Norway Apologizes to “German Girls” Who Were Mistreated in WWII

By Bundesarchiv - CC BY-SA 3.0 de

The Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, issued an official apology from the Norwegian government to women who were mistreated because they had relationships with German soldiers in World War II.

Norway was neutral during the war but was still invaded by the Nazis in 1940. It is believed that as many as 50,00 Norwegian women had relations with the German soldiers.

Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, encouraged the soldiers to have children with the native women. He hoped to fulfill the Nazi dream for an Aryan master race by using Norwegian women.

Heinrich Himmler visiting Norway in 1941. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de
Heinrich Himmler visiting Norway in 1941. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Known as “German Girls,” these women were accused of betraying their country by becoming intimate with the occupying forces. The Norwegian government deprived them of their rights and detained many of them while many others were exiled to Germany with their children.

The Nazis set up maternity facilities known as Lebensborn (Fountain of Life) in 1941. This is where many of the Norwegian-German children were born.

Four mowed women go down an outside staircase, preceding four civilians, one of whom is armed with a rifle. Photo: PhotosNormandie / CC BY-SA 2.0
Four mowed women go down an outside staircase, preceding four civilians, one of whom is armed with a rifle. Photo: PhotosNormandie / CC BY-SA 2.0

At an event marking the 70th anniversary of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Solberg stated that the German Girls were “victims of undignified treatment.” She further stated that the Norwegian government had violated the women’s right not to be punished without trial or sentenced without law.

Erna Solberg. Photo: Kjetil Ree / CC BY-SA 3.0
Erna Solberg. Photo: Kjetil Ree / CC BY-SA 3.0

Solberg said that many of the women were teenagers at the time they were involved with the German men. She said that, in many cases, these women’s lives were forever marked due to an innocent flirtation or falling for the love of their lives.

Even though it was not illegal for the women to have relationships with the Germans, they were treated as if they were criminals after the war ended. They were arrested and placed in special camps until they could be deported to Germany.

Those that avoided the camps were not immune to mistreatment. Some of them were seized by mobs in the streets and had their hair cut off. Some were committed to psychiatric hospitals.

Women accused of sleeping with Germans had their heads shaved. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de
Women accused of sleeping with Germans had their heads shaved. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

For all of that, Solberg offered her apologies.

The statement followed the release of a report on the actions Norway took after the war. The report was published by the Center for Holocaust and Minorities Studies.

Guri Hjeltnes, the head of the Center, said that a good apology carries “a lot of power.” He said that it gives entire groups of people answers to the way they were treated. Unfortunately, since they waited 70 years to make an apology, there are few victims alive to appreciate it.

German officers in front of the National Theatre in Oslo, 1940. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de
German officers in front of the National Theatre in Oslo, 1940. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

However, Reidar Gabler was grateful for the gesture. In 1944, when his mother was 22, she fell in love with a German soldier.

He said that even though the people who were directly affected by the unfair treatment are no longer with us, their children and grand-children also carry a burden from the actions of the Norwegian authorities.

In 2002, Norway offered compensation to the children born from German fathers in recognition of the abuse they had suffered.

German guard on the coast in Norway. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de
German guard on the coast in Norway. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

In 2007, a group of German-born children went to the European Court of Human Rights to get compensation from Norway for the mistreatment they had endured in their childhoods. The court ruled that too much time had elapsed and refused to hear their case.

Read another story from us: The Nazi Invasion of Norway – Hitler Tests the West

The government has waited until now to issue the apology because most of the generation that was angry at the German Girls has passed away. Many from that generation were never willing to forgive the women during their lifetimes.

The younger generations do not hold the same views about what these women did. As such, they were much more willing to offer and receive an apology to those who had been mistreated.