The Search for Thor
More missing records
by Randi Millman-Brown
Thor Jensen, 36, moves from Oslo to Hammerfest. He is promoted to bank manager, becomes engaged, and takes a one-month hiking trip through occupied Finnmark in 1941. By the end of the year, he is dead, leaving behind a mystery, a diary, and many questions. This column chronicles his great niece’s attempt to solve that mystery.
If you recall from my last installment, the next stop on my journey was Trondheim, Norway. I had found some interesting bank records in Tromsø, but nothing that shed light on the mystery of Thor’s death. I was headed to another archive within the National Archive system in Trondheim for some answers (the main archive is in Oslo, and there are eight other regional archives—see www.arkivverket.no/en/about-us/visit).
On the 90-minute flight to Trondheim (680 miles south of Tromsø), I had some time to consider my next steps. First, I knew that I had to travel back to Hammerfest for another visit to physically look in the church’s archives (perhaps this summer). They had some records from the 1940s, but not Thor’s. This seemed strange to me. Second, I felt increasingly skeptical about so many types of records being missing. Yes, it was war time, but heads of banks, churches, and police stations knew this and were careful about keeping records safe—or so I thought.
(To refresh the reader’s memory: Thor worked for Norges Bank in three cities over the course of his career: Oslo, Trondheim, and Hammerfest.)
After arriving in Trondheim, I went for a walk and immediately realized my hotel was on the same street where Norges Bank was located, Kongens gt., where Thor worked from Jan. 1, 1934, to June 7,1935. I had arrived in Trondheim on June 30, 2017—almost exactly 82 years later. It is now the “Vitensenteret,” a science museum. This, if you recall, is similar to my experience in Oslo, when I found out the contemporary art museum was the former Norges Bank where Thor worked—see article published on Nov. 3, 2017: www.norwegianamerican.com/heritage/surprising-discoveries).
The next day, I took a taxi to the Regional State Archives of Tromsø at Huginbakken 18, figuring I would walk back to town afterward. I was dropped off at this imposing structure (see photo) but not before finding out from the taxi driver that this building was built by the Germans at the beginning of the war and had withstood repeated bombings during the course of the war, so officials decided it was the perfect place for the archives.
Many regional records and documents from Hammerfest, and Finnmark in general, were sent to both Tromsø and Trondheim, so I was hoping that documents I couldn’t find in Oslo, Hammerfest, or Tromsø might be found here. I was wrong.
All I discovered was Thor’s address from when he lived in Trondheim, Elvegt. 14.
More information about Trondheim related to Thor was discovered only after I returned to the U.S. I knew from Thor’s obituary that he had been cremated in Trondheim. It took several months of research after I returned to learn that there was only one crematorium in Trondheim during the war, and that this crematorium is still in business. However, after several email exchanges with the crematorium, they told me they did not have any records of Thor being cremated there (although they had records of other people from that time period).
So as of March 4, 2018, my questions from June 30, 2017 are still not answered:
#1) How did Thor’s body get from Hammerfest to Trondheim?
#2) Was Thor’s body ever really transported to or cremated in Trondheim?
#3) Why is there no record of his cremation, even though it is in the obituary?
#4) Whose ashes did my grandfather receive and eventually bury in the Oslo cemetery, Vestre Gravlund, in 1941?
How many more problems, questions, roadblocks will there be?
Randi Millman-Brown 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 March 23, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.