Apologies on Holocaust Day

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg gave his Holocaust Day speech in Oslo. Photo: Office of the Prime Minister

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg gave his Holocaust Day speech in Oslo. Photo: Office of the Prime Minister

On Jan. 27, Norway issued apology for arrests and deportations of Jews

On Jan. 27, recognized as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg joined many other world leaders in issuing a statement. The Prime Minister gave a speech at the Akershus dock in Oslo.

The Prime Minister’s speech was unique in that it held an apology that many consider a bit late in coming.

“Without denying the responsibility of the Nazis, it’s time to admit that the police and other Norwegians participated in the arrests and deportations of Jews. I find it right today to express our deep regret that this could happen on Norwegian soil,” said Stoltenberg.

During the war, 772 Norwegian Jews and Jewish refugees were deported from Norway. Only 34 survived. Samuel Steinmann, the last survivor from the ship Donau, which 70 years ago brought 532 Jews to Germany, was present during the memorial ceremony.

In his speech, Stoltenberg related the story of Ruth Meier, a slight 22-year-old Norwegian girl who was forced from her home in Oslo by Norwegian policemen, and five days later murdered in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. “The murders were unquestionably carried out by the Nazis. But it was Norwegians who carried out the arrests. It was Norwegians who drove the trucks. And it happened in Norway,” he said.

In 1997, Norway put together a commission to determine reparation costs, and in 1998 NOK 7.8 million (USD 1.4 million) was awarded to principals and heirs of Jewish property confiscated by the Nazis.

In 1995, French president Jacques Chirac apologized for France’s role in the Holocaust; many believe this makes Norway’s apology inappropriately late.

“I regret to say that the ideas that led to the Holocaust are still very much alive today, 70 years later,” Stoltenberg said, emphasizing the importance of the fight against the spread of intolerance and fear. He highlighted the importance of Norway’s people upholding the principals of humanity and equality moving forward.

He expressed concern that Norwegian Jews have said they live in fear today. “We shall not have it like this in Norway,” said the prime minister. “No one should have to hide his own faith, cultural identity or orientation.”

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 3, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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