The Holocaust Museum in Oslo

What? A Holocaust museum in Norway? What did they have to do with the Third Reich? Enough, it tuns out, that there is a need for a museum and a research organization to keep this memory alive.

A good friend, Einhart, retired professor for European history at the University of Oslo, was a member of the steering committee that founded this museum. We were privileged to have him give us a private guide through the exhibition. The house in the Bigdøy area of Oslo is the house that Vidkun Quisling  lived in. That was the Norwegian turncoat who was minister oresident during the occupation of Norway by the Nazis during the Third Reich. A day after taking office he had questionaires printed with a few "harmless" questions that all Jews in Norway were to answer. He rounded up and deported 771 Norwegian Jews to Germany, most of them died in Auschwitz.

I was wondering there was such a museum in Norway. It seems that the Norwegians long denied having had a "Jewish problem". It was during the course of restitution - the government had conveniently confiscated property from the deported Jews - that a foundation was set up so that not only the Jewish community would have something, but that future generations be educated about what happened.

The entrance to the building has a large sculpture with a Hollerith card on it and blinking lights showing 'just some innocent data". This is an installation by Alfred Dreyblatt. There are lights showing the innocent data coded on the card. Both our mathematician friend and I thought it was very good, since we both programmed with such cards back in the Middle Ages. We had a hard time explaining it to the girls, though, even though one is in her first semester of studying computing. How weird, punching holes in cards.

We entered the museum with Einhart and started pestering him with questions at the film exhibit with the few photos made of rounding up the Norwegian Jews and deporting them to Nazi Germany. These were Norwegian citizens making other Norwegian citizens pack a suitcase, leave their homes, and board a ship, the S/S Donau, headed for a German concentration camp. As soon as they were gone, they divided up the economic spoils amongst each other.

There were a few other odd happenings - two gypsy families that happened to be outside of Norway were denied entrance back into the country that they were citizens of. The Norwegians wholeheartedly embraced the Nazi ideology, participating in racial classification, and publishing antisemitic cartoons, articles and pamphlets. And no wonder - they were being lauded as the ideal race, the Nordic person. It was kind of flattering. And with the Jews safely deported, Norwegian soldiers joined in with the Germans in their unholy fight.

Oh, there was still stuff to do - they had to decide what to do with th quarter and eighth Jews. What race were they? They developed the idea of the "Jewish way of looking." This was an easy-to-administer test. If the examiner thought you looked at him in a Jewish manner, you were Jewish. Full stop. Einhart told of a talk he gave on the Jewish situation in Norway that was simultaneously translated into sign language. The term for Jew is signed as a big, hooked nose. Religion became race became destiny.

There was a story of one girl who dawdled packing her suitcase and missed the boat. A few pictures of people, children, a few stories, and some video interviews with the few who survived the camps. 34 did so, only one remains alive today.

The final rooms tell a story of a country in denial. When the survivors returned, they were largely ignored. Other people were living in their houses, had taken their furniture, had taken their crops and fields. It was trying to sort out questions of inheritance - the Norwegians were quite Prussian in their insistence on proper papers such as death certificates. The Germans at the concentration camps didn't bother with such niceties. It apparently took an act of Congress to get them declared dead, the day that people arrived at Auschwitz.

The final room contains the names, birth and death dates of thoe killed. Unfortunately, there are a few listed named Israel or Sarah, these were second names given to the Jews by the Germans to mark their Jewishness. It is a small exhibit - and a big job to teach the current generations about the past, so that it is never repeated.

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