Friday May 8th is both Liberation- and Veterans’ Day in Norway, and this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the Nazi German occupation. Royalty, government officials and military brass will be out in force to hail Norway’s freedom at a time of rising international tension.
Events will begin with flag-raising ceremonies at 8am over the historic Akershus Fortress and Castle in Oslo. It played a major role during the war and still serves as the headquarters for Norway’s defense establishment and, most recently, the Office of the Prime Minister. The latter moved to Akershus following the bombing of the prime minister’s former offices in 2011 by a home-grown ultra-right wing attacker.
There will be a military salute from Akershus at 9am and a special church service in Akershus’ slottskirke at 11am, followed by various wreath-laying ceremonies including a 2pm memorial ceremony at the monument raised on Bydgdøy to merchant marine officers who served aboard commercial vessels commandeered for the war effort. The merchant sailors were neglected for decades and only recently received long overdue recognition.
The Kings’ Guards will conduct a drill performance back at Akershus at 3pm before King Harald arrives at 4pm to lay down a wreath at the national monument and speak to veterans, including survivors of service during World War II. Prime Minister Erna Solberg will also speak and the traditional “soldier’s speech” will be held by both a World War II veteran and a female veteran of more recent military operations. That will be followed by the awarding of medals and the opening of another new exhibit at the Defense Museum.
Many important days in May, and June
Other Liberation- and Veterans’ Day events will be held around the country on May 8th, with 70th anniversary events continuing throughout the month. There are many events to be remembered, including not just the German surrender at Akershus but also the return of the first Norwegian and allied forces from May 9-11. It was on May 11th that resistance fighters, after emerging from their cells in the hills and forests surrounding Oslo and other Norwegian cities, stood at attention in knickers and worn parkas while the Nazi German flag bearing a swastika was lowered and the Norwegian flag raised once again over Akershus.
Two days later, Crown Prince Olav and members of the Norwegian government returned from wartime exile in London, on May 13. The resistance forces were disbanded on May 14th and Norway’s first free Constitution Day ceremonies since 1939 could take place once again on the 17th of May.
Norway’s exiled prime minister, the rest of the government ministers and the president of the Parliament returned to Norway on May 31st, 1945 and jubilation climaxed on June 7th, with the return of King Haakon VII, Crown Princess Martha and the royal children including young Prince Harald, now King Harald.
The Norwegian Parliament that had been elected in 1936 reconvened on June 14 and on June 25, new Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen took over as head of the government.