Since the movie about Max Manus is coming to the theaters in Norway these days, there is a resurgence of interest in the Norwegian resistance during WWII. A couple of things has puzzled me about it. One is why the communist resistance continues to largely be ignored, even after the fall of the Soviet Union and so many years after the war. The other has to do with how the Norwegian resistance is sometimes talked about, as if it had more – or different – impact than it really did. (Not that I am a historian.)
A recent essay in Aftenposten addressed the last issue and led to some controversy.
But it seems that this too doesn’t have to be so complicated.
The Norwegian resistance acted in genuinely heroic ways, giving everything – including often their lives – for a free Norway. Their existence lifted the morale and gave a sense of purpose and hope to many in Norway. And their actions did have an impact, although often local and limited.
It is also pretty clear that their activities were often no more than a nuisance to the occupying forces. Mosquito bites. Not contributing significantly to the outcome of the war. And quite often, the Nazi retaliation against civilians (executions) was predictable and maybe not justified by what the resistance achieved.
As they say in Norway, it is possible to keep two thoughts in the head at the same time. We can greatly appreciate and value their efforts and sacrifices. (If I had lived then, I hope I would have joined them.) And we can also acknowledge that their actions led to needless loss of civilians, and didn’t contribute significantly to the outcome of the war.
- norwegian resistance
- heroic, inspiring, helpful in some cases
- still, didn’t do much, a mosquito bite and nuisance at best, definitely didn’t change the outcome of anything significant
- both can easily co-exist, two thoughts in the head at the same time (as say in norwegian)
Norwegian key words: motstand, norge, max manus, motstandsbevegelsen, nazister, andre verdenskrig, frigjøring, motstandskamp, erling fossen, gunnar kjakan sønsterby, aftenposten