The making of a Norwegian traitor

Part two of four: Nasjonal Samling rises

Nasjonal Samling

Photos: National Archives of Norway
Vidkun Quisling, center, with his Nasjonal Samling party in the 1930s. He used the banner of Saint Olav as the symbol of the new party, which was deeply nationalistic and shared many commonalities with Hitler’s Nazi party.

Alianna Boszhardt

Norway in the 1930s was experiencing many of the same issues as other countries. The depression had hit worldwide in 1929 and blame for the economic crash fell on the current government. In Norway, the Labor party, which had gained popularity at the end of the 1920s, quickly lost influence. In 1931 they were overthrown by the Agrarians.

Vidkun Quisling took this shift in power to heart. He saw the Agrarians as the source for his ultimate political destiny and quickly joined their ranks. He worked with them as Minister of Defense, but by 1933 he saw that the class party politics of the established Norwegian parties would not allow for his prophecies to play out. Thus, he formed the Nasjonal Samling (NS).

With the formation of NS, Quisling’s ideology of a pure Norway could begin to be implemented. He attacked Bolshevism and its perceived threat to his homeland, which he saw personified in the Labor party. He used the banner of St. Olav, a golden cross on a red background, as the NS party symbol. He harkened back to medieval monarch Haakon Haakonson when he adopted the motto, “Norway was a realm; it shall become a people” (Norge var et Rike, det skal bli et Folk). His nationalism saw no bounds, and he quickly drew comparisons between himself and Germany’s Adolf Hitler.

Both men had started their parties in 1933 and both used highly nationalistic imagery to draw supporters, yet where Hitler had charisma and a commanding power, Quisling was soft-spoken and weak in his direction.

Because of this rather ambiguous start to NS, Quisling drew a variety of supporters. But due in part to the vague outline Quisling drew, those supporters he did find showed weak allegiance when they voted, or more often did not, in the elections of 1933. NS failed to gain any seats in Stortinget and was thrown into frantic planning in 1934.

Following this defeat, Quisling and NS drew widespread criticism from both inside and outside the party. NS leadership was in need of reworking to draw more members on a revised platform. Yet overall it was Quisling who needed the most work, as was seen by his closest friends and advisers within the party. They told Quisling that he must narrow his political platform and consult with his lieutenants.

With this in mind, NS was redesigned, and on Feb. 15, 1934, a new party program was signed that laid out the platform that would be followed until its demise at the end of World War II. It was now that outsiders and opponents drew hard comparisons between Quisling and Adolf Hitler. His new party platform called for a “true Norwegian socialism, which guaranteed order and justice, which united freedom and individuality with fellowship, and which maintained values not form.” While not stated outright, his views on Nordic racial superiority were implied.

The new NS platform was seen by those who opposed it as a near copy of the Nazi party that was growing in Germany. From similar party mottos to their uniforms, everything Quisling did with NS was compared to Hitler. Quisling wished to be called Fører, suspiciously similar to Fuhrer, and he began using the fascist salute so widely connected to the Nazi party.

However, NS backing in Norway was still relatively small. Quisling formulated the idea for a “national bloc” in the hopes of gaining the upper hand against the Labor party he so disliked. But because of his temperamental past with Labor, NS was on its own as the 1936 Storting elections came around.

Quisling began interspersing the politics of NS with his unique brand of romantic nationalism. He made allusions to the Vikings, comparing himself with St. Olav and using this ancient banner for NS. His police force was called the Hird, a name taken directly from Viking chieftain bodyguards of old. He also chose the old Nordic greeting “heil og sæl” for members to use, which was quickly and disparagingly compared to the “seig heil” used by the Nazi party. Quisling’s romanticism was soon seen as politically delusional, failing to instill confidence in party members and causing support to dwindle.

As the 1930s came to a close and war in Europe seemed imminent, Quisling looked to the support of those he viewed as allies outside of Norway. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party seemed the last hope in the survival and growth of NS.

Alianna Boszhardt lives and works in the Washington, D.C., metro area. She grew up in western Wisconsin among a large Norwegian family, attending many events at Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center in Coon Valley, Wis., and the Sons of Norway Heritage camp outside of Eau Claire, Wis., every summer. She has a passion for Norwegian history and always enjoys a good meal of meatballs and lefse.

This article originally appeared in the April 6, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.