Thursday, January 14, 2016


The Germans were under no immediate danger, as we had no ammunition for the rifles. (After the War ended the church underwent repairs and the rifles were discovered hanging in the chimney. Nobody understood how they got there!)

The Germans confiscated our school and our only teacher in the village, Ole Tronstad, transferred the school to his home. The children were dispersed into 2 classes and each group attended school every other day.

On Sundays all of us attended church. The people of Navik were all Protestants and most observed the rituals and reading of the scripts. The Germans fired all the ministers, but continued to conduct services, ending the sermons by blessing our "King and Government abroad, fighting for our freedom!" (In England). 

German soldiers attended occasionally the sermons, but those who understood Norwegian did not seem to object to the blessing. For us and all the people in the village, these sermons were a morale booster. The only complaints by the deeply religious ladies in the village were that I often cursed "Faen i Helvete! (The devil in hell!). The ladies often visited my father in the hospital and read the scriptures with him, ensuring him that the chosen people will prevail the Nazi persecution.

I read a lot, mainly adventure books and detective novels during the War years. My mother complained often about it and went to the local priest for advice. Priest Noto, a practical man, opened the drawer of his desk and showed my mother his collection of detective stories. "See what will happen if you let your son read the novels!"

My father taught us mathematics and English all the War years and we owe him our proficiency in this language to this day.

On the 24 of October 1942 we celebrated my 11th birthday at the hospital's cabin some 20 km up in the mountains. Suddenly several police officers entered and arrested my father on the Gestapo's order. Although Norway had been occupied by the German army since 1940, the arrests of Jews in Norway was delayed until 1942 because the ship carrying the lists of Jews in Norway had been sunk at the entrance to Oslo harbor on April 9, 1940. 

I will never forget my father's blessings when he left, all of us believing we would never see him again. It was my saddest birthday party.

My mother accompanied my father to the Gestapo's headquarters in Hammerfest, Europe's northernmost city. He was to be deported to Southern Norway and from there to the concentration camps. Before transportation, the Germans had my father examined by a young SS doctor, who had to certify my father was fit for deportation. By pure coincidence, this doctor recognized my father from a medical conference before the war. 

My mother asked to speak to him privately and told him frankly that "if he certified that her husband was sick with tuberculosis (he was infected years ago and still had some signs on his chest X- rays), he may save his own life, by saving my father's". "Nobody knows how the War will end" she said. 

The German SS doctor recommended that my father be returned to the lung hospital in Talvik as a patient and my father assured him that his X- rays would provide ample evidence about his condition. My father was then hospitalized until autumn 1944, when we and all the population of Finnmark were transported to South Norway by the retreating German army. 

He “treated” himself by pumping air into his pleura sack, a treatment used to collapse the tuberculosis cavity in the lungs, in the days before antibiotics. He also smeared barium on his chest, to simulate an active TB lesion on X- rays. Every couple of months, the Germans sent a doctor to examine his condition and decide if he was not fit to be deported.

My father continued his medical work at nights, staying in bed during day time. I believe that all patients and the villagers knew that my father was misleading the Germans' but nobody disclosed it to the Germans. 

The Norwegian directors of the hospital, Dr. Erik Fjosne and later Dr. Peer Foss supported us financially (because my father did not receive any salary) and so our family could continue to live on the hospital premises, free of charge. We were cared for by all, regular Norwegian citizens and none of the villagers disclosed our true identity.

In 1941 my sister injured her upper leg. The site was painful and became inflamed. She developed a high temperature and became toxic. My father decided she had to be immediately hospitalized in a general hospital, as her condition became life threatening. 

In the Hammerfest district hospital she underwent surgery and an osteomyelitis abscess was drained by the director of the surgical department, Dr. Borchgrevink. She received several doses of penicillin, which were very hard to come by those times. Our parents stayed next to her bed, nursing her for a couple of months, until her condition improved. She still had discharge of necrotic bones from the lesion several years later.

The German Navy established its main base in Kåfjord, a fjord next to our village. They used this base for the attacks on the British and American ship convoys, supplying the Russian army with war material. The convoys consisted mainly of merchant ships which sailed from Scotland to the harbor of Murmansk in the Kola Peninsula. The German navy attacked these ships from their bases in northern Norway and we could observe the heavy cruisers leave and return to their harbor in Kåfjord

This was also observed by the very active Norwegian underground and messages were sent to England. Soon, the allied forces sent airplanes to raid the harbor in Kåfjord with bombs and torpedoes. The attacking airplanes flew over our village and we were excited to observe the tens and hundreds of planes attacking the Germans. The flagship of the German navy, the heavy cruiser "Tirpitz" was the main concern for the British navy and most of the attacks were directed against it. The Germans camouflaged he ship and protected it beneath a mountain prominence, so it could not be attacked by aerial bombs. 

Tirpitz was the second of two Bismarck-class battleships built for Nazi
Germany's Kriegsmarine (navy) during War II. Named after Grand Admiral
Alfred von Tirpitz

They also established many anti-aircraft gun batteries, one next to our house, in order to seek protection of the Red Cross inscriptions were painted on the roof of the hospital. The allied airplanes nevertheless bombed these positions so that during the raids we took shelter in the cellar of the hospital, which could not be considered secure enough against any bomb. In the end, in 1944, the German ship was attacked by mini-submarines and one of the torpedoes penetrated her hull and the ship started sinking. To our great joy we witnessed the results of this attack. The Germans towed the ship to a more southern port in Tromso, where it was finally sunk during an air attack with heavy British bombs.

On Christmas 1943 the German navy attacked the small island of Spitzbergen in the Northern Sea. The allied forces had installed a primitive radar station on the island, operated by Norwegian Free Forces, based in England. The attack was carried out by the German fleet, stationed near us. The heavy cruiser Scharnhorst led the attack. The Germans shelled the island heavily and sent a landing team in wooden speed boats to destroy the facility and its crew. 

Scharnhorst was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine. She was the lead ship of her class.

The Norwegian soldiers, however, took shelter in the coal mines and when the shelling stopped, emerged with their machine guns and attacked the German boats, killing most of the sailors. The Germans rescued their damaged boats and brought them ashore in our village, where we could inspect the holes and blood in their hulls. 

The plight of the German task force did not end, however. The British navy got the information of the attack and dispatched the Royal Navy to intercept the German ships. A Norwegian torpedo boat reached the German cruiser and sent a couple of torpedoes which damaged the rudder of the cruiser. The ship could only sail in circles and was soon attacked by the heavy guns of the British battle ship "Duke of York". Scharnhorst was sunk on Christmas day and the German army announced a period of mourning, throwing out all Christmas trees and carrying black arm bands. Our joy was great!

We used to collect German rifle ammunition in the fields where the German troops were exercising. One day we took bullets up into the mountain, lit a fire and threw the bullets into it. The explosions of the ammunition were heard by the German army who believed somebody was shooting a machine gun. We were suddenly surrounded by soldiers who directed their weapons at us and shouted " Hände hoch!" (Hands up!) We were brought to the local headquarters and interrogated regarding the shots. In Norwegian we explained that we were just playing with the bullets and did not shoot any weapon. I, of course, did not show any signs of understanding German. Ultimately we were released.

The Germans established a prison camp for Russian war prisoners near the village. The prisoners were in a pitiful state, emaciated, poorly clad in the winter cold and frequently beaten by their captors. They used to come to a location near our school to carry heavy sacks of coal to the German army's camp. We concealed our lunch sandwiches in the coal mound and in return the prisoners left us some finger rings or ornamented cigarette cases which they produced from aluminum.

In late 1944, the German army started retreating from the Russian front in Finland. Preceding the retreat, orders were given that the whole population of Finnmark, the northern-most province of Norway, was to evacuate to the South, because all houses would be burnt and destroyed. Many of the people in outlaying hamlets and villages refused to leave and preferred to survive the bitter winter in caves and hiding places in the mountains. 

The lung hospital in Talvik with its entire staff was also planned to be evacuated and the director of the hospital, Dr. Foss traveled to the South to hire a ship for the transportation. He did, however, not return in time and the Germans ordered the hospital with all its inmates to be transferred to an abandoned children's home, located in one of the outlaying fjords (Korsfjord). All the inhabitants of the villages had already left their homes and the hospital and its occupants was the only remaining building. 

My father was the only doctor in the hospital caring for the patients and my mother became the administrative manager. One day a junior German officer approached her and told her that the hospital would have to remain in its location until the end of the war, because no ships were available. He also told her that he had an order to demolish the hospital's large power generator, but if she managed to hide it within one hour, he would not look for it. When he left, my mother covered the generator with a hay load standing nearby on a cart. When the officer returned, there was no sign of the generator.

A couple of days later the same German officer told my mother to take her family and evacuate and go to the South, because the German air force would bomb the hospital the next day. My mother told him that we will not abandon the patients and that we will stay with them. Luckily, Nurse Karin from the hospital and my mother hired three small fishing boats in Alta which all of us, including the patients, boarded and sailed to the city of Tromsø

The hospital's director managed in the meantime to arrange the transport of the patients and staff of the hospital on a ship which took them to Trondheim. Later we learned that German airplanes had bombed the village we had just left. The Germans used the children's home for slaughter of the cattle in the village, some days after we were gone.

The travel to the south in the winter of 1944 was extremely difficult. More than 100 patients and staff were crammed into the small ship and the weather was stormy with huge waves tossing the ship. Everybody on board (including us) was sea sick, filled with coughing and retching people. The danger of infection with tuberculosis was immense, but luckily, my father had immunized all of us with BCG vaccination some years previously and so we developed resistance against this disease. Several of the patients died on this trip. 

The hospital was later transferred from Oslo to Mo i Rana and remained there until its repatriation back to Talvik, after the war.

After our arrival in Trondheim, a large city in the central part of Norway, we were approached by members of the Norwegian underground, who informed us that we would be transferred to Oslo by train and sent to a concentration camp. The underground had arranged, however, an escape route for us to Sweden. We did not know the operators but as we had no alternative, we followed their instructions. 

