Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg issued a formal apology on behalf of the Norwegian government on Friday for what he called the “brutal” and shameful deportation of Norway’s Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II. The apology came on Holocaust Day, and ahead of what will be the 70th anniversary of the Nazi-organized deportation on November 26, 1942.
Survivors of the deportation gathered Friday at the spot on Oslo’s waterfront where the German ship Donau sailed with 532 Jews on board, bound for the Auschwitz concentration camp. Only nine returned when the war ended three years later.
“Without taking away the responsibility that the Nazis had, it’s time to see that Norwegian police and other Norwegians took part in the deportation of the Jews,” Stoltenberg told those assembled outdoors in the cold at the Akershus pier. “I find it right to express our deep apology that this could happen, on Norwegian soil.”
Stoltenberg paid tribute to “the millions of innocents” who were killed in “history’s most gruesome mass murder.” He hailed not only the Jewish victims of Germany’s Nazi regime at the time, but also “the Roma people, the handicapped, the homosexuals and other victims of Hitler’s regime’s evil.”
Stoltenberg noted that the Norwegian Parliament approved compensation for the “economic liquidation” of Norwegian Jews 50 years after the war ended. But even though the Nazis carried out the physical liquidation, “it was Norwegians who made the arrests, it was Norwegians who drove the cars, and it happened in Norway.”
Stoltenberg said it “pained” him that 70 years later, some of “the ideas that led to the Holocaust still live. Around the world, we see that some people and groups spread intolerance and fear. They nurture violent ideologies that can lead to anti-semitism and hate towards minorities.”
He worried that some Norwegian Jews also live in fear. “That’s not how we want things to be in Norway,” Stoltenberg said. “Every individual is equal, all have equal rights.”
All told, 772 Norwegian Jews and other Jewish refugees in Norway were arrested and deported to the concentration camps in Germany. Only 34 survived.
Among them was Samuel Steinmann, the only survivor of the Donau deportation alive today. He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he’s had “a good life” back in Norway after the war, but it was “hyggelig” (very nice) to hear Stoltenberg’s official apology.
“Luckily, it’s a human virtue to learn from our mistakes,” Stoltenberg said. “And it’s never too late.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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