guards working at Nazi prison camps in northern
Norway were so brutal to prisoners that it shocked
even the German SS soldiers supervising them,
a new book on Norway's Hird organization has
According to 'Unforgiven Norwegians - Hird 1933-1945', published in Norway this
week, the German officers were so unnerved that
they issued disciplinary warnings to the Norwegian
guards, confiscated their bayonets, and briefly
jailed some of them.
The German authorities then decided to remove
the Norwegian guards from active duty after just
Around 400 young Norwegians were employed from June 1942 to guard Serbian prisoners
taken to camps in the north of the country, where
they were used as slave labour to build roads
of them started behaving very brutally, resulting
in a lot of killing, torture and violence in
the camps in a very short time," Eirik Veum, the book's author, told The Local.
SS officers said,'hey guys, calm down, you're
too violent, you're too brutal', and they took
away their bayonets. After 10 months they were
pulled from duty, because too many prisoners
the Yugoslavs who survived the camps said that
their lives improved once the German guards took
said that once the Norwegians were taken out,
things started to get a little bit more normal.
They got more medicine, and They started
to be treated like humans not animals," Veum
said. "It's interesting that the German SS guards were more humane than some of the
Norwegians guards during the period they were
were drawn from Hird, a paramilitary organization
created by the Nasjonal Samling, Norway's Nazi
movement, in 1933.
Once the Germans
took control of Norway in April 1940, they drew
on Hird's membership, employing them for example
to round up Oslo's Jewish citizens, for which
Hird members were paid 20 Norwegian kroner a
Veum has drawn
most of his information from public records dating
back to the the trials of collaborators which
took place after Norway was liberated in 1945.
He says that
although the information was not secret, it has
caused controversy in Norway nonetheless.
Norway this is very emotional, because in our
history of the war in Norway, we have been focusing
on the resistance movement. We have been talking
for 65 years about how brave the Norwegians were
in fighting the Germans, but the part about all
the Norwegians who were fighting for the Nazis,
we've never talked about."
to Veum, the young Hird prison guards, some of
whom were only 15 years old, would torture the
Serbian prisoners and shoot them on a whim.
also had torture which was very cruel. They would
take rats and tie them by a rope to a prisoner,
and when the rat got too hungry, it
would start to eat the prisoner to get free,
through the body," Veum
One of the
most notorious Hird guards, a man called Louis
Tidemann Johansen, was reprimanded by the Germans
for getting drunk, and then shooting prisoners
almost as a sport.
that the book had come as a shock to many in
this kind of stuff has not been part of Norwegian
war history. It hasn't been a secret, it hasn't
been hidden. Some of historians know
about it, and some of the locals who lived by
the camps knew about it."
controversy has come from his decision to name
the members of Hird and detail the crimes they
criticism comes from historians in Norway, who
don't like this kind of identifying, because
it's not how we do it in Norway," he
had Johansen shooting prisoners when he was drunk
up in the North. I find it interesting that we
are discussing my decision to identify more than
what actually happened, that Norwegians also
played a part in the war crimes committed during
World War II, and on a larger scale that we had
been aware of."