We were told to enter the train as all the other passengers and exit immediately from the backside of the carriage, cross the rails and return to the station, where we were issued new passports and tickets for another northbound train.

We traveled about 150 km. to a small village called Trongfoss, where the local stationmaster was supposed to take care of us. Unexpectedly, a German officer entered our compartment in the train and started a conversation in Norwegian with us. We told him that we were refugees from Finnmark, traveling to our relatives. I believe he became suspicious, as my father and mother refrained from talking (they spoke Norwegian with an accent). 

Anyhow, he helped us carry our luggage to the station platform when we left the train. The good station manager became worried that we were planted to expose the underground ring. He refused to talk to us and it took most of the remaining day to convince him we were genuine refugees. He eventually drove us by car to a family living near the Swedish border in a small village named Staldvik, where we spent a couple of nights in their home during a severe snowstorm, which delayed our travel. The eldest son Gunwald took us a couple of days later to the Swedish border. 


We had to cross the distance of 10 km. to the Swedish border over the Tunnsjøen Lake. After a couple of hours walk we arrived wet and exhausted at the last station before the border. Gunwald carried my sister most of the trip on his broad shoulders, but it became clear that we would not be able to continue our trek in the deep snow. A couple of km before the border crossing, which was guarded by German sentries, we got the choice to continue our walk to the border or travel by a horse drawn sledge which entailed a higher risk of detection. 

Our mother made a bold decision to cross immediately, in spite of German reinforcements at the border crossing. Gunwald brought a horse and sledge into which we all crammed together with a cat (for good luck and warming). The date was 7th of December 1944, shortly before midnight. Luckily, the snow storm was still raging and the German sentries never left their accommodations. We crossed the border and were taken to the Swedish police chief's home. 

We were warned in advance not to disclose anything about our escape, as he was cooperating with the Germans. My mother carried some secret papers for the Norwegian underground which were to be delivered to the Norwegian representatives in Stockholm and not to fall into the hands of anybody else. She hid the documents between the pair of double gloves she was wearing and without any hesitation placed the gloves under the chief's cap near the entrance. 

We were brought into an interrogation room and had to undress for a very thorough body examination, which of course did not reveal anything. When we left the same night for a refugee center in the Western part of Sweden, my mother picked up her gloves and the papers were eventually safely handed over to the proper authorities.

On the way, I stopped the same train by pulling the emergency brake and got some well-earned spanking from my mother. We were brought to a refugee camp in Strangness in southern Sweden and eventually lodged in an apartment in one of Stockholm's suburbs, in Midtsommarkransen. My father was offered a job as a laboratory technician in one of Stockholm's larger hospitals, the St. Goran. My sister attended primary school and I was enrolled into high a school (Vasa realskolen). 

We started learning the language and adapting to the Swedish outlook on life and the political situation. My schoolmates considered themselves not to be involved in the War and the occupation of their Scandinavian neighbors and many sympathized quite openly with the Nazis. Our German teacher stressed that German should be spoken with the intonation of the Nazi leaders. I was paradoxically selected as a model for speaking German! I actually made very few friends in the school. On weekends, I attended a target shooting club. In fact, I continued to practice shooting rifles and eventually became quite proficient.

Our family was supported financially by the Swedish refugee council. Mother tended a baby of a Norwegian embassy employee by name of Terje Larsen (?). I was enrolled into the Jewish community center in Stockholm and started my preparation for Bar Mitzvah. I don't remember excelling in my religious studies but nevertheless was accepted to adulthood at the ceremony held in the Jewish synagogue in May 1945.

After the War my mother went to Oslo in order to make provisions for our return to Norway. She got a telegram from my father who had survived to return immediately to Stockholm as we were all going home to Czechoslovakia. According to our good friend Dr. Katznelson, my father was wanted in Czechoslovakia to take care of the TB survivors from the camps.

The end of the 2nd WW, on May 7th 1945, was a day of joy to all of us. My sister and I went immediately to the king's castle on the central island of Stockholm. We were both decorated with small Norwegian flags. The courtyard of the castle was crammed with celebrating citizens and the Swedish king Gustav V, who was very old and frail. He was sitting on a small seat in the middle of the crowds. 

When the Swedes saw 2 small Norwegian children trying to get a view of the event, they immediately opened a path for us and pushed us to the forefront. We ended up standing on each side of the King and our photographs appeared next day on the front pages of the Swedish press. After the war ended, we approached the Czech repatriation authorities in Sweden and repatriated in autumn 1945 to Czechoslovakia.



My father, Hugo Adler (b.1895), the youngest child of the Adler family, was born to a traditional Jewish family in Ceske Budejovice. His father, Jacob died in 1926, and his mother, Josephine (born Rind), raised her family of 5 children working as a Swiss cheese agent. She was exterminated in Auschwitz in 1943, as were 2 of her sons and their families; Maximilian Adler, a university professor of ancient Greek history and Arthur Adler, a traveling agent for meat products. The third brother, Leopold returned sick from the First WW and died before I was born.

My mother, Zdenka (b. 1907), was born to a Czech family from Northern Bohemia, who immigrated to Germany, because of poverty and unemployment.

My father studied medicine in Vienna during his service with the Austro-Hungarian army on the East front and after receiving his diploma from the University of Prague in 1919, specialized in treatment of tuberculosis in Vienna and Prague. He became the founder and director of a new tuberculosis hospital (Weinman's Stiftung) in Usti nad Labem in the early 30s until the occupation of the Sudeten border area in1938, after the Munich accord. He met my mother as a patient in the hospital and they married in 1930.


I was born on October 24, 1931 and my sister, Hanna, on July 9, 1934. We lived in a villa, which my parents built in a nice neighborhood in Klise, Usti, where I went to a Czech primary school until 1938.

Our life was of an average Jewish assimilated family, though my parents led a modest life, supporting their poorer relatives. The language at home was Czech, but many of our friends also spoke German, so we became bi-lingual.

In 1938, after the Munich accord our father was mobilized to the Czechoslovakian army and stationed in the Eastern part of Slovakia.

In late 1938 we escaped in the middle of the night when the Nazis who occupied all of the Sudeten areas expelled all Jews, screaming "Juden raus, Juden raus!" (Jews out!)

We left with only a couple of suitcases and traveled with our neighbor, Dr Clement in his car to one of his clients in Svetla nad Sazavou. We stayed there until father was demobilized from the Czech army.

Then we went to grandma's home in Ceske Budejovice. I continued at a local school, and became friendly with the Freund family whose father was a pediatrician in Budejovice and a long time friend of my parents. They all went to the concentration camp in Terezienstadt and from there they were deported to the death camp of Auschwitz, where they were murdered, except for their youngest son, Honza, my best friend, who miraculously survived the hell and is now living with his family in Canada. 

In Budejovice I continued at the primary school. My mother, returning in 1938 from a short trip to Linz in Austria to visit my father's sister, Ida Kafka, urged our whole family to immediately leave Czechoslovakia to any foreign country ready to accept us, because she fully believed that the Nazis would carry out their threat to exterminate the Jews of Europe. 

None really believed her, except for my aunt's family in Linz who managed to escape to the USA and my father who wrote to all of his acquaintances in the USA, Great Britain and Scandinavia requesting a visa to emigrate. Finally a friend of him in Norway, Dr. Jorgen Berner, who was at that time the chairman of the Norwegian Medical Association, sent us and nine other young Jewish doctors a visa to Norway.


We immediately packed our belongings and set out for the supposedly short journey by train and ship to Norway. The winter of 1939-40 was extremely cold and upon our arrival at the Baltic Sea harbor of Sassnitz in northern Germany we discovered that the sea was frozen and that the ferries to Sweden could not sail.

We had to look for some accommodation in Sassnitz and my mother, without any hesitation, boarded the German cruise ship Deutschland which was anchored (it was frozen in) for the winter in the harbor. With an excellent German dialect she convinced the shadow crew to accommodate us in one of the luxury cabins, where we stayed free of charge until some days later, when the Swedish icebreaker Queen Victoria managed to get through to Sassnitz and we continued our journey to Trelleborg in Sweden. 

We arrived in Oslo in the beginning of 1940. My sister and I were accommodated in a children's orphanage, managed by a humanitarian organization. We did not know the language, the food was unfamiliar and the temporary separation from our parents did not ease our predicament.

After several weeks, my father was offered a position as an assistant doctor at the lung hospital in Talvik, Altafjord, in the northern district of Finnmark. After sailing one week along the coast of Norway, we arrived in the small village of Talvik (in the county of Finnmark), which would become our home during the difficult years of German occupation. We lived in Norway until the winter of 1944. 

My sister Hanna and I were attending primary school in Talvik, which at that time had a population of 200 people, mostly farmers and fishermen. I remember my first days at school, with pupils who were older than me and a head taller. People in Talvik lived a secluded life. They did not follow the news on Nazism and the War in Europe and certainly did not have any idea about the persecution of Jews. We were one of two Jewish families in Finnmark. (There was an Austrian dentist there as well.) 

One of my schoolmates, Helge, teased me during one of the breaks at school and called me Hitler! Helge was one year older and much stronger than I, but I attacked him on an ice pick on the seashore hitting him severely, until our schoolteacher, Andreas Bredal Pettersen rescued both of us in a row boat. Never was I called Hitler again! Helge, the son of the local police chief and his brother, Tore, became my best friends until this very day.

One day Helge approached me and offered me a cigarette. He decided to start smoking on his 12th birthday. I joined him of course, almost suffocating. The next day he told me that he had stopped smoking, because he felt he was grown up enough. I never smoked a cigarette again!

