Knowledge of the past gives us the power to change the future.
This will be the last post from my book challenge, and I have focused on truth this time. I remember an old man I talked to many years ago saying that it takes 50 years for the truth to come out after a war. I think he meant that we were almost there, but we may never learn everything. It’s exactly 70 years since World War 2 ended and we are still learning new things.
The first book I read after my last book challenge-update was last year’s Christmas present from wife, Operation Blumenpflücken. The Norwegian homefront and other resistance groups, like the communists, had assassinated more and more Nazis, mostly Norwegians that were prominent in their community. In 1944 the Nazis decided to initiate counter-terrorism and they called it Operation Blumenpflücken. These were some seriously scary people, and the order most likely came from Hitler himself after a meeting between the Führer and Josef Terboven (the Reichskommissar for Norway during the war) in May 1944.
The German policeman Albert Weiner was chosen as the leader of this operation. He came from a poor family and had not less than 17 siblings. The scary thing is that he studied theology, but his parents couldn’t afford to pay for the whole education, so he eventually became a policeman. His first assignment was to monitor religious groups in Germany, especially the new faith movement that was founded in 1933 (Deutsche Glaubensbewegung). This wasn’t anything like the faith movement today, but sounds like some mumbo jumbo that took elements from German literature and Hinduism.
I have a great deal of respect for the men and women that worked for the resistance. Einar Hærland was one of them. He had other plans. He married in 1938 and finished the military academy the next year. They bought a stove and a sewing machine by installments and could finally start living together, and have children. Einar was to play an important part in the defense of Northern Norway, and the men he commanded did an amazing job together with French, British and Polish troops. These allied forces won the battle of Narvik, but then withdrew, which allowed the Germans to take this strategically important town. They did this with the help from Sweden, which transported German soldiers and heavy equipment through Sweden and across the border on their railroad.
He later worked as police officer and head of the civil air defense in Oslo, which was a cover for a lot of anti-Nazi work. He also had close contact with the double agent Ola Fritzner. He was a member of NS (Quisling’s party) and a high-ranking Nazi-officer with close ties to the Gestapo-management. This allowed him to invite some of the high profile Nazis home, but even the homefront didn’t know the whole story. One of the things they didn’t know was that Fritzner was linked to Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which later became CIA. I suspect that some of these people were just as scary as the worst Nazis, but that might be necessary to fight evil.
Sigurd Emil Roll and his family was also interesting. He was born in Chicago by Norwegian parents, and he moved to Norway in 1929. As a resistance man he worked closely with Ola Fritzner and OSS.
They were constantly being threatened and reminded that the Nazis were following them, and when it looked like they were about to be arrested, one of his sons escaped in his sailboat to Scotland. He eventually made it to the USA where he trained with First Special Service Force in Montana. He fought against the Nazis in Europe and was especially useful in Italy as he had spent parts of his childhood in Italy. There’s an old expression that goes something like this: It’s boys like that old Norway wants. I think it referred to the young men serving in the military. Today we could add women too, and sons. I especially like what 18 year old Finn Roll did.
I also read Arquebus kaller London (Arquebus calling London) this month. This book wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was still well worth reading. Arquebus was a legendary agent that sent and received messages from London, and he appears in this book, but this is a book about the resistance in the Haugesund area in general. One of the first things the British wanted to know was whether the Germans were planning on building an airport here. There were rumours that this was going to be the base for a massive attack on Britain, and that may very well have been the plan. Norway seems to have fallen easily, but Hitler lost some of his biggest war ships during those few days in April, and I think that may have frustrated Hitler’s plans for Britain. There was a significant British presence here during the first weeks of the war, and preventing an attack on Britain may have been Churchill’s motivation.
But there was a lot of resistance in this area. Norway didn’t have a standing army, but there was no shortage of young men wanting to fight. They tried to muster an army, but there were more soldiers than weapons, and they were surrounded by 3000 German soldiers + navy and airforce. The situation was the same all over the country, so they did the only sensible thing. They surrendered. There was still a complete military organization with a chain of command. Arquebus communicated with the Norwegian exile-government in London and the British military, and based on these reports the British Airforce flew over the mountains in the area and dropped weapons, everything needed to make bombs, and food. There was also a lot of traffic at sea and a slow moving fishing boat could make the trip to Shetland in 24 hours.
The last book I’d like to mention this time is Hvem drepte Jan Wiborg? (Who killed Jan Wiborg?). It’s difficult convincing people that a conspiracy is possible in Norway. Things like that simply doesn’t happen here, which is a perfect environment for these kinds of shady bussinesses.
The Norwegian parliament decided to appoint an investigation commission in April 2000. This was supposed to uncover whether or not the government had committed a murder. I’m not going to present all the suspicious facts in this case, but there’s no denying the fact that nothing in this case makes any sense. When the government asked for the best qualified and most independent professional that could evaluate the National Weather Service’s calculation about fog, everyone pointed to Jan Wiborg. So he was given the job of assessing the job the weather service had done because there had been allegations that they were wrong. This was a conflict between two possible locations for a new main airport for Eastern Norway. There was a lot of money involved and even the politicians at the time said that the process of deciding where to build the airport had been very ruthless.
The author of this book has made a convincing argument and raised some interesting questions. Just as Wiborg was going to publish the evidence of a cover up he claimed to have, he supposedly goes to Copenhagen with the purpose of jumping out a window, and the brief case that never left his sight was never found. It’s pretty obvious that neither Danish or Norwegian police wanted this suicide investigated. The case made a short come back in the news last year when this book was published. A Norwegian TV-journalist went to Copenhagen to cover the story for TV2 when this happened in 1994. He re-enacted a murder theory and concluded that suicide was the only logical explanation. This was considered to be such a strong evidence that Norwegian media dropped the story.The local police chief in Denmark even used this journalist as a witness saying he was justified in closing the case without any investigation.The problem is that the journalist, according to the author of this book, went to the wrong hotel. It was a sister hotel 550 meters down the street with a different door lock system.
I have written extensively about remembrance culture in previous posts, especially related to World War 2. We are still getting new information. When the Norwegian State Railways had an anniversary in 1998 they stated that they extended the railways 432 km farther north in Nordland county during the war, the fastest expansion in the history of the state railways. They didn’t say that the Nazis used 13 000 Russian POW’s to accomplish this, and this information was added in a book this year.
The Norwegian government did a lot of good during the war, opposing Hitler. I’m not sure post-war governments deserve the same respect. Yesterday was Liberation Day. In another week we are celebrating our Constitution Day. I think the focus will be on the stand we have taken against evil, but there isn’t much honour in the mess the authorities have made of the sacrifices many individual heroes made. It’s really astonishing what these people did. They joined the organised resistance, which was an underground army commanded from London, and some stayed in the military after the war too. But they were mostly civilians, fishermen, farmers, teachers, policemen, factory workers etc. They went up against an overwhelming force, and because enough people did this across Europe, Hitler’s technological advantage didn’t help him. These people realised that Hitler was a threat to individual as well as national freedom, and they were willing to make some extreme sacrifices.