The Search for Thor: Surprising discoveries
by Randi Millman-Brown
In last month’s article about my research looking for the cause of death of my great-uncle Thor, I outlined a few roadblocks I encountered. I also had some surprising discoveries.
Henrik and I met the first day I arrived in Oslo. He was the owner of the Airbnb apartment I had rented and, interestingly, we had an unusual connection. He explained a bit about his background and told me that his grandmother worked at the very same hotel my parents stayed in for their honeymoon in 1959—the Hankø Fjordhotel, 90 km south of Oslo, near Fredrikstad. He explained that not only had his grandmother worked at the hotel before and at the beginning of WWII but he himself had delivered papers there during the summers in his youth.
He also told me that the hotel was thought to be a meeting place for Norwegian spies during the war due to its isolated location relatively close to Oslo (this information was through stories from his grandmother, and as of yet remains unsubstantiated, but curious). I continue to investigate the possibility that my great-uncle was a spy or double agent.
In 1988, the Norwegian government released information about a WWII Norwegian intelligence organization called the XU (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XU). This group recruited students from the University of Oslo, from which Thor had graduated. They also recruited professionals, including bankers, police, and other high-ranking members of the community.
I learned about this group during my time at the Resistance Museum in Oslo (Norges Hjemmefrontmuseum / forsvaretsmuseer.no). An archivist from the museum discussed this group and other Norwegian resistance groups during a personal tour of the museum and recommended a collection of books for my research. There was a high probability that Thor could have been an early member of this organization.
The same evening I learned about the XU, I was reading through my guidebook on Oslo and learned that Museet for Samtidskunst (Museum of Contemporary Art) was formerly Norges Bank—the bank where Thor had worked his whole life. I had been sitting in the public square in front of the museum earlier that day and took some photographs of the façade.
When I looked through the photographs, I was able to see the black block letters for NORGES BANK underneath the white block lettering of the museum that I did not notice when I photographed it. I had assumed that the original bank building was no longer extant. When I went to the museum the following day, I saw that the interior had not been remodeled at all and that all the original fixtures (doors, door handles, lighting) were still intact. It felt like I was walking into Thor’s work place at the bank in 1935.
History was coming alive through this mystery, and I felt like I was one step closer to finding Thor.
More coincidences and intriguing facts next time!
Randi is an art historian, photographer, part-time genealogist, and writer living in Ithaca, N.Y. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 3, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.