The imminent danger of bombs

A hurt child at the hospital in Namsos after German bombardment of the city

A hurt child at the hospital in Namsos after German bombardment of the city. PA-1209, NTBs krigsarkiv, Ue, L0099, Livet i Norge under okkupasjonen

The war’s terror impact on the civil population had many aspects. Air attacks with bombing were particularly frightening. Both the Germans and the allied forces bombed, and the bombing struck civilian targets extensively. The imminent danger of bombing and the worrying and unease of who would be hit next time were in itself a psychological strain that became part of everyday life. What it is really like to live with a real threat of bombing, to be on stand-by every night, with the torch on the bed-side table, ready to run to the nearest bomb shelter in case of an alarm, is difficult to imagine for those who have not experienced it. The horror of the sound of the air-raid warning stuck with those who experienced it long after the war ended.

Matters related to bombing in Norway are found in various archives. In the archive from The Office for Civil Air Defense in the Department of Justice you will find reports of bombing in different parts of the country. In Reichskommisariat there is a folder with newspaper clippings about bomb attacks on Norway in the last war years. In the NS help organization there is a folder with reports of bomb attacks, with lists of death victims in the attack on Oslo on New Year’s Eve 1944. Many children describe experiences of bomb attacks in a series of essays handed in for a contest right after the war. These are preserved in The Norwegian Total Abstainers’ Society’s archive. Photographic documentation of bombed out areas is especially plentiful in NTB’s war archive, but there is photo material in archives of the Armed Forces Military History Department and in the earlier mentioned Office for Civil Air Defense as well.

The presence of an occupation force

Having an occupation force in the country that took liberties, requisitioned apartments, schools and other buildings and spread their detested banners and symbols, created a general feeling of anxiety. Although the German soldiers were ordered to behave properly towards the civilian population in Norway, they had the authority to control and the right to arrest people they thought were suspicious. Continuously new regulations, laws, rules and demands made it possible to get into trouble with the legislative authorities and to be in danger of being arrested for trifles. For those who in some way were involved in illegal work, there was an imminent danger of being arrested, and it was a big strain on the whole family to be living in fear of hammering on the door at night. Regulations where the penalty for radio listening and reading illegal papers was death made matters worse. Sudden actions from the occupation force, like hostage-taking and reprisals as revenge for sabotage activities were not unusual and created a general anxiety not only for those involved, but also for the society surrounding them. The archive of the state police is a rich source of everything that has to do with charges, arrests, investigations, police actions and controls.

Rumours and squealing

Guarding your words and actions in public was also a part of everyday life. Squealing was not unusual, and allusions of illegal activity or a hostile statement against the occupation force on the bus or in the grocery store could be picked up by someone with the opposite opinion, or by someone who had something against you. It could lead to a report, arrest and interrogation and a possible stay in prison or a camp. You will find such cases in the archive of the state police and in the treason archive. In the latter archive you will find the reports that led to informer accusations after the war.

Relevant archives in Arkivportalen

PA-1209 NTBs krigsarkiv/U/Ud/L0080/L0081 

RAFA-2174 Reichskommissariat/Ed/63/2 Bomben und terrorangriffe auf Norwegen

PA-0775 NS FO 2 Stor-Oslo, Hjelpeorganisasjonen/Fa/3/9 The bomb attack, reports, etc.

S-1329 Statspolitiet 

RAFA-2017 Forsvarets krigshistoriske avdeling/Ec/126/11 Photographs of British bomb attacks on Bergen 10.5.1940