Nazi concentration camps in Norway
During the German occupation of Norway in World War II the civilian occupying authorities with the Quisling regime and the German Wehrmacht operated a number of camps in Norway, including around 110 prison camps. The occupancy of these camps varied throughout the war, but after the fall of 1944 they filled up, as transportation of prisoners to Germany slowed down.
The Wehrmacht camps were largely POW camps and were scattered throughout the country. Some of these had extremely high mortality rates, owing to inhumane conditions and brutality.
Both established and improvised jails and prisons throughout the country were also used for internment by the Nazi authorities. In particular the Sicherheitspolizei and Sicherheitsdienst headquarters in Victoria Terrasse were notorious for torture and abuse of prisoners. Also, Arkivet in Kristiansand and Bandeklosteret in Trondheim became synonymous with torture and abuse.
The designated concentration camps were not classified as "KZ-Lager" by the Nazis, but rather as ”Häftingslager” under the administration of the Nazi "security police," the SS and Gestapo. Indeed, the Nazi authorities deported over 700 Jews from Norway to Auschwitz, over 500 Nacht und Nebel prisoners to Natzweiler; and thousands more to Sachsenhausen, Ravensbrück and other prisons and camps in Germany. Most of these stayed in Norwegian camps during transit.
Although abuse, torture, and murder were commonplace in these camps, none of them was designated or functioned as extermination camps, nor did they reach the scale seen in camps in Germany, Poland, and Austria. It is estimated that between 38,000 and 40,000 individuals passed through this camp system, for a total of 60,000 prisoner years.
The camps served varying purposes, such as:
- Internment of political prisoners, especially socialists and communists, but also religious dissenters
- Internment of prisoners of war, especially Russian and Yugoslavian soldiers
- Internment of so-called "bomb hostages" - prominent Norwegians who would be executed in the event of the resistance movement bombing Nazi targets
- Transit internment of various prisoners bound for camps in Germany and Poland, including Jews, prominent political prisoners, and others
The Nazi authorities destroyed most of the records related to the camps and prisons they ran during the occupation. Some distinction was made between camps and prisons run by Norwegian Nazis and those run by German Nazi organizations, though it is safe to say that all atrocities took place under the authority of a unified command.
Effectively every local prison was used for these purposes by the Nazis, but several full-fledged camps were also established. Though these were small compared to camps in Germany and Poland, they nevertheless represented the cruelty and lawlessness of the Nazi occupation. To this day, the term "Grini" (the name of the largest camp) has strong and horrifying associations for Norwegians.
- Lager I Beisfjord ("No. 1 camp Beisfjord" - in Norwegian Beisfjord fangeleir)