July 11, 2009

Norway and Knut Hamsun


Norway, a country that has always been looked up at by the rest of the world as a model of modern social development and education, has in recent times stunned the world by laying on a lavish year long celebration to the life and work of writer Knut Hamsun (1859-1952) on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his birth.

While it is understandable that any country should want to honour one of its top writers, specially one who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920, it cannot be forgotten that Hamsun was a fanatical supporter of the Nazi regime that invaded his home country in 1940 and was responsible for the known deaths of over 700 Norwegians. Wholly unrepentant of his support for the Nazis till his death, Hamsun went on to write a praiseworthy obituary in the Norwegian press on the occasion of the announcement of the death of Adolph Hitler.

What makes the Norwegian governments’ decisions to lay on such a celebration even more incomprehensible is the fact that earlier this year Norway assumed 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.

Men and women like fellow Scandinavian Raoul Wallenberg, the many non-Jewish Norwegians or the heroic resistance movement who smuggled over 1,000 persecuted refugees, are still awaiting a recognition on the scale given to this war criminal.

It now remains up to the Norwegian government to put an end to this offensive vindication of Nazism and live up the standards the world has come to expect from it or live with the consequences of such unacceptable behaviour.

Nicholas Tozer
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation