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Norway in WWII

This post features an amazing book called Almost Autumn by Marianne Kaurin. What’s really amazing about Almost Autumn, though, is that it was written in Norwegian and later translated in English.

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Summary: 15-year-old Ilse Kern is sure that this autumn is going to bring about new changes, good changes. Hopefully, specifically, where next door neighbor Hermann Rød is concerned. But with the Nazi occupation and Hermann’s new mysterious classes, that doesn’t seem likely. First, Ilse’s father is taken away, then so is the rest of the family. Now, what will Ilse and Hermann do? Almost Autumn is one of those amazing books written from multiple perspectives. 

On April 9, 1940, Germany launched an amphibious attack against Norway. The Royal Navy was present, and attempted to aid their allies, but the Nazis were triumphant, nonetheless. The Nazis had more than just expanding their land in mind. They hoped to gain 

access to the iron-ore shipments that came in from Norway’s neutral neighbor, Sweden.

It took a mere two months before Norway was forced to surrender. On June 10, 1940, Norwegian King, Haakon VII, Crown Prince Olaf, and the entire government escaped to London. In his place, the Norwegian Nazi party leader (or, I suppose, more accurately put, the Norwegian who founded a party that mimicked the Nazis), Vidkun Quislilng, was named prime minister. Quisling, admittedly, didn’t last real long, because the Nazis quickly set up their own government in Norway, with German commissioner, Josef Terboven, at its head. And we all know what happens thereafter. It was also thanks to Britain’s failure in Norway, that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

It didn’t take long for resentment and, thus, resistance to crop up in the Norwegian people. It started off with in different forms of passive resistance, including acts of general strikes. The Nazi government reacted quickly and fiercely. Martial law was put into place and death sentences rapidly followed for those not cooperating.

As one can imagine, this was all the fuel Norwegians needed to continue their resistance movement. Pretty soon, a fully organized resistance movement was formed, committing a wide range of sabotage.

[German officers during the occupation of Norway]

Norway in WW2 Resistance - Norwegian dictionary


As far as the occupation of Norway is concerned, the Nazis “requisitioned homes, businesses, private property, and schools. Norwegians were not allowed to move around freely; they were not allowed to show any patriotism towards their homeland. This included banning their anthem and their flag.

They also forced the dissemination of Nazi ideologies and symbols. Norwegians were not allowed to listen to non-Nazi approved radio or read non-Nazi newspapers. All throughout their occupation, Nazi soldiers in Norway placed more and harsher roles on the Norwegians, arresting people for minor infractions, even for simply being suspicious.

Everything was rationed. But not in the way that it was in Britain or in America. Food, toys, furniture, clothes were all rationed because the Nazis simply took what they wanted. Sugar, flour, and coffee were the first victims, but by 1942, this list had lengthened to include bread, butter, meat, eggs, and all diary products, even vegetables and potatoes were rationed.

Of course, life was hardest of all for the Norwegian Jews. At the time of the invasion, there were some 1,700 Jews living in Norway (some of whom had escaped to Norway from Germany and Austria back in the ‘30s). Harsh restrictions and treatment were sporadic in the early months of occupation. But, by the fall of 1942, things began in earnest. In early October, all male Jews living in Trondheim were arrested. Then, between October 26 & 27, a total of 260 more male Jews were arrested in Oslo. A month later, in the middle of the night, on November 25, all the remaining Jews were rounded up. Jews were then deported on the Donau, via Auschwitz-Birkenau. In the weeks that followed, more and more Jews throughout the country were rounded up and departed. But, thanks to advance warnings, the Norwegian people were able to help 900 Jews escape to Sweden via the underground. Throughout the occupation, more than 760 Jews were deported by the Nazis. Only 25 of them returned to Norway, the rest were murdered at Auschwitz.

Scariest of all, though, was bomb raids from both sides that leveled towns all throughout Norway. Bomb raids left thousands of Norwegians homeless.

During the invasion of Norway, roughly 1,000 Norwegians were killed as well as nearly 2,000  British, and 500 French and Polish soldiers.

[Below: German infantry attacking through a burning Norwegian village]


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The Battle of Heligoland Bight

On August 28, 1914, conflict broke out between the British and the Germany Navies in the North Sea, at the Battle of Heligoland Bight. This was the first naval battle of the war, and the British Royal Navy designed it “as a means of attacking German patrols in the north-west German coast,” which served as the shelter of several German bases (Source).

Knowing that this was also a good location to start attacks against the British Isles, the British decided to make the first move, formulated by Commodore Roger Keyes. Unfortunately, the Navy didn’t see this as a high priority when Keyes initially conceived of it. Not, that is, until First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, received his post and requested a meeting to rehash the plans.

“Commander Reginald Tyrwhitt was given the task of leading a small fleet of British ships, including two light cruisers, Fearless and Arethusa, and a number of destroyers, into the bight in order to lure German ships to chase them out to sea, where a larger British force, commanded by Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty, would be waiting to confront them” (Source).

[Below: Fog during the Battle of Heligoland Beight]

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At around 7 am, on the 28th, Tyrwhitt’s force began the battle by sinking two German torpedoes. The Germans weren’t exactly surprised by the attack, and “hastily deployed the Frauenlob and the Stettin, joined shortly afterwards by four other light cruisers, including Rear Admiral Mass’s flagship, Koln” (Source).

Thanks to German preparation, the British soon found themselves outgunned. Additionally, the fog allowed the German Navy to better conceal themselves, allowing for better surprise attacks.

By 11:25, Tyrwhitt had to call on Beatty for “immediate assistance” (Source). Beatty was there with support by 12:40. With his aid, the British were able to down 3 German cruisers (the Mainz, Koln, & Ariadne) while badly damaging three more. In all, Germany suffered some 1,200 casualties. Britain, by comparison lost 35 sailors, and not a single ship.

Germany was greatly intimidated by their early Naval defeat. In fact, Kaiser Wilhelm decided that it was best to keep the Navy as a defensive weapon. As the war would continue, their greatest weapon at sea would be the infamous U-boats.

In Britain, meanwhile, the battle had greatly enhanced Beatty’s reputation as a fighting seaman. As a result, he was named Commander of the Grand Fleet by Admiralty Churchill.

[Below: Sinking German destroyer V187]

German destroyer V187 sinking during the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28th August 1914 in the First World War

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