Many countries over the centuries have had their fair share of treasonists. Be it for political, ideological or financial reasons, at the end of the day a traitor is still a traitor, no matter why he or she committed their treason. But in all these cases, one man currently stands out because his name has become synonymous with the term traitor. That man is a Norwegian named Quisling.
Vidkun Quisling was born in July 1887 in the Norwegian county of Telemark, which itself would become synonymous with heroism, forming an odd juxtaposition between heroes and a traitor in Norway during World War 2. Quisling took up a career in the Norwegian military. Initially his career was distinguished and having spent five years in Russia as a military attaché he eventually became the Norwegian military’s expert on Russian affairs. During the Russian famine in Povolzhye in 1921 Quisling organised humanitarian relief.
On his return to Norway Quisling entered Norwegian politics and served as Minister of Defence in the governments of Peder Kolstad and Jens Hundseid. Initially a member of the Farmer’s Party, Quisling became disillusioned with their policies and formed his own political party, the National Union. The party failed to win any seats in the Norwegian parliament and by the time war broke out in Europe, Quisling and his party were very much sidelined.
By 1939 the clouds of war were forming in Europe and Quisling lectured on what he described as The Jewish problem in Norway and was openly declaring his support for Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler. In September 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Great Britain and France declared war on Germany and World War 2 became a reality.
The early stages of the war in Europe were classed as the phony war and in December 1939 Quisling traveled to Germany where he had an audience with Hitler. Quisling was advised to ask for Hitler’s help with a pro-German coup in Norway. The idea being that the German Navy would use Norway as a naval base and Norway would maintain official neutrality under the control of Germany.
In April 1940, Germany invaded Norway and Quisling took the opportunity to seize power in Norway, broadcasting over the radio that he was seizing control and forming his own government. In essence Quisling declared a coup d’état and Hitler lent his support, recognising the new Norwegian government under Quisling. Meanwhile Norwegian armed forces were still resisting the German invasion.
On 10 April Germany’s ambassador to Norway, Curt Bräuer, demanded that King Haakon of Norway appoint Quisling as the head of a new government. Haakon rejected this demand, stating he would sooner abdicate than appoint any government headed by Quisling. The government unanimously voted to support the king’s stance. The people of Norway continued their resistance to the German invasion.
Quisling’s support had all but eroded by this point and Hitler realised Quisling was of little or no use to his future plans. Hitler retracted his support for Quisling’s rival government and instead created his own puppet government. In compensation, Hitler wrote to Quisling thanking him for his efforts and guaranteeing him a position in the new government. Quisling’s reputation was in tatters and he was seen by most Norwegians as a traitor.
Hitler did indeed give Quisling a role in the puppet government and from 1942 to 1945 Quisling served as Prime Minister of Norway. His pro-Nazi puppet government collaborated with and participated in Germany’s genocidal Final Solution, the mass deportation and murder of Jews in Nazi occupied Europe.
At the end of World War 2, after Nazi Germany’s defeat, Quisling was put on trial for his role in the invasion of Norway and his complicit attempt to aid the Nazi regime during his term in charge of the puppet government of Norway. He was found guilty of multiple charges including high treason, embezzlement and murder. Quisling was sentenced to death, a punishment Norway had not used since 1876, but appealed the decision of the court. His appeal were rejected.
On 24th October 1945 at 02:30 Quisling was led to the grounds of the ancient Akershus castle in Oslo. Here a doctor pinned a white target over Quisling’s heart. He was blindfolded and bound to a temporary wooden wall. On the given order, Vidkun Quisling was executed by firing squad.
Since that time the world has been given a new word to describe a traitor, quisling.
Copyright © Tom Kane 2019