The Schmooze

'We Are Going to Pick Potatoes:' The Shoah in Norway

Given the current stew of antisemitic hatred in Norway, it is hardly surprising that Holocaust studies from there are hardly a favored export, alongside herring and oil. Over 40 percent of Norway’s Jews were slaughtered during World War II, among the worst losses in Scandinavia at that time.

While there is a modest, neglected Jewish Museum in Oslo, and some popular accounts of the Shoah have appeared in the Norwegian language for general readers, none have been translated into English. The Auschwitz survivor Julius Paltiel co-authored a 1995 memoir, “In Spite of Everything: Julius Paltiel, a Norwegian Jew in Auschwitz” (“På tross av alt: Julius Paltiel - norsk jøde i Auschwitz”) which remains untranslated, despite the author’s vital importance far beyond Norway as a witness to history. Nor has the essential study by the heroic journalist Ragnar Ulstein, “Jews Fleeing” (“Jødar på flukt”), been translated into English, due to lack of funding from Norway’s oblivious Ministry of Culture. This absence makes an informal new memoir, a Jewish version of “I Remember Mama,” unexpectedly precious.

“We Are Going To Pick Potatoes: Norway and The Holocaust, the Untold Story” by Irene Levin Berman has just appeared from Hamilton Books. Levin, who escaped with her family to Sweden in 1942, gives some background on Jewish history in Norway, describing the writings of the activist 19th century poet Henrik Wergeland, who opposed Norway’s ban on Jews, which was effective until 1851.

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'We Are Going to Pick Potatoes:' The Shoah in Norway

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