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Folklore Fights the Nazis

Humor in Occupied Norway, 1940–1945

Kathleen Stokker

Publication Year: 1997

    Armed with jokes, puns, and cartoons, Norwegians tried to keep their spirits high and foster the Resistance by poking fun at the occupying Germans during World War II. Despite a 1942 ordinance mandating death for the ridicule of Nazi soldiers, Norwegians attacked the occupying Nazis and their Norwegian collaborators by means of anecdotes, quips, insinuating personal ads, children’s stories, Christmas cards, mock postage stamps, and symbolic clothing.
    In relating this dramatic story, Kathleen Stokker draws upon her many interviews with survivors of the Occupation and upon the archives of the Norwegian Resistance Museum and the University of Oslo. Central to the book are four “joke notebooks” kept by women ranging in age from eleven to thirty, who found sufficient meaning in this humor to risk recording and preserving it. Stokker also cites details from wartime diaries of three other women from East, West, and North Norway. Placing the joking in historical, cultural, and psychological context, Stokker demonstrates how this seemingly frivolous humor in fact contributed to the development of a resistance mentality among an initially confused, paralyzed, and dispirited population, stunned by the German invasion of their neutral country.
    For this paperback edition, Stokker has added a new preface offering a comparative view of resistance through humor in neighboring Denmark.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. 1-2

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To the Reader

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pp. 3-8

What qualifies the jokes in this book as folklore? The fact, mentioned in the first preface, that they have circulated in numerous international variants, both before World War II and since, suggests that they contain the same infectious appeal we associate with folk songs, legends, and tales. To demonstrate this facet of the ...

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pp. 9-12

During the five-year period between the 9 April 1940 invasion of Norway by German forces and the 8 May 1945 liberation, Norwegians endured terror, sacrifice, and pain. Many also experienced tremendous exhilaration and unprecedented fellowship. Some...

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The Diarists

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pp. 13-16

Solvi M. Larsen, the compiler of the original joke notebook found in Oslo's Resistance Museum, was about twelve years old when the occupation began and living in Oslo. She brought her collection to the museum along with the wartime papers of her father, a...

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pp. 17-22

While the phenomenon of Norway's occupation humor has certainly not gone unnoticed,1 its exact nature and the significant role it played in developing a resistance mentality among the Norwegian...

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1. The Humor of Contempt

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pp. 23-36

It was Norway's strategic position that prompted Hitler's surprise invasion of the country on 9 April 1940. The German war effort depended on an unhindered supply of Swedish iron ore which could be exported year-round via the ice-free north Norwegian ...

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2. Quisling and Hitler Jokes

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pp. 37-56

Because of his negotiations with Adolf Hitler for the German invasion of his own country, the name of Vidkun Quisling has internationally come to mean "collaborator with one's country's enemies, traitor."1 Quisling had founded Norway's Nazi party in 1933 and...

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3. Fraternizing with the Enemy: The Tyskertos

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pp. 57-70

Even more despised than the Nazis, their leaders, and the occupying soldiers were the Norwegian women who befriended them. The term tyskertos1 remains, in fact, one of the most loaded expressions among occupation survivors, perhaps because of the extra...

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4. Humor's Response to Nazi Repression and Cruelty

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pp. 71-88

This smoldering resentment found varied and sometimes surprising expression. That fall, for example, some Oslo students decided that wearing a paper clip in the lapel would signify solidarity. Binders is Norwegian for "paper clip," so wearing it...

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5. Answering Back: The Growth of Anti-Nazi Solidarity

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pp. 89-104

Both despite and because of Nazi cruelty and reprisals, more and more Norwegians found ways to express their opposition to the "New Order's" domination. This chapter examines a few of the more unique demonstrations of this growing anti-Nazi sentiment: a subversive children's book, underground Christmas cards, and...

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6. Adjusting the Image of the Ubermensch: Humor's Antidote to Nazi Propaganda

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pp. 105-124

In the absence of the confiscated radios (see chap. 4), Nazi authorities regarded posters as their most effective means of spreading party ideology. The enormous resources expended and their state of- the-art production methods-including professional artistic and marketing experts-make the resulting lithographs impressive...

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7. The Universality of Resistance and Absence of Nazi Support: Humor's View

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pp. 125-137

On 4 November 1940 Marie Slaatto told her diary: Yesterday the 3rd (Sunday) Lillehammer received a visit from the Nazi Gudbrand Lunde,1 who was to lecture at the bank. A large group, mostly young boys in Hird uniforms accompanied him.2 Lots of posters... were put up before the meeting, but were instantly torn down. When

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8. Daily Life in Reality and in Humor

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pp. 138-159

Occupation jokes provide valuable insights into the realities and frustrations of wartime daily life because of their intimately observed detail. Two items in particular dominate this humor: the electric streetcar known as the trikk, and the trying wartime...

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9. A Humorous Perspective on War Developments: From the Battle of Britain to the Flight of Rudolph Hess

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pp. 160-169

Occupation jokes registered war developments with seismographic speed, especially when things were going badly for Germany. This was a valuable aspect of wartime humor given the harmful psychological effects of constantly being bombarded by the...

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10. Further Perspectives on War Developments: Mussolini, Rommel, and Operation Barbarossa

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pp. 170-184

While British issues occupy by far the largest share of Norwegian ments as well, not least the trials and tribulations of the Italian Blithely assuming that Britain's defeat, like that of France, was a fait accompli, Mussolini declared war on both countries on 10 June 1940 hoping to share in the spoils. He especially coveted the ...

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11. Germany's Bleak Prospects for Victory: High Hopes for Haakon's Return

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pp. 185-204

Wishful thinking, a vital component of so much other occupation humor, logically played a particularly prominent role in the many jokes that predicted the end of German domination and the return as a treacherous deserter and suppressed all hopes of the king's ever returning to an independent Norway, Jossing humor portrayed ...

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12. The Function and Legacy of Occupation Humor

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pp. 205-214

...established and powerful force, easily overshadowing the earlier period, when "few were actually as brave as they think they were today" (E. Ringnes 1950, 351). Now things looked quite different and no organization existed to help individual citizens understand the unfamiliar experience of their nation's being occupied. Most ...


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pp. 215-254


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pp. 255-262


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pp. 263-273

E-ISBN-13: 9780299154431
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299154448

Publication Year: 1997