Unique Holocaust center

Norway’s new center for Holocaust Studies is opening now, housed in Villa Grande, the former home of Vidkun Quisling in Bygdøy, Oslo.

(Aftenposten English Web Desk/NTB)

Odd-Bjørn Fure in front of part of the Holocaust exhibition at the new HL-center in Oslo.

PHOTO: Aas, Erlend

Related stories: Quisling’s home now tolerance center – 30.08.2005

The HL-Center (The Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious and Life Stance Minorities) believes it has a unique ambition, trying to embrace the examination of all types of prejudiced persecution.

“We have tried not to forget any of the minorities that have been exposed to racial persecution,” said HL-Center director Odd-Bjørn Fure.

The focus point of the center is the exhibition on the genocide of Jews, particularly Norwegian Jews, and other ethnic groups during the Second World War, and presenting this to younger generations.

“We will try to focus a spotlight on racist policies towards different groups. There is a great amount of work behind this center, and I venture to say that there is no exhibition like it in the world,” Fure said.

Fure emphasizes that the center is not just a museum, but also a research center.

“Our primary concern is the future. We are not just absorbed with the past in itself, but want to follow the threads that run through history and which unfortunately also lead to genocide in our time. I am thinking, for example, of what is happening in Darfur,” Fure said.

Fure also believes that the center’s work casts a stark new light on Norway’s history during the last world war. One case in point is the Norwegian National Socialist (Nazi) regime’s eagerness in deporting Jews to Germany.

“Norwegian Jews were sent to Germany regardless of whether they had Norwegian citizenship, were stateless, or refugees. In many other countries one differentiated between Jews with citizenship who were well integrated into society, and stateless Jews,” Fure told news agency NTB, pointing out that even Hitler had initial qualms with sending integrated German Jews to the gas chambers for fear of a reaction from the German population.

Fure mentions Vichy France, Bulgaria and fascist Italy as countries that did not go as far in deportation as Nazi Norway. Fure also believes the center’s revelation that it was exclusively Norwegian Nazis that rounded up Jews, while the German SS went after Norwegian students, police and military officers, has not been published before.

Fure also claims that the Norwegian NS regime had begun planning “a Jewish solution to the Norwegian gypsy question”, and that NS plans to deport Norway’s Romany people is another research area that has not been discussed in national history before. Revelations concerning the planning of a war of extermination on the Eastern Front is another developing historical area.

“These have been sins of omission by Norwegian historians, but the past six to seven years have seen a dramatic change of attitude, and a large research project about Norway’s contribution to Nazi Germany’s war on the Eastern Front is now underway,” Fure said.

HL-Center chairman Knut Aukrust says that their goal is that every schoolchild in Norway should have paid a visit to the museum in the course of their education. Schools are already making enquiries and the center offers free services for all school classes.

The creation of the center has taken a long time, and in 1999 the project seemed doomed after the government considered it too costly. But in 2000 Norway’s parliament, the Storting, approved the property’s conversion to a Holocaust Center. Villa Grande was transferred to the center in 2005. About 50 experts have taken part in the planning of the exhibition.