Oslo, Occupied Norway February 7, 1942

On this date in 1942 in German-occupied Norway, Minister Presi­dent Vid­kun Quis­ling abol­ished the Nor­we­gian consti­tu­tion and estab­lished a dic­ta­tor­ship one year after as­cending to the pre­si­dency. Quis­ling had been a reserve officer in the Nor­we­gian Army and served as the Nor­we­gian Minis­ter of Defense from 1931 to 1933. It was after his stint as a cabi­net minis­ter that he founded Nasjonal Samling (National Unity), a poli­tical party with an ideo­logy simi­lar to Nazism. Its plat­form was pan-German, anti-Soviet, anti-Brit­ish, and anti-Semitic.

Three months after Hitler in­vaded Poland in 1939 Quis­ling, strictly in the role of party chief (fører), visited Berlin to offer the Ger­man Wehr­macht (armed forces) “the nec­es­sary bases” that would fore­stall the Brit­ish and French, now at war with Ger­many, from gaining a foot­hold in neu­tral Nor­way. Grand Admiral Erich Rae­der, who was privy to Quis­ling’s ex­traor­di­nary offer, recog­nized that a Brit­ish presence in Nor­way could possi­bly jeop­ardize Ger­many’s naval posi­tion in the Baltic, inter­rupt the free flow of Swed­ish iron ore through the ice-free Nor­we­gian port of Narvik, and pre­vent the Kriegs­marine from gaining access to the North Atlantic.

Twice in mid-December 1939 Hitler received Quis­ling, the first time in the com­pany of the highest officers of the Wehr­macht. Four months later, when Hitler’s armed forces invaded Norway and seized its capital, Oslo, on April 9, 1940, as part of Oper­a­tion Weser­uebung, an em­bold­ened Quis­ling took to the air­waves to pro­nounce him­self head of a new na­tional govern­ment, ordered all resis­tance to end (it didn’t), and threat­ened to take action against those who did not obey. The next day the German minis­ter to Norway demanded King Haakon VII name Quis­ling Norway’s new prime minis­ter. The govern­ment rejected the demand. The king and his minis­ters became fugi­tives in their own coun­try with a German price on their head. Even­tually the king, his son and heir Crown Prince Olav, and a few mem­bers of the govern­ment escaped to England to estab­lish a Norwe­gian govern­ment-in-exile. Quis­ling remained “head of govern­ment” for six days after the German inva­sion until Hitler dumped him in an effort to quell Norwegian resistance to the German invasion.

In time German-occupation authorities found they had a need for Quis­ling, and for his treach­ery he remained at the helm of a pup­pet govern­ment until Crown Prince Olav and British repre­sen­ta­tives accepted the sur­render of German forces in Norway on May 8, 1945. “Quis­ling” appears in diction­aries as syno­nyms for traitor, treach­ery, decep­tion, and dis­honor. After the war a Nor­we­gian court con­victed Quis­ling of trea­son, murder, and theft and ordered his execution by firing squad on October 24, 1945.

Norway Under German Occupation, 1940–1945

Norway’s Parliament Building

Above: Norway’s Parliament Building flying the Swastika, 1941. The banner deco­rating the front of the build­ing reads, “Deutsch­land siegt an allen Fronten” (“Germany is victorious on all fronts”).

Norwegian King Haakon VIIVidkun Quisling with admirer, 1943

Left: King Haakon VII (1872–1957) and his family chose exile in England in lieu of accepting German sur­render terms. (Haakon was one of eight Euro­pean monarchs who found them­selves on the wrong side of Hitler; Haakon’s brother King Chris­tian X remained in German-occu­pied Den­mark throughout the war years.) An elected monarch (November 1905), Haakon won the respect and affec­tion of his people and played a pivo­tal role in uniting the Nor­we­gian nation in its resis­tance to the Nazi invasion and sub­se­quent five‑year-long occu­pa­tion of his country. The Norwe­gian embassy in London became the seat of the Norwe­gian govern­ment-in-exile. Here Haakon attended weekly cabi­net meetings and worked on the speeches that were regularly broad­cast by the BBC World Service to lis­teners in Norway. He sym­boli­zed Norway’s free­dom and inde­pen­dence to his impri­soned nation. After the end of the war, Haakon and the Norwe­gian royal family returned to Norway on June 7, 1945, exactly five years after they had been fled their country.

Right: Norwegian Minister President Vidkun Quisling was pleased to provide this admirer his auto­graph in 1943 at Skaugum, the former residence of Crown Prince Olav in exile in England. 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.

Vidkun Quisling: The Man Who Sold His Country to the Third Reich (Skip the first 90 seconds)