At one of my birthday parties which we celebrated in our small flat in the farm that was attached to the hospital we invited some of my best friends. Suddenly a severe storm broke out and because the ground was icy, my friends were blown away and found later in a ditch several hundred meters away. The winters were very cold, with temperatures dropping to minus 40 degrees C and were often buried in 2-3 meters of snow. We had to walk along ropes, stretched from house to house in order not to get lost in the snow storms.

The people in Talvik were very friendly and accepted us among them. We learned the language and participated in all the games, fishing, hiking, plucking berries in the mountains and skiing in the winter. We often went to the mountain cabins during hunting seasons and after a short time we felt at home. The different climate of long and cold winters, with no sun, did not bother us, but were difficult for our mother, who became depressed during the dark months.

The winters were very beautiful during the long, cold and clear nights when we observed the beautiful colors and intricate movements of the aurora. The aurora looked like a moving drape seen from below. The light was sufficient to read a book. Our neighbor's daughter Åshild, who was approximately my age, with whom we played most of the time, was superstitious and believed that if she would point her finger at the aurora, she would be lifted by it to heaven. I, of course wanted to see it and so we held her finger by force pointing into heaven. To our disappointment, nothing happened. 

My father worked in the hospital and soon became renown and loved by his patients for his professional skills and his caring and warm attitude. He was one of those typical family doctors, who understood that medicine involves more than technical skills.

Talvik Hospital

In April 1940 the German army invaded Norway and in the subsequent months occupied all of the country. The Norwegians fought bravely, but they had no chance against the overwhelming force of the Wehrmacht and of the German navy.

In the spring of 1940 an alarm was sounded in the village and the news spread that German warships entered Altafjord and were approaching Talvik and Alta, the district center. Immediately 10-15 militiamen, equipped with WW- I outdated "Krag-Jorgensen's" rifles boarded a small coal cutter in the harbor. 

Krag-Jorgensen's rifle

The Norwegian flag was hoisted on the mast and all schoolchildren sang the Norwegian national anthem. The small motor boat disappeared in the distance, but returned after one hour with the fearless warriors totally heartbroken. The German sailors of the destroyer, observing the futile attempt of the pathetic Norwegian militiamen, started laughing and throwing down potatoes on them. They returned to the quay and unloaded the rifles, which were greased, packed and sunk under the quay. 

A couple of days later the German army occupied our small village. At night 2 of my best friends and I sneaked under the quay, the German sentry pacing overhead and fished out the box with the old rifles. We hid them in the safest place we could think of, in the spire of the local church. From then on we cleaned the weapons every Sunday and practiced aiming the rifles at imaginary German soldiers. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

The history of the Jews in Sweden probably began with the Hanseatic League in medieval times, but there are no records. In the Elizabethan era, it was common for European royalty to have Jewish doctors at court, and there is a record of a Jewish doctor who served Gustav Vasa in the 16th century.

Church records at Stockholm Cathedral record several Jewish families entering Sweden and being baptized into the Lutheran Church, a condition at that time imposed upon any Jew who desired to settle in Sweden. 

In 1681 for example, the Jewish families of Israel Mandel and Moses Jacob in Stockholm, 28 persons in all, were baptized in the German church of that city in the presence of King Charles XII, the dowager queen Hedvig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp, and several other high state officials.

King Carl XIII (1697–1718) spent five years with an encampment in the Turkish town of Bender and accumulated a large number of debts there for his entourage. Jewish and Muslim creditors followed him to Sweden, and the Swedish law was altered so that they could hold religious services and circumcise their male progeny.

In 1680 the Jews of Stockholm petitioned the king that they be permitted to reside there without abandoning their creed, but the application was denied because the local consistory had refused to endorse it. 

On December 3, 1685, Charles XI ordered the governor-general of the capital to see to it that no Jews were permitted to settle in Stockholm, or in any other part of the country, "on account of the danger of the eventual influence of the Jewish religion on the pure evangelical faith." In case Jews were found in any Swedish community, they were to be notified to leave within fourteen days.

Through court patronage Jewish merchants were occasionally appointed royal purveyors. During his bellicose reign, King Charles XII (a.k.a. Karl XII) usually had one or more wealthy Jews with him in the field as the paymaster(s) of his army.

In 1718, Jews obtained permission to settle in the kingdom without need to abjure their religion.

Charles XII spent five years in Bender, Bessarabia, at the time a part of the Ottoman Empire, with his army and incurred tremendous debts with Jewish and Muslim merchants who supplied the army with equipment and provisions. On his return a large number of Muslim and Jewish creditors arrived in Sweden and the Swedish law was altered to allow them to hold religious services and circumcise their sons.

After the death of Charles XII in 1718, the Swedish government was financially embarrassed for a long time and the royal household was often relieved from pecuniary difficulties by the Jewish merchants of Stockholm who insisted, in exchange, for the granting of additional privileges to themselves and their coreligionists. 

As a consequence the concession of 1718 was renewed and supplemented by royal edicts of 1727, 1746, and 1748, but permission was restricted to settlement in smaller cities and rural communities. One of the most prominent Jews in Sweden at this time was the convert Lovisa Augusti, who became one of the most popular singers on the stage in Stockholm.

In 1782 an ordinance was issued (juderegelemente) - due particularly to efforts of the prominent Liberal Anders Chydenius - by which Jews were restricted to reside in one of four towns: Stockholm, Gothenburg, Norrköping. 

Anders Chydenius (1729 – 1803)

To these was added the town of Landskrona, as a Jew had established there a factory for the manufacture of sails and naval uniforms. They were not permitted to trade in markets elsewhere or to own property. Jews were ineligible for government positions and election to Parliament. They were forbidden from converting Lutherans to the Jewish religion. (All Swedes were born into the Lutheran church until the separation of church and state in 2000.)

Source: Wikipedia

Published by Scandinavian Jewish Forum

Friday, January 8, 2016




The soldiers’ cottage was warm and equipped with several bunks. My parents and I were assigned to a bunk each and my father immediately fell into an exhausted sleep. When one of the soldiers wanted to give him a cup of coffee, I motioned to him not to wake him up. I, although just as tired as everyone else, simply could not fall asleep. Too much had happened in a short time and it was impossible for me to relax.

The following morning we were transported to a small city called Alingsås, where we were quarantined, I believe in an old school. Here we met a few other Jewish people from Oslo, who had recently escaped to Sweden, among them Gerd and Charles Philipsohn and their mother. Gerd was a year younger than I and always clinging to her mother’s skirts and was soon rumored to be a spoilt young girl. I also met four Czech girls, who had lived in Norway the last few years, been adopted by Norwegians and converted to Christianity. Under Hitler’s laws they were still Jewish. They had lost their biological parents and now they were separated from their adoptive parents too, and they were quite lost. All they had was each other.

While we were in quarantine we were allocated some clothing and examined by doctors. The doctor who examined my father was astonished when he saw the small but deep wound in his back, and recommended that he be operated at once, to close the wound.

About two weeks later we moved to a rooming house in Alingsås. Once again my parents and I lived in one room. Here we had to share the bathroom and the kitchen with many other people. The two persons I remember from this place were Fröken (Miss) Potovsky and her mother, who had a different name. The two were also refugees, but seemed to have been living at the rooming house for some time. Fröken Potovsky had a piano in her room and played Chopin incessantly - almost from morning till night. The mother was her daughter’s greatest admirer and let it be known that she had been a concert pianist in her native country (I believe Poland). Even today, when I hear Chopin’s music I always think of Ms. Potovsky.

My father decided to heed the doctor’s advice and have the surgery he had suggested. The prospect of being operated in a small town in Sweden, after all he had been through, was extremely stressful for him. My mother knew that she would not leave his side during his hospital stay, and that she would be unable to look after me during that time, so a solution had to be found.

A Jewish orphanage had been established in Alingsås for refugee children who needed a place to stay. I fit into that category, albeit temporarily. Not all the children here had lost their parents, but for reasons of their own they were unable to look after them. Living with so many children was a new experience for me, but one I enjoyed. The atmosphere in the ‘home’ was cheerful thanks to the leadership of the wonderful person in charge, Nina. Nina had a heart of gold, she scolded where it was needed, she comforted when tears were flowing, she intervened when disagreements erupted, in short she was on the go from morning till night. 

Nina was a psychologist by profession and herself a refugee. Most of the children had come from a Jewish orphanage in Oslo that was established a few years before the outbreak of the war. When the persecution of the Jews escalated in Germany, some parents chose to be parted from their children rather than risking their lives and sent them to Norway where they thought they would be safe. The Oslo Jewish community had supported the orphanage. Eventually the Norwegian underground smuggled the children across the border to Sweden.

Two of the children I remember best are Ruth Elias and Josef Fenster. Ruth was a cute young girl my age, who had been sent from Germany to Sweden together with her younger brother. After spending several years in various foster homes, Ruth was sent to the orphanage in Alingsås, while her brother was in a ‘boys’ home’ in a different Swedish town. When I met Ruth she had gone through so much hardship that, as a result, she had become a difficult teenager. At times Nina had to be very strict with her. That same year, when she was only 14 years old, Ruth began working in a photo shop in Alingsås.

Ruth’s parents were deported from Germany to Theresienstadt concentration camp, where her mother remained until she was liberated in 1945. Her father had been sent to Auschwitz, but died on the transport. When Ruth was reunited with her mother, the two did not get along - 6 years’ separation was impossible to overcome. Eventually she met her husband Amek, also a survivor, in Stockholm. The two emigrated to Canada more than 50 years ago and live in Toronto. Amek became a successful salesman, and although Ruth is scarred for life by her past, she succeeded in overcoming most of her old fears and lives a productive life as a wife, mother and grandmother. We met again last summer after having been out of touch for more than eighteen years.

Josef Fenster was a quiet boy, about my age. He was also born in Germany and was one of the children who had been in the orphanage in Oslo. His parents died in concentration camp. When the war was over he returned to Oslo, became a baker and tried to blend into the Norwegian Jewish society, which took him many years. 

