Josef Terboven

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Josef Terboven
Terboven statsakten.jpg
Terboven in February 1942, during the Akershus Government Act ceremony.
Reichskommissar for the Occupied Norwegian Territories
In office
24 April 1940 – 7 May 1945
Prime MinisterVidkun Quisling (1942–1945)
Preceded byNone
Succeeded byFranz Böhme (acting, 1945)
Gauleiter of Essen
In office
1 August 1928 – 8 May 1945
Succeeded byFritz Schlessmann (acting, 1940–1945)
Oberpräsident of Rhine Province
In office
5 February 1935 – 8 May 1945
Preceded byHermann Freiherr von Lünick
Succeeded byNone
Personal details
Born(1898-05-23)23 May 1898
Essen, Rhine Province, Prussia, German Empire
Died8 May 1945(1945-05-08) (aged 46)
Asker, Akershus, Norway
Political partyNational Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP)

Josef Antonius Heinrich Terboven (23 May 1898 – 8 May 1945) was a Nazi leader, best known as the Reichskommissar for Norway during the German occupation of Norway and the Quisling regime.

Early life[edit]

Terboven (from the Dutch ter Boven) was born in Essen, Germany, the son of minor landed gentry of Dutch descent. He served in the German field artillery and nascent air force in World War I and was awarded the Iron Cross, rising to the rank of lieutenant. He studied law and political science at the universities of Munich and Freiburg, where he first got involved in politics.

Nazi Party career[edit]

Dropping out of the university in 1923, Terboven joined the NSDAP with member number 25247 and participated in the abortive Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. When the NSDAP was subsequently outlawed, he found work at a bank for a few years before he was laid off in 1925.

He then went to work full-time for the Nazi party. Terboven helped establish the party in Essen and became Gauleiter there on 1 August 1928. From 1925 on he was part of the Sturmabteilung, in which he reached the rank of Obergruppenführer on 9 November 1936. On 29 June 1934, Terboven married Ilse Stahl, Joseph Goebbels's former secretary and mistress. Adolf Hitler was the guest of honour at the wedding. On 5 February 1935, Terboven was made Oberpräsident of Prussia's Rheinprovinz which included Gau Essen and three other Gaue. He thus united under his control the highest party and governmental offices within his jurisdiction. On the outbreak of war on 1 September 1939, he was named Reich Defense Commissioner for Wehrkreis VI, which included his Gau together with Gau Dusseldorf, Gau Cologne-Aachen and most of Gau Westphalia-North and Gau Westphalia-South.[1]

Rule of Norway[edit]

Terboven (seated 2nd from right) with Quisling, Himmler and von Falkenhorst.

Terboven was made Reichskommissar for Norway on 24 April 1940, even before the military invasion was completed on 10 June 1940. He moved into Skaugum, the official residence of the Crown Prince of Norway, in September 1940 and made his headquarters in Stortinget (the Norwegian parliament buildings). Ilse and their daughter Inge did not accompany him to Norway, remaining in Germany.[citation needed]

Reichskommissar Terboven only had supervisory authority over the civilian administration in Norway. The German civilian administration did not rule Norway directly, however, and remained relatively small. Daily affairs were managed by the existing Norwegian state administration, headed by an acting cabinet and then by the Quisling cabinet. Terboven did not have authority over the 400,000 regular German Army forces stationed in Norway which was under the command of Generaloberst Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, but he did command a personal force of around 6,000 men, of whom 800 were part of the secret police.

In contrast to the military forces commanded by Falkenhorst, which aimed to reach an understanding with the Norwegian people and were under orders by Falkenhorst to treat Norwegians with courtesy, Terboven behaved in the same petty and ruthless way he did as governor of the Rheinprovinz, and was widely disliked, not only by the Norwegians, but also by many Germans. From 1941, he increasingly focused on crushing the irregular military resistance against the Germans, declaring martial law in Trondheim in 1942, and ordering the destruction of Telavåg. Goebbels expressed annoyance in his diary about what he called Terboven's "bullying tactics" against the Norwegians, as they alienated the population against the Germans. Terboven nevertheless remained in ultimate charge of Norway until the end of the war in 1945, even after the proclamation of a Norwegian puppet regime under Vidkun Quisling, the Quisling government. On 18 December 1944, Falkenhorst was dismissed from his command for opposing certain radical policies of Terboven.

As the tide of the war turned against Germany, Terboven's personal aspiration was to organise a "Fortress Norway" (Festung Norwegen) for the Nazi regime's last stand. Hitler's successor, Admiral Dönitz, dismissed Terboven from his post as Reichskommissar on 7 May, transferring his powers to General Franz Böhme.

Impact of his rule on prison camps[edit]

Terboven also planned concentration camps in Norway, establishing Falstad concentration camp near Levanger and Bredtvet concentration camp in Oslo in late 1941.

On 18 July 1942 the Beisfjord massacre took place, Terboven ordered the massacre a few days earlier.

In July 1942 at least one German guard employed by the Korgen prison camp was killed. The commandant ordered retribution: execution by gunfire for "39 prisoners at Korgen and 20 at Osen"; in the days that followed, Terboven also ordered retribution: around 400 prisoners shot and killed in various camps.[2]


With the announcement of Germany's surrender, Terboven committed suicide on 8 May 1945 by detonating 50 kg of dynamite in a bunker[3] on the Skaugum compound. He died alongside the body of Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Rediess, SS and Police Leader and commander of all SS troops in Norway, who had shot himself earlier. His family survived him in West Germany, and his wife Ilse died in 1972.[citation needed]

Portrayal in popular culture[edit]

In the 1965 film The Heroes of Telemark, Josef Terboven was played by English actor Eric Porter.

He is portrayed in the 1996 film Hamsun by Edgar Selge.

A character resembling him appears in the single player campaign of Battlefield V and interrogates the player during a scene.

Josef Terboven was played by Alexander Scheer [de] in the 2019 Norwegian language film Spionen [no], "The Spy", about the Norwegian actress and spy Sonja Wigert (no). From 1941 she had collaborated with the Norwegian resistance movement and from 1942 she had been a Swedish spy with the pseudonym "Bill". On several occasions she was sent back to Norway to try to gain access to leading German officers. One of her targets was Josef Terboven and may have involved her being his "mistress".

Sources and references[edit]

  1. ^ Karl Höffkes: Hitlers Politische Generale. Die Gauleiter des Dritten Reiches: ein biographisches Nachschlagewerk, Grabert-Verlag, Tübingen, 1986, p. 346. ISBN 3-87847-163-7.
  2. ^ "Da nordmenn myrdet fanger i Korgen | Tekster og slikt". 26 October 2016. Retrieved 25 September 2017. Da to fanger i Korgen drepte en tysk vokter og rømte, ga kommandant Hesse ordre om at det som hevn skulle skytes 39 fanger i Korgen og 20 i Osen. Dette var 17. juli 1942. Hesse startet myrderiene med sjøl å skyte flere fanger. De nærmeste dagene ble det på Reichskommissar Terbovens personlige ordre skutt om lag 400 krigsfanger i forskjellige leire
  3. ^ Goeschel, Christian (2009), Suicide in Nazi Germany, OUP Oxford, p. 152, ISBN 0191567566.

External links[edit]