Beisfjord massacre

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The Beisfjord massacre (Norwegian: Beisfjord-massakren) was a massacre on 18 July 1942 in Beisfjord, Norway of 288 political[1] prisoners who were killed at Lager I Beisfjord (German: "No. 1 camp Beisfjord" - in Norwegian Beisfjord fangeleir).

The massacre had been ordered a few days earlier by the Reichskommissar for Norway Josef Terboven.[1]

Background[edit]

In order to build defences in Norway against the Allies, the Germans brought in around 5,000[2] Yugoslavian political prisoners and prisoners-of-war — in addition to prisoners of other nationalities — to work as forced labour on infrastructure projects. In the summer of 1942 a number of prisoners started arriving in North Norway as a result of the transfer of prisoners from the new Croatian puppet regime to German authorities who needed manpower for projects in Norway.[2] This acquisition of manpower for projects in Norway was under Organisation Todt Einsatzgruppe Wiking.

In 2013 Dagbladet quoted a book author[3] (Knut Flovik Thoresen) saying—in regards to the camps that were to cost the lives of 2,368 Yugoslavs—that "Norwegian [camp] guards' [in North Norway] gruesome violations against Yugoslav prisoners in Norway during the war, were so cruel that I have hardly ever read about more brutal acts". Furthermore, that many of the victims were Serbs from the independent state of Croatia (NDH) —not partisans, but chosen based on ethnicity.[4] In the first deployment of camp guards that were sent to North Norway, some used their bayonets so often "that even the Germans had enough of it".[5] The second group were not issued bayonets, for fear that they would become as blood thirsty.[5] (The guards from these groups came from Hirdvaktbataljonen—a battalion within Hirden,[5] that had the responsibility for guarding the prison camps in North Norway, between June 1942 and April 1943.[6] 500[5] of these guards served at four main camps—Lager 1 Beisfjord, Lager 2 Elsfjord, Lager 3 Rognan and Lager 4 Karasjok—and their satellite prison camps at Korgen, Osen, and at Lake Jernvann on Bjørnfjell.[7])

Many[2] hundreds of Bosnian Muslims were among these prisoners in Norway, but they only figure on a British list from 1945. After they were sent from Norway to Berlin, there is no trace of them, according to the Croatian philosopher Gorona Ognjenovic.[2] Yugoslavia did not want those prisoners back, claims Ognjenovic.[2]

The number of individuals victimized by SS-kommandant Hermann Dolp and his German and Norwegian subordinates, might total 3,000 or even 4,000.[8]

In 2013 Flovik Thoresen said "You can be sure that if Norwegian prisoners had been exposed to similar [atrocities], then many of the perpetrators would have been sentenced to death. Instead most were let off with sentences more lenient than those received by women who served as nurses at the front lines".[9]

There were 31 camps between Bergen and Hammerfest during the World War Two.[8]

The involvement of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration has been told in a 2014 Dagsavisen article: "The camps were built by the Public Roads Administration".[10] Furthermore, that the road work was led by the Public Roads Administration, "was more the rule, rather than the exception".[10] Furthermore, the agency's "employees were facilitators and witnesses—not executioners".[10] In November 1941 blueprints and descriptions for the construction of the prison camps were sent from the Directorate of Public Roads.[10] Furthermore, in the "early stage, we only know of one small protest: the" agency "refused to feed the prisoners. This was done by a lie": The agency claimed that it was not common for the agency to feed their road workers.[10] Furthermore, Anders Fagerbakk's dissertation says that Helgoland veikontor—a local office of the agency—sent a letter of complaint to Directorate of Public Roads, a few days after Jugoslavians were put to work on road construction: The engineer in charge reported that "Norwegian road workers became restless and nervous, as a result of working with the Yugoslavians. The Yugoslavians were being fed starvation rations, and they lacked [enough] clothing".[10] In later reporting from the village Karasjok, the description "skin and bones" was used about Yugoslavian prisoners constructing roads.[10] Furthermore, "after the war, everyone in the Public Roads Administration denied involvement with the Yugoslavian prisoners."[10] Reactions to the involvement of the agency, includes (in 2014) "Still, no one has asked: Could they have stopped the mass murders?"; could the agency "have done more—could it have been avoided?"[10]

