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Norway's Nazi Problem By: Manfred Gerstenfeld
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, June 26, 2009


Can one be an international leader in educating people about the evils of the Holocaust and simultaneously spend tens of millions of dollars to honor a dead Nazi? The Norwegian government thinks that such moral relativism is normal.

The honored Nazi in question is the novelist Knut Hamsun, who welcomed the brutal German occupation of Norway during World War II. He also offered his Nobel Prize in Literature as a gift to the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Hamsun later visited Hitler, whom he admired, in Bavaria. [1]

The New York Times wrote that in February 2009, Norway’s Queen Sonja opened the “year-long, publicly financed commemoration of Hamsun’s 150th birthday called Hamsun 2009…the queen spent a highly specific half-hour with Hamsun family members at the National Library. Together they viewed the author’s handwritten manuscripts. [2] There is more than one layer of significance to this. First, a Labor party-dominated government rehabilitates an admirer of Hitler and the National Socialists. Second, the Queen participates in this event, as if the royal family did not flee abroad when the Germans conquered their homeland in 1940.

In March, Norway became head of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research. The ITF consists of representatives of government, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations. Its purpose is to place political and social leaders’ support behind the promotion of Holocaust education, remembrance and research. It was initiated by Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson in 1998, This Task Force currently has twenty-six member countries. It met on 24 June for a major conference in Oslo.

Holocaust remembrance requires moral choices. The whitewashing of a Nazi supporter however expresses moral turpitude. A Norwegian government spokesman said that Hamsun was one of Norway’s most important authors and added that during the Hamsun festivities his Nazi past will be mentioned. How important can such mention be in what in essence are festivities in his honor?

Has Norway built a twenty million dollar museum for any Norwegian who resisted the Nazis? A more than life size bronze statue of Hamsun is also planned. One can probably search in vain all over Western Europe for a statue of such an extreme admirer of Hitler.

The German Jewish author Max Tau, who fled to Norway before the war, tells in his biography how Hamsun—a former friend of his—was despised by many Norwegians when he showed his sympathy for Hitler-ruled Germany. The medical head of a hospital, said to Tau: “I have burned all Hamsun’s books.” Others told him they would never read one more sentence written by Hamsun. [3]

The outrageous state-sponsored honoring of Hamsun is only the tip of the iceberg of why Norway should never have been chosen as ITF Chair. A country where moral relativism is widespread among part of its elites can not lead an effort to teach the Holocaust internationally. A few examples of what is possible in Norway:  Last year TV2, Norway’s second largest TV station, was condemned by the press ethics commission PFU for an extreme anti-Semitic program by the comedian Otto Jespersen. It was so hateful that for the first time ever the PFU came out against satire. In May 2009 TV2 brought Holocaust denier David Irving to Oslo for a lengthy interview by an ignorant journalist.  

In his opening speech a few days ago at the Oslo ITF conference Norway’s foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre came out strongly against Holocaust denial. He did not mention that his country was probably the only one among the member states, where a Holocaust denier had been given the occasion to appear recently on a major TV station.  

 

Last month Queen Sonja went to a mosque where she met the imam who supports suicide bombings. A few weeks later, at very short notice, King Harald V visited the Oslo synagogue. This was the first time a royal had done so since Jews were admitted to Norway 150 years ago. The juxtaposition of the two visits again exposes Norwegian moral relativism at the highest level. 

In September 2008 a Jewish museum was opened in Oslo by Crown Prince Haakon. [4] In an interfaith debate in March the Islamist Mohammed Ali Chisthi spoke and made anti-Semitic remarks. His speech had been submitted to the organizers earlier. A picture in the daily Aftenposten captured the Crown Prince on the front row attentively listening to the inciter. [5] Comparing the two events one sees yet another manifestation of moral relativism.

In March 2007 Finn Graf was made a knight in the prestigious Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav by the king for his contribution as an artist. [6] In one caricature Graf had depicted then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as a sadistic Nazi camp commander. In March 2008, when Julius Paltiel, one of the few Norwegian Auschwitz survivors, died King Harald V attended the funeral. The juxtaposition of the two events is symbolic: honoring a dead Jew as well as a living inciter to Jew-hatred.

 

One cannot expect the small Norwegian Jewish community to lead a fight against Norway’s chairmanship of the ITF. The community is heavily dependent on the government for its protection. Therefore the other member states and NGOs should bring pressure to bear to depose Norway of this position. Perhaps that would make the country’s leaders understand that there are no free anti-Semitic lunches. 


[1] Walter Gibbs, “Norwegian Nobel Laureate, Once Shunned, Is Now Celebrated,” New York Times, 27 February 2009.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Max Tau, Ein Fluchtling findet sein Land (Hamburg: Hoffmann & Campe, 1964), 88, 89. [German] 

[4] Nina Berglund, “New Jewish Museum opens,” Aftenposten, 9 September 2008.

[5] “Også  Chisthi er norsk,” Aftenposten, 4 April 2009. [Norwegian]

[6] www.kongehuset.no/c26951/nyhet/vis.html?strukt_tid=26951&tid=34236 (the official royal website).


Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is Chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is an international business strategist who has been a consultant to governments, international agencies, and boards of some of the world's largest corporations. Among the fourteen books he has published are Europe's Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today's Anti-Semitism (JCPA, Yad Vashem, WJC, 2003), Academics against Israel and the Jews (JCPA, 2007), as well as the just published Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews (JCPA and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, 2008).


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