Norwegian Resistance Under the Nazis
* Text and Pictures by Jerry Newcombe, D.Min.
My wife is from Norway, and I’ve been able to visit there multiple times.
On April 9, 1940, without any warning or provocation, the Germans invaded Norway. It was an unexpected battle and an unfair fight with 400,000 German Wehrmacht versus a nation not expecting it. This nightmare lasted until May 8, 1945.
The Nazis took over Norway, primarily so they could get unfettered access to iron ore for their military machine—this ore being in nearby “neutral” Sweden.
There were, of course, Norwegian collaborators—Norwegians who sold their soul to get ahead during the reign of the Nazis. Foremost amongst them was Vidkun Quisling. His name has been adopted into the dictionary: A quisling is a traitor.
When the Nazis took over Norway, a country full of “pure Aryans,” they expected the Norwegians to fully participate in their attempts to glorify the “master race” and purge the “undesirables” from humanity, such as Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs.
The Norwegians would have nothing to do with this and with the curtailing of their freedoms under the Nazis. So they resisted, usually in virtually every way they could. Much of the battle was fought over distributing accurate information.
Indeed the Norwegians resisted from day one. President Franklin D. Roosevelt admired their resistance.
Said FDR in 1942: “If there is anyone who still wonders why this war is being fought, let him look to Norway. If there is anyone who has any delusions that this war could have been averted, let him look to Norway. And if there is anyone who doubts the democratic will to win, again I say, let him look to Norway. He will find in Norway, at once conquered and unconquerable, the answer to his questioning.” Netflix recently made a compelling film on such resistance at the outbreak of the Nazi invasion, called, Narvik.
Norway learned the importance of the alternative media more than 80 years ago when the Nazis took over that small country for five years. It’s been fascinating to learn from my Norwegian wife’s older relatives how virtually everyone participated in small or big ways to the resistance against the Nazis.
To be clear, my purpose is not to compare anyone here to the Nazis. Rather, my point is about the vital importance of a free and independent-minded media.
In Germany and in all the countries they conquered, the only information that was legally available had to be approved by the state; and, of course, much of it was a lie. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s master propagandist, controlled the media with an iron fist.
In those days, the BBC would broadcast news of what was really happening—good or bad—instead of endless propaganda.
Once the Nazis took over Norway, they made it a capital crime to own a shortwave radio. You could listen to the Nazi propaganda on AM radio and the official newspapers—all vetted by the Nazis. But if you wanted to hear the truth, you had to seek it elsewhere. And that was strictly forbidden.
One day, as a young man, my wife’s Uncle Leif was at a train station; and he had a short-wave radio in a bag. Suddenly, he saw some German officers walking near. Without them noticing, he tossed the bag into the valley below. It was smashed, but he wasn’t caught. (Later he was, but that’s another story.)
The Norwegian resistance had brave people hiding in the mountains with headphones to listen to the BBC news broadcasts and messages from the Norwegian King Haaken VII who was in exile in England. The men in the mountains would type out these notes. Those notes were then duplicated through mimeograph machines and distributed secretly through various channels.
Here is one example of ways they would distribute information to each other secretly. If a family came over for supper, they would leave their boots inside, by the front door. The children of the host family would secretly wad up the mimeograph sheets and hide them inside the soles of the boots for later perusal. Thus, everyone was getting in the act so that truth could quietly be known.
In Oslo, there is a museum dedicated to the resistance of the brave Norwegians against the Nazis during that time. I took many pictures there. The exhibits show the creativity of the Norwegians to communicate when the Nazis controlled all levers of the press.
They have a plaque there in English: “In Norway, Nazi ideology was defeated by the democratic forces rooted in a national, Christian culture.”
While the Nazis won militarily (until the end of the war), they never came close to winning the hearts and minds of the people.
Normally, in those days, the churches were full. But during the war, something happened to cause the churches to go empty. The Norwegian bishops and priests, desiring to be faithful to God and the Scriptures, resisted the Nazi efforts to control the churches and the content of sermons. The clergy reasoned that if they all resisted together as one, nothing could happen to them. They were fired. Some were arrested, sent to concentration camps, and some of those never returned.
Many Norwegian Christians met in private homes secretly for worship and avoided the churches during the war.
The same thing happened with the school teachers. The Nazis took over the curriculum of the schools. The teachers resisted as one group. They too were fired and replaced by Nazi-sympathizing teachers.
The museum contains a 1941 book, written in Norwegian used in the schools by the Nazis. In it, they quote Scripture: “What are those called in Romans 13:1 who God has set over us? Have you considered that your parents, your school teachers (your principal), policemen, police chief, judges, the priest, the bishop, the county commission, the state government, are the authorities who are installed by God, and that you owe them obedience?”
