A recent letter to the editor incorrectly stated that Norwegians have little to be proud of, regarding their World War II record. Having edited the book “Hidden Heroes: World War II in Norway,” I believe that most Norwegians who lived in that trying time had much to be proud of.
The occupation of Norway was sudden, but there were thousands of German casualties from the torpedoing of warship Blucher. The Norwegian treasury was smuggled out of the country to keep if from falling into the hands of the Nazis. The government-in-exile fought from British shores and became prepared to re-invade Norway when the time was right. The Norwegian merchant fleet, the third largest in the world at the time, was kept from falling into Nazi control.
Over 1,100 teachers refused to take loyalty oaths to the German government and were sent to prisoner of war camps in Kirkenes. There were continual acts of sabotage on factories, mines and transportation equipment throughout the war. Tens of thousands listened for war news on their contraband radios (under penalty of death) and passed messages for the resistance. Resistance fighters sank the ferry SF Hydro, keeping heavy water from being shipped to Germany for nuclear weapons research.
Many Norwegians have much to be proud of in their resistance to their German invaders. They unselfishly fed their neighbors, wore paperclips (a Norwegian invention) in their lapels to show solidarity, protested with graffiti and acts of defiance against Nazi soldiers and bore unbelievable hardships while trying to survive. Many risked their lives under blackout conditions to escape to Great Britain via the treacherous North Sea, where some then enlisted as Allied soldiers to fight the Nazis. Little Norway was a Canadian airbase where the Norwegian military-in-exile trained.
Norwegian immigrants to the United States aided their former countrymen by sending food and clothing packages back home. Some immigrant families sent their sons to fight against world tyranny, including John Jerstad and Harold Agerholm, who were killed in World War II fighting, and whom Jerstad-Agerholm school and Racine’s American Legion Post are named after.
Racine’s Ola Hirth tells about his teenage experiences in occupied Norway, saying that his family lived in the country and people fled from the city to get away from the Nazis. There were over 50 people seeking refuge at their farmhouse. He and his father hitched up some wagons, drove into town and stole bags of grain being guarded by German soldiers at the train depot, to feed the refugees. If they would have been caught, they would have been executed. That level of personal bravery is definitely something to be proud of.
Many Norwegians have much to be proud of in their resistance to their German invaders. They unselfishly fed their neighbors, … protested with graffiti and acts of defiance against Nazi soldiers and bore unbelievable hardships while trying to survive.