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Thread: When Norwegian Youths Became Nazis

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    When Norwegian Youths Became Nazis

    Norway's first Nazi party wasn't called 'Nasjonal Samling'.

    It was called 'Norway's Nationalsocialist Labor Party'.

    - They marched in Oslo's streets fully dressed up with swastikas and uniforms in search of communists and Jews, says senior researcher at the Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, Terje Emberland.

    It sounds like the war. But the scene unfolded in the middle of our peaceful capital eight years before the Germans marched in. Or was it so peaceful? Large parts of the interwar period were characterized by unrest on a different scale than we are used to in today's Norway.

    - It was a nervous time. The social divisions were sharper, the class struggle harder, the political contradictions more irreconcilable, the rhetoric more fiery and the ideas more grand, says Emberland.

    In the book entitled "From the Boy's Room to the Gestapo", Emberland describes this time through the prism of a small youth party that few today have heard of: Norway's National Socialist Labor Party's history - shortened to NNSAP.

    When the work is finished, Emberland - who previously wrote about the Quisling-critical Nazis around the journal Ragnarok, and in 2015 published the book "When fascism came to Norway" about The National Legion - has given an almost complete overview of this period's organized Norwegian fascism before and outside of Nasjonal Samling.

    Praised Hitler
    During the crisis of the 1920s, fascist and proto-Nazi organizations were registered for the first time in Norway. First out was the National Legion which was created in 1927, but was dissolved already in 1928. In the ruins of the legion, the architect Eugen Nielsen set out to build a new organization inspired by the National Socialists in Germany.

    - Nielsen did not work as an architect, but had made himself rich as a landlord on Oslo's eastern side. His ruthless methods led him to be called "the Devil of Grünerlųkka" among the people.

    Nielsen sat barricaded behind solid steel doors in Thorvald Meyer's street 71, where he also kept his rare weapons collection, one of Norway's largest in private ownership.

    - Both ideologically and stylistically he wanted to copy the German Nazi party. The movement was supposed to be militant nationalist and radically racial and anti-Semitic, says Emberland.

    Nielsen's perception of reality was paranoid conspiratorial. He was a supporter of the old German "warlord" Erik Ludendorff's beliefs that society was about to be taken over by a worldwide conspiracy of Jews, Freemasons and Jesuits. Both communism and international financial capital were their tools.

    In 1928 Nielsen started the "Antiforlag" ("The Anti Publishing"), which was both anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic and anti-Freemasonry. In addition, in 1932 he founded the newspaper "Fronten" ("The Front"), which celebrated the Nazi movement already the year before Hitler took power in Germany.

    - 'The Front' was especially aimed at young people, explains Emberland.

    "Our goal and our mission is to show our young kin a new and Nordic world view built on the aristocratic leadership thought and the unity of the people, united in the nation's organic will," the Front's first editorial article states. "We want the to create a well-defined army of political soldiers of the Norwegian youths."

    - This message echoed in parts of the youth generation who believed that the old world order had been lost after World War I. The liberal, conservative communities where the inhabitants shared culture, history and traditions was dissolved.

    Not long after, The Front became a part of the newly established Norwegian National Socialist Labor Party (NNSAP).

    - Nasjonal Samling, which was founded in 1933, was not Norway's first Nazi party. It was NNSAP, says Emberland.

    Had "Little Adolf" on the team
    Among the people Nielsen recruited, was Adolf Egeberg Jr., who quickly got the nickname "Little Adolf".

    - He had a background as a journalist in the agrarian paper, 'The Nation', where he among other things had enthusiastically covered the Finnish fascist 'Lappo' movement's march towards Helsinki.

    Egeberg linked the small, Norwegian National Socialist party closer to the "mother party" NSDAP in Germany. As editor of The Front, he was sent on a course in Germany, firstly on SS's first independent course in Munich and then on propaganda training in Berlin.

    - After that he always carried a picture of himself with Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Hitler in his inner pocket.

    After the failure of the National Legion, Nielsen had sworn never to be a member of an organization. He therefore also entrusted the management of NNSAP to Egeberg, and settled for being a financial contributor and working behind the scenes.

    NNSAP's radical message and militant rhetoric attracted mainly young people in the high school scenes. Here, the dissatisfaction with social development had led to a marked orientation towards the political outer points.

    - Among many bourgeois high school students, NNSAP was perceived as a fresh and radical alternative to both the established parties and the competitors in the Communist Party, says Emberland. However, he will not exaggerate the importance of the party.

