July 17, 2009

Letter to the Queen of Norway

The Knut Hamsun Case

New York, July 17, 2009

Your Majesty
Queen Sonja of Norway

Your Majesty,

On behalf of the members of the Wallenberg Foundation I must convey to you, with all due respect and absolute transparency, our surprise and worry in light of the one-year official celebration which Norway is dedicating to Knut Hamsun, one of the greatest writers of the 20th. century, but also one of the most conspicuous intellectuals who supported the Third Reich and Adolph Hitler.

The honors bestowed upon a person who supported with fervor one of the most sinister regimes in history are mind boggling, to the point of not being able to find out reasons that could justify such celebrations, particularly bearing in mind that Norway is a great nation, a role model in economical, social and educational development.

We respectfully address you, Your Majesty, because of your personal participation in the opening of the aforementioned celebrations which shall be accompanied by fanfares and a musical comedy, together with your announcement regarding the upcoming unveiling of a statue that will commemorate the author as well as a museum devoted to his memory.

As you well now, when the war was over, Hamsun was arrested and he had to pay a big fine for his proven links with the Norwegian Fascist Party lead by Vidkun Quisling, who in 1945 was condemned of high treason and executed by a firing squad.

Quisling was a disgrace to Norway’s history, to the extent that his name has become synonymous with the word ”traitor”. We understand that even today, calling someone ”Quisling” in Norway is one of the worst insults one can think of. In 1940, the British newspaper – The Times, published in an editorial: ”For the writers, the word Quisling is a gift of the gods. Had they commissioned the invention of a new word which means ”traitor”, it would have been difficult to come up with such a bright combination of letters”.

Moreover, what makes the Norwegian government’s decision to lay such a celebration even more incomprehensible is the fact that earlier this year Norway assumed the chairmanship of the 27-nation Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, an organization with the mission of promoting the support of international leaders to educate on the Holocaust and its remembrance.

With the highest respect, I remain,

Baruch Tenembaum