The Norwegian Jews, although those who survived the war had been refugees themselves in Sweden, still felt somewhat superior to those whose background was different than theirs. Josef is one of the most generous people I know, in terms of giving of himself. He never married, is now retired and devotes all his free time to the Jewish community. He has become one of its esteemed and prominent members. I have met Josef each time I have visited Norway, and saw him last on my visit in 2002.

While I easily adjusted to the routine at the ‘home’ my father had his operation. On my visits to the hospital I was shocked to see him pale and weak and feared for his future. After a week he was able to return to the rooming house, but it took five more weeks for him to recover and - the operation had been unsuccessful. When my father was strong enough I returned to my parents. I had spent six weeks at the orphanage.

The Salomons were old friends of my parents. They were originally from Frankfurt am Main, a city close to Wächtersbach. The Jews in Frankfurt were generally orthodox, and this is the environment Hermann Salomon came from. His marriage to a beautiful non-Jewish divorcee shocked his parents and the whole Frankfurt Jewish community, despite the fact that she converted to Judaism. When we arrived in Sweden, the Salomons had been living in Stockholm for several years and were well established. 

They had no children. Now my father contacted them, and they were so happy to hear from us that soon afterwards they came to Alingsås to see us. Their visit was a shot in the arm for my parents. I too was included in the warmth of their reunion and when the Salomons asked me to call them ‘Onkel’ and ‘Tante’ I readily agreed, although I had always been reluctant to make strangers an uncle or an aunt. But the Salomons seemed like family and became Tante Ruth and Onkel Hermann without any reluctance on my part. Before they left they not only loaned us money but offered to help us with whatever else might become necessary for our relocation in Sweden. They also invited me to come to visit them in Stockholm whenever possible.

My father had advised Nordiske Destillationsverker in Oslo of our safe arrival in Alingsås, and they suggested that he get in touch with their branch in Malmö, a city located in Southern Sweden. On the request of the head office, a position was created for my father at Nordiske in that city, and after packing up our meager belongings we went to Malmö by train, happy to leave Alingsås and the rooming house behind.

It did not take us long to settle in Malmö. We rented a nice, modern one bedroom apartment in a quiet neighborhood and bought some second hand furniture. I was given the small bedroom, my parents slept on a hide-a-bed in the living room. Life assumed some normalcy. My father went to work in the mornings, my mother did the grocery shopping in new and strange stores and took care of the apartment and I went to school.

Since I had missed about five months of schooling again, and my education in Rogne had left much to be desired, I was quite nervous about starting yet another school. The Norwegian and Swedish spoken languages (as well as the Danish language) are quite similar. The written languages are another matter entirely. Going from Norwegian as it was spoken and written in Oslo, to the ‘new Norwegian’ in Rogne, and now to Swedish was not easy. 

The school in Malmö to which I was admitted without losing a year, was a vocational high school, where I studied not only the usual subjects, but was also taught typing and shorthand. One of my teachers, a lady in her fifties, took pity on me and volunteered to tutor me in Swedish. Since I seemed to have a certain gift for languages I was soon able to express myself fairly well in Swedish. It did not take long before I had caught up with my contemporaries and even my written Swedish was acceptable.

Actually I very much enjoyed the typing and shorthand lessons. I felt this gave me something practical to fall back on in case it should be needed in future. Despite the fact that my father’s health was manageable again, I always feared that something would happen to him. The wound in his back had opened up again soon after the surgery in Alingsås, and my mother continued to tend to it. When she wanted to teach me to cleanse and bandage the wound, she was not too successful however. I was too squeamish. Although things were finally going quite well for us, I was always nervous and apprehensive. I suppose the past had caught up with me.

The Jewish community in Malmö was small. Rabbi Berlinger was in charge of the synagogue and the Sunday morning ‘cheder’ (Jewish school). My Jewish education had been put on hold in April 1940 and it was important for my father that I resume where I had left off. So instead of enjoying some free time on Sundays I was off to ‘cheder’. I immediately loved the Jewish environment and felt completely at ease with the other children there. Ultimately I became friendly with the Rabbi’s three children, a daughter, Yetta, a year older than I, a son exactly my age and a younger daughter. It was Yetta who became my special friend. Often on Shabbat, after attending synagogue, I would be invited at the Berlinger home for lunch, and once again Orthodox Judaism held a certain attraction for me. But I never acted on it.

Malmö is a port city and has wonderful beaches. The sand is almost white and the beach is kept spotlessly clean. It was here that I finally learnt to swim properly. A long wooden pier led from the beach to two large seawater swimming pools that were separated by a wall but not covered. One pool was for men and the other for women, and everyone swam in the nude. Although I was rather shy I loved the sensation of swimming without a bathing suit, and gladly paid the few öre (Swedish pennies) admission.

It takes about two hours by boat to reach Copenhagen from Malmö, and on a clear day one can see the skyline of Copenhagen from the beaches in Malmö. Knowing that the Germans were in such close proximity always gave me an eerie and unsettled feeling.

A new wave of refugees began to arrive in Malmö, Danish Jews from Copenhagen and its surrounding areas. For the most part they made their escape in Danish fishing boats. The fishermen stowed their Jewish passengers in the holds of their boats and left Denmark under the guise of darkness. Many people were saved in this manner. My parents became friendly with several couples, friendships that in many instances lasted all their lives. Stories were told of the heroism of the Danish people during the German occupation, and how even the King protected his Jewish citizens. Only a small number of Danish Jews were deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, of whom very few perished due to the King’s influence and interference.

It should be mentioned here that Theresienstadt was not an extermination camp. The Germans called it a ‘model’ camp, where no one starved or was mistreated, which was of course exaggerated. Neither did they disclose that many of those who did come to Theresienstadt were subsequently transported to Auschwitz and other extermination camps. When my husband and I were in Czechoslovakia in 1992 we visited Theresienstadt, or Terezin, which is located about one and a half hour’s drive from Prague. We were a diverse group of people, two young men from as far away as Australia, but whatever our origin, Theresienstadt would never be forgotten by any of us.

Returning from synagogue on a Friday evening, my father brought home a guest. Jack Ganz was a Norwegian Jew, in his early forties, a small man with a pronounced nose in his narrow face and an easy friendly smile. He was a bachelor and became a steady fixture in our home. Both my parents enjoyed his company. He was a most helpful and generous person, who would remain in our lives for years to come.

One day a letter arrived in the mail, addressed to me. To my great surprise it was from Sigmund. He was in a German prisoner of war camp and had obtained his brother John’s address in Sweden through the efforts of the Red Cross. John, in turn, had sent Sigmund our address. Now my personal ‘war effort’ began. Many letters between Sigmund and me crossed the oceans, and when we met at the end of the war he told me that the arrival of a letter from me always made that day a brighter one.

In the spring of 1944 I went to visit John and Beks in Norrkjöping. Beks was pregnant with Rene and quite unwell, but we still made the most of the few days we had together. Also that same spring I visited Tante Ruth and Onkel Hermann in Stockholm. It was Onkel Hermann who became my guide. We visited museums, beautiful parks and dined in fancy restaurants, all of which was a novelty for me. Onkel Hermann made a deep impression on me with his knowledge of art and his interest in anything and everything around him. Although older than my father he appeared much more youthful and except for my father he would be the most important person in my life for some time to come.

When school was over in the spring of 1944 I decided to make use of my new skills, typing and stenography and began looking for work. I was certainly not a fast typist and my shorthand left a lot to be desired, so I was overjoyed when I was offered a job in a small office. It turned out that all I had to do was to answer an occasional phone call, and I was left alone in the little narrow office, from the time I arrived in the morning until 4 o’clock in the afternoon. 

A typewriter was my only company. Two weeks later I had to admit to myself that this venture had been unsuccessful and I left. An ad in the newspaper attracted my attention. A small company was looking for a Girl Friday and I could not believe my luck when I was hired. The office consisted of only two people, the owner of the company and his secretary. In my opinion the secretary, a young woman with an engagement ring on her finger, was the most efficient and smart woman I had ever met, and I was completely in awe of her.

Things went really well at the office for a while, until one day I committed a blunder I have never forgotten. I was handed a stack of letters to mail, one of which was, however, a registered letter and had to be taken to the post office. Instead, I mailed all the letters in a mailbox, and when I realized what I had done, all I could do was stare at the mailbox hoping against hope that it would regurgitate the registered letter. I ran back to the office and confessed to my boss what had happened, expecting to be fired on the spot. But he calmly went to the post office and the letter was retrieved without any problems. I became, if possible, even more eager to please, and at the end of the summer I regretfully left my first employ and the two people who had shown me such kindness and consideration.

The construction of a beautiful theatre complex had recently been completed in Malmö. I saw my very first play on an outing with my class and loved it. To my great surprise Yetta’s brother asked me one day if I wanted to go with him to a performance of “A Midsummer Night's Dream”. My first date! It would also be my last with him.

At the end of 1944 it was obvious that the Germans were losing the war, and in the spring of 1945 it was only a question of time when Hitler would have to capitulate. The allied forces were beginning to land in Germany and rumors of concentration camps and atrocities abounded. But nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to witness.

In April 1945 we were told by the teacher who had tutored me in Swedish, that we would be relocated for the remainder of the school year and that we would be going to school in shifts. Our school would be used to house concentration camp prisoners who would be liberated shortly through the efforts of Sweden’s Count Folke Bernadotte. At the same time the teacher expressed her regret that the graduating class would be unnecessarily inconvenienced by this move, and that she found the whole thing grossly unfair. I was shocked. This woman who I thought was so kind, had no compassion at all for the unfortunate people who were about to come to Sweden! In anticipation of their arrival many schools in Malmö were converted into temporary hospitals, and the Malmö museum, a reconstructed fort, located in a lovely park and surrounded by a moat, was prepared to house the more or less healthy survivors.

And then they started to come. The museum was soon filled to capacity with Jewish men and women of many origins. Few were from Germany. For my parents it became a daily ritual to go to the museum to make inquiries about our family, but no one had any information. One day they spoke to a young boy from Cologne. 

