Did you know that there were concentration camps in Norway during the second world war? Yes, we are blueeyed and blond, but not many Norwegians agreed to Norway beeing occupied, and not many supported nazism. Even though most of the prisoners were Norwegian political prisoners and Norwegian Jews (or both), the Germans also imported prisoners from other countries as a workforce to build their Festung Norwegen.
In the autumn of 1941 Falstad, until then a boarding school for maladjusted boys, was seized by german occupational authorities and turned into an SS-Strafgefangenenlager. Some Norwegians, like my father, served short sentences, others were transferred to Grini or to german camps. The Jews who were not shot in the Falstad Forest were sent to Auschwitz at the end of 1942, where most of them died. Most of the foreign prisoners came from Sovjet, Jugoslavia, Denmark and Poland.
A prisoner who was forced to dig the graves before people were shot, was able to smuggle out maps where he had the graves. This way 205 bodies were retrieved after the war: 43 Norwegians, 101 Russians and 61 Jugoslavs. My grandfather would probably have been sentenced to death, he was arrested for smuggling fugitives to Sweden, but luckily enough for him the war ended before his trial came up.
I visited the Falstad Forest as an interpretor for a Jugoslav delegation consisting of a TV company from Skoplje, a folk dance group and a group of war veterans in 1981. It was a weird feeling beeing in the wood where more than 200 people had been shot. Even though it was a warm summer day, it felt cold, and even though 36 years had passed no birds were singing. The later years the birds have come back, though.
The monument on the picture is made by one of the former prisoners, Odd Hilt, in 1947.
The Museum at Falstad is closed until spring 2006 due to construction work, but the forest with it’s monuments is available.
Kirkegatan 41, Levanger 7600, Norway
Good for: Solo