July 27, 2009

Letter to the the Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway

New York, July 27, 2009

Her Royal Highness
The Crown Princess


Your Highness,

On behalf of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation I am writing to Your Highness to express, with utmost candidness and transparency, the concern of this educational organization in light of the initiative of your country to declare 2009 as the ”Year of Hamsun”.

We consider that the magnitude of the celebrations to honor a person who can be qualified as a war criminal, clearly surpass any tolerable scale bearing in mind that this is a State tribute in which you, Your Highness, have been appointed as ”Patron”.

While we believe that ”celebration” is by no means a right expression when it comes to remember a figure like Hamsun, we consider that even if the remembrance of this writer will not exclude informing about his pro-Nazi past and his treason to his homeland, this by itself does not justify such a high-scale celebration which includes a statue, a museum, fanfares, as well as other type of demonstrations that should be dedicated to people of impeccable conduct, undisputed ethical stature and a clear-cut position against any form of despotism represented by a criminal and genocide regime.

As you well know, when the war was over, Hamsun was arrested and was compelled to pay a heavy fine due to his proved connections with the Norwegian Fascist Party led by Vidkun Quisling, who in 1945, was condemned for high treason and executed by firing squad.

Quisling was a disgrace to the history of Norway, to the extent that his name has become synonym of ”traitor”. We understand that even nowadays, calling someone ”Quisling” in Norway, as well as in other countries, is one of the worst insults one can think of. In 1940, the British newspaper ”The Times” published in its editorial: ”For writers, the word Quisling is a gift of the gods. Had they commissioned the invention of a new word that signifies traitor, it would have been difficult for them to have come-up with such a bright combination of letters”.

In light of these celebrations and commemorative extravagance, dedicated to a man of the moral profile of Knut Hamsun, we ask ourselves what would remain in the celebratory scale for the thousands of Norwegians who helped those persecuted by the Nazi regime and the collaborator government of the time; or which would be the tribute reserved, for instance, to the remarkable writer Sigrid Undset (1882-1949), who was also laureated with the Nobel Prize in literature, and was a staunch opposer to the Nazi regime, and for that she had to fled her country during the Nazi occupation.

It is a strange paradox of destiny that one of the most compassionate men in history, the Scandinavian Raoul Wallenberg, savior of tens of thousands of persons in Nazi-battered Hungary, was born on August 4th., the same date as your celebrated writer, rabid supporter of one of the most inhumane and cruel regimes in the story of mankind.

Against all the aforementioned arguments, the rationale of the decision to honor Hamsun in general, let alone the way Norway is doing it, becomes absolutely incomprehensible.

Respectfully yours,

Baruch Tenembaum