June 10th in German History: The Surrender of Norway

A few months ago, I discussed the start of operation Weserbung, the German invasion of Denmark and Norway during World War II. Today, the Norwegian military ceased resistance to the invading German forces, effectively surrendering the country to Germany. Norway would be yet another in a series of countries, beginning with France and ending with Greece, to fall quickly to the Nazi’s advance during the early years of the Second World War.

Norway attempted to stay neutral in World War II. However, it was an object of intense focus for both Germany and the UK because of its control of part of the Danish Straights. If the UK had access through these straights, it could intercept German trade convoys carrying iron and tungsten from Sweden south to German factories. Hitler was extremely concerned with this possibility, and so ordered that Norway be invaded so as to ensure the safety of the iron ore trade. The German invasion of Norway was conducted primarily through amphibious assaults which landed troops in Norwegian cities. British attempts to establish a front failed, and Allied forces were evacuated from the country. Britain was too preoccupied with the Fall of France to dedicate sufficient quantities of men and material to Norway. The poorly equipped and relatively small Norwegian army was unable to put up a concerted resistance and so surrendered two months after the invasion began in April. The Germans quickly set about creating an occupation government, initially creating an administrative council to administer the country. However, the Norwegian parliament and king refused to negotiate with Germany, and so in 1942 Hitler installed Vidkun Quisling, leader of the Norwegian Fascist Party, as a puppet. Most of the real power would rest in the hands of Reichskommisar Josef Terboven. Norway suffered greatly from the occupation, losing most of its international trade. Further, Germany took most of its factory output, and stationed 300,000 soldiers in the country. Many Norwegian Jews were deported to concentration camps, and at least 765 died. There was some collaboration with the Quisling regime, particularly when it came to ensuring continued economic activity. Most notably, 15,000 Norwegians volunteered to fight for Germany. However, a far more significant Norwegian resistance movement formed. By the end of the war, there were 40,000 native members of the resistance. They gathered intelligence, sabotaged German positions, and most importantly destroyed a heavy water plant, setting back the German nuclear program. Although Norway may have surrendered on June 8th, 1940, its people would inflict great damage on its German occupiers.

The Fall of Norway was yet anther victory for Nazi Germany. However, like France, Yugoslavia, and Poland, Norway would not make occupation easy for the Germans. Norwegians would fight both in the resistance and in the remnants of the Norwegian army in exile. Even in victory, Germany would be forced to expend resources that it sorely needed to prevent its eventual defeat.

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