As the Wars Go By: a WWII memoir

Excerpts from Goat-Swamp Street Seven o’Clock, a perspective from 1930s Oslo to Seattle in 2015.

Images: Norsk Ukeblad covers, courtesy of Odd Hauge The last cover of Norsk Ukeblad during the war (left), which mocks Hitler and Quisling, and the celebratory cover of the first Norsk Ukeblad published after the war (right). The magazine was shut down because of the former.

Images: Norsk Ukeblad covers, courtesy of Odd Hauge
The last cover of Norsk Ukeblad during the war (left), which mocks Hitler and Quisling, and the celebratory cover of the first Norsk Ukeblad published after the war (right). The magazine was shut down because of the former.

De som er forskjellige / Those who are different

Odd Hauge
Seattle, Wash.

“Pretend that you don’t see them,” my friend told me. I was about seven or eight years of age, and he was a year older and knew all about etiquette. I had been staring at a guy with a limp. The wisdom sunk in, and after that I never noticed such things.

Half a block down from our apartment I had noticed some folks who dressed in darker clothes and who were perhaps a bit shorter than the average. My guru said: “They are Jews.” I had never heard of those but I immediately realized they were different. Any explanation beyond that was unnecessary. This was not long after the war had come to Norway, so there were still some Jews around.

To be from the east side was not as nice as being from the west side. The expression “farmers in town” placed the potato-grower two-and-a-half notches lower than those of us who ate his products every day—with silver knives and forks when we had guests. Dialects were labels and a northern accent was a handicap.

The first time I saw a woman drive a car I was about 18 years of age. Oh mercy! As far as I knew, it was only Russian Amazons who operated men-machinery. I just had to get used to it.

Hitler had somehow gotten the idea that the Germans belonged to a super-race and that proved to be a problem for others, especially for the Jews. Tall, blonde Norwegians with blue eyes were on the right side of the racial divide and got extra points for being Nazis. In 1932, Nationalt Tidsskrift published “Who is who in the World of the Jew” … including a list of “Foreigners’ Businesses in Norway.” This was the second edition and it was followed by a third edition in 1939. They both say: “The Norwegian Society was from olden times a pure Arian race. Those of a pure race possess a sound soul united with a harmonic mind…” My grandpa saved these jewels for his descendants.

Not long after the war, Gimle Kino, a cinema in Oslo, featured a movie that dealt with the miserable treatment of those of the wrong color in the U.S. The word “nigger” that Mark Twain repeatedly used in Huckleberry Finn says much about that.

Today one cannot get away with using one of history’s most infamous labels, in the U.S. they now say “black” instead of “nigger”—the latter is called the “n-word.” The question is whether to allow ’Huckleberry Finn’ in the schools.

We left the movie theater quietly; some had a (small) tear in the corner of the eye. My two-year-older friend hit the target when he said: “Right now, we are all really fond of negroes.” At that time they used to lynch the “inferior race” in the U.S. but we were more tolerant in Norway. It goes without saying that we had never seen a black man.

Only Germans and Nazis participated in sports events during the war years; Norwegian patriots stayed home. After the war young folks learned what the “inferiors” could do in track and field. We were fascinated with Harrison Dillard & Co. when they came to Bislett Stadion. Then Count Basie and Louis Armstrong came. They were not seen as “inferior;” we spent nights on the sidewalk to get tickets.

“Jøssing” was originally a derogatory label for British-friendly Norwegians. Altmark was a German ship that was the subject of an incident in Jøssingfjord. However, Norwegian patriots adopted the moniker and consequently the word was forbidden in 1943. If you wore a red knitted cap it signaled that you were a jøssing.

Norwegians knew for sure that Germans had absolutely no sense of humor. However, they suspected us of having one and were on guard. On February 20, 1943, Norsk Ukeblad published a front cover that woke them up. A young damsel with a red knitted hat on skates chuckles, as a mustachioed gentleman teaches a young lad to master the ice. It dawned on the Nazis that it might be Hitler teaching Quisling—and with that no more Ukeblads were published during that war. Fortunately, mother had already secured a copy. She has saved this plus a copy of the first issue published after the war. In the peace edition Norsk Ukeblad wrote about the incident.

I don’t keep track of all things so I can only hope the artist, Gunnar Bratlie, and the editor survived. They were predictably arrested and ended up at Grini Concentration Camp. The two of them are responsible for creating a crown jewel in the Norwegian media.

Even No. 91 Stomperud was in on the fun. Unfortunately mom did not save the front cover with Stalin and Hitler; you have to do with what’s to the left. By the way, where is Stomperud now that we need him?

Images courtesy of Odd Hauge In these pages, the editors explain what happened in their absence. At the top they introduce “the cover that led to Norsk Ukeblad being seized. According to the Gestapo, little Vidkun is held by the forearms by Adolf as a young jøssing girl laughs about the situation.” They further explain that Stomperud, a comic character featured in the magazine’s pages, “on one occasion failed to show due respect for the occupiers’ military honorary titles,” leading to a four-week shutdown. They were barely back at it before getting in trouble again with more covers and stories that angered the Nazis.  The final cover was the final straw, and the magazine was shut down, its staff sent to Grini. In their triumphant return to publishing, the editors tell the story with obvious good humor.

