Corona closed the Liberation jubilee

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The 75th anniversary of Norway’s Liberation Day on Friday was supposed to be a major public celebration, where war veterans would be honoured as well. Ceremonies instead had to be scaled back and closed to the public, because of the Corona virus crisis that has served as a reminder of just how fragile freedom and prosperity can be.

King Harald V, delivered his Liberation- and Veterans Day address on Friday, which marked the 75th anniversary of the end of Norway’s Nazi German occupation of World War II. At far right, Brigadier Arne Opperud. PHOTO: Forsvaret

“Today we should have celebrated in a big way, together, all over the country,” King Harald said at a ceremony billed as “small but dignified” on the grounds of Oslo’s historic Akershus Fortress and Castle. The 83-year-old monarch called it a “paradox” that “we instead have had our freedom reduced. We can’t mark this day in the way we wanted, but we still have so much to celebrate and be thankful for.”

King Harald was only eight years old and living with his mother and sisters in exile in the US when World War II and Norway’s five-year occupation by Nazi German invaders ended on May 8, 1945. The Germans’ unconditional surrender set off enormous celebrations on the streets of Oslo and other cities and towns all over the country. The young prince and his family returned to Norway on June 7, 1945, to another public outpouring of joy and gratitude.

Plans for a major public celebration had to be dropped, but Prime Minister Erna Solberg, her defense minister Frank Bakke-Jensen, the president of the Parliament Tone Wilhelmsen Trøen and Defense Chief Haakon Bruun-Hanssen were on hand to welcome the royal family to Akershus in Oslo. PHOTO: Forsvaret

“Today we celebrate peace, freedom and our elected government,” King Harald said. “We celebrate the unity and confidence we have between us. Now we shall move forward together, determined and conscious of what means something for us, what we live off of, and for.”

This year’s Liberation Day, which also serves as Veterans’ Day in Norway, fell just a day after the government announced how Norwegians would soon be liberated themselves from some of the restrictions that have curbed personal freedom over the past two months. After 75 years of peace and freedom in the country, the Corona crisis has been a reminder that freedom is not to be taken for granted.

“In a time with less freedom for us all, a time that’s been difficult for many, we must also remember to build up one another,” King Harald said in his address at a small but dignified ceremony on the grounds of Oslo’s Akershus Fortress and Castle. “Once again, we’ve been reminded how much we depend on our fellowship.”

Few World War II veterans were able to attend Liberation Day ceremonies, but former resistance fighter Thor Hofsbro met Prime Minister Erna Solberg and her husband Sindre on Friday, to hear his memories. PHOTO: Forsvaret

The historic fortress grounds were closed to the public on Friday, but nonetheless the site of a flag-raising ceremony at 8am, wreath-layings at mouments inside the fortress, and speeches by the monarch, the prime minister, the president of Norway’s Parliament and the leader of the Parliament’s defense committee. King Harald, meanwhile, was accompanied by Crown Prince Haakon, both of whom were in uniform, along with both Queen Sonja and Crown Princess Metter-Marit, dressed in traditional Norwegian bunads for the occasion. Canons mounted on the fortress wall were fired at noon, while six fighter jets flew in formation overhead.

Other scaled-back ceremonies were held elsewhere around the country, at monuments, military bases and fortresses from Elverum in the southeast to Ørland in the northwest. Plans for major public celebrations, however, all had to be toned down and restricted, since no more than 50 people are allowed to gather at any one time of place.

That will be extended to 200 from June 15, after Norway gradually opens up again over the next several weeks. Oslo itself was already noticeably more lively on Friday, as cafés, restaurants and shops start reopening. Schools will also open next week. Berglund