1100 Norwegian teachers fought Hitler — and won

When Hitler's troops stormed into Norway on April 9, 1940, Germany's goal was to secure the country’s 1200 km long coastline so iron ore from Swedish mines could continue to flow to the northern Norwegian port of Narvik — and eventually to the German war machine. 

But that wasn't all that Hitler and his followers hoped for, as Norwegian teachers would come to learn.

Vidkun Quisling, a Nazi collaborator who nominally headed the Norwegian government during the occupation, wanted Norway to embrace Nazi ideology. He decided the best way to do this was through teachers and schoolchildren. In February 1942, he ordered all teachers to join a new union that would require them to introduce Nazi doctrine to their students. Students were also ordered to join the Norwegian equivalent of the Hitler Youth.

But the teachers refused.

They organized using tactics right out of a spy movie to resist — scribbling messages in invisible ink, meeting secretly in basements and train stations, and printing newsletters to coordinate efforts across the country. For their efforts, 1100 were arrested — and subjected to months of starvation, torture and hard labour.

This week, the story of what happened when the teachers defied Hitler — and won!

My guests on today's show are Martin Øystese and Unni Eikeseth.

Learn more about the teachers' battle:

  • The Teacher's Protest tells the full story of the teachers' resistance, in a 2020 video by Jon Seal and available for rental from Vimeo.
  • "Tyranny could not quell them," by Gene Sharp, a 24-page booklet published in 1958 by the International Pacifist Weekly that describes the teachers' rebellion, and how the tactics they used could help other groups that are interested in non-violent resistance.
  • Lærarkrigen mot Quisling, the Norwegian three-part podcast about the teacher's rebellion (in Norwegian)
  • Ø. Hetland, N. Karcher & K. B. Simonsen (2021) Navigating troubled waters: collaboration and resistance in state institutions in Nazi-occupied Norway, Scandinavian Journal of History, 46:1, 84-104, DOI: 10.1080/03468755.2020.1846075
  • Norwegian Teachers Stand Firm (1942) 32-page booklet published by the Royal Norwegian Government Press Representatives, Washington, DC.

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