Friday, June 24, 2016


A letter from Norway 
Vladimir Grossman


A few months ago, just at the time when the Jewish community of Oslo, the capital of Norway, in cooperation with the Norwegian government, was engaged in adjusting the 400 Jewish refugees from the German camps, a brief report appeared in the non-Jewish and Jewish press with the following headline: “The forgotten Jews”. Exactly 399 Jews came to Norway, some of them with wives and children, some left, some children were born and now they number 430. These are the forgotten ones.

There are at present a number of really forgotten Jews in the world. Nowadays Jews are wandering, aimlessly on all roads and across all seas, moving from one country to the other, from one continent to the other. Therefore the short note on the fate of the Jewish group in Norway made in particular a strong impression. 

It is known that the Norwegian government has taken this matter very seriously. Two years ago they contacted UNRRA and cooperated with organizations like “Ort” and “Joint” and they sent several commissions to Poland as well as to Germany. They brought the immigrants to Norway and the immigrants were helped to establish themselves. The Norwegian government sent for them till now more than 1 million kroner. Accommodations were prepared for them and the majority of the newly arrived are now working and do not make a bad living. Why then are these the “forgotten Jews”?

The Norwegian case is a very special one. Several thousand Jews from the German camps were admitted into Sweden, but only as temporary guests. The Norwegian government made it known that they brought fewer refugees in order to help them establish themselves and that they could be enabled to become citizens of their county.

It is well known that the German government during their occupation treated the Jews with utmost cruelty. A part of the small number of Norwegian Jews (they numbered approximately 1500 souls) saved their lives by escaping to Sweden. The rest perished.

That is the story of the fate of the Norwegian Jews i.e Norwegian citizens. Local people insisted that no less than 400 Jews who were not citizens of the country were murdered by the Germans The names and the particulars of the perished Norwegian Jews were collected by the Norwegian government. The Oslo community is now building a memorial monument which will be unveiled in autumn and which will carry all the names. 

All of Norway has suffered terribly on account of the Nazis and on account of Quisling’s hordes. Countless houses all over the country were destroyed. The underground movement against them was very strong there was practically a real civil war there. Until now Norwegian and even more German oppressors are put on trial, but dozens of years will pass until the country will recover. 

Soon after the war the government raised a great National Fund for the special purpose of reconstructing the country and particularly to reestablish the hundreds of thousands of refugees, who fled from the county and remained without a cent to their names. And together with all Norwegian refugees, several hundred Norwegian Jews returned as well who had succeeded in saving themselves. 

The Jewish community of Oslo at present numbers 180 members (families). These families total 500 individuals. A second Jewish community is situated far north, in the old town of Trondheim, numbering approximately 50-60 families. No difference whatsoever was made between Jews and non-Jewish in the distribution of money for reestablishment.

Life, work and action started gain. Jewish stores, various property, the furnishing of houses, which the Germans had rubbed and sold by auctions, were located by the police and confiscated mercilessly and returned to their former owners. Old Norwegian friends took up their former connections. 

It is a fact that the shadow of the innocently murdered is still veering over the two small, reduced communities, however life becomes more and more normal. Though it was a small settlement, the Jews lived here quite comfortably. The Germans entered and made an end to that. Now everything has to be rebuilt from scratch.

Taking into consideration the general situation of Norway and the poverty still prevailing in the country (there is no sugar, no milk products, no small tress, no fruit), we have to admit that the resolution of the Norwegian Government right after the war to introduce a real help program for the Jewish reconstruction, was a noble act of friendliness. 

I happened to be in Norway one and a half years ago when the program for the refugees from Germany was organized. At that period it was the desire of the government to go through with the program by all means and without delay. And the Government stated at that time what they repeated later on several occasions: “In case the first experiment will turn out favorably, more Jews will be invited to come and settle down there. Norway is a country of great opportunities."

And the first experiment has been successful. As many as 80 percent of the newly arrived people are working and making a good living. They earn 100 or 120 kroner a week and those are good wages for Norwegian workers, giving them a chance to live well. The majority of them are working in fur factories or ready-made clothing production, only those who gave wrong information as to their qualification did not become established. Some people stated professions which they never even saw in their lives. Now those people have to be supported and they themselves are the ones who have to suffer for it most.

There were many difficulties and there are still difficulties in obtaining housing accommodations. There are no apartments available, not only for refugees from Germany, but for local people. However, these difficulties will be overcome. The construction of houses for our refugees started and recently an important agreement was signed in Oslo. Some time will pass yet before the local problems will be solved. 

The Jewish community in Oslo is engaged in solving this case and even contributed funds to some extent. The Community is connected with the “Joint” which supported this undertaking from the very beginning. However, the Norwegian Government alone gave the largest contribution. Until now, the Government did not spare money and is prepared to be of further assistance in order to make the result of their first experiment completely satisfactory. It is a very peculiar experiment for the Government of a small nation which suffered such a great deal from the Germans.

However, the Government did not consider it necessary to make propaganda of their undertaking. They did not want to become involved in an enterprise, which is still far from completed and which still demands a great deal of time and efforts. And since the Government was silent, a Norwegian journalist assumed that the Jews were simply forgotten who were invited into the country.

The issue of the Norwegian newspaper, in which the article in questions was published, fell into the hands of a Jew in Denmark who used if t for a short time in the Jewish Chronicle in London. From there the report came over to the "ITA" and “marched over” the columns of the Jewish press all over the world. 

The Government in Norway was silent, the Jewish community in Oslo was silent, and even the representative of the Joint was silent, who all the time has been engaged in working for the benefit of the refugees. This action certainly was neither for the benefit of the “forgotten” Jews” nor for the benefit of the whole enterprise.

It is good that notwithstanding this irresponsible action, the work continues. There is every reason to believe that the work will truly bring good results.

Translation from Yiddish



Vladimir Grossman, (1884 - 1976) well-known Jewish activist, journalist and historian, was born in Temrulk in the North Caucasus in 1884. After finishing studies in Agronomy at the University of Berlin and Law at the University of St. Petersburg, he took over the publication “The Jewish Immigrant”, sponsored by the Jewish Colonization Association.

He left Russia in 1915 to represent the Jewish Defense Committee of St. Petersburg in Copenhagen. It was at that time that he established his lifelong friendship with the leaders of the Scandinavian Social Democratic movement and also became a correspondent for the Danish daily newspaper “Politiken.” At the end of World War I, Mr. Grossman moved to Paris where he wrote for the Yiddish newspaper “Haint” and headed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in France.

At the Beginning of World War II, he went to Canada as delegate of the World ORT Union and in this role he developed an important retraining program for European refugees. 

Immediately after the liberation of Europe, he returned to the continent to continue his work in DP camps in the British Occupation Zone and also took up work again for ORT in Scandinavia 1924-1976. He was awarded the Danish Liberation Medal for exceptional services.

Mr. Grossman lived in Geneva for 22 years where he continued to write for major Yiddish language newspapers in France, the U.S.and Argentina. He edited a number of periodicals, including "Der yidisher emigrant", "Parizer haynt", "Zibn teg". He continued his close association with the World ORT Union. The third volume of his major work on world Jewry and world politics, “Old and New Problems,” was published in Paris in the fall of 1975.