Sunday, September 25, 2005

World War II

1942 Gestapo headquarters targeted in Norway
On this day in 1942, British bombers attempt to take out the local headquarters of the German secret state police, the Gestapo, in Norway. They miss--but send some Nazis running for their lives.
Germany invaded Norway in April 1940, in a stunning blitzkrieg campaign, a response to Britain's laying of mines in Norwegian waters--which was itself a response to Norway's iron-ore trade with the Axis power. But in one short month, the British and French troops that had landed in Norway to aid in its defense were chased out, as well as Norway's royal family, who set up a government-in-exile in London. The Germans immediately established a Reich commissioner to rule the occupied territory. The commissioner outlawed all political parties but one--the pro-Nazi National Unity Party. It was led by Vidkun Quisling, the former Norwegian minister of war. His name would become synonymous with acquiescence and collaboration. Quisling, now a German puppet, ruled as a Nazi wannabe, an overlord who would brook no dissent, even sending thousands of his own countrymen to German concentration camps. A majority of Norwegians despised both Quisling and his German masters. Teachers and clergy resigned their positions in the state-sponsored church in order not to be implicated in the new fascist regime.
One means of keeping defiant locals of newly occupied countries under control was the use of the Gestapo. An office was typically set up in conquered nations to terrorize the populace. On September 25, during a Nazi Party rally in Oslo, British aircraft, aiming to destroy the records of the Norwegian Resistance (kept in Gestapo headquarters, but not as yet acted upon), bombed the building. The bombs missed their target, but surrounding buildings were hit, and four people were killed. The Brits did put a scare into the Nazis, though, who ran from the city, leaving their Party's rally in ruins.

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