Dramatic battles and important events that impacted world history. Read our guide to key WWII sites and important events in Norway during the Second World War, including the battle of Narvik, the sinking of the Blücher at Oscarsborg, and the heavy water sabotage mission at Rjukan.
"Visiting historic war sites is increasingly popular. We receive a lot of queries from people who suddenly discover that a family member has been involved or affected by the Second World War. Although it's a topic that has perhaps not always been as easy to discuss, the generation that is now growing up is curious, asks questions, and wants answers," says Ann Kristin Kristensen at the Narvik War and Peace Centre.
The Narvik War and Peace Centre is the northernmost of Norway's seven peace and human rights centres. The centre runs the Narvik War Museum, where you can learn about the battle of Narvik during the Second World War.
"There are many kinds of sites from the war. They can include places where fighting occurred or locations of monuments and memorials. In Narvik, we have very many monuments that mark different aspects of the war, which lots of people wish to visit. The cemetery here and Beisfjord detention camp are also important sites to many visitors," says Ann Kristin.
In spring 1940, both Germany and the Allied forces sent ships, planes and soldiers to Narvik. The small city located at the innermost section of the Ofotfjord and the surrounding area became the site of the biggest battles of the war on Norwegian soil, during which Norwegian soldiers were involved in the fighting.
Gaining control of Narvik harbour was key to both the Germans and the Allies, since it secured access to iron ore from Sweden, used in the manufacture of weapons and equipment.
For 62 days, soldiers from Norway, Great Britain, France, and Poland fought against the Germans, in both dramatic sea battles and in the mountains around Narvik. The Norwegian and Allied forces were eventually able to retake the city and drive the Germans out, resulting in Hitler's first strategic defeat.
After being retaken, Narvik was levelled to the ground by German bomber planes, both as an act of revenge and in order to destroy infrastructure that could benefit the Allies. When the Allies withdrew, the Germans returned to Narvik. In the end, the Norwegians surrendered, and Narvik remained under German control until the liberation in 1945.
Narvik is an important chapter in World War II history for all the countries involved. Streets and schools have been named after the city in both Poland, the UK, and France.
Countless films have been made about the Second World War. During 2022, a film about the battle of Narvik is set to be released, too.
In Kampen om Narvik – Hitlers første nederlag ("The battle of Narvik — Hitler's first defeat") we follow young corporal Gunnar Tofte, played by Carl Martin Eggesbø, and his wife, chambermaid Ingrid Tofte, played by Kristine Hartgen.
The film was shot on location in both Narvik, Rjukan and Oslo, including a scene from Norddalsbrua outside Narvik:
The Second World War broke out in 1939.
On 9 April, 1940, Germany invaded Norway. After two months, the Germans had conquered the country, and the King and the government fled to London in order to continue the fight from there.
During the occupation, Norway was governed by the German Nazi Josef Terboven. All political parties were banned, except Nasjonal Samling, which was led by Vidkun Quisling.
As many as 44,000 Norwegians were held captive during the Second World War, 9,000 of which were sent to prisons and camps in Nazi-occupied areas, and 1,400 of whom perished.
A total of 773 Jews in Norway were sent to concentration camps in Germany, of whom only 38 survived. Norway was occupied by the Germans until it was finally liberated in 1945.
Source: Store Norske Leksikon
One can find many sites and remnants of battles from World War II in Narvik and the surrounding area.
At the Narvik War Museum, you can learn more about what took place during the dramatic days in 1940. The museum also offers experiences tailor-made for children.
The Historic WWII landscape contains a series of monuments on the stretch from Narvik to Bardufoss that serve as a memorial to the dramatic battles.
On Bjørnfjell, you can join a guided WWII history walk to several important wartime sites. Learn how the Ofotbanen railway line played an essential role in transporting iron ore, stroll along the historic Rallarveien (Navvies' road), and see the spectacular Norddalsbrua bridge, where key scenes of the major motion picture Kampen om Narvik were shot.
Several interesting walks, WWII sites and museums in the area are shown below:
Visit more historic locations!
You can find places that were at the centre of dramatic events during the Second World War throughout Norway, such as Vemork in Rjukan (pictured).
Here are a few you won't want to miss:
During the Second World War, the fight for heavy water took place at Vemork by Rjukan, which was then the biggest power plant in Norway. The Germans wished to use the heavy water to attempt to build an atomic bomb. However, thanks to four dramatic sabotage missions, their attempts were thwarted.
In autumn 2017, an exciting project was launched at Vemork, in which the heavy water cellar was excavated and found to be intact. You can also join an exclusive tour of the heavy water cellar, where a new museum opened in 2022.
Join a guided tour of the saboteur route and discover more about Vemork:
The Oscarsborg fortress lies in the middle of Drøbaksundet sound. On 9 April 1940, the fortress halted the German attack on Oslo by sinking Blücher, Germany's second-biggest cruiser. The sinking of Blücher was key to the successful evacuation of the King, the parliament and the government.
At the Oscarsborg Museum, you can learn more about the history of the fortress, through both topical exhibitions and guided tours.
You can reach the fortress by taking the ferry from Drøbak. The ferry runs year-round and the trip takes about 10 minutes.
In April 1940, Kvam in Gudbrandsdalen was at the centre of the fiercest fighting in southern Norway. Norwegian and British forces fought against German soldier in the small community, and about 70 houses and buildings were destroyed by fire, including the church in Kvam.
The fighting in Kvam forms the basis of the Gudbrandsdal War Collection, which opened in 1995. Kvam peace park is located beside the museum, where you will find a monument to those who fell during the Second World War.
Jøssingfjord in Rogaland is famous for the Altmark incident that took place there in February 1940.
The German ship Altmark passed through Norwegian waters on its voyage back to Germany with several hundred British prisoners of war on board, escorted by a Norwegian torpedo boat. The ship was discovered by the British, resulting in a battle in which several Germans were killed, and the British prisoners were rescued.
Along the coast, you can find a number of coastal forts that were built during the Second World War. Many of the forts offer guided tours in summer, and you can simply visit many forts on your own.
Explore forts from the Second World War:
There were several prison camps in Norway during the Second World War. Grini was the biggest camp. In total, about 20,000 people were imprisoned at Grini. Most were Norwegian, but Poles, Soviets, and Frenchmen were also held captive there.
The Grini Museum is today housed in one of the camp's barracks. Here, you can explore topics like arrests, guards, and illegal communication through text, photos, and objects.
Falstad prison camp was located in Nord-Trøndelag. More than 4,200 prisoners were held captive there during the WWII. Most of the prisoners were Norwegian, but Russians, Yugoslavians, Danes, and Poles were also held there.
Today, the former prison buildings are home to the Falstad Centre, one of seven peace and human rights centres in Norway. The site is both a memorial and a national centre for the history of Second World War prisoners and human rights. In the Falstadskogen forest, a two-minute drive from the centre, lies the Arkbusering memorial by Norwegian sculptor Odd Hilt, who was himself imprisoned at Falstad.
Read more about the history of Falstad:
In 26 countries in Europe you can find Stolpersteine, stumbling blocks, a memorial that is set into the pavement at sites where Jews and other victims of the Nazis lived or worked when they were deported and killed. The project was started in 1993 by German artist Gunter Demnig, and The Oslo Jewish Museum brought it to Norway.
You can find several stumbling blocks throughout the country, from Berlevåg and Hammerfest in the north, to Ogna outside Egersund in the south. Each memorial is inlaid with an engraved brass plaque with the person's name, year of birth, year of deportation, and site and date of death.
Here is where you can find stumbling blocks in Norway:
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