Effect of Germany’s Occupation on Norway


Dietrich Fischer – TRANSCEND Media Service

Prof. Dietrich Fischer

Prof. Dietrich Fischer

Johan Galtung’s father, an ear-nose-throat doctor, was Deputy Mayor of Oslo in the 1920s and a member of the Conservative Party, with a great sense of responsibility for those most in need, embracing the concept of social welfare. He had never had any social contact with members of the labor party, except as patients.

Then came the German-Austrian invasion in 1940. In February 1944, Johan’s father was arrested as a “prominent person” and put in a concentration camp in Norway. His family was very worried that he might be deported to Germany, but he survived and returned home a month before the end of the war.

In the barracks of the concentration camp he and others in the “bourgeois parties” for the first time met directly, person to person, with people from the labor party because they were incarcerated together and got a chance to hold extensive dialogues with each other, often for the first time. Out of such discussions in many places and many camps emerged a consensus to form a coalition, with the Conservative Party agreeing not to oppose the welfare state, and the Labor Party agreeing not to oppose a common foreign policy.

When Germany was defeated on May 8, 1945, this coalition formed the Norwegian government. The consensus lasted for decades, and helped Norway achieve the first position on the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index. Facing Norway’s occupation by Nazi Germany helped the two parties, which had long opposed each other, to form a joint program and government, for mutual benefit.

Joint suffering can sometimes bring former opponents together if three conditions are fulfilled:

  • first, the suffering is caused by an external actor or event, not by one of the two parties;
  • second, the suffering is felt about equally;
  • and third, the decision-making elites of the two parties are also affected, not only the rank and file members.


Dietrich Fischer, born in 1941 in Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. 1986-88 he was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University. He has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities and been a consultant to the United Nations.

Excerpted from Dietrich Fischer’s Stories to Inspire You – TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 Oct 2015.

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