Although conversation across the moat was difficult, they were able to find out that he was sixteen years old and the sole survivor of his family, except for an older brother who was in the United States. My father suggested that, since we were the same age, it might benefit the young boy to have a friend visit, and from then on until the end of his quarantine I went to see him every day. Even though we had to shout across the moat we managed to become good friends and when he was able to leave the museum he came to our apartment several times before leaving for the United States.

Although Sweden had remained neutral, many Swedes had secretly sided with the Germans. Not so secret were the transports of German weapons that were allowed to go through Sweden. Although the Jewish population was negligible many of the Swedes were anti-Semites, something I experienced first hand and in a very unpleasant way. I was visiting my friend and shouting across the moat in German as usual, when a man passed by and yelled at me that I was nothing but a whore. I was in shock and too young to have the presence of mind to react. Now I had one more thing to worry about. Would the man be there the next day? He never came back.

In the meantime the schools too began to fill up. In the schoolyards where kids had been playing until recently, pitiful victims of Hitler’s concentration camps walked aimlessly about. The bony hands reaching for the bread and chocolate that people brought them, the emaciated faces staring through the fences begging for food, the fights that sometimes erupted over a piece of bread - it all made me almost physically ill. Yet I returned every free minute with more bread and chocolate that turned out to do more harm than good. Soon it became strictly forbidden to bring food from the outside, as many of the former prisoners had gotten seriously ill from the unaccustomed caloric intake. They had been starving too long and their digestive system could only handle small portions of food at one time that were now apportioned by the doctors in charge.I cannot describe the deep sorrow and despair I felt that spring of 1945 and even now, a lifetime later, I can still feel the pain of the 16-year old I was then.

Once the former prisoners were healthy enough they were released from the different quarantines in Malmö. The majority headed for the larger cities in Sweden, Stockholm and Göteborg (Gothenburg), in search of work. Ultimately many immigrated to Canada and the United States, but no matter how their lives turned out, the memories of the horrors of the camps would always be with them.

As we know, the Germans finally capitulated on May 7, 1945. My parents went out that night to spend the evenings with friends, but I was in no mood to celebrate. The events of the past weeks had depressed me so much that all I wanted was to crawl into bed. Since we were living on the ground floor, I always rolled down my blind before getting undressed. That evening I did not. A face in my window almost paralyzed me. I screamed. He ran, but he had seen me partially undressed and I felt completely violated. I never told my parents.

The end of World War II also signaled the end of our life in Malmö as well as a new beginning. We had come to Sweden as refugees and could, therefore, only stay as long as there was a need for it. Both Norway and Denmark had been liberated, and all of us who had settled in Sweden during the war had to return to our respective countries. 

The good news was that Nordiske in Oslo were anxiously waiting for my father to resume his position as director of their paint division, but the bad news was that they had only been able to find a small studio apartment for us. That was the best they could do under the circumstances. Since we had been living in Malmö for more than two years my mother, in particular, became busy winding up our affairs, having our furniture shipped to Oslo to be placed in storage and packing up our personal belongings. Finally, in the fall of 1945 we said good-bye to all our friends and went by train to Oslo, the city we had left so long ago, on April 9, 1940.

Like any other country that had been occupied by the Germans, Norway had been left in shambles. Rationing of certain foods was still in place and the housing shortage was critical. Only two years after we returned to Norway were we finally able to leave our studio apartment. Nordiske had once again lent a helping hand by paying for a long lease for a newly constructed apartment in one of the suburbs of Oslo. Our new home positively rejuvenated my parents, but it would not be for long. On November 11, 1947 my father passed away suddenly. He was only 57 years old.

That same year a contingent of about 400 Jews arrived from Europe on the invitation of the Norwegian government. The intention was to replace those that had fallen victim to the concentration camps. Among the 400 immigrants was my future husband Stefan Szilagyi, a survivor from Hungary. We met in November 1948 and got married in Oslo in December 1949. While we were engaged, Stefan decided to change his name to a more Norwegian sounding name and one that was easier to pronounce. Stenge (which means ‘to close’ in Norwegian) was acceptable to the authorities.

Stefan and I emigrated to Canada in 1951 and our first child, a boy. was born in 1954. That year my mother decided that she did not want to be separated from her grandchild and moved to Montreal. Our son Marvin was followed by a little girl, Helen, in 1957.

My mother adjusted well to life in Canada. She learned to speak and read English, became part of a circle of German Jews, played bridge and traveled all over the world. She died in 1980 at the age of 79.

Stefan and I are the grandparents of four grandsons and two granddaughters. Our oldest grandson Motti is married to Sara. They live in Israel.

In my speech at the medal ceremony in Oslo in honor of Einar Wellen I said: “... The passage of the years serves to illustrate what it means to save one life. Because of Einar I survived the Holocaust and was able to bring two children into the world, who in turn have all together six children, eight Jewish lives in two generations...”

The Nazis did not succeed.

With kind permission from
Memoirs of Holocaust Survivors in Canada. Published by the




By April 8, 1940 my father did not doubt that a German attack on Norway was imminent. Before going to work that morning he asked my mother to go to our bank and withdraw a considerable amount of money in order to be prepared for any eventuality. However, my mother decided to postpone the banking to the following day because she had other plans, a decision that would prove to have very serious consequences.

Norway was ill prepared for an attack. There were no bomb shelters to speak of, and the air raid sirens that woke us in the middle of the following night caught the population of Oslo by surprise. Although my father knew that the makeshift bomb shelter in our building would not protect us should there be a direct hit, he nevertheless insisted that we join the other residents in the basement. It was dark and crowded in the relatively small room, and everyone was nervous and frightened. Now there could no longer be any doubt - our peace had been short lived. What would become of us? Where could we go?

One thing my father knew with absolute certainty: we had to get away. During the past year he had on two occasions ‘visited’ the German consulate. I am not sure why, but I know that while he was there he had lost his temper both times. No doubt our name was blacklisted at the consulate and we could be easily located. Besides, we were former German citizens, albeit declared ‘stateless’ by now, (citizens of no country), and therefore even more vulnerable.

In the cellar during the air raid my father had formulated a vague plan: he would get in touch with someone at Nordiske and prevail upon him to drive us out of the city. As soon as the ‘all clear’ signal sounded, we went upstairs, my father made his phone call and actually reached one of the salesmen at the company, and we started packing. Most importantly, we had to be sure to take with us an adequate supply of insulin and syringes for my father, who injected himself with insulin two or three times a day. We packed only a few pieces of clothing for each of us, since we had no idea of how we would travel, for how long and where we would end up.

While waiting for my father’s colleague my parents realized that, added to all our other problems, there was also the lack of funds. Despite the early hour my mother rang Mr. & Mrs. Prager’s doorbell, and they were able to lend us a few hundred kroner, which was not a large sum of money and did little to alleviate my father’s concerns. I can only guess what my mother felt.

It was still early morning when my father’s colleague arrived in his little car. War was in the air, and many people had already taken to the roads leading to the country side, where it was felt to be safer. In Oslo there had been no snow, but when we got further away from the city, it became apparent that winter had not lost its grip. The lakes were still frozen, there were icy patches on the road, and we were heading further and further into a frozen landscape. After a couple of hours’ drive the car stopped at an inn. My father’s co-worker told us that he had to return to Oslo now to look after his own family. He had done us an enormous favor under difficult circumstances and we were forever grateful to him.

We spent the rest of the day at the country inn, which gradually filled to capacity. Everyone spoke to everyone else, of course about the war. My parents realized soon that the other people in the day room had noticed us and begun to wonder about us. Not only were we foreigners, but my parents’ accent betrayed our origin. In a country that was under attack by the Germans, this was a most undesirable position to be in. So my father decided that he had better tell the truth about us, who and what we were, and that we were in urgent need of a safe place to stay.

As I mentioned before, there were only about 1000 Jewish people in Norway at the time, and many Norwegians that we encountered then and later on during the war had never even met a Jew. But in the tense atmosphere of the little inn people did understand our plight and a man came forward and told us that he knew of an electrician in a remote village who might be willing to take us in to augment his income. The name of the village was Rogne located in the Valdres region.

We had never heard of this area, but now we had a destination, a goal, although we did not know the outcome of our search. However, the following day we were able to get rides on a truck, a milk wagon and a horse and carriage, until late in the day we arrived in Rogne. The electrician, Nils Granli and his wife Alma, were well known in the village and soon we had made our way to their house. A steep dirt road led up to a comfortable looking green painted house above the highway.

Alma had obviously seen our approach through the window and opened the door before we even had a chance to knock. When we told her that we had regards from one of Nils’ customers, she immediately let us in.

At the time Nils was approximately forty-five years old. Alma was a few years his junior and they had a little girl, then about a year and a half. We never found out how this lovely, cultured woman ended up in a remote place like Rogne and married to Nils. She had been a governess in France when she was younger, and she was surprised and delighted when she heard that my father spoke French too. The common language immediately forged a bond between the two of them.

We told the Granlis who and what we were, yet both Nils and Alma readily agreed to rent us a room in their house with kitchen privileges. I don’t think that they quite realized how dangerous to them our presence in their home might ultimately become. Nils did understand, however, that our situation warranted the protection of the policeman (lensmann) in the village, whom he considered completely trustworthy. He went to see him immediately and returned with the assurance that indeed the lensmann would not give us away, and that he would do everything in his power to protect us. We had no choice but trust his judgment.

Alma’s life was a difficult one. As we discovered somewhat later, Nils was an alcoholic, with the unpredictable temper and behavior of the addicted person. When he drank we would keep away from him, but Alma had no such escape. For this reason I believe that our presence in their home might have been somewhat of a comfort to Alma and a distraction from her worries. Nils and Alma were not farmers, but kept a cow and a pig in the barn adjacent to their house. The cow supplied our milk and each Christmas a pig was slaughtered and a new one arrived. There was never any shortage of food in their household.