    - At most, the membership can have been in excess of five hundred. But even such a niche phenomenon can show some of the general political and social tension which prevailed at the time. Although the organized Nazis were quite few, many more sympathized with them. For some years, therefore, it was popular among some high school students to wear the swastika-pin which Eugen Nielsen sold through The Front. The result was that NNSAP made a larger showing and exerted a greater influence in the high school communities than the membership figures would indicate.

    NNSAP also gained importance through its local departments in both Gjųvik, Sandefjord, Skien, Arendal, Bergen and Trondheim.

    - Even in the small town of Horten, the party had close to thirty members. Here they also received support from a number of officers from the city's naval base, which shows that it not only consisted of high school students.

    Nevertheless, NNSAP started out mostly as provocative high school pranks, where the members attended the high school community meetings in brown shirts, bandoleers and riding boots. These appearances are later described by cultural personalities such as filmmakers and journalist Arne Skouen and author André Bjerke.

    Imitated Germany
    In retrospect, it may seem obvious that such extremist political phenomena did not represent any real threat to Norwegian democracy. In the contemporary days, with an emerging Nazism in Germany, however, one was not at all sure about where the cards would fall.

    - In 1933, the mood was so uncertain that it was warned at the national assembly of the Labor Party (Arbeiderpartiet) that the upcoming election could be the last democratic election in Norway. They were particularly concerned about the appeal fascism could have with the youth, Emberland says.

    Therefore, the labor movement also chose to go to imediate counter-attack.

    - The first time the Nazis appeared Karl Johan (main shopping street in Oslo) in the spring of 1932, a fight broke out. They had a lot of blame for this themselves. The Nazis sought such confrontations. During the fight on the city's parade street, they used the blunt weapons and the notorious NNSAP troublemaker Stein Barth-Heyerdahl pulled a knife.

    There were several confrontations at Grünerlųkka (working class district in Oslo) between NNSAP and later Nasjonal Samling activists and youth from the Labor Party and the Communists. This peaked during the election campaign in the autumn of 1933 when Nasjonal Samling tried to arrange a meeting at Grünerlųkka school just across the street from Birkelunden.

    - Here, over three thousand counter-demonstrators gathered, who cleared the location, cut the speaker wire that had been pushed out on the square and chased the Nazis out of the working class area.

    One of the leaders of the counter-demonstration was none other than Einar Gerhardsen, secretary of the Oslo Labor Party (and later PM of Norway).

    - The fight for the streets was central to Nazi strategy in Germany, explains Emberland, and the Norwegian sympathizers continued this strategy. This struggle was given the character of territorial rivals, where the Nazis constantly provoked by arranging meetings and marches in the working class areas. This happened not only in the German cities but in several other European countries. One of the most famous cases was "The Battle of Cable Street" when Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascist attempted to march through Jewish working class areas in London in 1936.

    Went into Hirden
    When Nasjonal Samling was founded in 1933, NNSAP activists were involved in the negotiations. Several of them also got key positions in the party in the early days. Others thought that Quisling wasn't adequately racially minded and too bourgeois and chose to remain in NNSAP.

    - Many former NNSAPs became members of Nasjonal Samling's paramilitary 'Hird' ('Guard'). When the internal conflicts between Quisling and Guard Chief Johan B. Hjort led to a split in 1936, many of them followed with Hjort out of the party. Several of them returned to their old party, NNSAP.

    In the book, Emberland follows both groups during the inter-war period and, for some, further into the war years.

    Closed themselves inwards
    For many of the young, enthusiastic Nazis, the Third Reich lost much of its attraction in the 1930s when it became clear to everyone what the regime was doing. However, this intensified the cohesion among the remaining activist core.

    - These "Latter-day Saints" then embarked on a sectarian and conspiratorial understanding of reality, and their activities were eventually found in a grey area between political activism and organized crime, which included assaults and blackmail, says Emberland.

    - They went through a significant radicalization process, not only ideologically, but also in action.

    The German occupation of Norway led to some drop-outs within the party lines, but some in NNSAP saw the occupation as an opportunity to reactivate the party that had been in hibernation for some years.

    - Eventually some of the old party activists also played significant roles as volunteers in the Waffen-SS and members of Germanic SS Norway, Emberland says. However, their greatest significance were as agents and provocateurs of the Gestapo. Several of them were drawn in as agents and provocateurs.

    Some were also involved in Gestapo's liquidation of people in the resistance movement.

    - For some NNSAPs, the road from simple high school provocations to liquidations and agent activities for Nazi-Germany was surprisingly short," says Emberland.


    Translated from Norwegian article:
    A nation is an organic thing, historically defined.
    A wave of passionate energy which unites past, present and future generations

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