TEACHERS RESIST NAZIFYING NORWAY (Illustration) World War II World History Social Studies Civil Rights Censorship Ethics

Disaster descended on Norway when the Nazis invaded, then occupied, the beautiful country for five years, beginning on April 9, 1940. This image depicts a view of Lake Bondhus and, in the background, the Bondhus glacier (located at Folgefonna National Park). Photo by Heinrich Pniok a/k/a Alchemist-hp. Licenses: CC BY-NC-ND.3.0 and Free Art License. Click on the image for a better view.


Indoctrination, by a controlling power, often takes place in schools. While it might be hard to change the minds of adults, who’ve been around enough to recognize indoctrination when they see it, the process is different when it comes to children.

By the fall of 1941, Norway’s minister of education—a Nazi, reporting to Josef Terboven—issues a series of hard-to-follow orders:

  • Textbooks will be changed so they conform with Nazi viewpoints;
  • Vidkun Quisling’s portraits will be displayed on school walls;
  • No English textbooks are allowed;
  • Every child must learn German (no-longer English) as a second language; and
  • Teachers must instruct their students in the fundamentals of Nazism.

How is it that Quisling, swept to the side when Terboven arrives, is back in Hitler’s good graces? Because membership in the Norwegian Nazi party (which numbered around 4,000 before Germany’s invasion) has reached around 400,000 (by early 1942).

The powers-that-be, in Berlin, reward Quisling with a new job: “Minister President” (or, Prime Minister) of Norway. Back in government, Quisling establishes a Nazi-oriented Teachers’ Association. This will not be a voluntary thing. Every Norwegian teacher must join.

At about the same time, and using “Hitler’s Youth” as an example, Quisling forms a “Nazi Youth Movement” for all Norwegians between the ages of 10 and 18.

Most of Norway’s appalled teachers decide to respond together. Of the 14,000 educators, around 12,000 write to the new education department stating, categorically, they will not be members of it. The letters—all using the same words—are mailed, en masse, on the 20th of February, 1942.

Within two days, clergy throughout Norway read a manifesto in their churches. It objects to the Nazis controlling the country’s education system.  

Nothing Quisling tries can counter this mass opposition. His efforts, on the education front, fail.

There is a price, however, which the teachers must pay for their resistance. When the deadline of March 15 arrives, and teachers are not accepting their memberships in the new, compulsory Teachers’ Association, more than 1,300 educators are arrested. That results in school closings.

Some of the arrested teachers face time in a concentration camp outside Oslo. Around 700 are sent to forced labor camps, near the town of Kirkenes in the frigid Norwegian arctic. Another 499 teachers endure a calamitous trip aboard a packed ship:

499 teachers now faced another cattle-car journey. This was followed by a sea voyage, in conditions that horrified even the Nazi doctor who went on board to make a report for Quisling. The ship had room for only 250 passengers, but all 499 were crammed in. Many could not even lie down, though they were now ill with “pneumonia, gastric ulcers, asthma, bronchitis, haemorrhage and mental derangement.”

“The water supplies are totally inadequate, and there are only two lavatories,” the doctor added. Quisling replied, “The measures taken against Norway's teachers are a direct consequence of their treasonable activities”: they had had their chance to recant.

Once they were in the Arctic things eased a little: slightly better conditions, poor but regular food. The work was still hard: unloading supply ships. It was also dangerous for people untrained for it - there were a number of injuries and one death.

On the whole they were better treated than the Russian prisoners they worked with, some of whom were shot. Each day the teachers were marched down the long road to the docks, and each day the local people turned up to watch them in respectful silence. They were now famous throughout the country. When, in early November, they were finally released, they returned home to be welcomed as heroes.

Norway’s schools reopen in early April of 1942. At the end of Quisling’s efforts, thanks to strong resistance by the country’s educators, his Nazi-focused Teachers’ Association never amounts to anything.

Erling Storrusten’s efforts, however, are producing significant results ... until ... the Gestapo learns about him.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Mar 09, 2015

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2016

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"TEACHERS RESIST NAZIFYING NORWAY" AwesomeStories.com. Mar 09, 2015. Jan 25, 2020.
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