Friday, January 15, 2021

Maybe It Shouldn't Have Been Surprising After All...

It started with a piece of paper I'd found in the bottom of a box.  It looked like a bill of sale for something that my grandmother, Lisa Klungseth Hammer, had purchased.  It had a date and a location to send it to.  I knew she was near Trondheim in 1946, and this piece of paper documented it. 

But in looking at it more closely, I saw this receipt was for a book - the author's name and the title were listed.  The books a person reads says a lot about them, so I decided to see if I could find this work in the stack of books she'd left behind - and about halfway down the pile, there it was.  "Friheten," by Nordahl Grieg.  It was all in Norwegian, so I decided to see what I could find about this book and the man who wrote it.

Nordahl Grieg was born Nov. 01, 1902 in Bergen and died Dec 2, 1943 in Kleinmachnow (near Berlin).  He is described as a controversial man, a long-time member of the Communist Party, and a "poet, novelist, dramatist, journalist and political activist."  Wait ... what?  My grandmother was buying and reading materials written by a controversial Communist political activist??

Grieg had been a member of the Norwegian Communist Party for a long time, and called a "Stalinist" by his enemies.  It was his empathy for the underprivileged that caused him to join the Party.

Interestingly, he was studying in Oslo the same time my Grandmother, Lisa Klungseth Hammer, was attending the Teacher's College there.  

During World War II when the Germans invaded and occupied Norway, Grieg broke away from his support of Stalin.  Communists were being urged to stay neutral, and this invasion changed things for Grieg.  He was passionately opposed to the Nazis and considered himself a Norwegian patriot, and intended to oppose them every way he could.  Grieg did military service in the Norwegian Army in 1939-1940 in Finnmark (Lisa was also in Finnmark at this time).  He escaped the country in 1940 on the same ship as the Royal family of Norway and the National Gold reserves.

His fight against the Nazis continued from Britain, both on the radio and in his writings.  He traveled, speaking with Norwegian soldiers and getting their experiences in his work as a war correspondent.  He took part in various military missions, which was common for a war correspondent at that time.    He was with the Royal Australian Air Force on an allied raid on Berlin, a very risky and dangerous undertaking.  It was during this night-time mission on Dec. 2-3, 1943, that he was killed along with many others. He was and is considered a hero in Norway for his stance on the Nazis and all he did to oppose them, and his anti-fascist poetry is still popular today.

"Friheten" ("Freedom"), the book Lisa had purchased, was a collection of Grieg's war poetry published in 1945.  She, too, was emotional about the Nazi invasion when she first told me about it 30 years afterward. Now it was all starting to make sense.  Perhaps it wasn't so unusual that she was interested in a controversial, political activist after all.

Information on Nordahl Grieg's life from:
Ally Poetry

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