The Nazis’ betrayal of Norway and its relevance today

By Hanne Nabintu Herland

Read Hanne’s The Herland Report.

When the president of the Assembly of the League of Nations in 1940, Carl J. Hambro, wrote a book about the German occupation of Norway during World War II, he explained brilliantly the Nazi mentality. Based on a remorseless conviction of national egotism, the essence of the possessive Nazi doctrine was that “it is the best thing for every nation to be ruled by us,” he writes in “I saw it happen in Norway.”

Nations that wished to keep their national sovereignty and cultural identity and refused to be subjugated by German culture and dominion were instantly regarded as an enemy. In the case of Norway, the friendship with Germany had been that of good business relations and strong diplomatic ties. Hambro explains how this now became a dangerous Fifth Column of treacherous, foreign mobilization as the Germans were so well-connected in Norway. German diplomats now acted as “a privileged stable of Trojan horses,” who under the cover of international privileges, in violation of every established code of international honor, had made the German legation in Norway, the consulates and the purchasing agencies a center of conspiracy, espionage, treason and crimes against the sovereign nation of Norway.

The sheer shock for Hambro was that these men, who were considered friends and were received with hospitality and open minds, had developed the most detailed plans for the invasion for years, with the subsequent enslaving of Norwegians. The German tourists and starving children sent as refugees now actually turned out to be agents on secret missions, learning Norwegian, studying Norwegian institutions, with one aim only: Use every confidence given them to pave the way for the conquest of Norway.

On the big political chessboard, Norway is of course of minor interest, but the rare object lesson in “I saw it happen in Norway,” defining the essence of the Nazi worldview is of universal interest. Not the least in our time, as a similar mentality seems to resurface as a strong political force in the West: the remarkably biased propaganda in the media which simply refuses to give voice to other opinions than the official government narrative, the intolerance against diversity of opinion and persecution against those who wish to describe different perspectives, the obsession with race and skin colors as a divider among men, the rigorous authoritarian socialist demand for population groupthink, the use of coercion and fear in order to silence opposition. Not to forget dwindling democracy arguably turning into dictatorships where the corporate elites exercise remarkable control in both politics and business.

Nazi is, of course, an abbreviation for the National Socialist Workers Party in Germany. It was a left-wing, socialist political movement that sought to rebuild Germany after the defeat of World War I. The Nazi Party worked closely with the industrial owners and private corporate capitalist leaders in Germany and other European countries, pushing for a strengthened German army, industry and economy in general. Adolf Hitler was democratically elected in a modern democracy organized with strong state institutions and German efficiency. For example, the building of the modern infrastructure “autobahn,” or German freeways, was the forerunner for the American freeways and road systems that to this day are dominating the world. The many industrial and military developments brought about under the political leadership of the party, brought with it a strong socialist ideology of uniformity with a remarkable focus on race theories and disdain for certain ethnic groups. The attempt to exterminate the Jewish race and other unwanted groups culminated in the horrors of the Holocaust.

The big shock for Carl J. Hambro was that Norway had been such a good friend to Germany. The Germans had constantly proclaiming their sympathy and love for Norway. In every way they had tried to promote liaison and entente, arranging Nordic meetings, inviting Norwegians to Germany, sending German lecturers, actors, singers, men of science to Norway.

Yet, suddenly and without a single warning, “the Germans, under the mask of friendship, tried to extinguish the nation in one dark night, murderously, without any declaration of war, without any warning given. What stupefied the Norwegians more than the act of aggression itself was the national realization that a great power, for years professing its friendship, suddenly appeared a deadly enemy; and the individual realization that men and women with whom one had had intimate business or professional relations, who had been cordially welcomed in one’s home, were spies and agents of destruction.”

Notably, the Nazis did not win World War II. The opposition against them became too massive and led to their defeat.

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