The massacre[edit]

In 1942, 900 Yugoslavian prisoners were transported by ship to Beisfjord - approximately 10 kilometers east of Narvik - where a prison camp was established.[11]

The Beisfjord camp was quarantined by the SS on 15 July 1942 allegedly to avoid an outbreak of typhus.[2] According to Ljubo Mladjenovic (a former prisoner) in his 1989 book, conditions at the camp were unhealthy and there was an outbreak of typhus.[12] Prisoners with various illnesses were moved into two barracks, which became surrounded by barbed wire.[2]

On the evening of July 17, the 588 "prisoners regarded as healthy" were marched out of Lager I Beisfjord by nearly all of the Norwegian[13] guards and some German superiors.[1] Their destination was 30 km (19 mi) north-east — Bjørnefjell.[14] At Bjørnfjell they were quarantined, and the camp at Øvre Jernvann was established.[11]

After prisoners regarded as healthy were marched out of the Beisfjord camp[edit]

The remaining "weak and exhausted" prisoners (in Beisfjord) were ordered to dig graves and then ordered into standing positions where they would drop into the grave after the guards had shot them.[2] These 288 prisoners were killed in groups of twenty.[1]

Those prisoners who could not stand on their own feet, were left in the two barracks — which were then doused in gasoline and set on fire.[2] Some sources say that a number of prisoners refused to leave the infirmary,[1] and the building was set ablaze; those who jumped out of the windows were shot.[1] Those who tried to escape the conflagration, were shot by a machine gun in the watch tower.[2]

Seventeen Norwegian guards were present and played a role[15] during the massacre.

Criticism of lack of focus on the involvement of Norwegian paramilitary soldiers[edit]

In 2009, Aftenposten wrote "That Norwegian pupils are sent on organized bus trips to Germany and Poland to get a sense of the atrocities there, without knowing that equivalent atrocities were committed in Norway, puzzles the leader of Nordnorsk Fredssenter in Narvik". Adding "That the events [of the massacre] were covered up, is feared by the head of a war museum in Narvik (Nordland Røde Kors Krigsminnemuseum[16]), because members of a paramilitary force of Norwegians—Hirden— participated in the atrocities".[1] In 2010 Fritt Ord sponsored research that has led to an exhibition (from 12 August 2012) at The Falstad Centre.[2]

Reactions to the massacre[edit]

In 2014 Pål Nygaard (author and researcher) said that "Not long after the war" Nils Christie "interested himself in the Yugoslavian prisoners. Christie thought that research (en studie) of their prison guards, was the best way we in Norway could gain knowledge and understanding (...) He wanted to dig deeper where others waived off the actions [merely] as evil. In Norway there was little interest in reading- or listening to him. Killings and brutality belonged to the others, the bad: occupants. - Still it is like that".[10]

