Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nazi Forts in Norway

Unlike the Swedes, the Norwegians fought the Germans in World War II. It did not take long for the Germans to defeat Norway, but the Norwegians take great pride in the extent of the underground warfare that continued until the end of the war. We visited a museum dedicated to just that in the Oslo castle complex overlooking the harbor. Designed to force visitors to walk all the way though (like the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC), we were able to learn the story through photographs, newspaper clippings, and dioramas with sound effects. They include the story of Vidkun Quisling who cooperated with the Nazis and ruled the collaborationist government for them. His name has come into common usage to mean traitor.
Posters from the Nazi fort in Bud

Norway was perhaps the most heavily occupied nation in Europe with one soldier for every eight Norwegians. The Nazi force included at least 6000 SS officers. None of this prevented the Norwegians from mounting a resistance movement intent on destroying Nazi fortifications, their heavy water plant and helping captured Allied soldiers get to England.

The Germans built a string of forts along Norway’s coastline. Convinced that the Allied invasion would come through Norway, they  wanted to be ready. We saw two of these forts on our travels, the first was during a lunch stop at Bud. Lunch was a nice piece of salmon. The view from the fort location shows why the Nazis chose this location.
We took a tour of the site before lunch. Our tour guide was much too young to remember anything from the Cold War, let alone World War II. Nevertheless, he did know the story. During the tour we were able to see where the Nazis lived and worked. While not a glamorous outpost it was certainly better than being on one of the fighting fronts, especially better than the Eastern Front where soldiers had to fight both the Russians and the cold. 
 Most of the grunt work building the forts was done by slaves brought in from Eastern Europe. They were fed enough to survive, barely, and provided enough clothes to act as a covering, but not enough to protect from the cold.
Working Clothes
The second fort we saw was at Unstad in the Lofoten Islands. This is so far north one wonders what the Nazis were thinking. Even if the Allies invaded that far north it would have taken months of fierce fighting to get anywhere close to Germany. We did not enter this fort even though tours were available. By this time, we were more interested in other aspects of life on the Lofoten Islands today. Nevertheless, it is an interesting example of the lengths to which the Nazis went to protect the Norwegian Coast.
Unstad coastline
Fort Unstad

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