The making of a Norwegian traitor

Part four of four: Quisling is executed, but his name lives on in infamy

Quisling executed

Photo: National Archives of Norway
Vidkun Quisling was formally installed as Minister-President of Nazi-occupied Norway in a ceremony on Feb. 1, 1942, but found himself a mere figurehead.

Alianna Boszhardt

During the Nazi invasion of Norway, Quisling seized upon the confusion and broadcast his plan for cooperation with the incoming Germans. His view still obscured by his own delusions of grandeur, he continued to believe he was an equal to Hitler and believed Norway was joining a victorious war machine. In the days following his sudden accession to power Quisling appointed his cabinet ministers almost at random. He was hopelessly inept at rallying support among his fellow Norwegians. Hitler immediately realized Quisling’s inadequacies and after a few weeks announced that Reichskommissar Josef Terboven would take charge. On April 24, Norway was turned over to German control. With this move from the German High Command, Quisling was demoted and would spend his days working to establish a strong resurgent Nasjonal Samling (NS) party. Membership in NS swelled to more than 70,000 from 1940 to 42.

In 1942, Terboven approached Quisling about forming a combined government. Quisling was appointed to the position of Minister-President in a ploy by Hitler to draw the support of the Norwegian public. His primary duty was to preside over the NS cabinet, however he was seen as a failure by the Germans. Tensions grew between the two leaders as they disagreed on the course for Norway through the war.

The Nazi war machine was slowly being worn down as the Allied powers crept in on Hitler’s stronghold. Quisling was eager to offer a hand to Germany with a strong Norwegian military, and tried to form an all volunteer force in 1943. What Quisling failed to see was that his people and beloved country were being taken advantage of by a much more adept, charismatic Nazi leadership. His delusions were so grand that he even compared himself to legendary Viking King Olav Tryggvason who ruled from 995-1000 CE.

At midnight on May 8, 1945, the war in Europe ended and Germany was ordered to halt all hostilities. For most Norwegians this was a cause for celebration. Their country was finally free and the NS was put to an end for good. Joseph Terboven, once proudly in charge, committed suicide fearing post-war repercussions. Norway began its return to peaceful prewar sensibilities.

As reports of surrender began filtering into Norway, Quisling reported to Police Headquarters where he was swiftly arrested. He was intent on negotiating with the post-war government, hoping the vision he had tried to implement five years earlier would be understood and his freedom would be spared. Quisling was put on trial by the new Norwegian Unification Government from August to October of 1945. The anger of the Norwegian people, however, could not be ignored and in the early morning hours of October 24, 1945, Vidkun Quisling was executed by firing squad. All that would remain was the memory of a traitor.

Finally, Norway was free to begin rebuilding. King Haakon VII and the royal family returned to Oslo on June 7, 1945, to cheering crowds. The Labor Party gained control of Stortinget and used its power to pursue a socialist economy while being careful to disassociate itself with steadily growing post-war communism. Norway continued its strong alliance with the United States and United Kingdom, and that has continued to this day.

Vidkun Quisling will always be an infamous figure in the history of Norway. His efforts as a politician and his betrayal of his country will forever be immortalized, thanks to the quick wit of Winston Churchill soon after the invasion. Thus, if you hear someone called “Quisling” even nearly 80 years after Vidkun’s death, it is a telling sign that person is not to be trusted.

To read the first three installments in this series, visit:
Part 1: What’s in a name?
Part 2: Nasjonal Samling rises
Part 3: Vidkun betrays Norway and Quisling enters the lexicon

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 May 4, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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