Reluctant Courage - A Family’s Struggle to Survive in Nazi Occupied Oslo

Are you thinking of traveling to Norway? If so, Reluctant Courage - A Family's Struggle to Survive in Nazi Occupied Oslo by Rica Newbery will make good reading on the way over. It brings the Nazi occupation of 1940 to 1945 to life, through the eyes of Maria Halversen and her three daughters. It is fiction but inspired by real stories told by the authors' mother who was 8 years old when the Nazis marched into Oslo. Later a soldier was billeted into their town flat and her father, a policeman, disappeared.


Events in the novel weave in real events and situations experienced by Norwegians. Resistance fighters risked death every day with hidden radios and distribution of leaflets. Red hats became a symbol of the resistance and were banned by the Nazis. Teachers and Church leaders refused to propagate Nazi ideology, and teachers were arrested en masse, only to return later as no-one would fill their roles. Underground papers printed cartoons mocking the Nazis and graffiti abounded. The Resistance Museum in Oslo has a wonderful display which would make any Norwegian proud.


Food was scarce, and women queued for hours or pawned their belongings to afford items such as eggs or meat on the black market. Stomach complaints were common as people ate meat eked out with herring or bread with added newspaper or sawdust from unscrupulous shopkeepers. On the docks, there is a memorial to 532 Jews, arrested by Norwegian police and handed over to the Gestapo at Pier 1 in Oslo Harbour. They were sent to Auschwitz via the famous SS Donau on 26th November 1942.


Lebensborn mother and baby homes were set up as soldiers were encouraged to impregnate local girls, seen by the Nazis as good Aryans. Many of these babies were taken out of Norway to Germany for adoption, and abortion became punishable by death. If you go up to Trondheim, a visit to Falstad Prison Museum is well worth the trip. Locals used to help prisoners by leaving food parcels and medication for them, as well as helping them escape. You can also imagine the experience of a prisoner there, as you read the novel.


In the novel, Maria struggles with food rations, bickering daughters, her husband, a policeman, leaving her for another woman, a Wehrmacht officer billeted to their flat and far worse yet to come. It will bring the experience of Norwegians living through the Nazi Occupation to life, and enrich your own experience of your Norwegian journey.


Bon voyage or god reise!

Kalyan Panja