The Search for Thor
A pocket watch and a possible clue
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.
Two weeks ago, I had to make an unexpected trip to Norway. We learned that my uncle didn’t have long to live, so I took my mom to Norway to see her brother before he died. I knew this trip would be difficult, and I brought my daughter along to help. We planned the trip quickly, stayed for four days, and he passed away the day after we returned to New York. My uncle was an enthusiastic supporter of this book and my research from the very beginning. He will be greatly missed.
Last summer when I traveled to Norway to start my research, I spent many hours talking with my uncle about our family history. He found some old photo albums with many photographs of Thor and his brother Sverre (my grandfather). My uncle was also in possession of not only his father’s pocket watch but Thor’s as well. I was talking to my family about this watch the other day, and I wondered if there was some clue hidden in the watch (I will be going back to Norway later this summer and plan to look at the watch in detail).
Their watches were precious personal items, and he and his brother wore them every day. This got me thinking that not only was this clue idea a possibility but it also left me wondering how Thor’s personal items got to his family after his death. We know from last month’s article that we are unsure of how his body was transported to Trondheim (if it ever was). How did Thor’s mother and/or brother get his personal effects after his death? How is it that my uncle has Thor’s pocket watch, and that Thor’s diary and letters ended up in my possession (my mother doesn’t remember how she came upon his diary, but somehow I have it).
In addition, on May 14, 2018, I received an email from Alf R. Jacobsen, who found a document in the archives in Oslo from Norges Bank’s war diary dated Oct. 16, 1941 (10 days after Thor’s death), which states:
“Jeg meddelte direktør Sattler at der nettopp var kommet telegram fra Hammerfest om at de dervaerende tyske myndigheter hadde beslaglagt leiligheten.” (I informed Director Sattler that there had just been a telegram from Hammerfest that the remaining German authorities had seized the apartment.)
This was an exciting piece of information he found—why did the German authorities need to “seize” the apartment? I am not completely sure of its significance (yet) but we do know that the bank manager job (Thor’s position) had to be refilled and we are hoping to find out who that person was. Where the replacement bank manager came from might provide some insight into the bank’s operations and subsequently what happened to him. There are approximately 1,500 boxes of documents in the archives in Norway (Oslo and Tromsø) that might have this information, but that is too much material to go through for one person. Not even the archivist can do that (he sent me an email to that effect). However, if I can go and spend at least a couple of days scouring the documents, I might get lucky and find some relevant information.
I am now in the process of planning my return trip to Norway to search the archives a little further. I am also hoping to dig a little deeper into probate records that might shed some light into the distribution of his estate.
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 June 15, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.