- Vidkun Quisling and the Deportation of Norway’s Jews
NS-styret var godt informert og deltok med åpne øyne i deportasjonen og den økonomiske likvidasjonen av jødene i Norge.—Bjarte Bruland, Aftenposten, April 12, 2004
(The NS government was well informed and took part in the deportation and economic liquidation of the Jews in Norway with open eyes.)
Vidkun Quisling, the former head of the collaborationist government during the German occupation of norway, stood trial for landssvik (treason) in the Fall of 1945. during the proceedings, he frequently resorted to evasion, attempting whenever possible to avoid responsibility for his past actions. However, he did not equivocate on one point. When asked by the prosecuting attorney if he had, in his speeches, expressed the viewpoint “at jødene er skyld i en rekke av de ulykker som rammer verden?” [that the Jews are guilty of a number of the misfortunes that have stricken the world?], Quisling replied: “Ja, det er min absolute overbevisning” (Straffesak mot Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Jonssøn Quisling 1946, 130) [Yes, that is my absolute conviction]. Even at a time when he had every reason to fear execution, he did not deny being an anti-Semite.
For most of his life, however, anti-Semitism had not been part of Quisling’s ideological outlook.1 He only assumed this point of view in [End Page 270] the middle of his political career. What influenced Quisling the most was his strong desire to come to power. Having always attained the highest grades possible during his schooling, from grammar school through graduation from the Military academy, all the while treated by members of his family as someone who was privileged and special, he had come to regard himself as exceptional. He convinced himself that his superior intellect set him apart, and that he was destined to become norway’s leader. His messianic belief in his mission caused him to search for the means that would enable him to rise to political prominence.
For a time during the 1920s, influenced by the communist triumph in Russia, he concluded that socialism appeared to be the key to the future, and he briefly attempted, unsuccessfully, to establish ties with both the norwegian Labor Party and the norwegian communist Party.2 But later when he entered politics full-time in 1930 as a supporter of Bondepartiet (the agrarian Party), he took the stance of being an ultranationalist who was passionately anti-socialist. after his break with the agrarians due to their refusal to accept him as their party foreman,3 he chose to become the head of a new party, nasjonal Samling (national union; commonly referred to by its initials, NS), founded in 1933. Initially it was an extreme nationalist organization, emphasizing in particular the need for national unity against the alleged divisive influence of arbeiderpartiet (the Labor Party), whose imported Marxist ideology, Quisling maintained, was a revolutionary threat to norwegian society.
In spite of his condemnation of Norwegian socialists for adhering to a foreign doctrine, he too continued to receive inspiration from [End Page 271] external influences. In the early 1930s, before and after nasjonal Samling’s start, he initially looked primarily toward Fascist italy, adopting Mussolini’s corporate economic model as part of NS’s program. It was not until after NS failed dismally in the national election of 1933 (it did not elect a single parliamentary representative), and had only limited, scattered success in the local elections of 1934, that Quisling, inspired by the dramatic nazi takeover in Germany, began to emulate Hitler, including the latter’s use of anti-Semitism as the core of his racist ideology. For Quisling, the adoption of anti-Semitism, although initially clearly motivated by opportunism, was not a radical departure. It served naturally as an extension of his racial worldview, already formulated, in which he stressed alleged Norwegian racial superiority: Norwegians during the Viking period, he maintained, had been part of the predominant Nordic race, which he now described as being in the process of reasserting itself, with Norway destined to play a major role in world affairs (Høidal 2002, 155). Once anti-Semitism became part of his racial perspective...