The Paper Clip War-Conclusion

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 German’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 didn’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.

The Paper Clip War

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 first part of a series that I wrote about my mother’s story during WWII in Norway.
The Paper Clip War

My most profound memory is the morning my Mom woke me up and told me there was war in Norway. I was 13 years old and it was April 9, 1940. I had until then lived a happy and sheltered life with my family and friends in the fishing village of Stavanger, Norway. However, the next 48 hours would prove to be the most eventful and life changing of my young life.

After waking me up, Mom ran downstairs to our landlady, Fru Undem, and said that they must pray. Fru Undem said she did not feel worthy to pray because she should have prayed before this terrible thing happened.
Later that afternoon, we noticed the Nazis setting up machine guns outside our home. Mom and Dad immediately decided it would be best to go to Grandma’s house. My parents, my little brother and I, with our dog in tow, hastily biked to her house. We wanted to be surrounded by our loved ones.

At Grandma’s we were embraced by my two American cousins, Olle and Irene, along with my Uncle Torjus, Aunt Selma, and of course my precious Grandma. As soon as we had taken off our coats, Grandma ushered us into the dining room where tea was waiting for us. I felt comforted eating my boiled egg and bread in the room where we had spent so many happy occasions and holidays together.

That evening we received our first order from our captors, we were to completely block and cover our windows each night. If any light escaped from the windows, the Germans would shoot at the light. This outer darkness would last for the next five years.
Dazed, we went to bed in a state of shock. In the middle of the night our beds began to shake as the heavy tanks, artillery, and trucks drove through the formerly peaceful streets of Stavanger. As the onslaught of the German army moved onward through the night, I tried to grasp what would the future bring with the Nazis occupying our neighborhood, city, and country.

The next morning was a beautiful, warm spring day. For a brief moment, the nightmare of the day before seemed like a dream. We hurriedly ate breakfast and went outside with the other children to watch what was going on. Suddenly, a huge crowd of people walked past Grandma’s house. The Germans had started a rumor that there was going to be a battle in the city and that we must evacuate.

My Uncle Torjus decided that we should take shelter without delay at Aunt Selma’s childhood farm on the outskirts of town. So we gathered what belongings we could carry and briskly hiked to the farm. Tante Selma’s family heartily welcomed us. The adults gathered together and began to talk in hushed and serious tones about the occupation. We children quietly escaped outdoors to the barnyard and started to scope out the best places to hide during the upcoming bombings. Our minds were quickly turning from childish thoughts to the reality and seriousness of war.

We decided that the hog house would be the best bomb shelter. It was a two-story structure with the pigs on top. We decided the lower floor would be a great place for protection. We figured the pigs would get the brunt of the bombs. That day we moved into a new type of play called war.
Later that afternoon, we saw a cloud of dust with a bread truck in front of it speeding down the farm road. When it stopped, I saw my dad running out of the truck. Dad shouted there was a boat at the nearby pier that would take people into the country. Mom, Grandma and the children would be able to escape to our family farm there. He herded us toward the truck, putting Grandma in the front. Everyone else crammed into the windowless back compartment. The driver was a young man with a cauliflower ear, who did not have a driver’s license. During that crazy and wild trip we blindly bounced and fell on each other. Suddenly, the truck stopped and Dad opened the back door for us. Squinting, we filed out into the bright sunlight.

We briskly walked to the end of the dock where we saw a steam boat waiting. Masses of refugees were crammed onto the boat. By the time we boarded, there was barely any standing room. The boat was so full that looked like it was sinking. Like us, everyone was fleeing into the mountainous country on the edges of the fjords.
Soon the boat pulled away from shore and I saw my father waving to us. I was sad to leave my dad and I wondered if I would ever see him again. He looked so sorrowful and lonely standing there on the dock. He finally disappeared from view as the boat headed into fjords.