Jo Benkow

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Jo Benkow
Jo Benkow.jpg
Born Josef Elias Benkowitz
(1924-08-15)15 August 1924
Trondheim, Norway
Died 18 May 2013(2013-05-18) (aged 88)
Oslo, Norway
Nationality Norwegian
Occupation Politician
Years active 1965–1993
Home town Bærum, Norway
Title President of Parliament
Term 1985–1993
Predecessor Per Hysing-Dahl
Successor Kirsti Kolle Grøndahl
Political party Conservative Party of Norway
Spouse(s) Annelise Høegh

Jo Benkow (born Josef Elias Benkowitz; 15 August 1924 – 18 May 2013) was a Norwegian politician and writer, notable for being an important person in the Conservative Party of Norway, and the President of the Parliament 1985–1993. He was also President of the Nordic Council in 1983.


He was born in Trondheim, Norway but moved to the municipality of Bærum outside Oslo as a child. As a member of the tiny Jewish minority of Norway, he experienced first-hand prejudice while growing up. In 1942, he fled persecution by the Nazis occupying Norway, into Sweden and subsequently the United Kingdom where he served in the Royal Norwegian Air Force.[1] He returned after the war and took up photography as a trade.

In 1965 he was elected to the Parliament of Norway, representing the Conservative Party. In parliament he soon became a leading figure, as party leader 1980–84, group leader of the Conservative Party in parliament 1981–85 and most notably becoming President of the Storting (Speaker) on 9 October 1985, a position he held until his retirement on 30 September 1993, after 28 years in parliament.

Benkow served as president of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, taught international relations at Boston University, and has written books on human rights, modern monarchy in Norway, and other issues. His self-biography Fra Synagogen til Løvebakken (From the synagogue to Løvebakken; Løvebakken refers to a place outside the Parliament) published in 1985 sold 250,000 copies in Norway and earned him the Norwegian Booksellers' Prize.[2] His book Olavmenneske og monark ("Olav – Man and Monarch"), a product of several conversations with his friend King Olav V, was a huge bestseller as well.

He was also a much sought-after lecturer on issues concerning the Middle East and Anti-Semitism. In recent years he managed to create some controversy when he criticized former prime minister and party colleague Kåre Willoch, calling him "the most biased person in the country," on account of Willoch's views on the Middle East and his criticism of Israeli politics.[2]

Benkow died on 18 May 2013, at a hospital in Oslo, aged 88.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Jo Benkow married twice, his second marriage was with fellow politician Annelise Høegh.[2] He was the uncle of journalistic fraudster Bjørn Benkow.[4]



  • Fra synagogen til Løvebakken (1985); From Synagogue to Parliament
  • Folkevalgt (1988); Elected by the People
  • Haakon, Maud og Olav. Et minnealbum i tekst og bilder (1989); Haakon, Maud and Olav. A Memorial Album of Text and Images
  • Hundre år med konge og folk (1990); A Hundred Years with King and Nation
  • Olav – menneske og monark (1991); Olav – Man and Monarch
  • Det ellevte bud (1994, with afterword by Elie Wiesel); The Eleventh Commandment


^ Article in Aftenposten, May 2004 (in Norwegian) on the Norwegian Refugee Council and Kåre Willoch's visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

  1. ^ [1] Archived 3 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b Lars Roar Langslet: Jo Benkow (in Norwegian) Store norske leksikon, retrieved 18 May 2013
  3. ^ "Jo Benkow er død – VG Nett". Retrieved 2013-05-18. 
  4. ^ Juksemaker'n – portrettet –
Political offices
Preceded by
Per Hysing-Dahl
President of the Storting
Succeeded by
Kirsti Kolle Grøndahl