Images courtesy of Odd Hauge
In these pages, the editors explain what happened in their absence. At the top they introduce “the cover that led to Norsk Ukeblad being seized. According to the Gestapo, little Vidkun is held by the forearms by Adolf as a young jøssing girl laughs about the situation.”
They further explain that Stomperud, a comic character featured in the magazine’s pages, “on one occasion failed to show due respect for the occupiers’ military honorary titles,” leading to a four-week shutdown. They were barely back at it before getting in trouble again with more covers and stories that angered the Nazis.
The final cover was the final straw, and the magazine was shut down, its staff sent to Grini. In their triumphant return to publishing, the editors tell the story with obvious good humor.

“Lat som om du ikke ser dem” sa min ett år eldre venn, jeg var i 7-8-års alderen, og han kunne mer om takt og tone enn jeg. Jeg hadde nistirret på en stakkar som gikk å dro på det ene benet. Lærdommen sank inn, og siden den gang har jeg ikke lagt merke til slikt.

Litt lenge nede i gaten bodde noen som brukte litt mørkere klær enn vanlig og de var kanskje var litt kortere av vekst enn gjennomsnittet. Min læremester sa: “De er jøder.” Jeg hadde aldri hørt om slike, men jeg skjønte straks at de var forskjellige. Noen forklaring ut over dette trengtes ikke. Dette var like etter at krigen hadde brutt ut så det fantes fremdeles jøder i Norge.

Det å være fra østkanten var ikke så fint som å være fra vestkanten. Uttrykket “bønder i by’n” plaserte potetdyrkeren to og et halvt hakk under oss som spiste hans produkter hver dag—med kniver og gafler i sølv når vi hadde gjester. Dialekter var merkelapper og en dialect fra nord i landet var et handikapp.

Første gang jeg så en dame kjøre bil var jeg vel ca. 18 år gammel. Gud hjelpe meg! Såvidt jeg visste var det bare russiske amazoner som opererte mannfolkmaskiner. Jeg måtte bare venne meg til det.

Hitler hadde kommet på at tyskerne hørte til en overmenneskelig rase og det ble til et problem for andre, især for jødene. Høyreiste nordmenn med blondt hår og blå øyne havnet imidlertid på den rette siden av rasistskillet og fikk extra poeng for å være nazister. In 1932, Nationalt Tidsskrift utga «Hvem er Hvem i Jødeverdenen … samt fortegnelse over Fremmedes Forretninger i Norge». Dette var den andre utgave og den tredje fulgte i 1939. Begge sier dette: “Det norske samfunn var fra hednold av ren arisk rase. Den renrasede besidder en sund sjel i et sundt legeme forenet med et harmonisk sinn …” Min morfar sparte disse juvelene for hans efterkommere.

Ikke lenge efter krigen viste de en film på Gimle Kino i Oslo som handlet om den dårlige behandlingen av de med gal hudfarve i USA. Ordet “nigger,” som Mark Twain brukte ofte i boken Huckleberry Finn, sier mye om at.

I dag slipper en ikke unna med å bruke et av historiens mest beryktede stemplingsord, i USA sier de nå “black” istedet for “nigger”—det sistnevnte heter “n-ordet.” Spørsmålet er nå om ’Huckleberry Finn’ kan tillates i skolen.

Vi gikk stille ut fra kinoen, noen hadde en (liten) tåre i øyekroken. Min to år eldre venn traff målet da han sa: “Nå er alle sammen veldig glad i negere.” På den tiden de brukte å lynsje “den inferiøre race” i USA mens vi var mer tolerante i Norge. Det er unødvendig å legge til at vi ikke hadde aldri sett en sort mann.

Det var bare tyskere og nazister som deltok på idrettsstevner under krigen, patriotiske nordmenn holdt seg hjemme. Efter krigen fikk vi unge se hva de “inferiøre” kunne utrette på idrettsbanen. Vi var fascinert av Harrison Dillard & Co. da de kom til Bislett Stadion. Så kom Count Basie og Louis Armstrong. De ble ikke betraktet som “inferiøre,” vi overnattet på fortauet for å få billetter.

“Jøssing” var opprinnelig et skjellsord for engelskvennlige nordmenn. Altmark var et tysk skip som var gjenstand for en hendelse i Jøssingfjord. Norske patrioter adopterte imidlertid skjellsordet og dermed ble det forbudt i 1943. Hvis du hadde rød nisselue var det et tegn på at du var Jøssing.

Nordmenn visste med sikkerhet at tyskerne ikke eide humoristisk sans. De mistenkte imidlertid oss for å ha det og de var på vakt. Den 20 Februar 1943 kom Norsk Ukeblad ut med en forside som vekket dem. En ung dame med rød nisselue står på skøyter og flirer, mens en herre med bart og pigger på hatt og stømper underviser en liten gutt i å mestre isen. Det gikk opp for Nazistene at det kunne være Hitler som underviste Quisling—og dermed kom det ikke ut flere Ukeblad under den krigen. Mor hadde heldigvis sikret seg et eksemplar. Hun gjemte unna dette samt det første Ukebladet som kom ut etter freden. I fredsutgaven skrev Norsk Ukeblad om hendelsen.

Jeg holder ikke regning med slikt, men jeg håper at tegneren Gunnar Bratlie og redaktøren slapp fra det hele med livet i behold. De ble arrestert og havnet på Grini. Disse to er ansvarlige for å skape en kronjuvel i den norsk presse.

Selv Nr. 91 Stomperud var med på moroa. Dessverre sparte ikke mor forsiden med Stalin, du får nøye deg med det å høyre. Hvor har det forresten blitt av Stomperud nå som vi trenger han?

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 30, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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