Library to present 'Norway and the Nazis' symposium
Leif Andol was 10 years old and living in the town of Orkdal when Nazi forces invaded Norway on April 9, 1940. The Nordic country (as well as its Scandinavian neighbor, Denmark) would remain occupied by Nazi troops for five years. During that time, Norway was cut off economically, its people were placed under heavy restrictions, and the countryside was strewn with land mines. The Nazis established the Fannrem concentration camp in Orkdal for slave labor, one of many such camps. Life as it was known by ordinary Norwegians such as Leif Andol and his family came to a halt.
Though the Germans swiftly subjugated a country unprepared for war, they soon found that the Norwegian people were not so easily conquered. An underground Resistance movement quickly formed, undermining the Nazi occupiers at crucial junctures. Trains and railways used by the Germans to transport iron ore out of the country were sabotaged. One of the best known efforts of the Resistance was the dangerous mission of heavy water sabotage, which prevented Germany from developing an atomic bomb. Many whose lives were in danger were smuggled to Sweden or by fishing boats to the Shetland Islands, a clandestine operation that became known as the "Shetland bus." Civil disobedience was practiced by ordinary citizens at great peril.
The German surrender in Norway came on May 7, 1945. By then, about 900 Norwegians had lost their lives, 185 of whom were civilians. More than a third of Norway's Jewish population perished, primarily after deportation.
Duluth author Margi Preus, recipient of a Newbery honor in 2011, grew up hearing about the Norwegian Resistance through family ties. Preus traveled to Norway in 2010 to gather research for her young readers' novel, "Shadow on the Mountain." She conducted extensive interviews with a man named Erling Storrusten, who had been a member of the Resistance as a boy. Storrusten served as an underground courier, transporting documents by bicycle and on skis. He eventually became a spy for Resistance intelligence, making a detailed map of local German headquarters, among other missions. Preus based her fictional character, Espen, on her interviews with him.
Andol and Preus are featured speakers at the symposium "Norway and the Nazis: The Resistance 1940-1945" at the Cloquet Public Library May 2-14. Preus will give a slide presentation on Thursday, May 2, at 6:30 p.m. Andol will speak about his experience growing up under occupation and about the Kompani Linge ("Linge Company") saboteurs on Saturday, May 11, at 10:30 a.m.
The symposium was the idea of Cynthia Johnson, president of Sons of Norway-Heimsyn Lodge in Carlton County. Johnson discovered a book about the Norwegian Resistance among a box of items she inherited when she became lodge president two years ago. Thus began her interest in learning more about an event in history that is little known today.
"I became interested in how people responded to foreign occupation and adversity, and how they fought to keep their country and national identity," Johnson said. "As we lose the generation of elders who lived through World War II, it is important to keep that history alive with their words, memories, and documentation."
Funding for the symposium has been provided by a grant from the Sons of Norway Foundation, Friends of the Cloquet Public Library, and Minnesota's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
For a complete description of symposium events, stop by the library to pick up a brochure or visit www.cloquet.lib.mn.us.
A schedule of symposium events follows:
NORWAY AND THE NAZIS: THE RESISTANCE 1940-1945
- Thursday, May 2, 6:30 p.m. -- Newbery Honor author Margi Preus presents a slideshow on her trip to Norway to research "Shadow on the Mountain."- Tuesday, May 7, 6:30 p.m. -- Movie "Commandos Strike at Dawn" (1942).
- Saturday, May 11, 10:30 a.m. -- Leif Andol speaks about his experience growing up in an area where Kompani Linge performed sabotage operations against the Nazis.
- Monday, May 13, 6:30 p.m. -- Reading Club, "The Shetland Bus: A WWII Epic of Escape, Survival, and Adventure" by David Howarth. Book discussion led by Cynthia Johnson, president of Sons of Norway-Heimsyn Lodge.
- Tuesday, May 14, 6:30 p.m. -- Movie "The Heroes of Telemark" (1965).