That night we gathered around the radio and listened to the news. The war was raging on several fronts, but it seemed to us that the situation was desperate and that it would not be long until Norway too would be under Hitler’s rule.

The following day brought the war close to Rogne. Around noon the air raid siren sounded in the village, and neighbors and friends ran into the dense forest close to ‘our’ house, which had to serve as a shelter. Suddenly overhead an airplane appeared, and before we realized fully what was happening, the sound of gunfire tore through the air. I looked up for a minute and saw to my horror the face of the German pilot, so low was he flying. And just as suddenly I was lying on the ground with my father’s body protecting me, while he ordered everyone else to lie down wherever they were. By some miracle only one person was injured. That day my father became my hero forever, and he gained the respect of all the people that were with us in the forest.

Somewhat later that day my parents went for a walk along the highway. A German plane flew overhead and when the pilot saw them he began shooting. Only my father’s presence of mind saved their lives; they both jumped into the ditch next to the highway and escaped injury.

That night some friends and neighbors of the Granlis suggested that we all move to an area higher up in the mountains. Equipped with knapsacks filled with provisions, we set out during the night and walked for miles through the deep snow. Besides all our other concerns my mother and I worried and wondered if my father would be able to keep up the pace. But as usual, Vati did not complain and eventually we all reached our destination, a small cabin, where we spent the rest of the night and part of the next day. Then word reached us that the fighting in Norway was over and that the Norwegians had capitulated. We all returned to Rogne.

Now that the fighting was officially over I was allowed to play with the other children on the road below the Granli house. This road was also the main highway in the area. I did not quite understand the dialect of the region, ‘new Norwegian’, but the games children play are the same everywhere, and after the tension of the last week it felt wonderful to run around with my new playmates. Schools were still closed because of the war, although the German occupation was now a fact.

A few days later, on a balmy spring day with the sun melting the snow on the road, I was again playing with my friends on the road. Suddenly a jeep with four German officers approached. Imagine my horror when they stopped and asked me in German for directions to the Policeman in the village. German was my mother tongue, which I spoke with my parents every day. But now it was spoken by the enemy, and I knew that if I answered in German the officers would immediately become suspicious. How could a little girl in a mountain village speak German so well? With my heart almost jumping out of my chest I pretended not to understand and they drove off. I think those few minutes ended my childhood, although I was just a little 11-year old girl. All I could think of in that moment was to tell my parents what had happened and I ran up the hill to the house.

A few days later the lensmann paid us a visit. He reiterated what Nils had already told us, that we would be quite safe in Rogne and that we would have nothing to fear from the villagers in the area. He did not know of anyone who had ever met a Jewish person, let alone a Nazi. No one here would understand our particular situation. As far as he was concerned, he had no intentions of becoming a collaborator, and he would give us ample warning should the situation warrant it. We agreed with Nils that the lensmann could be trusted, and in fact he was. Unfortunately for him, he made a very unwise decision a few years later - he joined the Nazi party. His reasoning was that if he did not join the Party, the occupation forces would remove him and appoint a real Nazi to his position, which would be much worse for the villagers. What he had not realized was that in his capacity he would at times have to arrest people, and even his own personal friends, who were known to be anti-Nazi, in this case mostly teachers. This caused him to be treated like any other war criminal after the war, and he was ultimately brought to trial. My parents were called as witnesses for the defense and he was not imprisoned, but his life was ruined just the same. He had lost face.

Although the village school re-opened shortly after this incident, my parents worried that it would be too dangerous for us if they allowed me go to school. So for me grade 5 lasted from August 1939 until April 8, 1940. I missed going to school with the other children. At this point all I wanted was to be like everyone else. But of course I was not.

Our most serious immediate problem was the lack of money. Nils and Alma deserved to get paid, and we needed money to buy groceries. It soon became apparent that something had to be done, since no one could foresee how long the occupation would last. My parents were faced with a most serious decision. One of us had to return to Oslo to withdraw our savings. My father was completely ruled out, because of his dark hair and prominent ‘Jewish’ nose. He would be much too conspicuous. My mother did not look like a foreigner with her blond hair and blue eyes, but as I mentioned before, she as well as my father spoke Norwegian with a German accent. Should she fall into the hands of a Norwegian policeman, he might consider her the enemy and treat her accordingly. An encounter with a German would have disastrous results. This only left me. I have often wondered how my parents could send their only child on such a mission. Was it desperation? My answer is yes, it must have been, because surely they both knew that I might not succeed, and worse yet that I might never return.

A truck driver was found who had to drive to Oslo and back the following day. Equipped with a Power of Attorney for Mrs. Prager (our neighbor) and the telephone number of Nordiske Destillationsverker I climbed into the cab with the driver. We traveled in complete silence, mainly I suppose because the driver did not quite know what to say to me. Also, both of us worried about being stopped on the road. What was he doing with a little girl without any kind of identification? When he let me off on Kirkeveien I was greatly relieved. My parents had advised Mrs. Prager that I was coming to Oslo, so she was waiting for me in her apartment. We did not lose any time and headed for the neighborhood bank immediately. I was nervous and fearful when we entered the bank and I was sure everyone could hear the loud pounding of my heart. I need not have worried. Mrs. Prager gave the bank clerk the Power of Attorney and we withdrew our savings without any difficulties.

Later that day Mrs. Prager told me that my father’s intuition had been right; a few days after the takeover two Germans in civilian clothes had come to our apartment to look for us. When they did not find anyone there, they asked some of the neighbors if they knew where we were, which they did not. The Pragers had not been at home at the time.

Mrs. Prager phoned Nordiske to advise them of our whereabouts. My father’s colleagues were relieved when they heard that we were safe. Subsequently, throughout the next almost three years that we spent in hiding in Rogne my father’s co-workers would take turns coming to see us, always bringing enough money until the next visit. Although we needed this money desperately, my father always felt embarrassed when the envelope was handed to him. How would he ever repay Nordiske? His colleagues insisted, however, that these moneys were mere royalties derived from his formulas - and his due. No doubt the generosity of Nordiske Destillationsverker was instrumental in saving our lives.

In May 1940 the lensmann came to see us again, this time with the news that he had received directives from the occupation forces that every person in his area had to be registered and issued identification papers. Since this posed a certain danger to us, he suggested that we move to the mountain range above Rogne for the summer. It would be safer there and by the time we returned in the fall no one would be looking for people to register - at least this is what he hoped.

The Norwegian farmers move with their cattle to the mountains above their villages during the summer months. Here the cows and the goats graze freely on the lush mountain grass in the higher elevations. These little mountain villages were and are still called ‘seter’ and they consisted mainly of small primitive cabins without electricity or other amenities.

We had heard of a nice log cabin at a ‘seter’ called Buahaugen that was for rent, and one fine day in June Nils drove us there in his truck. Like all the other cabins ours was without running water or electricity and there was an outhouse behind the cabin. Buahaugen lay above the tree line, which meant that only low bushes were growing there with just an occasional small birch tree. The cabin was overlooking two lakes, the Vannsjoe and the Royri, which were joined by a brook and surrounded by mountains. All that had changed when in 1994 I returned to Buahaugen for the first time in fifty years, even the ecology. Veritable forests of birch trees surround cottages that have sprung up and that belong mainly to city dwellers. Now only a few farmers bring their cattle up to Buahaugen, other ‘seters’ are found to be more convenient. Many of the cabins and cottages still have no electricity, but complicated installations are providing running water to most of the summer homes and electricity has been promised for the near future. Buahaugen has become a popular summer and spring skiing resort of sorts and is easily accessible from the highway that goes to Rogne, only about 20 minutes by car. In the winter the gravel road from Rogne is closed.

In the beginning we were almost alone up there, but towards the middle of June the farmers began moving up and we were glad to have people around. Living at the ‘seter’ was not easy and our whole lifestyle changed dramatically. We had to fetch water from the brook - fresh and cold water - which my mother and I did. My father cut the wood for heating and cooking. Who in Germany would ever have believed that he would be able to do such physical hard work ever again? By some miracle he felt really well in the fresh mountain air, although the sore in his back never healed. Fortunately we were able to get his insulin from an apothecary in Fagernes, a small town not far from Rogne, who sent the preparation to Nils Granli at regular intervals. Exactly how this had been arranged I do not remember.

We were very fortunate to be able to spend the summer months at Buahaugen..It was a quiet, tranquil life. Each morning we were awoken by the tinkle of cow bells as the cows were led out to their pastures. A young girl, Martha, who became one of my best friends at the ‘seter’ delivered fresh milk every morning. I played on the rocks at the water’s edge with all the other children, and sometimes in real hot weather we went swimming in the ice cold lakes. We watched the women make goat cheese in huge black kettles, and when they were finished we scraped the kettles clean. This was a delicacy. Midsummer night we would feast on ‘roemmegroet’, a type of porridge made from sour cream. I cannot possibly describe its wonderful taste. We would climb the mountain above Buahaugen and pick blueberries later in the summer and cloudberries, yellow berries that resemble raspberries but taste completely differently. The women made jam and the cloudberries were mixed with whipped cream for Sunday desert.

My parents learnt to fish for trout and other kinds of fish in the lake. They would fish from a row boat, and on balmy summer evenings the three of us would take our fishing rods to the large stones protruding into the lakes, and fish for smaller fish from there. Together with a neighbor my father built a makeshift oven of rocks outside our cabin, in which he smoked some of the trout he caught, and my mother would store some of this fish for the winter months ahead. We were never short on food. On my trip to Buahaugen in 1994 I could still see the remnants of the primitive oven in the underbrush near the steps of our burnt-down cottage. During a raid in the summer of 1943 the Germans set fire to all the cabins in Buahaugen.

