Sweden in World War II - across borders

Communication in Norway

In 2010-2011 media reported about the role and usefulness of Internet services and mobile phones during events with mass demonstrations in foremost northern Africa.

As a comparison: How did the communication in Norway work during the five years of occupation?

First a short simplified overview over the first years, foremost based on one source: a chapter written by Ole Kristian Grimnes, University of Oslo, Norway. [s58]

In a way there were two occupations of Norway. One was the German armed forces who militarily occupied Norway, and succeeded after two months of battle. The other was the nazification of Norway, initially foremost led by the Norwegian Quisling and the nazi party Nasjonal Samling (NS).

After the German military victory the NS began the nazification, under control by foremost the German reichskommissar Terboven. Among the first moves was to nazify local government. The number of party members grew from around 4,200 in August 1940 to the highest number of 43,400 in November 1943. The NS managed to recruit many policemen, and the police became the most nazified public service during the war. [s58]

The first resistance was more of civilian reactions, directed at the Norwegian nazis. Sometimes more or less spontaneous local reactions, like disturbing nazi speeches and writing slogans on walls - with the risk of being assaulted by the Norwegian nazi Hird. Other times more coordinated activities in the nazi-controlled mountaineous long and narrow country - with nazi-controlled radio, mail and press, and not so many telephones. [s58]

Towards the end of 1940 the new Nazi Ministry of Labor and Sport decided that all sports organisations should belong to their Sports Union. The result was that all sport organisations in Norway stopped to exist. No public sport events were arranged for the rest of the occupation, except those arranged by the nazis (and the secretly arranged Norwegian events). [s58]

The supreme court resigned in December 1940, after nazi activities against the courts independence. [s58]

The various religious groups had begun to form a united front towards nazism. On 15 January 1941 a protest letter was sent to the Minister of Church Affairs, that among others pointed out the problems to maintain the relationship between the church and the state now that the state no longer respected the law. No answer. A sharper protest was handed to the minister, which resulted in an unsatisfying reply. The correspondance was published in 50,000 copies, of which the police seized 20,000. The rest was spread, some more copies made - and priests read the texts from the pulpits. [s58]

On 3 April 1941 a protest letter was sent to Terboven from 22 organisations (among others labor unions), against the nazification of the public sector. The answer was to try to bring these organisations under the regimes control or to eliminate them. Such protests were illegal resistance. [s58]

Another protest letter was sent on 15 May, regarding a number of decisions by nazi ministers that "were openly contrary to international law, Norwegian law and the Norwegian sense of justice". This letter was signed by 43 organisations. The result was the same as after the first protest letter. The leaders of 9 organisations were arrested, 11 organisations were dissolved and the rest (except the national federation of trade unions, LO) were imposed nazi or pro-nazi leaders. [s58]

On 30 June the LO sent a protest letter about their now very limited possibilities to protect the members interests. After a series of strikes in Oslo the Germans declared a state of emergency, and arrested most of the LO leaders and replaced them. Two of the leaders were executed. [s58]

Many members in the organisations resigned, while others discontinued their work and stopped attending organisation activities. Instead clandestine organisations were formed, and these began to establish contacts with each other. [s58]

A new Quisling government took form on 1 February 1942, and was on the offensive. [s58]

On 5 February new laws stated that all youths 10-18 years old should participate in national youth service, and that all teachers should be members of a nazi professional organisation. Thousands of teachers and thousands of parents sent protest letters, and the teachers were threathened with dismissal. They didn't change their view, and on 20 March 1942 roughly 1,300 teachers around Norway were arrested or detained. In the second half of April 500 of them were shipped to northernmost Norway for hard labor until the autumn. [s58]

14 February - A protest against the proposed youth service from the bishops, with the support of the major religious organisations. An incident where a dean was dismissed made all the bishops resign their official posts in protest. They were placed under police surveillance, and then arrested. [s58]

The bishops letter of protest had been read in most pulpits on 1 March, and got support by the pastors. Several pastors were dismissed. [s58]

Easter service in early April 1942: nearly all pastors in office read a declaration to their congregations, and then resigned from their official posts. The church had cut the link between state and church, and functioned as a self-administring entity. [s58]

Youth clubs with tens of thousands of members ceased to function, shipowners and lawyers acted, and such activities started other activities among the people. For example collecting money for the resistance activities. The anti-nazi attitude spread in Norway. [s58]

In September 1942 many workers in nazified trade unions and most members in several economic organisations resigned or threatened to resign as protest. Then the Germans made a fast intervention and threatened with drastic reprisals, and resignations were withdrawn. [s58]

By now the civilian home front leadership had been established, with contacts with the Norwegian government-in-exile in Britain. The activities against the occupation would be more coordinated and follow new directions. (There was also a military resistance movement.) [s58]

The Germans and Norwegian nazi people took control of the Norwegian media (radio and newspapers). Besides 'mouth to ear' communication, the only not-nazi controlled information came from British radio and 'illegal' Norwegian newspapers. More than 330 illegal newspapers were published in Norway during the war [s47]. Most of them didn't survive so long 'on the market', due to the work of Gestapo and Norwegian collaborators. They could consist of one to more duplicated pages, and issued for example a couple of times per week or once or twice a month. They could be printed in some hundreds, or some thousands. Access to information, a secret place to print and paper were important factors. The distribution of the newspapers was one of the dangerous activities. Illegal newspapers were sometimes also thrown into German military camps.

From early on during the occupation it was permitted only to listen to nazi-controlled radio stations, but this was difficult to control. In August-September 1941 it became illegal for Norwegians to possess radio receivers, and to listen to radio. The radio receivers should be handed over to the authorities. This was a setback, since many Norwegians had listened to the Norwegian and British broadcasts on BBC. [s47]

Many Norwegians kept radio receivers, and many were hidden in a wide variety of solutions. There were also thefts from where the confiscated radios were kept, and also resistance members who had some kind of access to these and to spare parts. One problem was that many illegal radio receivers were powered by batteries that had to be recharged regularly [s47].

On 1 February 1942 a ceremony was held in Oslo, where the Norwegian nazi Vidkun Quisling was installed as 'minister president' for a national government who took over the authority from the Norwegian king and government who had fled from Norway in June 1940. The information about this change was kept secret, meant to be a big news in the German-controlled press just before the ceremony. But, in Stavanger for example, hundreds of leaflets about this political change were spread the night before the newspapers were issued - with 'instructions' to the Norwegians how to react to this political change. [s46]

From the late summer 1942 and almost three months on, Gestapo hit the illegal newspapers in the Stavanger area. 70-80 persons were arrested. Two of them commited suicide while in German custody, to be sure not to reveal their many secrets. A handful others managed to escape to Sweden. Since some persons were involved in various illegal activities, Gestapo also struck the military organisation Milorg. In June 1943 most of those arrested in Stavanger were sent to Germany, where several died in German concentration camps. [s46]

During the war a number of messages were spread to the Norwegians via secret channels, among others in connection with the conflicts between Germans and Norwegian nazi's opposed by Norwegian teachers, priests and bishops, and youths and students.

On 30 November 1943 1,200 students and academic teachers were arrested in Oslo, and the plan was to send them to Germany. [s60]

During the war in Norway lots of mail was read by the Norwegian intelligence people while underway by the postal function, and telephone lines were tapped.

2012-10-19. www.granfoss.se. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss