Montessori believed in telling stories to spark interest in learning. One of the best ways to share your heritage with your child is tell true stories about your family. Here is the third part of a series of my mother’s story during WWII in Norway that she told to me.
Shortly, after the occupation we found out what happened when we passively and actively resisted the German authority. Any person who was considered a threat or a danger to the German cause was imprisoned at the Stavanger jail and later sent to the concentration camps. Some of the first people who were sent to the concentration camps were teachers, ministers, American citizens, newspaper editors and journalists. Anyone, who could undermine the Germanâ€™s power, was first on the list to go to the concentration camps.
Personally, several people I knew were sent to the camps. They were not powerful adults, but children. When the Germans invaded Norway my American cousins, Olle and Irene, were living with my Grandma because of the financial hardship their parents had during The Great Depression in America. Their Quisling Norwegian relative betrayed them to the Nazis. Olle was 16 and Irene was 15. Their crime was that they were American citizens. They were immediately sent to Grini Concentration Camp.
My Uncle Torjus worked in a newspaper and badgered the Quisling head editor about taking his niece and nephew to aconcentration camp. Uncle Torjus would not rest until my cousins were released. Irene came home after several months and Olle came back six months later. Olle had been big and jolly but he was now sober and very thin. Both he and Irene would never talk about the horrors they must have gone through. We were so very thankful that they were back home. We knew that people in Norwegian concentration camps were eventually sent to concentration camps in Germany.
In spite of the darkness and oppression from the occupation we experienced the joys of our youth. We were not permitted to have youth rallies, gatherings, and even dances. Nevertheless, we found a way to have fun together and meet. We would covertly pass around a small piece of paper with a date and place to meet for a dance. We kept very quiet about what we were doing and talked very little. We never wanted to be over heard by the wrong person.
My first date was at one of these defiant youth dances. I was 16 and had biked 60 miles to the country to pick up food for my family. It was considered sabotage to get extra food although we were hungry. My boyfriend, Odd, picked me up there on his bike. I sat on his handlebars, holding his hand, snuggling next to his cheek. A local farmer had opened up his barn for the dance. There were wall to wall kids packed into the barn. We were so excited to disobey the Nazi regime that we didnâ€™t care there was barely room to dance. It felt great to have fun and get away from the hard work of surviving the war. I loved the feeling of freedom when we loyal young people gathered together without the constant watchful eyes of the enemy scrutinizing our lives.
During the five years of occupation we endured by believing in our eventual freedom. We knitted together elements of our lives with faith, hope, humor, love and trust in God and each other, and most of all, our courage to live. This unity of purpose and belief held us together as a hidden nation during the Nazi occupation. Finally, the day that Hitler died, the occupation of Norway ended.
That day a very young German soldier, no more than 18, came running up to me and a friend in the street joyfully yelling to us, “Hitler Kaput!” He then made a gesture across his neck signifying that Hitler was dead. The joy and relief in that soldiers eyes said it all. He was oppressed by Hitler and the German war machine in his own way too.
I felt a huge burden lifted from my soul when the war ended. Strangely, during the war years I always had a sense of security and safety. I was not afraid. I think that God gave me inner peace even though war and danger surrounded me. At a young age I learned that people can take away your physical freedom, your material goods and even threaten your life, but they can not take away your thoughts, beliefs and who you really are.