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Op-Ed: Norwegian Collaborators Persecuted Jews in Holocaust

Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Eirik Veum of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, who wrote "The Fallen" about Norwegians in SS and other Nazi units. For International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Published: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 11:54 PM



There were probably more Norwegian collaborators than resistance fighters.
“My three books about Norwegian collaboration with the German occupiers during the Second World resulted in new information about how Norwegians were involved in the persecution of Jews. Male and female Norwegians participated in various German SS and army units. Out of around 5,500 Norwegian volunteers, 852 were killed.

“In 'The Fallen', published in 2009, I reveal names, ages and where those killed fell.  Some Norwegians in German units from the Waffen-SS and later in Sonderkommandos (special commands) in Eastern Europe, were watching as Ukrainians and Germans killed Jews.

"Norwegians were also involved in searching for Jews. I discovered a case where Norwegians found a Jew in a house and brought him into the street. Thereafter he was shot, yet we do not know by whom.

"Due to my book, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel will try to ascertain whether Norwegians participated in actual murders.”

Eirik Veum is a Norwegian journalist working for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, NRK.

“This book and the next two sold well. Reactions were mixed however. Several historians claimed that my topics should be dealt with by historians and not by a journalist. One then wonders why no historian had ever investigated this issue in almost seventy years.

"Some family members of the Norwegian volunteers had no problem with the fact that I disclosed names of their relatives. They believed that the truth should become public, even if it was harsh. They felt that people were only responsible for their own deeds. Others said that we had dishonored their families by identifying relatives by name. Others stated that Norwegian collaborators with the Nazis had dishonored their families’ name.

"This debate was intense and its pattern returned after my two subsequent books were published. It is interesting to note that more energy was devoted to discussing the issue of the [public] identification of these people, than to their actions.

“In October 2013, a 91 year old Norwegian volunteer in the SS Viking division – which consisted of volunteers from countries occupied by Germans – gave an interview to NRK. He said that he together with other soldiers, had gathered hundreds of locals in the Ukraine into a church and burnt them there, while they watched. It was the first time that a Norwegian volunteer publicly admitted to participating in a war crime.

“My second book, 'Merciless Norwegians-The State Police', was published in October 2012. As its title states, it investigated the Norwegian State Police which cooperated with the Gestapo. The Norwegian Justice Department had registered all of Norway’s Jews. Marks were put in their identity papers.

"The State Police – dressed in Norwegian uniforms – arrested male Jews in October 1942, and assembled them in a prison camp. Norwegian guards there were often very cruel.

“The valuables of the arrested Jews were collected and sometimes stolen by the State Police. A month later, women and children were also arrested by State Police. The State Police brought all 771 arrested Jews to the Oslo harbor. Near the ship called Donau, they transferred most of the Jews to the Germans who took them to Stettin in Germany. Almost all were murdered, and only 34 returned.

“Some Norwegian national socialists were jailed because the Germans considered them far too cruel. State Police members executed several resistance fighters without trial. Sometimes the Germans had to clean the blood after these shootings. After this book was published, some historians as well as family members of these criminals wanted to take me to court because I had published classified information breaking privacy rules. My lawyers managed to stop this.

“My third book published in October 2013 had as its title, 'Merciless Norwegians –Hird'. It investigated the paramilitary Hird youth organization, created by the Norwegian Nazi Party Nasjonal Samlung in 1933. It had between 20,000 and 28,000 members, some of whom were very young. A number of them were involved in arresting Jews all over the country together with the Norwegian SS. Several of them also stole Jewish valuables.    

“The Germans brought Yugoslav resistance fighters and civilians to six prison camps in Norway. Hird members were used as guards. Some of them were indescribably cruel. They shot prisoners for fun. Some bound rats and prisoners together. When the rats got hungry, they ate the prisoner who died. After ten months, the Germans took the Norwegians out of the camps because of their cruelty. Thereafter, the prisoners’ situation improved.

“After the war, Norwegians who had committed criminal acts and could be identified by surviving resistance members, were given long prison sentences. As only a few Jews had survived, Norwegians who had committed crimes against Jews could usually not be identified. Some stolen Jewish properties were never returned and are still held by Norwegian families.”

Veum concludes: “There were probably more Norwegian collaborators than resistance fighters. Much more remains to be researched. I believe that there may be Norwegian criminals from that period who are still alive and who have never been prosecuted for war crimes they were involved in.”