A 2013 Verdens Gang article said that Efraim Zuroff "has eyed the groups of war criminals that he thinks there is reason to still hunt: It concerns soldiers from SS-Division Wiking that amongst other things, participated in the massacring Jews on the Eastern Front 70 years ago; soldiers that served in Hirdvaktbataljonen in North Norway and who exposed Serbian POWs for horrific violations; and Norwegians that participated in arrests of Jews during the war. - Many of them were convicted, but not for what they really did".[17] The same article said that Norway's Department of Justice had scheduled a meeting with Zuroff on 20 November 2013, but a misunderstanding within the department led to Zuroff not being notified. State Secretary Vidar Brein-Karlsen has said that he will gladly meet with representatives from the Wiesenthal Centre to hear what they have to say.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
Citations
  1. ^ a b c d e f g Ole Magnus Rapp (17 September 2009), "Gransker nordmenns rolle i leirene", Aftenposten (in Norwegian), Alle hadde status som politiske fanger, og var arrestert for å ha motarbeidet Hitler-Tyskland. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Svarstad, Asbjørn (29 July 2012). "Drapsnatta i Beisfjord". Dagbladet (in Norwegian). p. 18. 
  3. ^ Asbjørn Svarstad; Line Brustad (8 November 2013). "Massakrer i Nord-Norge - utført av norske hirdmenn" [Massacres in North Norway - performed by Norwegian members of Hirden]. Dagbladet. p. 17. To nye norske bøker avslører nå barbariske handlinger begått av nordmenn mot krigsfanger i Nord-Norge. - Norske vokteres grusomme overgrep mot jugoslaviske fanger i Norge under krigen var så groteske at jeg knapt har lest om mer brutale handlinger, sier forfatteren Knut Flovik Thoresen. 
  4. ^ Asbjørn Svarstad; Line Brustad (8 November 2013). "Massakrer i Nord-Norge - utført av norske hirdmenn" [Massacres in North Norway - performed by Norwegian members of Hirden]. Dagbladet. p. 18. 
  5. ^ a b c d Asbjørn Svarstad; Line Brustad (8 November 2013). "Massakrer i Nord-Norge - utført av norske hirdmenn" [Massacres in North Norway - performed by Norwegian members of Hirden]. Dagbladet. p. 18. 
  6. ^ "SS-soldater måtte stanse brutale norske fangevoktere" [SS soldiers had to stop brutal Norwegian prison guards]. NRK. 4 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Asbjørn Svarstad; Line Brustad (8 November 2013). "Massakrer i Nord-Norge - utført av norske hirdmenn" [Massacres in North Norway - performed by Norwegian members of Hirden]. Dagbladet. p. 19. 
  8. ^ a b Svarstad, Asbjørn (29 July 2012). "Drapsnatta i Beisfjord". Dagbladet (in Norwegian). p. 19. 
  9. ^ Asbjørn Svarstad; Line Brustad (8 November 2013). "Massakrer i Nord-Norge - utført av norske hirdmenn" [Massacres in North Norway - performed by Norwegian members of Hirden]. Dagbladet. pp. 17–8. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Pål Nygaard (2014-11-18). "2. Verdenskrig: Etter krigen benektet alle i Vegvesenet at de hadde noe med de jugoslaviske fangene å gjøre. - Kunne de stoppet massedrap?" [World War Two: After the war, everyone in the Public Roads Administration denied involvement with the Jugoslavian prisoners. - Could they have stopped mass murder?]. Dagsavisen. p. 6. 
  11. ^ a b "Innsigelse til Reguleringsplan for NygÅrdsfjellet Vindkraftverk Trinn II, Narvik Kommune" (pdf), Government correspondence from Minister Erik Solheim (in Norwegian), 26 September 2007 
  12. ^ Mladjenovic[page needed]
  13. ^ Sigurd Bakke Styrvold, "Heil og Sæl. Jeg er utdannet morder!" - Den norske SS Vaktbataljon 1942 – 45" (pdf), MA in history - University of Oslo (in Norwegian): 19, ble alle de friske fangene sendt av gårde i en hard marsj mot Jernvatn på Bjørnfjell eskortert av nesten alle de norske vaktene i leiren, samt noen få tyske befalingsmenn. 
  14. ^ Sigurd Bakke Styrvold, "Heil og Sæl. Jeg er utdannet morder!" - Den norske SS Vaktbataljon 1942 – 45" (pdf), MA in history - University of Oslo (in Norwegian): 19, ble alle de friske fangene sendt av gårde i en hard marsj mot Jernvatn på Bjørnefjell 
  15. ^ Noen av krigens grusomme dødsleirer var på norsk jord
  16. ^ Nordland Røde Kors Krigsminnemuseum Narviksenteret and Nordland Red Cross War Museum 
  17. ^ a b Vil starte ny nazijakt i Norge - Verdens fremste nazijeger har på ny kastet sine øyne på Norge og norske naziforbrytere.

Literature[edit]

  • Mladjenovic, Ljubo Beisfjordska tragedija (1988) Translated to Norwegian in 1989
  • Nygaard, Paal Store drømmer og harde realiteter ["great dreams and tough reality"] (2014)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 68°22′30″N 17°35′59″E / 68.3750°N 17.5997°E / 68.3750; 17.5997