The Search for Thor
Thor takes a job at Norges Bank
Those of you who have followed my journey over the past several years, know that my great-uncle, Thor Einar Jensen, took a job in Hammerfest for Norges Bank in 1941, after having worked mainly at the Oslo branch since 1923.
Why he took this job in Hammerfest at the outset of World War II, while Norway was occupied by over 300,000 Nazis, 1,300 miles from his family, can never be answered.
However, I came a little closer to understanding why Norges Bank chose him for the position after discovering a document written by Nicolai Rygg, the director of the bank (he was the director from 1920 to 1946), in the national archives in Oslo last summer.
In addition, I also happen to have his application letter for the position, which I have translated here (edited for brevity and clarity).
Oslo 23 Sept. 1940
To the administration in Norges Bank – branch Hammerfest
I take the liberty of applying for the vacant position of manager, 1st class, in your branch.
I was born in Oslo in 1904 and after graduation [senior high school] with emphasis in science and a six-month’s course in business, I was hired in June 1923 at Norges Bank’s main office.
[Thor goes on to describe his positions at the bank]
As may be seen from the information above, I have gained a very extensive view of the various activities within the bank’s program and I would like to point out to the administration that as manager in Trondheim I acquired considerable familiarity with all the workings of the branches of Norges Bank.
The administration will recall that the position of manager in the Hammerfest branch was vacant in 1935 and you then offered me the position, but due to some uncertainty, mostly private considerations, I hesitated in accepting the offer. In the meantime, I have had, in the main branch, to be part of the rapid development of the system of clearing and payment agreements, and now I am interested in joining the work of the department, I am well qualified for this position.
Allow me to include the following references (certificates):
Certificate for passing the state economics exam
Letter from Mr. M.M. Warburg & Co., Hamburg
Letter from the board of directors for Norges Bank, Trondheim
Letter from Norges Bank’s director
Hoping for consideration yours sincerely
Although I do not have the above reference letters, I do have the following document discovered last summer, signed by Nicolai Rygg and several other administrators.
The following is my translation of a document regarding the open Norges Bank, Hammerfest, position dated Dec. 2, 1940.
To: Norges Bank’s representative office, Oslo. Ad – vacant position as a 1st class representative at the Hammerfest office.
[some of the document cut…] As a result of this transfer, the board of directors had the position of 1st class representative at the Hammerfest branch announced as vacant among the bank’s clerks. A total of 18 applications have been received, of which 5 came after the application deadline.
The board of directors has attached to the head office the person appointed No. 2, authorized representative Thor Einar Jensen. He was born on 13 March 1904 and started as a temporary assistant in the head office on 20 June 1923. He was permanently employed as an assistant on 1 June 1925 and since 1 December 1935 has been a 3rd class deputy. He has a senior high school education, a year of business school, a state economics exam, and a translator’s exam in German. From 1928 to 1929, he stayed with a scholarship from the bank approx. 1 year in Germany. In 1934-35, he was acting representative for approx. 1 year at the Trondheim branch.
Representative Jensen has worked for several of the head office’s departments, … a long time at the folio department, the statistical department, the debt collection and currency department, the secretariat and the clearing office. He has thus gained a very versatile practice and a good knowledge of the various aspects of the bank’s operations. He also has a thorough knowledge, and the board has come to know him as an interested official. One believes that, by virtue of his education and skill and experience, he is very well suited to hold the position of 1st class representative at the Hammerfest department, and the management would therefore propose that he is employed in this position from the time of his appointment. […some of the document cut here]
“As a 1st class representative at the Hammerfest department employed representative Thor Einar Jensen, head office, from the start.”
Oslo, 13 November 1940
N. Rygg [Director of Norges Bank]
S. Thorkildsen [assume he was board member of Norges Bank but not confirmed]
Alfred Madsen [member of parliament and member of the board of Norges Bank—a few weeks after he signed this document he was arrested by the Gestapo]
Arth. H. Mathiesen [president of Norwegian Shipowner’s Association]
Jon Sundby [member of parliament 1922-1945]
While nothing in either Thor’s letter of application or the above document suggest anything other than a normal job application process, it is clear that his experience working in multiple departments and branches, including his exam certificates, made him an ideal candidate for this important position in a strategic location of Norway during the beginning of the war.
Images courtesy of Randi Millman-Brown
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 May 2023 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.