Revue d’histoire nordique, issue 17/2013

I recently received issue 17 of the Revue d’Histoire Nordique / Nordic Historical Review. This issue is dedicated to World War II as seen from the Nordic Countries, with a special focus on Norway. The selection of articles is quite varied, and contains:

. A presentation of WW II in Norway, as written by Svein Erling Lorås. Lorås draws a detailed picture of Norwegian memories related to the war, bringing forward the latest commemorations and their glorification of the Norwegian Resistance. The author quickly points in the direction of a more critical approach of Norway’s participation in the war, studies which would consider the fate of Jews, the negotiations between Norwegian personalities and the German occupiers, communist resistance, prisoners of war and volunteers in German service. From this short account, Norway appears like one more potentially fertile ground for new studies related to the war itself, but also and maybe even more substantially to the memory of the war.

. Nicolas Schwaller takes the task head on in the following contribution, that deals with the destruction of Norwegian Jews. The article meticulously exposes, first the nature of the Jewish community in Norway before the war, then the mechanism put into place by the German occupiers and the Norwegian collaborationist government to put the Final Solution in motion in Norway. Here again, pretty much like in France, the author points to the obvious: occupation by Germany was a prerequisite to the extermination of Norwegian Jews, but without the willing cooperation of the Norwegian authorities this undertaking would have been impossible to achieve for the German forces alone. Once again a striking similarity with France, the enthusiasm of Quisling’s government for the realization of a nyordning free from “plutocracy” and Jews did convince many to accompany the Nazi policy of extermination, and even to go beyond it. Exterminationist zeal was fueled by the occupation, but also by the ideology which arrived in power with Quisling, the enthusiasm of some groups (the henchmen of the Nasjonal samling, for example), and a general atmosphere of suspicion towards Jews. After the war, the glorification of the few resistance acts in this domain cannot hide the extent to which Quisling’s Norway participated in the extermination.

. Torleiv Austad, in the third contribution to the volume, develops the role of the Church in Norway during the occupation period. Austad describes how the Norwegian Church moved from cautious collaboration with the occupying authorities to open resistance to the occupying authorities: on Easter 1942, almost 800 pastors resigned their posts to protest against the occupation, refusing to cooperate with the Nazi authorities. This resistance is mostly linked, according to Austad, to the Norwegian Church’s attachment to the legal and human rights of the population. The Church, first passive towards the fate of Norwegian Jews, started to protest against their treatment in October 1942.

. In the fourth contribution, Hans Otto Frøland and Anders Lervold describe the fate of Soviet and French forced workers sent to Norway. These workers were channeled through the forced labor programme of the Third Reich into Norway, to help with the production of aluminium for the German aviation industry. A small insert at the end reminds the reader of the main contours of the “Organisation Todt“, the Nazi German paramilitary engineering organization which worked also in Norway.

. Lars Borgersud then presents a comparative view of resistance movements in Denmark and in Norway.  To his main question (why did Danish resistance become increasingly violent during the war when Norwegian resistance was more an operation of civil resistance?), he answers by reminding the reader of the differences in the perception of these resistance movements amongst the Allies. On the Norwegian side, the fight (even if highly symbolic) of the Norwegian army in 1940 and the delivery to the Allies of Norway’s fleet meant that Norway’s resistance was considered as closer to the Allies. The Danes, on the other hand, hadn’t put up that much of a fight in 1940, and the local resistance felt it had to show more visibly its commitment.

. Finally, Ville Kivimäki brings to the surface the traumatic experiences of the Finnish soldiers involved in the 1939-1940 Winter War. Suppressed by a society eager to look up to models of masculinity and forget the horrors of the conflict, these mental disorders manifested themselves during and after the conflict through various physical (uncontrolled shaking…) and mental troubles. Kivimäki describes the extent of these syndromes, but also the reaction of the Army and the creation on the field of a branch of military psychiatry to conceptualize and deal with these troubles.

In the varias, one can find an article especially interesting for readers interested in private/personal diplomacy: the description by Kristine Midtgaard of the Danish diplomat and woman activist Bodil Begtrup’s activities in the League of Nations. A fascinating aspect of Midtgaard’s paper is the way she shows how Begtrup used the networks and knowledge accumulated in the League during the 1930s to inform her work in the United Nations after 1945. Often postulated, this link between the two organizations is rarely shown that clearly and in such an operative manner.

Two other articles complete this collection of varias: an article by Lasse Sonne, who comes back on the relations between Nordic Economic Interest Organizations and Nordic Economic Co-operation in the late 1960s, when the NORDEK project was discussed; and a paper by Florian Ferrebeuf describing the rise of social-democracy in Eastern Prussia during the later half of the 19th century.

This issue ends up with a presentation of Régis Boyer’s career (including a description of the book-deposit he did to the Paris-based Fonds Nordique), a series of book reviews, and the text of Aladin Larguèche’s PhD defense on Norwegian intellectual history.

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