In the fall of 1940 we had no other choice but move back to Rogne and Nils and Alma. Despite the inconveniences of living in a primitive log cabin, we had been more comfortable there. I had my own bedroom, we had a spacious living room and kitchen, and it was difficult getting used to the one room we shared at the Granlis. It was, however, impossible to stay at the ‘seter’ in the winter because of the snow, the difficulty in getting provisions, and last but not least the utter isolation.

In September my parents decided that I could not afford to miss any more schooling, and so I began grade 6 in a one-room schoolhouse in the next village called Volbu. Volbu lay across the lake that we could see from the Granli house, and could be reached by walking or bicycling around it in the spring and fall, or crossing it on skis or with a spark in the winter. In my dictionary the translation of a spark is a kick sled. A spark is built like a chair on runners, and in order to move it along, its rider has to stand behind it and kick it forward. It was a very useful mode of transportation on icy or snow packed surfaces, and in those days they were extensively used as baby carriages in the winter.

To my surprise we went to school only every other day. By this time I understood the dialect of the region perfectly, but now had to learn to write it as well. I loved school; it lent some normalcy to my life.

News travels fast in the countryside, and when I started school many of the villagers knew that we were Jewish, although they really did not know what that meant. Nor do I believe that any of them had ever met a Jew. We heard that there were now a few Nazi sympathizers in the village, but it was thought that they would not pose any danger, and in fact they did not. Gudrun, a very intelligent girl in my grade, was the daughter of such a sympathizer and when one day she invited me for dinner to her house it became a dilemma for us. Should I be allowed to go? Was there a sinister motivation behind the invitation? In the end my parents thought that it might do more harm than good not to accept the invitation. Perhaps her parents had been curious about the Jewish girl that had become their daughter’s schoolmate, never having met a Jewish person before? I must admit that I was somewhat uneasy in their company, although they were very pleasant and did not even ask any unusual questions. On my trip to Buahaugen in 1994 I met a man, who actually remembered that he had gone to school with me, although he was a few years younger than I. I asked him if he knew anything about Gudrun, and he told me that she was now living in Lillehammer (the place where the Winter Olympics were held some years ago) with her family, and that she had been a teacher. That was all the information he had about her.

My parents’ lives were difficult. They were totally isolated, with Nils and Alma as their only company. My father was at times very depressed. Even though he would have required regular medical check-ups, he did not dare to go to a doctor; neither did we have dental care during those years, and it was my mother who had to pry off the braces I wore on my teeth when the war broke out. To pass the time my parents went for walks weather permitting, my mother knitted endlessly and they read voraciously anything they could get hold of.

Although my life was far from normal, I still had some kind of routine. I did my homework of which there was a lot, on alternate days, my mother taught me how to knit, and I too read a great deal. Alma taught me how to milk the cow, so I would from time to time relieve her of this work. I actually liked to help her with her chores, because she was always pleasant company. But nothing was more fun than the Christmas preparations. The house filled up with the most delicious fragrance of freshly baked cookies mixed with the smell of wood from the wood stove. Alma cleaned house from morning till night, until everything sparkled. In the living room the lights of the Christmas tree were blinking and the house looked peaceful and pleasant. How I wished that I could be a part of all the celebration surrounding Christmas! But of course I could not. I turned 12 years old that winter, and for all intents and purposes I was now a Jewish ‘woman’, and I was quite aware that I had different obligations.

That winter I participated in skiing competitions, downhill and slalom. I was never any good at it, because I was scared to fall. As a matter of fact, when I came down the hills, some of my friends would exclaim: “Here comes the lensmann”, because our Chief of Police was known to be slow. It upset me that I could not be better at this popular sport, because I was always ambitious. But no matter how hard I tried, I never succeeded in winning anything close to a medal. Cross country skiing was a way of life in the village and never considered a ‘sport’.

So, while the war was raging in Europe we lived in relative tranquility in our secluded village. My parents were of course never at ease. Coupled with their concerns about our own future were the worries about the family they had left behind in Germany. Somehow they had found out that Tante Selma, Onkel Gustav and Elfriede had arrived safely in the United States. I cannot recall how this news reached us, but it was a great relief.

The Germans were stationed in Fagernes and only communicated with the lensmann from time to time. Now we were no longer permitted to own radios, but we did anyway and on dark winter nights we would sit around the radio trying to tune into BBC London. Sometimes we would hear Hitler speak, which totally infuriated my father and would depress him for hours on end. The war was not going well.

We were happy to return to Buahaugen in the summer of 1941. It had been a long and difficult winter with the Granlis. From time to time Nils went on drinking binges and we were always worried that he would one day talk too much when under the influence of alcohol. ‘Our’ log cabin was waiting for us, and now that we knew what to expect the summer seemed like a welcome reprieve.

That summer we had a visitor. Mr. Meiranovsky arrived from Oslo to spend a week with us. What a welcome surprise! For my parents it was a shot in the arm and their pleasure at being with their long time friend was palpable. But this was also a time for reflection, and in my mind’s eye I can see my father and Mr. Meiranovsky sitting on a large stone overlooking the Vannsjoe (lake) while my father warned his friend of the danger that he, and for that matter, the entire Norwegian Jewish population, would face if they remained in Norway. I happened to overhear this conversation. He advised him to persuade his whole family to try to escape to Sweden with him. Sweden was a neutral country and many Norwegians had already crossed the borders between the two countries to escape the German occupation. Like so many others Mr. Meieranovsky did not believe that any harm would come to the Jews. They were Norwegians and the Germans would not dare to persecute them. How wrong he was! That was the last time we saw Moritz Meiranovsky.

A neighboring cottage in Buahaugen was owned by an attorney, Mr. Wellen, whose nephew Einar came to visit each summer. My father often spoke to the elder Wellen and that summer of 1941 he was also introduced to Einar, then 19 years old and a tall gangly law student. Little did we know how important the young man my father met that day would be for the future of our family.

In the fall of 1941 we moved back to the Granlis and an uneasy co-existence. I suppose that the money we paid Nils each month was still an incentive for him to try to be civil around us. Alma was as always kind and patient, but the tense situation in the household aggravated by Nils’ heavy drinking took its toll on all of us. Fortunately I was able to go to school and escape the situation at home every other day. Even Christmas was no longer the same that year. Although we still had plenty of food, rationing of sugar, flour, butter etc. was now in effect, and curtailed the Christmas baking. Moreover, the prolonged occupation with no end in sight affected all of us, and no one seemed to be in the mood to celebrate.

By February 1942 it had become obvious to my parents that we would have to find a place of our own to return to in the fall after spending the summer in Buahaugen. We were now really afraid of Nils when he was inebriated and never knew what to expect.

My parents’ stay at the Granlis would come to an unexpected and abrupt end. In March of 1942 the lensmann paid us a visit with some very disturbing news. A German raid of the villages in his district was imminent, and he urged us to leave for Buahaugen immediately. This was a terrifying prospect. How would we be able to manage all by ourselves? How would we get the necessary provisions? Nils Granli promised to look for someone to bring us what we needed at regular intervals, and we had no choice but believe him. So on a bright, sunny day we set out on skis together with one of our neighbors, each of us carrying as many supplies as we could.

It took several hours of skiing through deep and heavy snow to reach the ‘seter’, but since there were four of us we made deep tracks in the snow. We could hardly recognize Buahaugen when we arrived; the landscape looked like it was frozen in time. Our neighbor helped us to carry wood inside and start a fire in the fireplace and the stove to warm up the cottage. And then he left, and we were all alone in the great expanse of snow and ice.

The brook was frozen too, except for a small opening, where we were able to fetch drinking water - on skis of course. When we needed water with which to wash ourselves and our clothes we melted snow in a large pot. At night the cottage got freezing cold, and it was usually my mother who got a fire going before my father and I got up. We could not go outside without putting our skies on. It was almost inconceivable that we could stay here all alone until the farmers came up for the summer. But that is what we did - at least my parents.

After a few days in the mountains I did something which was probably the most selfish thing I have ever done in my whole life. My only excuse is that I was only 13 years old. I told my parents that I wanted to go back to Rogne, stay with Nils and Alma go to school. Their reaction was predictable. I was their only link to the village in the event that something happened to my father, and now I wanted to leave them completely on their own. However, in the end they let me go, provided that I would return to the mountains every weekend with provisions.

So I set out on my skies, retracing the tracks we had made a few days earlier. I felt free as a bird - for a little while. Then I began to realize that I was now all alone in the great snowy expanse I had to cover. What would happen if I fell and could not get up? It was a frightening thought, one that I had to put quickly out of my mind. Only when I arrived at the bend where the mountains and villages on the other side of the Volbu lake came into view did I feel safe. I still had to ski downhill before I got to the main road, but at least now I passed some farms and knew that I was almost ‘home’.

Alma in particular was happy to see me and have me stay with them. I went to school as if everything was normal, but nothing was. The enormity of what I had done weighed heavily on me, and every night I would look up at the sky and in the direction of Buahaugen and wonder and worry how my parents were doing. This was a most difficult time for the three of us. Every weekend, when I skied back up to the mountains the loneliness of the slow climb, first through dense snowy woods and then across the wilderness of the higher plateau almost overwhelmed me, coupled with the fear of what I would find in Buahaugen. Moreover, I worried from one week to the next that the trail would no longer be visible and that I would have to rely on clearings in the woods and the frozen lakes to guide me.

When, years later, I returned to Buahaugen with my son Marvin and my husband Steve, they were incredulous when they saw the distance I had skied all by myself when I was only 13 years old. But, although I was nervous and scared at the time, I knew that I was just doing my duty, and every weekend when I saw my parents and I had convinced myself that all was well, I was grateful and able to go on for another week. By May, when it had become too difficult to ski because of the spring thaw I left school and the Granlis and stayed at the ‘seter’.

