Last ‘border pilot’ for refugees dies

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Åge Aulie was only eight years old when he joined Norway’s resistance forces during World War II, guiding refugees over the border to safety in Sweden. He died last week at the age of 85, the country’s last so-called grenselos (literally, “border pilot”).

Åge Aulie, with a copy of the new book about border pilots during World War II who helped Norwegians flee over the border to Sweden. PHOTO: Pax Forlag/Stian Thorstensen

Aulie grew up in a poor but highly engaged resistance family living at Nes in Romerike, northeast of Oslo. They all knew the local area and its terrain well, and young Åge started guiding Norwegians targeted for arrest by Nazi German occupation forces to safety in the border region around Årnes and Kongsvinger.

He once told news bureau NTB that his family, especially his father, recruited him into the resistance effort. “I was 11 years old when the war ended, and was decorated just afterwards,” Aulie said.

“I used to say that I made my contribution to the war effort before I was 10-and-a-half,” he told NTB in 2012, at the funeral of another Norwegian war hero, Gunnar “Kjakan” Sønsteby.

Aulie himself described his participation at such as young age as “madness, but that’s what it was. War is madness.” His family of struggling farmers started out helping guide refugees to safety in Sweden, which was neutral during the war. They went on to become part of a major network within the resistance organization Milorg.

Pax Forlag, a publishing firm behind a new book about border pilots (Grenselosene), reported that Aulie went on to join the military, and became a major. The book, written by Hege Kofstad, featured both the Aulie familie and several others who risked their lives to provide shelter and assistance to Norwegians pursued by the Nazis. They learned to live with constant fear of being uncovered, since helping people over the border was punishable by death.

Pax called Aulie “the most eager informant” for the book, and played an active role in its release earlier this fall, holding various lectures on his experiences. He had also been the last leader of an association founded by his father Einar for former border pilots and couriers during the war.

Newspaper Dagbladet reported that Aulie died at the hospital in Kongsberg after a sudden illness.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund