Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Norway

NORWAY, kingdom in N. Europe. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, when Norway and *Denmark were united, most general regulations concerning the Jews of Denmark also applied in Norway. However, according to the Norwegian Legal Code promulgated by King Christian V in 1687 the Jews were barred from admission to Norway without a letter of safe-conduct; without this, a Jew risked arrest, fines, and deportation. As a result of this measure the special regulations allowing free access to the so-called "Portuguese" Jews (issued by the Danish crown in 1657, renewed in 1670, 1684, and 1750) were not consistently adhered to by the Norwegian authorities. An incident which took place in 1734 became notorious: three Dutch "Portuguese" Jews were arrested on their arrival in the country and spent two months in prison. In the 17th and 18th centuries, few Jews stayed in Norway, usually only temporarily, though some Jews in other countries had business connections there, such as Manuel Teixeira from Hamburg who was co-owner of some Norwegian mines. In 1814 Norway became free of the union with Denmark and a Norwegian constitution was produced. Despite the liberal tenor of the Norwegian constitution of 1814, Article Two – stating that Lutheran Protestantism is the official state religion in which all Lutheran children must be brought up – confirmed the exclusion of Jews and Jesuits

Jewish communities in Norway and dates of establishment. Jewish communities in Norway and dates of establishment.

from Norway; this was strictly enforced. A new union was immediately formed with Sweden. At first this did not interfere with Norwegian politics, but from 1884 the Swedes decided to take an active part in Norway's foreign affairs. This union lasted until 1905. In 1817 a shipwrecked Jew was thrown into jail and then deported. In the 1830s, however, a more liberal spirit gradually emerged. The government issued letters of safe conduct from time to time; one was given to Heinrich *Heine's uncle, Solomon *Heine, who was instrumental in the granting of a loan to the Norwegian state by the Copenhagen banking house of Hambro and Son. In 1844 the Ministry of Justice confirmed the free immigration rights of "Portuguese" Jews. The repeal of the ban on Jewish settlement was largely the result of the efforts of writer Henrik *Wergeland. In 1839 he submitted his first proposal to the Storting, the Norwegian parliament, accompanying his proposal with a lengthy memorandum and publishing his essay on the Jewish question, Indlaeg i Jødensagen (1841). This was followed by numerous articles in the press, several of them by Wergeland himself. In 1842 a committee on the constitution dealing with the problem made a notable proposal in which it was stated that the right to free immigration was an international one. The motion to give the Jews free access received a simple majority, i.e., more than 50% of the vote, in 1842, 1845, and 1848, but did not obtain the requisite two-thirds majority until 1851. In that year 93 votes were cast in favor of admitting the Jews with full civil rights, with ten votes against.

The First Communities

The first Jew settled in the country in 1852 and for many years he remained the only representative of his faith; in 1875 only 25 Jews had their permanent residence in Norway. After 1880 immigration increased considerably, and Eastern European Jews gradually became most numerous. In 1890 there were 214 Jews in Norway; ten years later there were 642, most of them in *Oslo, the capital, and in Trondheim. The oldest communities, called "The Mosaic Congregation" (Det Mosaiske Trossamfund), were founded in Oslo in 1892 and in Trondheim in 1905; both congregations are still in existence. (See Map: Jews in Norway). Land for a cemetery was bought in Oslo as early as 1869, and the first burial took place in 1885. For some years there were as many as four congregations in the capital, but only two continued to exist for any length of time. In the 1920s and 1930s, a Jewish orphanage and home for the aged was founded. The census of 1920 recorded 1,457 Jews, of whom 852 lived in the capital. This was the highest number of Jews recorded prior to World War II. In 1930 there were 1,359 Jews in Norway, with 749 resident in Oslo.

