July 26, 2011

Norway´s tragedy

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation mourns the tragic loss of innocent lives in the heinous terrorist attacks perpetrated last week in Norway and pays its condolences to the bereaved families and to the people of Norway, a peace-loving nation.

It is especially tragic the fact that this senseless act of hatred has taken place in this small Scandinavian country, a vibrant and pluralist democracy in which minorities are respected.

We all know that the threat of Nazism has not vanished with the demise of the Third Reich. Hitler’s followers are still amongst us, sometimes disguised under different ideological nuances.

Unfortunately, Norway had its share of Nazis. The renowned writer, Nobel prize laureate Knut Hamsun was one of them. In fact, Hamsun was a fervent Nazi and staunch supporter of Vidkun Quisling (whose surname became synonymous of treason). Hamsun’s notoriety grew further as he wrote an obituary of Adolf Hitler in the Aftenposten. The eulogy read more or less as follows:

“Adolf Hitler
I’m not worthy to speak up for Adolf Hitler, and to any sentimental
rousing his life and deeds do not invite.
Hitler was a warrior, a warrior for humankind and a preacher of the gospel of justice for all nations. He was a reforming character of the highest order, and his historical fate was that he functioned in a time of exampleless [unequalled] brutality, which in the end felled him.
Thus may the ordinary Western European look at Adolf Hitler. And we, his close followers, bow our heads at his death.
Knut Hamsun”

No matter how revered a writer he was, he was a Nazi. Neither the  Norwegian Government nor its Royal House seemed to have understood this fact. Back in 2009, amidst strong protests from the IRWF and worldwide factors, the Norwegians officially launched lavish celebrations to mark the 150th birthday, including the inauguration of a Hamsun Memorial, a statue, the issuance of a commemorative stamp, and even a musical.

Quite ironically, at the same time, Norway took over the presidency of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research, an organization comprised of 27 countries and that has as its main goal promoting the support of world leaders to educate about the Holocaust and its remembrance.

It is impossible to know what has motivated Anders Breivik to perpetrate such an act of inhumanity, but one cannot avoid the feeling that a country that celebrates a high-profile Nazi sympathyzer might send the wrong signal to fanatics.

In his novel “Mysteries (1892), Hamsun’s protagonist yearns for the coming of a man, someone “who may be seen once in a thousand years”, “a strong-minded individual capable of perpetrating utterly vicious and heinous crimes, and not just minor transgressions”.  Did Breivik read Hamsun’s book? Difficult to know, but either way, it seems that  Hamsun’s literary premonition became true.

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation is proud to continue its mission to research, document, divulge and celebrate the lives and deeds of the saviors of victims during the Holocaust.

These brave women and men are role models and represent exactly the opposite of what Hamsun stood for.

The late German Pastor, Martin Niemoller, is believed to have coined the following phrase:

“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Those who celebrate a Nazi,  no matter how well-meant they are, should pay careful attention Pastor’s Niemoller’s words.