The head of the National Archives of Norway, Ivar Fonnes, announced this week that he’ll be opening up long-sealed files on the state’s court cases against tens of thousands of Norwegians who were accused of treason during World War II.
Only researchers and those directly affected by the charges filed and court cases held after the war have had access to the files. They include information on around 90,000 cases of alleged treason and more than 350 cases against Norwegians accused of war crimes. Most of them involve Norwegians who aided and abetted the country’s Nazi German occupiers during the war years from 1940 to 1945, others were those who personally profited from the war, betrayed resistance fighters or were believed guilty of other disloyalty.
The cases have been highly sensitive, not least for the families and descendants of those charged with treason or of otherwise letting their country down during the World War II. While some of the treason cases resulted in prison terms and even execution, such as that of Hitler’s top Norwegian official in Norway, Vidkun Quisling, around half of the cases were later dropped, resulting in no convictions. Official sentiment has thus prevailed that those accused but not convicted should be shielded, and protests emerged when information from the sealed files leaked out in a book published earlier this year.
Now Fonnes believes the time has come to make the files accessible to the general public. From January 1, 2015, they’ll be made available for anyone wanting to review the material. His decision was based on the recommendation made earlier this year by a working group that had studied the issue, and previously sealed war archives have been released before. “I received a good basis for the decision from the group,” Fonnes wrote in a press release.
Norway will celebrate the 70th year of its liberation from German occupation in 2015, which also marks the 75th anniversary of the German invasion of Norway on April 9, 1940.