In the years before and during World War I, young people's associations, women's groups, Zionist associations and charitable societies were established in Oslo and Trondheim. In the 1930s there were several Jewish theater societies, a choir and other cultural societies, a Norwegian Jewish Youth Society (JUF) that expanded into a Scandinavian Jewish Youth Society (SJUF) as well as an academic society. Two Jewish periodicals were published, Israelitten from 1911 to 1927 and Hatikwoh from 1929 to 1938. The two synagogue buildings in Oslo and Trondheim, both still in use today, were consecrated in 1920 and 1925 respectively. The second synagogue in Oslo, dedicated in 1921, has not been in use since World War II. (This building was converted into a Jewish museum that opened to the public in 2006.) For many years most Norwegian Jews engaged in trade; gradually they also moved into industry and some entered the professions. Between 1930 and 1940 immigration was comparatively slight.

It is possible to trace the rise of antisemitism in the Norwegian press during World War I and preceding World War II. In the 1930s anti-Jewish race theories were advocated by the Norwegian police, politicians, and press.

Holocaust Period

In 1941–42 the Jewish population of Norway consisted of approximately 1,000 households, numbering a total of 2,173 individuals living mainly in Oslo and Trondheim, but also thinly spread out in other parts of the country. Among these individuals 530 were Jewish refugees from the European continent and were not Norwegian citizens. About 1,800 were registered in the various communities. The number of Jewish refugees was relatively low, Norway being even more restrictive than Denmark and Sweden in the admission of Jewish refugees.

The Jews of Norway were hard-hit during the German occupation in World War II (April 1940–May 1945). Already in October 1940 Jews were prohibited to engage in academic and other professions. In some regions the actual persecution of the Jews began in 1941, but only in the fall of 1942 did it become countrywide. In two raids, on October 25 for all men over 16 and on November 25 for women and children, 767 Jews were seized and shipped via Stettin to *Auschwitz. About 930 Jewish inhabitants succeeded in fleeing to Sweden, while about 60 others were interned in Norway proper. A very small number of Jews managed to remain in hiding, in hospitals, sanatoria or in the Jewish old-age home. Quite a large percentage of Norwegian Jewish men who had managed to escape joined the Norwegian army encampments in Sweden or England and fought with the allied forces throughout the war. Victims of the war, 60% of whom were men (two-thirds of whom were citizens of Norway), totaled 758. Twenty persons perished either through acts of war or were shot in Norway. Of those deported 740 were murdered in extermination camps and only 29 survived. The Germans inflicted heavy damage on the synagogue in Trondheim, and planned to obliterate the Jewish cemetery there. The physical persecution of the Jews by the Germans was facilitated by orders given by *Quisling's government for the forced registration of all Jews (June 1942) and the confiscation of all Jewish property (October 1942). The final arrest was carried out by Norwegian police officers carrying out orders issued by the Nazis. The bishops of Norway sent a protest letter on Nov. 11, 1942 to Quisling. It was also signed by the other Protestant churches of Norway. The letter, in denunciation of the illegal acts, states: "God does not differentiate among people… Since the Lutheran religion is the state religion, the state cannot enact any law or decree which is in conflict with the Christian faith or the Church's confession." The letter was read from the pulpit on Dec. 6 and 13, 1942 and was quoted in the 1943 New Year message. Many Norwegians, with the guidance of the Underground movement, did their utmost to help Jews escape to Sweden, often at the risk of their own lives.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

H.M. Koritzinsky, Jødernes historie i Norge (1927); O. Mendelsohn, Jødernes historie i Norge (1969). HOLOCAUST PERIOD: H. Valentin, in: YIVOA, 8 (1953), 224–34, passim; B. Höye and T.M. Ager, The Fight of the Norwegian Church Against Nazism (1943); Eduyyot Ha-Yo'eẓ ha-Mishpati la-Memshalah Neged Adolf Eichmann (1963), 475–80; J.M. Snoek, in: The Grey Book (1969), 116–9. WEBSITES: www.dmt.oslo.no; www.dmt.trondheim.no.