The Search for Thor
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.
Randi travels to Norway for more research
In the May 2022 issue of The Norwegian American, I wrote about finally getting proof of my great-uncle Thor Jensen’s participation in the Norwegian resistance during World War II. He was part of a team of 52 armed bank employees who moved tons of gold bullion out of Norges Bank’s vault in Oslo and transported it to the Lillehammer Norges Bank branch. This operation was called the “Gold Transport.” The last truck left Oslo ½ hour ahead of the Nazis as they marched down Karl Johan’s Gate, Oslo’s main street.
This summer, I spent eight weeks in Oslo – dividing my time among the Riksarkivet (the National Archive), the Nasjonalbiblioteket (the National Library), the new main Deichman Library, the new Nasjonalmuseet (National Museum), the new Munch Museum, visiting my cousins in Drammen, and sightseeing through south central Norway (stave churches, fjords, and tunnels galore). I happily rented an apartment that was a three-minute walk to the Royal Palace and serendipitously, it was around the corner from where Thor lived with his mother in the 1930s before his disastrous move to Hammerfest.
I was in Norway to work on my book about Thor’s life, and I felt it was important to write the bulk of it in Norway. I wanted to be able to see the places he lived and worked and hoped to get a more accurate and honed view of what he experienced. In 2017, when I started this project, I was able to see the interior of Norges Bank in Oslo, while it was at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum and building closed one month later. Luckily, this summer I was able to connect with one of people who knew the building extremely well, an employee at the Statsbygg in the department for Property Development and Management (Statsbygg is a Norwegian government agency that manages central parts of the real estate portfolio of the government of Norway).
We met at the former bank and museum, and I was given an insightful tour (by a very knowledgeable man named Tor showing me Thor’s former workplace). I was allowed to see the vault where the gold was stored and subsequently removed by the Norges Bank employees. By having the opportunity to see the building completely empty, I was able to envision the space filled with bank employees and customers in a way that I couldn’t when it was a full-fledged museum space. I learned how difficult it was for the employees to get the tons of gold out of the vault – imagining how heavy it all was – of course, they had to get it up stairs and out of the bank into waiting trucks as fast possible, to evade the invading Nazis.
This article originally appeared in the October 7, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.