I recently heard someone refer to a group of people as quislings, meaning traitors or collaborators. It’s not a word you hear often and if I had to guess, I would have said it was medieval in origin.
Turns out it only dates back to World War II Norway. As an American of Norwegian descent, I gotta say I much prefer Viking history to a history of Nazi collaborators.
In April 1940 the powerful German army invaded Norway.
Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945) was the leader of Norway’s fascist party. He had met with Hitler several times and admired his ideas and shared his hatreds. This is the man who was nominally in charge of the Norwegian government during the Nazi occupation of Norway. I say “nominally” because, of course, there was a German appointed by Hitler who was really in charge.
This post was going to be about Quisling, but I got stuck during the writing, not sure where I wanted to go with it. Honestly, fascists are bad people and I am not in the mood for that. So I changed course.
Luckily for me, there was resistance to this invasion and occupation by the Nazis. The king of Norway, Haakon VII (1872-1957), who reigned from 1905 until his death in 1957, was a symbol of that resistance during the occupation, which ended in 1945. A man of honor and integrity beats a fascist any day, so we’ll talk about him.
Right after the invasion, the German Minister to Norway told Haakon to do as Hitler demanded. Haakon was to end all resistance and appoint Quisling as Prime Minister. He said it wasn’t his decision to make and he needed to confer with his cabinet.
He told his cabinet that although there was the possibility of disaster to his people and his country if he did not comply, agreeing to Hitler’s demands would be against everything he believed to be his duty as King. He offered to abdicate if the cabinet did not agree.
The government agreed with Haakon that they could not collaborate with Hitler. They notified the Germans, who started a bombing campaign, apparently hoping to wipe out the entire royal family and Norway’s government. They survived and were evacuated from Norway in June 1940 and formed a government-in-exile in England.
Haakon was respected among his people and his monogram became a symbol of resistance to the occupation.
The exiled royal family and government returned to Norway after World War II ended, five years after they had evacuated.
Although I haven’t seen it, there was a movie made in 2016 called “The King’s Choice” about this issue. You can view the official trailer here.
Oh, yeah. Want to know what happened to Quisling, whose name has become a slur? He was arrested in May 1945 and executed in October 1945.