Introduction to Rescue in Norway


Germany occupied Norway in April 1940.  At that time, there were an estimated 1,700-1,800 Jews living there, mostly in Oslo.  This number included approximately 200 refugees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.

After the German occupation, Jews were prohibited from participating in academic and other professions.  Some persecution began as early as 1941. 

The persecution of Jews was made possible by the collaborationist government of Quisling.  In June 1942, the Quisling government forced Jews to register.  In October 1942, it ordered the confiscation of Jewish property.

In two raids on October 25 and November 25, 1942, 770 Jews were arrested and deported to Auschwitz from Stettin.  Of these, 740 were killed in the death camps.

On November 11, 1942, Protestant Church leaders in Norway sent a letter to Quisling denouncing the confiscation of Jewish property and the deportations.  The letter read, in part, “God does not differentiate among people… Since the Lutheran religion is the state religion, the state cannot enact any law or decree which is in conflict with the Christian faith or the Church’s confession.”  The letter was read in churches in December 1942.

Approximately 930 Jews, with the help of the Norwegian underground, fled to neutral Sweden.  Many underground leaders risked their lives to save Jews.  Sixty remaining Jews were interned in Norway.  A few Jews even remained in hiding in hospitals or in homes. 

After the war, most of the approximately 800 Norwegian Jewish refugees in Sweden returned to Norway.

Four hundred Jewish displaced persons came to Norway in 1947.  Most left for the United States or Israel.


Odd Nansen, Nansenhjaelp, Norway, 1942?

Odd Nansen, of the committee of Nansenhjaelp, organized a rescue of 1,700 Norwegian Jews.  This operation was a joint action between Sweden and Norway.  The Nansenhjaelp committee also helped rescue a number of refugees fleeing the Nazis from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland.  Many of these refugees were Jews.  In January 1942, Nansen was arrested by Nazi officials in Norway and was held in a concentration camp.  He was later deported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp.  He survived until liberation.



Survival of Jews in Norway


Jews of Norway – 55% (approximately 938 survived, 762 lost).[1] Pre-war Jewish population in Norway was 1,700 which included 220 refugees. Norwegians rescued 900 Jews from deportation by hiding them until they could be secretly transported to neutral Sweden.[2] 67 Norwegians are honored for rescuing Jews.





[1] Abramsen, 1981; Bauer & Rozett, in Gutman, 1990, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, s.v. “Estimated Losses in the Holocaust,” pp. 1799, 1801; Johansen, in Laqueur, 2001, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, s.v. “Norway,” pp. 446, states 736 lost; Hilberg, 1985, p. 1220

[2] Johansen, in Laqueur, 2001, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, s.v. “Norway,” pp. 451; Koblik, in Laqueur, 2001, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, s.v. “Sweden,” pp. 615-616

[3] Bender & Weiss, 2007, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous among the Nations: Europe (Part I) and Other Countries, s.v., “Norway: Historical Introduction,” pp. xc-xci, 417-421



Updated November 4, 2017