Berlin, Germany · December 14, 1939

On this date in 1939 Adolf Hitler and high-ranking members of the Ger­man navy and army met with Norway’s Vidkun Quis­ling, whose pri­vate visit to Berlin had been spon­sored by Alfred Rosen­berg, the Nazi Party’s chief racial theorist. From 1931 to 1933 Quis­ling had served as Norway’s minis­ter of defense. Following his cabi­net ser­vice, he founded a small pro-Ger­man, anti-Semi­tic, anti-British, and anti-Soviet poli­tical party called the Nasjonal Sam­ling (National Unity). Rosen­berg and Quis­ling’s fascist party main­tained regular contact. Three days prior to meeting Hitler, Quis­ling and his en­tour­age had in­formed Kriegs­marine Grand Admiral Erich Raeder that they wanted to place Nor­we­gian military bases at Ger­many’s dis­posal in order to pre­vent Britain from gaining a foot­hold in Nor­way. The two meetings had enor­mous con­se­quences for Nor­way when Hitler straight­away ordered his armed forces to in­ves­ti­gate how Ger­many could occupy that coun­try after Raeder had pointed out that Great Britain, at war with Ger­many for the last three months (since Septem­ber 3, 1939), received sub­stan­tial supplies that passed through Nor­way: denial of British access to these valu­able raw mate­rials (chiefly iron ore) and food­stuffs would surely shorten the war, so it was alleged. Iron­i­cally, just as the wheels in Ber­lin were set in mo­tion, the British War Cabi­net on Decem­ber 22, 1939, directed its mili­tary staff to also draw up con­tin­gency plans for opera­tions in Nor­way. The plans were pre­sented to the War Cabi­net the day after New Year’s, 1940. The Allied Su­preme War Coun­cil was briefed on the plans on Febru­ary 5, a little more than two months before Quis­ling wel­comed Ger­man boots on his coun­try’s soil. On April 9, 1940, the day Ger­many invaded Nor­way, Quis­ling took to the air­waves to pro­nounce him­self head of a new national govern­ment. He ordered all resis­tance to end (it did not) and threat­ened to take action against those who did not obey. Quis­ling remained “head of govern­ment” for six days until Hitler dumped him in an effort to quell resis­tance to the inva­sion. Even­tu­ally Ger­man occu­pa­tion author­ities found they had a need for Quis­ling, and for his treach­ery he remained at the helm of a col­lab­o­ra­tionist govern­ment until the country was liberated five years to the day after Norway’s capital succumbed to German troops.

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Norway Under German Occupation, 1940–1945

Alfred Rosenberg (right) and Vidkun Quisling, 1939German soldiers on Oslo’s Karl Johans gate, April 9, 1940

Left: Nazi Party chief racial theorist Alfred Rosenberg was one of Vidkun Quis­ling’s most impor­tant allies in Berlin. After his Decem­ber 1939 meeting with Quis­ling, Rosen­berg wrote in his diary that the next time the two men met, “Norway’s minis­ter presi­dent will be named Quis­ling.” Quis­ling became increa­singly anti-Semitic during the course of the war. In Frank­furt in 1941 he spoke to Rosen­berg’s “In­sti­tute for the Study of the Jewish Question,” which was dedi­cated to identi­fying and attacking Jewish influ­ence in Ger­man culture. One of Quis­ling’s first acts when he became minis­ter presi­dent in 1942 was to rein­tro­duce the prohi­bi­tion of Jews entering Nor­way, which was formerly a part of the Consti­tu­tion from 1814 to 1851. Nor­wegian police in many cases helped the Ger­man occupiers apprehend Jews. In 1946 there were only 559 Jews living in Norway.

Right: German soldiers marching down Oslo’s main boule­vard, Karl Johans gate, April 9, 1940, the day of the Ger­man inva­sion. In the back­ground is the Nor­wegian Royal Palace, which later became Quis­ling’s resi­dence after King Haakon VII and his family escaped to Eng­land and estab­lished a govern­ment in exile. Quis­ling and his fas­cist poli­tical party, Nasjonal Sam­ling (NS, literally “National Unity”), had little effect on Ger­man opera­tional planning for the inva­sion of Nor­way. The Ger­mans used the Nasjonal Sam­ling as a source of infor­ma­tion on poli­tical con­di­tions in the coun­try, but Quis­ling was not in­formed about the forth­coming attack and his organi­z­ation had no part in German military operations in Norway.

Norway’s parliament building, 1941Quisling signing autograph, 1943

Left: Quisling’s short-lived April 1940 government took up resi­dence in Nor­way’s parlia­ment building (Stortinget), shown here flying the swas­tika. It lasted only six days before it was set aside by the Ger­mans and even­tually replaced by an 11‑man coun­cil of Nasjonal Sam­ling mem­bers headed by Quis­ling. On Febru­ary 20, 1942, Quis­ling was in­stalled as head of state, assuming the powers of king and parlia­ment. He remained in that post until Nor­way was liberated in April 1945. The white ban­ner on the front of the parlia­ment building reads, “Germany Is Victorious on All Fronts.”

Right: Quisling was pleased to provide his autograph for this admirer in 1943. Among most Nor­we­gians the Quis­ling regime had next to no support, partly because of Quis­ling’s coup attempt on April 9, 1940, and partly because his collabo­ra­tionist govern­ment was in con­flict with Nor­way’s consti­tu­tion and poli­tical tradi­tions. After the war Nor­we­gians insisted on settling accounts with all 40,000 “Quis­lings.” (The word “Quis­ling” had entered the Eng­lish language in April 1940 as a syno­nym for “traitor.”) A Nor­we­gian court con­victed the former head of state of trea­son, murd­er, and theft and ordered his execu­tion by firing squad in Oslo’s Akershus Fortress on October 24, 1945.

Quisling and Hitler, Berlin, February 13, 1942Quisling and Terboven inspecting "Hirden" paramilitary unit, summer 1942

Left: On February 13, 1942, Hitler received Quisling in the Reich Chan­cel­lery in Berlin. Quis­ling, one week away from being installed as Nor­way’s minis­ter pres­i­dent, is shown in the com­pany of civilian Reichs­kom­missar for Norway Josef Ter­bo­ven (to his rear), who was the real power in Nor­way. Mostly ignoring Quis­ling’s col­lab­o­ra­tionist govern­ment, Ter­bo­ven estab­lished a regime of ter­ror in Nor­way, per­sonally com­manding a force of roughly 6,000 goons, of whom 800 were part of the secret police. Ter­bo­ven’s men operated out­side the 400,000 regular Ger­man armed forces stationed in Nor­way. On May 8, 1945, the day of Ger­many’s capit­u­la­tion, Ter­bo­ven and the com­mander of the Nor­wegian SS com­mitted sui­cide, Terboven by blowing himself up in a bunker at his official residence.

Right: Quisling and Terboven are seen inspecting a detach­ment of Hirden, the ideo­logical and para­mili­tary organi­za­tion of Quis­ling’s Nasjonal Samling. (“Hirden,” from old Norse, referred to a body­guard in service to Nor­we­gian and Danish kings and lords.) The Hirden were equi­va­lent to Hitler’s Sturm­abteilung, or SA. Mem­bership in the Hirden was man­da­tory for all NS mem­bers in the course of the war. Estimates of their numbers range from 8,500 to 20,000.

Vidkun Quisling: Nazi Collaborator, Part 1