "border pilots", and people who hid refugees in their homes, were among those in the resistance movement who took the greatest risks.

Swedish authorities accepted the refugees and ensured their safety once they had crossed the border, but did little to facilitate their escape. Refugees were often confined to camps where only their basic needs were met. About 50,000 Norwegians fled to Sweden during the war.

In addition to the Jews, members of the resistance movement and other people who had more acute reason to fear for their lives, a great many refugees were men of military age wishing to join the Norwegian armed forces abroad. Before the German invasion of Russia a number of them managed to make their way out of Sweden and travel over Russian territory to England, often via India, South Africa or Canada. After Operation Barbarossa the overland route over Russian soil was closed.

The rest of the refugees were effectively locked up in Sweden for the duration, except for a small number of officers, pilots or other specialists managing to obtain priority on the occasional plane leaving Sweden for England.

In the last two years of the war the Norwegian Government in exile in London obtained permission and cooperation from the Swedish authorities to raise military formations on Swedish territory in the form of the so called "Police troops" recruited from Norwegian refugees. The term "Police" being a cover-up for what in reality was pure military training. These formations, numbering 12,000 men organised into battalions and with their own pioneers, signals and artillery by VE-day, were equipped with Swedish weapons and equipment and trained by Norwegian and Swedish officers.

A number of the "Police troops" were employed in the liberation of Finnmark in the winter of 1944/45 after the area had been evacuated by the Germans. The rest participated in liberation of the rest of Norway after the German surrender in May 1945.

Material scarcity and ingenuity Edit

Norway lost all its major trading partners the moment it was occupied. Germany became the main trading partner, but could not make up for the lost import and export business. Combined with a general drop in productivity, Norwegians were quickly confronted with scarcity of basic commodities, including food. There was a real risk of famine.

Many if not most Norwegians started growing their own crops and keeping their own livestock. City parks were divided among inhabitants, who grew potatoes, cabbage, and other hardy vegetables. People kept pigs, chicken and other poultry in their houses and outhouses. Fishing and hunting became more widespread. Gray and black markets provided for flow of goods. Norwegians also learned to use ersatz products for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from fuel to coffee, tea, and tobacco.

Treason trials Edit

Main article: Legal purge in Norway after World War II

Even before the war ended there was debate among Norwegians about the fate of traitors and collaborators. A few favored a "night of long knives" with extrajudicial killings of known offenders. However, cooler minds prevailed, and much effort was put into assuring due process trials of accused traitors. In the end, 37 people were executed by Norwegian authorities, 25 Norwegians on the grounds of treason, and 12 Germans on the grounds of crimes against humanity. 28,750 were arrested, though most were released for lack of probable cause. In the end, 20,000 Norwegians and a smaller number of Germans were given prison sentences. Seventy-seven Norwegians and 18 Germans received life sentences. A number of people were sentenced to pay heavy fines.

The trials have been subject to some criticism in later years. It has been pointed out that sentences became more lenient with the passage of time, and that many of the charges were based on the unconstitutional[2] and illegal retroactive application of laws.

German POWs Edit

After the war the Norwegian government forced German prisoners of war to clear minefields. When the clearing ended in September 1946, 392 of them had been injured and 275 had been killed, meanwhile only two Norwegians and four British mine-clearers had sustained any injuries.[3] Many of the Germans were killed through their British guards' habit of chasing them criss-cross over a cleared field to ensure that no mines remained.[4] The Norwegians' claim that the German prisoners were Disarmed Enemy Forces circumvented the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, which forbids the use of prisoners of war for harmful or dangerous labor.

Legacy of the occupation Edit

Kongefamilien 1945

Norwegian Royal family waving at the crowds in Oslo upon returning from exile

The occupation had a profound effect on the collective Norwegian psyche. It instilled in many Norwegians an enduring fear of scarcity, which led to a widespread habit of frugality, especially with food. It also educated a generation of Norwegians on proper nutrition.

The adversity strengthened and further defined the Norwegian national identity. The history of the resistance movement may have been glorified excessively, but it has also provided Norwegian military and political leaders with durable role models. The shared hardship of the war years also set the stage for social welfare policies of the post-War Norwegian Labour Party governments. It also led to the abandonment of Norway's neutrality policy, formalized when Norway was a founding member of NATO. Finally, it led to broad political and popular commitment to maintain armed forces large enough to realistically defend the country against any likely threat, as well as to keep those armed forces under firm civilian control.

One can also see some psychological impact on the political decisions made by the Labour government in the following years. Almost the entire cabinet had been prisoners of war, or been fighting in the resistance. This experience may have been formative for the actual policy.

See also Edit

Notes Edit

References Edit


  • Tamelander, Michael and Zetterling, Niklas, (2004) "Den nionde April: Nazitysklands invasion av Norge 1940". Historiska Media. ISBN 91-85057-95-9
  • Stortinget (1946): Instilling av Undersøkelseskommisjonen av 1945
  • Södermann, Harry (1946) "Polititroppene i Sverige". Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, Oslo 1946.
  • Hobson,Rolf & Kristiansen, Tom (2001) Norsk forsvarshistorie, bind 3 (1905–1940), Bergen 2001.

External links Edit


es:Ocupación de Noruega por la Alemania Nazi no:Norge under andre verdenskrig nn:Noreg under andre verdskrigen ru:Норвегия во Второй мировой войне sv:Norge under andra världskriget