Then it says: “Overall, we owe the Fuhrer and the government obedience. If you set yourself up against the authorities and against the state, you are standing against God’s structure and are subject to punishment.” (Translation from Norwegian to English by Kirsti Sæbø Newcombe).
Talk about the devil quoting Scripture. In reality, the Fuhrer was hostile toward Christianity. Hitler once declared, “The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew.” But he was happy to have his minions twist the Christian Scriptures for his own ends.
Below are some photos I took in that museum. A common theme is either hiding microfilm or a radio. Above all, the goal was to communicate with fellow Norwegians in secret.
•Microfilm was hidden inside cans of cod fish, loaves of bread, the heels of shoes, metal containers to go in bodily cavities, etc.
•Secret radios with headphones were hidden inside birdhouses, phone books, varnish cans, irons used to press clothes, and so on.
•Home-made newsletters were hidden inside logs.
The last line of FDR’s above-mentioned speech is: “May the day come when she will carry the Norwegian flag into a home port in a free Norway!” By God’s grace it happened.
All of this may be an extreme example. But it underscores the importance of the flow of information.
I thank God we don’t live under the type of repression from totalitarian regimes—an extreme example being the Nazis—with their control of the media. But we must always be vigilant. From the Internet to Christian broadcasting to talk radio, we need the alternative media. Without a free press, I don’t see how we can remain a free people.
We live in a free society, for now. But the darkness is descending. Every year seems to get worse. Thank God for those willing to stand up to the tyrants who claim to believe in freedom but in reality they hold to “Free speech for me, but not for thee.”
Here are some photographic examples…by Jerry Newcombe, Oslo, Norway in 2015
Secret radios hidden in 1-a varnish can, 2-an Oslo phonebook, 3- a birdhouse, 4-an ordinary iron used to press clothes
Here is a bridge with fake teeth—but it contains a hidden radio receiver.
1-They have two rolls of microfilm concealed inside a loaf of bread. 2-There is a “Metal cylinder containing film could be carried inside [a bodily cavity].” 3-Here’s a microscope used to read microfilm. Also here we see a “cylinder containing film strip placed beneath hand basin flush outlet on the Stockholm train.”
A woman’s shoe contains a “Heel hollowed out to conceal film strip.”
Here we see “Tins of cod used to conceal film strip.” The description added, “Lead sheeting compensated the loss of weight.”
Here is a “Letter with chemical writing.”
There were hidden radio receivers with headphones in alcoves hidden inside mountains. Secret radios with reception from Britain were critical to the flow of information.
Typewriters and mimeograph machines helped create home-made newsletters, including messages from the King.
Typed, mimeographed communiques are hidden inside a firewood log.
A Nazi propaganda poster shows a Jew with a huge, hooked nose whispering messages from London in the ears of an innocent-looking Norwegian with a halo. In the poster we see a hand reaching over to a short wave radio with a stern warning, “Tenk Dig Om!” which means, “Think about this!”
Torn pages of “New Testament used by prisoners awaiting execution.”
For Nazi-held prisoners, we see here a cross that consisted of a few pieces of brown wood which were held by different men. Then when they came together they were able to assemble these together to form a cross (as seen here) for their secret worship services.
Before the Nazis took over the churches, they were crowded. After the Nazification of the churches, they were empty (with Christians having secret services, often at home).
December 1940 – “NS demand a declaration of loyalty by all civil servants. Teachers immediately answer NO. February 1941 – “NS demand the right to carry out propaganda in the classroom. The teachers answer NO.” Note: NS refers to the National Assembly of Norway under the Nazis, a puppet government.
Caption noting this: “On all military fronts Hitler and his allies won great victories. In Norway Nazi ideology was defeated by the democratic forces rooted in a national, Christian culture.”
Photos by Jerry Newcombe in Norway, 2015
PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE ARCHIVET IN KRISTIANSAND, NORWAY
In addition to seeing the Resistance Museum above, in 2011, I was able to visit “Archivet” in Kristiansand, Norway, where they have additional exhibits related to the Norwegian resistance movement. The photos below are from that place.
This looks like an ordinary pile of firewood, but the Norwegians actually had a secret (shortwave) radio hidden there to access the truth on the alternative media.
Mimeograph used to duplicate illegal newsletters.
Mannequin representing Norwegian resistance man hidden in the mountains, listening to shortwave radio (usually from England) to type up messages from the BBC or the Norwegian king in exile.
Photos by Jerry Newcombe in Norway, 2011
Note: After the war, because of the stranglehold of the Nazis on information, even “journalism,” Norwegian journalists created a standard of journalistic objectivity. For example, here are a couple of points of this code of ethics among journalists—to be fair and honest with the news:
“4.1.Make a point of fairness and thoughtfulness in contents and presentation.
“4.2. Make plain what is factual information and what is comment.”