One of my favourite pastimes is wandering around antique markets and junk shops. Recently I persuaded himself to come with me and whilst I was off rummaging around the various stalls he went off and looked around the book stall. I was very pleased with my purchases: a tiny silver picture frame with its original photograph of a (possibly) Edwardian lady wearing a very large hat, a set of retro weighing scales with a bowl large enough for a Cornish cook to put to good use, and a vintage Manchester United Football top, among other things.
Later over coffee, we discussed our purchases and himself showed me the book he had bought, entitled ‘Nazis in Norway’ by Ake Fen: a small book, rather tatty around the edges but he seemed pleased with it. On closer inspection, we found it had been given out to the British Forces during the second world war; a forces book club had been formed to provide ‘a ration of good reading’ to those members of ‘all units of the British, Dominion and Allied fighting services and the Merchant Navy throughout the world.
As my husband (himself) has Norwegian heritage he soon began reading and before long, became engrossed in this short but fascinating book. Soon he was urging me to read it too.
This book focuses on the war and is very descriptive of the history of the times – and covers the period from the outbreak of WW2 up until 1942.
Before the spring of 1940, Norwegians had ceased to believe in war as a means of solving international problems as they had not known war for a century. They themselves had felt that ‘nothing in life was worth killing people for, even though they knew of things worth dying for’. It is not that they were indifferent, indeed they felt it too frightful to take in the real meaning. They got on well with all nations, and were dependent on none. They were a free country, and desired to be nothing else.
With great wit and courage, the author describes how his country had to adapt to the conditions of war; how they faced up to the horrors of it, yet retained their dignity and their utter inner disdain for the Nazis and their leader.
But this book is so much more than a history of that time. It is a book about backbone and resilience. It is about courage and standing up for beliefs. It is about a race of people who were ‘born of the sea and not used to softness’, but who had, and still have, an inherent individualism, are fiercely protective of their families and are immensely kind and hospitable when you get to know them.
The Norwegian people have grounded their views on the philosophy of the individual and Norway’s history shows that this trait in her people has had an influence on her political development. The land was made up of many areas but unified into one kingdom in the ninth century under Harold Fairhair (I just love that name!), but many of those who thereby found their freedom hampered decided to leave rather than kneel to an overlord. And this is something that seems to recur throughout their history; they may have preferred exile to oppression. It did not mean they didn’t love their country, they did; with a love that was an integral part of themselves.
I love my country too, and I am glad that I have taken the time to read this book for it has set an example and reinforced my belief that if we all work together for the common good and stand up to bullying politics we can be united.
This wasn’t really meant to be a blog about war or politics or international relations; it is more to illustrate how something we come across by chance can take us back to the beginning of things; another time or place. It is about that moment when you stumble upon something and you realise you were meant to read it. I love the fact I see some of my families’ traits hidden in those descriptions of their ancestors which were written long ago.
So next time you go to an antiques fair you never know what you might find!