I never saw Nils again, and Alma only many, many years later, when in 1974 I traveled to Norway on my own and took a tour to the fjords, where I had never been before. I had told our guide, a young Norwegian student, a bit about my past. I don’t think she ever had a tourist quite like me, a non-Norwegian who spoke Norwegian perfectly. On the last day of the tour the guide told us that we would have lunch in Fagernes. This was something I had not been prepared for, but I immediately decided that while the rest of the group was having lunch, I would somehow get to Rogne and back. As soon as the bus stopped I ran into the hotel (the one and only) and asked for a taxi, only to be told that there were none available that day. I was upset, and told the receptionist that I had to get to Rogne and the reason why. A lady was standing next to me, and was so moved by my story that she offered to drive me. In the end her teenagers did. As we came closer to Rogne they kept asking me if I knew how far we still had to go, but all I could tell them was that the house was facing the Volbu Lake.

Of course I recognized the green house with its steep approach. I ran up the hill and outside the house an elderly woman came to meet me. Knowing immediately that she was Alma and not wanting to shock her I simply asked: “Do you remember a family that lived here during the war?” She looked at me and with tears filling her eyes she said: “You are not Margrit Rosenberg, are you?” That made me cry to, and we embraced each other and could barely talk. In the few minutes I was able to spend with Alma I found out that Nils had died a few years earlier. Her daughter, the little girl I remembered from the wartime, also came out of the house and was quickly told who I was. And then I had to leave. Two teenagers were waiting in the car and a busload of people in Fagernes. What a day this had been! That was the last time I saw Alma.

Somehow the spring months of 1942 passed. If it was hard to maneuver outside with skis on in March, it became if possible, even harder to manage without when the snow was melting in May. Instead of skiing we were now wading through deep, loose and wet snow and it was almost impossible to carry the buckets of water from the brook up to the cabin. But the sun is strong in the mountains in springtime and by the end of May all the snow had disappeared and life became easier. The last months had, however, taken its toll. The three of us had suffered a serious set-back psychologically, and our nerves were completely on edge. Even when the farmers returned to their seters, Buahaugen somehow did not feel the same as in previous years. Perhaps we knew subconsciously that this would be the last summer we would spend in the mountains.

Two people visited us that summer. An engineer from Nordiske arrived with the usual envelope and stayed with us for a few days. He urged us to leave Norway as soon as possible because the Germans had begun escalating the persecution of the Jewish population in Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim. My father told him that we had no connections to the underground in the area and without their help we would not be able to escape. The engineer left with the promise that he would do everything in his power to help us.

The second visitor was Einar Wellen, our neighbor’s young nephew. He had the same message as the engineer from Nordiske, and when he heard that we were literally trapped in Rogne he mentioned that he had a friend in the Norwegian underground, and that with his help he hoped to make our escape to Sweden possible.

During the summer we were able to arrange to rent a furnished house at the outskirts of Rogne. Although it should have been a relief to live in larger quarters and on our own, we were too nervous to appreciate it. I could no longer go to school; it was considered too dangerous, and I made no effort to change my parents’ mind. We tried to stay as close to the house as possible, and only I did the necessary shopping. In the winter, when new ration cards were issued, I traveled quite a distance with our spark to pick them up, and with my heart pounding in my chest, I asked for and received the ration cards. The engineer from Nordiske appeared one day and brought us the terrible news of the deportation of the Norwegian Jews. He promised to be back in January to fetch us and bring us to safety. We did not hear from Einar Wellen. My father’s depression and violent outbursts became more frequent. We felt caught in a trap with no way out. My fourteenth birthday on December 27 was like any other day, and when I complained that we did not even have a small celebration, my father completely lost his temper. I had never seen him that furious and was really frightened when he lifted up a chair and threw it against the wall. My poor father, his helplessness and frustration needed an outlet, and my complaints triggered this violent outburst.

We had almost given up hope, when in the early morning hours of January 14, 1943 there was a knock on the door. Fearing the worst I opened the door. Relief surged through me when I recognized Einar Wellen with another young man, who turned out to be his friend Arne Myhrvold. Both were exhausted and frozen, because they had spent the night traveling, the last part on an open truck bed. The two young men wasted no time in telling us that everything was arranged for our escape and that we would be leaving early the following morning.. They advised us how to dress and what to bring in our knapsacks. What I remember best from that day, was standing over a kitchen sink, dying my hair blonde. Much depended on us and how we would be able to handle the situation. We would travel by truck to a small place near Fagernes, where we would board a train headed for Oslo. We would leave the train in a suburb of Oslo. A minister, recognizable by his clerical collar would meet us at the station and take us to his home where we would stay until the next transport to Sweden.

This plan sounded easy enough, but we all knew that danger would be lurking in every corner. The truck could easily be stopped for an inspection, and what was even more likely was, that we would be asked for identification papers on the train, but these were risks we had to take to save our lives.

While we were preparing to leave there was another knock on the door. We stared in disbelief at our new visitors, the engineer from Nordiske with a companion. They too had come to rescue us. After some discussion it was decided that we follow Einar’s and Arne’s plan, since that seemed to be the better one. Arne had been working in the Norwegian underground movement for quite some time and had helped many people to cross the border into Sweden via the route we were scheduled to take. It was an unbelievable coincidence that these four people arrived the same day.

We left Rogne at dawn the following day. Our truck made it without incident in time for the train to Oslo. Einar and Arne traveled on the same train as we, but in a different compartment, and in fact we did not see them again. My father hid behind a newspaper, my mother and I tried to look as relaxed as possible. Not one word was spoken between us. By some miracle we were not asked for identification papers. When we reached the suburb of Oslo, where we were to meet the minister, we got off the train and looked anxiously around. But he was there, a car drove up immediately, and we were off to the minister’s home.

It was a lovely house, a home such as I had not seen in a long time, beautifully furnished with paintings on the wall and a piano in the corner of the living room. Coffee and sandwiches were ready for us and we were shown to a room to rest. The minister told us that we might have to spend the night there, because there might not be a transport to the border that day. The apparent delay made us very nervous, but at the end of the day a message was received that we should leave immediately.

We were driven by car to a farm and shown into the barn, where some other people were sitting in the hay waiting, including an elderly Jewish lady who had been rescued from a hospital. It was then that we found out that the three of us were the last Jews to leave Norway. When there were about 30 people in the barn, a truck drove up and the Jewish lady and my parents and I were told to get in first, closest to the cab. Eventually a tarpaulin was stretched across the truck bed and covered with grass. My father immediately realized that he would not be able to stay in such a confining space, because he was severely claustrophobic. He moved slowly forward to the other end of the truck, where he could see some light through the slits of the tarpaulin and disappeared from our view.

This was the ultimate agony. Not to have my father close-by during these most dangerous hours ahead, was unthinkable. I called “Vati, Vati” many times over, but there was no reply. Now I began to imagine that he had gotten off the truck and been left behind accidentally. The man next to me told me to be quiet as I would otherwise endanger the whole transport. I was so nervous and upset that my whole body shook and I could not keep my teeth from chattering. During the next couple of hours I hardly thought about the danger we were in. All I could think of was, whether my father was on the truck and what we would do if he were not.

Suddenly the truck stopped, and so almost did my heart. Loud voices were heard outside, but soon we were on our way again. All of us breathed an audible sigh of relief, but not a word was spoken. When the next time the truck came to a stop, we were told that this was the end of our drive and that we would have to walk the rest of the way to the Swedish border. A guide would accompany us. Slowly the truck bed emptied out, and when at last I saw my father and put my hand into his, I was oblivious to the danger we were in; all that mattered was that my father was with us. We walked through the snowy woods, quickly and in absolute silence. Suddenly a small cabin appeared as if from nowhere with lights blinking through its windows. And then we heard: “Welcome to Sweden, come inside”, and saw the outlines of two Swedish soldiers coming towards us.

Our long odyssey, beginning in Oslo on April 9, 1940 had ended.

Einar Wellen and Arne Myhrvold eventually had to leave Norway too and escaped to Sweden. Einar married Marit in 1946 and they had three children, two sons and a daughter. He became a well-known lawyer and prominent businessman. In 1996 he received a medal from Yad Vashem for the role he had played in saving my life. That day, April 16, 1996, Yom Hashoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day), was one of the most important days of my life. It had taken me one and a half years to have my application for Einar’s medal approved, and when I stood in the very same synagogue in which my husband and I got married nearly 47 years earlier, and spoke to a full synagogue, I felt that my life had come full circle. Einar’s name is now engraved in the garden of the Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Einar died in 1998. His wife Marit and I are still in constant touch.

Through a most regrettable oversight on my part, Arne Myhrvold’s efforts were never recognized. Arne became an engineer and C.E.O. of a large company. He and his wife Reidunn still live in the suburbs of Oslo. Until Einar’s death he and Arne remained close friends.

When I was in Oslo in 1996 a member of the Jewish Community, Ken Harris, asked me if I remembered anything about the driver of the truck that took us to the Swedish border. He had found out that this driver was still alive and would be entitled to be recognized as a Righteous Gentile. So far no one had been able to identify him with certainty. I really did not remember anything about this man, but offered to go and see him if he felt it would serve a purpose. I was given his name, Torleif Halvorsen, and his phone number. His wife Kirsten answered the phone and when she heard what the call was about, she was surprised and very happy.

The following morning I sat on the train headed for a small place called Askim. Kirsten and Torleif met me at the station and drove me to their home in their van. Torleif seemed sick, coughing continuously and it was obvious that he was ill at ease. After a warm lunch he offered to take me to the farm where we had gathered in 1943. During the drive he became a great deal more talkative with Kirsten filling in the blank spaces. It turned out that none of the people he had transported in his truck had ever taken the trouble to contact him after the war. He was extremely touched that I had made the effort, and I really did not have the heart to tell him that I was not at all sure that I had been one of his ‘passengers’. What I did realize though, was that he was in no condition to go through any kind of ceremony, and that if nothing else, I had provided him with a pleasant memory. Torleif died a few years after my visit, and I have since lost touch with Kirsten.

With kind permission from
Memoirs of Holocaust Survivors in Canada. Published by the