Sweden in World War II - across borders

Norwegian intelligence

The Norwegian intelligence during World War II had a focus on information about German activities in Norway, such as troops, ships, constructions for military use, and much more. In southern Norway the gathering of information began early after the German attack, and efforts made to send information to the Allies - since the Norwegians were expecting an Allied invasion. Noone thought that it would take five years of occupation until Norway was a free nation again. Networks were established over time, and the secret work of gathering and transporting information was improved. The information could be everything from short messages to larger reports.

Changes in participants, organization, contacts et cetera changed over time, most often caused by the work of the Germans and Norwegian collaborators.

One wish was that people involved in the intelligence work should not have contact with others who were involved in other secret activities like military resistance or illegal press. However that was hard to obtain.

A hub for information was the Norwegian legation in Stockholm, Sweden, and its department MI II. There were also Norwegians who had contact with the British legation in Stockholm. [s44]

Courier routes were established, and most of them crossed the border between Norway and Sweden. [s44]

The Norwegian intelligence had many sources. Telephones were tapped and the conversations written down, and lots of mail to German and Norwegian receivers were checked. The information was sent to Sweden as coded messages or were photographed and sent as undeveloped films. From Oslo, as an example, two films of each set were sent to Stockholm and one was kept in Oslo. Also policemen, alone or in groups, helped with information. Some of these policemen escaped to Sweden during the war. [s45]

Local information from areas in southern Norway was sent to the central in Oslo, where it was put together in suitable ways. It was sent hidden on the train to Stockholm, often as microfilm or sent with a courier. Norwegians in Sweden or Swedes brought the information to MI II in Stockholm. From northern and eastern Norway the information usually was sent directly to Sweden, where many Swedes helped to forward it to MI II. From the coastal villages in the north the messages could be transported with ship to Trondheim, and on to Sweden via Oslo. The trains between Narvik and Sweden were also frequently used. [s44]

Information from the Rogaland district was sent to Sweden either by trains or coastal ships to Oslo and on to Sweden, or with the regular Sweden-couriers. [s46]

A number of photos were also sent via Stockholm. (Another source for the Norwegian and Allied military was thousands of photos taken from Norwegian and Allied planes during attacks on Norway.) [s44]

The British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) was active in Norway too, in cooperation with the Norwegian Defence department in London, among others with the establishment of radio operators. These were often Norwegians who had left Norway earlier to join Allied forces. They were sent to Norway by ship or plane, or via Sweden. Several of them later escaped via Sweden. Radio operators often sent urgent and shorter messages to receivers in London. (On the northern coast there were radio operators working for the Soviet Union.) [s44]

In the early years the Norwegian and the British military offices worked without cooperation in finding contacts, information channels et cetera in the occupied Norway. [s46]

In 1941 an information and courier organisation was established also in the Norwegian police force. In 1941-1942 Harald Hansen in Stavanger also led the local work to plan for a police organisation that would be established as the German occupants left Norway. Also this plan went to Norwegian authorities in London via Stockholm in Sweden. (It was approved and recommended as a guideline for all of Norway.) [s46]

In the summer of 1941 the Norwegian legation in Stockholm opened a special office, and from summer 1942 there was a systematic interrogation of new Norwegian refugees at the Norwegian camps in Sweden. This had the purpose to obtain information, but also to find enemy infiltrators. Totally 1460 persons were rejected as not true Norwegians. The Swedish police placed such persons in detention, from where it was not so difficult to escape. Those who remained in such detention often got leave for shorter periods. So, it was easy for such persons to contact Germans in Sweden of get back to Norway. In some cases the Norwegians instead sent such persons by plane to Britain. [s45]

With the German pressure on Sweden, and Swedes who symphatized with Germany and with nazi political belief, the Norwegians had to be cautios in among others Stockholm. Especially during the first years of World War II. Several supporters, and other contacts, did not want to be seen in connection to the Norwegian offices. Naturally the Norwegians used various sites for such contacts.

In the second half of 1942 almost all resistance organisations in the Rogaland district of western Norway had been practically destroyed by Gestapo and other organisations. In early 1943 two resistance workers, who had fled to Sweden in the autumn, came back to Stavanger to reestablish the intelligence work for the XU. The two by Gestapo wanted men needed to find new contacts to gather intelligence, to form new routes for messages to Sweden, and all the rest. They went back to Sweden in March 1943, when a new local man could take over. [s46]

For refugees, couriers and other Norwegians, Sweden could seem as a place to relax. But, there were various dangers. There were people who worked for the enemies, and also the Swedish police.

An elder Norwegian man stood at the railing on a coastal steamer. Then he heard a whisper from behind: "Your son is safe in Sweden.". A courier was 'back home' on a mission, and had recognized the elder man. The elder man did not turn around - it could be a danger to both to see the courier. But he was relieved from the message.

In 1943 the Swedish neutrality shifted to more positive to Norway and the Allies, and it was unofficially accepted that Norway established courier bases on the Swedish side of the border in exchange for intelligence information. [s44]

Later during the war, the Norwegian couriers between Norway and Sweden were helped unofficially by Sweden for their journeys between the border and Stockholm. The Norwegian radio contact between Sweden and the home front in Norway was also assisted by Sweden. [s58]

In November-December 1943 another Norwegian courier from Sweden visited the Rogaland area again, both the regular contacts and a radio operator that got new codes and instructions. During this visit to Norway he spent his nights on some 50 different places. [s46]

The Norwegian intelligence radio station Brunhild was in operation from 6 December 1943 until the end of the war, situated at the Norwegian base Kari - in Torneträsk on the Swedish side of the border. [s44]

In March 1944 one of the couriers was back in Stavanger again, among others to reestablish the connection between one area and Stockholm. With him from Sweden he had 6-7 trunks with type writers, cameras, binoculars, maps, weapons, ammunition and other items for the illegal work in the Stavanger area. [s46]

The task of handling the information in Stockholm about infiltrators, for use in Norway, was developed from the summer of 1944 and became the office for 10 employees. (There was not room for more.). Swedish authorities arranged courses for Norwegians in so called criminal investigation work. Until mid March 1945 around 2000 reports with names of Norwegian informers to the Germans had been made. The staff and their archieves were sent to Oslo a few days after World War II ended in Norway. The register of persons that ought to be handled legally due to activities for the enemy during the German occupation had a content of almost 20,000 names. [s45]

During the late summer 1944 the Norwegian military intelligence office in Stockholm who handled Norwegian home front issues, MI IV, began to operate a secret radio connection with Oslo. [s45]

The number of intelligence reports sent via Stockholm to London was in 1943 3664, in 1944 10400, and during the first four months of 1945 4250 reports. XU was the largest Norwegian intelligence organization, and reports from XU could sum up to over 1000 typewrited pages per week during 1944. [s44]

At the end of World War II in Europe, it was uncertain how the strong German forces in Norway would act. Would they continue the fighting or capitulate? For any event the Allies had access to information about the German Wehrmacht in Norway collected by some 5500 agents during five years. [s44]

Many years after the war ended, a former German soldier visited Stockholm. At a restaurant he was approached by a Norwegian who recognized him. The Norwegian could tell where he had worked as a German guard along the border between Sweden and Norway, that he used to smoke a cigarette at a certain place and what melody he used to whistle.

2013-10-27. www.granfoss.se. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss