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Church Resistance to Nazism in Norway, 1940-1945

by Arne Hassing

Publication Year: 2014

Published by: University of Washington Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

During World War II, Allied propaganda and the free press celebrated Christian resistance to Nazism in German-occupied Norway. A few observers also understood its larger importance. The great Swiss theologian and leader of the German church resistance, Karl Barth, wrote in 1943 that “the scope and significance of the church struggles in Holland...


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pp. xvii-xix

Map of the Church of Norway’s dioceses in 1940

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pp. xx-2

Part I. Preludes

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1. German Prelude

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pp. 5-17

The year was 1936, and Adolf Keller, the Swiss Secretary of the European Central Bureau of Inter-Church Aid, delivered a series of lectures on church and state in Europe. He could not have chosen a more relevant topic. The “church struggle” (Kirchenkampf) between Adolf Hitler’s...

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2. Norwegian Preludes

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pp. 18-34

In 1930, Norwegians celebrated nine centuries of Christianity. For a commemorative volume, a promising pastor named Johannes Smemo contributed an article on Norwegian Christianity that tried to pin down its distinctiveness. Smemo was sure that Christianity was the same...

Part II. Invasion, Accommodation, Collaboration

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3. Weserübung

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pp. 37-51

Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, and three days later the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. The United Kingdom, however, was not prepared to go to war on Polish soil, leading to the “Phony War,” a pause in hostilities that would last over seven months. The bishop ...

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4. Forging a Front

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pp. 52-66

From London, the Norwegian government would continue the war, but at home its military capitulation cleared the path for Adolf Hitler to resume demands for a political settlement with the appearance of legitimacy. The only way to his goal was to negotiate with the most “legitimate”...

Part III. Resistance

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5. In Defense of a Just State

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pp. 69-82

When Hitler could not achieve his optimal political settlement, his compromise was the Commissarial Council, installed by Terboven on 25 September 1940. The Commissarial Council was not a government, because each minister answered to Terboven, but the Reichskommissar banned all...

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6. The NS Church System

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pp. 83-94

Sigurd Oftenæs had been employed in the Church Department since 1897 and had been Director General of the Church Division (Kirkeavdelingen) of the Ministry of Church and Education since 1927, and in all that time the Church Division consisted of six “offices.” Once Oftenæs decided to...

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7. Against Nazification

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pp. 95-107

Between the summers of 1940 and 1941, Germany continued its military offensive in Western Europe. After defeating the Netherlands, Belgium, and France between 10 May and 22 June, Hitler ordered the bombing of the United Kingdom. When the Battle of Britain was officially over on 30 October, Germany had suffered its first setback. But the German...

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8. In Defense of the Church

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pp. 108-118

As summer approached in 1941, the United States and the Soviet Union were not engaged in the war. The United States was a sympathetic neutral party, but it would not be drawn into the war until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. The Soviet Union was also neutral, but in a different position. Germany and the Soviet Union had signed a...

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9. The Resignation of the Bishops

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pp. 119-129

On New Year’s Eve 1941, the Axis remained in control of most of Europe and eastern Asia. The Germans occupied or controlled western, central, and southern Europe and the Balkans, and on the Atlantic their submarines were devastating Allied shipping. In Asia, the Japanese controlled...

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10. In Defense of the Young

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pp. 130-154

The principles at stake in the Nidaros Cathedral incident were enough to justify the resignation of the bishops. Whether it contained enough drama to also mobilize public support is unknown, because within a week the NS launched another initiative that quickly overshadowed it....

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11. Easter 1942

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pp. 155-166

The Annunciation Day protest proceeded as planned, but not without signs of unrest in the ranks. Some pastors in Kristiansand and Stavanger only read summaries or did not read the protest statement at all.1 Behind their decisions was the realization that the status quo was problematic....

Part IV. Contesting NS Legitimacy

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12. Negotiations?

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pp. 169-179

Just after Christmas 1941 and without the knowledge of the Norwegian government, the British carried out raids and sabotage in Måløy and Reine in the Lofoten islands of northern Norway, leaving 150 German soldiers dead and 98 taken prisoner....

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13. The Autonomous Church

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pp. 180-190

This chapter is about the formation of an autonomous church organization to serve its members with “Word and sacrament”; the next chapter is the story of the NS’s attempt to rebuild the state church. Both chapters are also about each side’s strategy to contain the other, to deny the other legitimacy....

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14. The NS Church

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pp. 191-202

The segment of the Church of Norway that recognized the state after 5 April 1942 has been known by different names: the “Nazi church,” the “Quisling church,” and the “NS church.” For its supporters, it was simply the Church of Norway. It had adhered to Lutheranism’s traditional interpretations of obedience to the state and the doctrine of the two realms...

Part V. Final Protests

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15. In Defense of Jews

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pp. 205-215

Terboven’s Reichskommissariat and the German Security Service included staff specialists on “the Jewish question.” As the invasion settled into occupation, their first task was to gather reliable information about Norwegian Jews, and a month after Operation Weser they ordered the confiscation ...

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16. Against Compulsory Labor Service

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pp. 216-226

Between the fall of 1942 and the spring of 1943, the war in Europe shifted in favor of the Allies. Churchill hesitated about claiming too much, but he thought that November 1942 was “the end of the beginning.”1 That seemed to be the Norwegian view as well; the Gestapo’s November report...

Part VI. Holding Out

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17. Between the Times

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pp. 229-240

Between 20 June 1942, when the PCL announced its formation, and 13 May 1943, when Hope and Hallesby were arrested, the PCL had led the church through historic changes: it had established an autonomous church, disentangled the church from the state, built an effective administration,...

Part VII. Liberation

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18. The Reckoning

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pp. 243-255

Had Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg succeeded in assassinating Hitler on 20 July 1944, the war might have ended earlier and differently, but Hitler survived. Key military conspirators refused to act, and the conspiracy fell apart. Among those implicated were men with connections to the Norwegian ...

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Epilogue: Legacies

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pp. 256-276

The Church of Norway’s resistance to Nazism and subsequent break with the NS state had repercussions as well as historical significance. This epilogue considers a few of its repercussions in postwar Norway and the global church, compares and contrasts it with the German Kirchenkampf,...


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pp. 277-278


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pp. 279-324


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pp. 325-350


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pp. 351-384

E-ISBN-13: 9780295804798
E-ISBN-10: 0295804793
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295993089
Print-ISBN-10: 0295993081

Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Norway -- Church history -- 20th century.
  • Anti-Nazi movement -- Norway.
  • Lutheran Church -- Norway -- History -- 20th century.
  • Norske kirke -- History -- 20th century.
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