Norway: A country dealing with its past. Reflections on civilian resistance in Norway during Second World War

Stefania Zezza


The history of Norway during the Second World War is that of its occupation, which was one of the longest in Europe. The Nazi authorities, together with the Quisling puppet government, aimed at transforming the Norwegian society ideologically, in order to establish the New Order in the country. The Nazification process involved the main sectors of Norwegian social context: the Church, the judicial and educational systems, the Sports organization and the University. The Nazi and Quisling’s efforts, however, brought a strong reaction within Norwegian people, who mostly refused the Nazi attempts through attitudes, verbal and non-verbal protests including actions of civil disobedience. Civilian resistance was more or less effective but it constituted a meaningful form of non-violent struggle against the dissolution of national identity and democratic attitude. From this point of view the International Academic Conference Civilian resistance against Nazification Campaigns 1940-45 – Norway in a western European perspective, organized within the project Institutions of democracy facing Nazi occupation by the Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, on February 25 and 26, 2015 in Oslo, represents a decisive step towards a deeper reflection on the relation between Nazism and subjected countries. Even though the main subject of the Conference did not focus in particular on the Jewish persecution and deportation, Norwegian civil resistance played quite a role in opposing the Nazi and Quisling’s anti-Semitic policy: as anti-Semitism increased, both the Church and many civilians were active in supporting the Jews. Nevertheless, the reasons for the high percentage of losses within the Norwegian Jewish community, the role of the Norwegian Police and other social sectors need to be investigated further. Recent historical studies have, therefore, focused their attention on the responses given to Nazification by different parts of Norwegian society, in order to explain the presence of a ‘grey zone’ between the civilian resistance front on one side, and the Nazis and the Quislings on the other.


Norway; Occupation; Nazification; Quislings; Civilian Resistance; Norwegian Church; Deportation

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