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 right-wing politician 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 Nor­we­gian fascist party main­tained regular con­tact, Rosen­berg going so far as to arrange to “train” a small number of Quisling’s followers in Germany.

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 Great Britain from gaining a foot­hold in Norway. He had, Quis­ling alleged, support within the Nor­we­gian mili­tary for such a coup, and he told Hitler the same when the two men met on Decem­ber 14. Hitler demurred, saying he preferred a “neutral” Norway. Never­the­less, the meetings in the Reich capital had enor­mous con­se­quences for Norway when Hitler 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), imported sub­stan­tial supplies that passed through Norway. Denial of British access to valu­able food­stuffs and raw mate­rials (although it was chiefly Swedish iron ore in tran­sit to Germany) would surely shorten the war, or so it was alleged.

Ironically, just as the planning 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 mili­tary 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 Quising welcomed German boots on his country’s soil.

On April 9, 1940, the day Wehrmacht (German mili­tary) forces invaded Norway, Quis­ling took to the nation’s 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.

Vidkun Quisling’s 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 1941 in Frank­furt am Main, Germany, Quis­ling spoke at 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 Norwe­gian 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 Karl Johans Gate, Oslo’s main boule­vard, on the first day of the German inva­sion, April 9, 1940. 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, 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, 1941Vidkun Quisling 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 both 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 this admirer his auto­graph in 1943 at Skaugum, the former residence of Crown Prince Olav in exile in England, now home to Josef Ter­bo­ven, German Reichs­kom­misar for Norway. 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 ille­git­i­mate govern­ment con­flicted 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.

Vidkun Quisling and Adolf Hitler, Berlin, February 13, 1942Vidkun Quisling and Josef 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 during the war years. 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, or Gestapo. 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 to the Allies, Ter­bo­ven and the com­mander of the Nor­we­gian SS (Germanske SS Norge), Gestapo, and regular German police in Norway com­mitted sui­cide, Terboven by blowing himself up in a bunker at his official residence and the SS and police chief by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Right: Quisling and Terboven are seen inspecting a detach­ment of Hirden, the ideo­logical and para­mili­tary organi­za­tion of Quis­ling’s Nasjonal Samling Party. (“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 Nasjonal Samling mem­bers in the course of the war. Estimates of their numbers range from 8,500 to 20,000.

Vidkun Quisling: The Man Who Sold His Country to the Third Reich (Skip first 1:45 minutes)

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