An apology to “German Girls”
More than 70 years after WWII, Norway formally apologizes for treatment of those having wartime relations with Germans
Norway’s government on Oct. 17, 2018, officially apologized to Norwegian women targeted for reprisals by authorities for having intimate relations with German soldiers during the country’s war-time occupation.
Norway, a neutral country, was invaded by Nazi forces in April 1940, and more than 300,000 German soldiers occupied the nation. SS leader Heinrich Himmler encouraged the occupying Germans to have children with Norwegian women.
Himmler, one of the most powerful men under Adolf Hitler, believed Norwegian women could help promote the Nazi concept of an Aryan master race.
Between 30,000 to 50,000 Norwegians, labeled “German girls,” are thought to have had intimate relations with occupying troops during the war, according to conservative estimates from Norway’s Center for Holocaust and Minorities Studies.
Many of these women were subject to reprisals by officials after the 1945 liberation from Nazi occupation, including illegal arrests and detentions, job dismissals, and even being stripped of their nationality.
“Young Norwegian girls and woman who had relations with German soldiers or were suspected of having them, were victims of undignified treatment,” Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg said at an event marking the 70th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Our conclusion is that Norwegian authorities violated the fundamental principle that no citizen can be punished without trial or sentenced without law.”
“Today, in the name of the government, I want to offer my apologies,” she added.
More than 70 years after the war, very few of the women remain alive and the official apology is unlikely to open the way for financial reparations for their families.
“We cannot say women who had personal relations with German soldiers were helping the German war effort,” said historian Guri Hjeltnes, the director of the Norwegian Center for Holocaust and Minorities Studies.
“Their crime was breaking unwritten rules and moral standards,” Hjeltnes said. “They were punished even more harshly than the war profiteers.”
As Solberg said in her speech, “For many, this was just a teenage love, for some, the love of their lives with an enemy soldier or an innocent flirtation that left its mark for the rest of their lives.”
None of the estimated 28 Norwegian men married to German women during the war were expelled or had their nationality taken away from them, Hjeltnes said.
Reidar Gabler attended the event and told Norwegian media that the apology meant a lot to his family. His mother, Else Huth from Sarpsborg, was just 22 in 1944 when she fell in love with a 25-year-old German soldier.
An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 children were born to Norwegian mothers and German soldiers, and they also suffered reprisals. Some were given up to foster families or even placed in institutions.
In 2000, Oslo formally apologized to the children, and in 2007 a group of them took Norway to the European Court of Human Rights, where their case was ruled inadmissible due to the length of time since the offences occurred.
This article originally appeared in the November 2, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.