Norway,Resistance Movement during World War II, Women and

Resistance of Norwegian women during the Nazi occupation of Norway from 1940 to 1945. Occupation by a foreign enemy means a state of emergency for the occupied society that in many ways calls into question what was previously taken for granted. Among the social relations that become insecure in this exceptional situation are gender relations. As Norwegian pre-war society was organized very traditionally with regard to gender roles, the participation of women in the resistance movement mirrored, to a certain extent, their traditional roles in the social realms. There were "male" and "female" responsibilities—even in the resistance movement. But the state of war moved the borders of those gendered responsibilities and women participated in the movement in ways that by no means conformed with traditional gender roles.

At the beginning of the German occupation of Norway, which lasted from April 9, 1940, until May 8, 1945, King Haakon VII and the government escaped into exile in Britain. In September 1940 a collaborationist regime under fascist leader Vidkun Quisling was installed, which was a starting point of the attempt to reorganize all of Norwegian society according to fascist principles. This was the main reason for the formation of a resistance movement, which grew dramatically during the entire period of occupation. Tactics included civil disobedience and creation of a civil and military resistance organization.

Different parts of the resistance went through various developmental phases. The campaigns of protest and boycott in which tens of thousands of Norwegians protested against measures of the Quisling regime began in the autumn of 1940, and they made up one of the most outstanding features of the Norwegian resistance. People repudiated their membership in institutions or organizations, which were to be Nazi-fied, or they protested by writing letters of dissent to the authorities. Even if the initiative for those campaigns often came from mostly male political leaders (such as in the labor unions), many women participated.

Two sisters initiated one very famous campaign, the so-called school battle in 1942. The school battle involved protest actions against the Nazification ("new ordering," to use a term of the collaborationist Quisling regime) of teaching and the teacher’s professional organization. In February 1942, when laws were promulgated that teachers and pupils would automatically become members of Nazi organizations and that education would be in accord with fascist ideology, teachers organized a protest campaign and more than 14,000 resigned from their professional organization. Schools were closed for a month by a de facto strike. Afterward, 1,000 male teachers were arrested and sent to northern Norway for forced labor. Meanwhile, there was a protest campaign in which approximately 10,000 parents protested against the Nazifica-tion of education. As a result of these acts of resistance, the regime could not Nazify school education to the extent that it had desired.

Along with these acts of defiance there was symbolic resistance. Many Norwegians wore red "jelly bag" caps representing the holdningskam-pen (the fight for the "real" national attitude). Women, traditionally responsible for managing everyday life under the difficult conditions of material shortages in wartime, were also the producers and bearers of those signs of "patriotic attitudes."

The more organized forms of resistance started at the end of 1940, when the leaders and representatives of some organizations, which were taken over by Nazi-rule, continued their work illegally. There were two central organizations, the Koordinasjonskomiteen (coordination committee) and the Kretsen (circle), which varied in their orientation toward the government-in-exile, but nonetheless worked very closely together. Most of their members were representatives of the Norwegian prewar civil society and because at that time women were still represented by men in politics, only a few women were to be found in the so-called Sivorg (civil organization). They held primarily secretarial positions.

There were many forms of resistance where women did very important work. Their tasks often would be smuggling of information, weapons, or food, and often would occur in public and under the eyes of German patrols. As women they could exploit the image of a naive girl whom no one would suspect of carrying weapons. Women were active distributors (and, to a minor degree, producers) of illegal newspapers; they were top-agents of the resistance movement’s espionage organization XU; and they were couriers for the Milord (the military resistance organization). Moreover, women played a very important role in hiding and accommodating persecuted people traveling to the Swedish border or to England.

Although a large number of women assisted Norwegian troops after the German invasion in April 1940, they were not regarded as part of the military forces. When the Milord was systematically built up toward the end of the war, this realm was a nearly exclusive men’s sphere. The few women who played an active role in the Milord (and, as a result, crossed traditional gender borders) were forgotten in the Norwegian culture of commemoration after 1945, as were all the women who simply had done the work of a "patriotic housewife."

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