Folklore Fights the Nazis: Humor in Occupied Norway, 1940-1945

Overview

    Armed with jokes, puns, and cartoons, Norwegians tried to keep their spirits high and foster the Resistance by poking fun at the occupying Germans during World War II. Despite a 1942 ordinance mandating death for the ridicule of Nazi soldiers, Norwegians attacked the occupying Nazis and their Norwegian collaborators by means of anecdotes, quips, insinuating personal ads, children’s stories, Christmas cards, mock postage stamps, and symbolic clothing.
    In relating ...

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Overview

    Armed with jokes, puns, and cartoons, Norwegians tried to keep their spirits high and foster the Resistance by poking fun at the occupying Germans during World War II. Despite a 1942 ordinance mandating death for the ridicule of Nazi soldiers, Norwegians attacked the occupying Nazis and their Norwegian collaborators by means of anecdotes, quips, insinuating personal ads, children’s stories, Christmas cards, mock postage stamps, and symbolic clothing.
    In relating this dramatic story, Kathleen Stokker draws upon her many interviews with survivors of the Occupation and upon the archives of the Norwegian Resistance Museum and the University of Oslo. Central to the book are four “joke notebooks” kept by women ranging in age from eleven to thirty, who found sufficient meaning in this humor to risk recording and preserving it. Stokker also cites details from wartime diaries of three other women from East, West, and North Norway. Placing the joking in historical, cultural, and psychological context, Stokker demonstrates how this seemingly frivolous humor in fact contributed to the development of a resistance mentality among an initially confused, paralyzed, and dispirited population, stunned by the German invasion of their neutral country.
    For this paperback edition, Stokker has added a new preface offering a comparative view of resistance through humor in neighboring Denmark.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
 “An indispensable history of a nation’s resistance to occupation. . . . Stokker’s penetrating study shows folk humor as a form of psychological warfare.”—Choice

Folklore Fights the Nazis concludes that Norwegians—traditionally regarded as serious-minded folks—employed a sly sense of humor at the expense of their invaders, even in the face of possible harsh retaliation.”—Jack Hovelson, Des Moines Register

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299154448
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/1997
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathleen Stokker is professor of Norwegian at Luther College. She is the co-author (with Odd Haddal) of Norsk, Nordmenn og Norge, the most widely used Norwegian-language textbook series in the United States, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press. Her life-long interest in Norway was stimulated by attending the Oslo International Summer School in 1968 and is increased by annual returns to the country.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2000

    Humor as Psychological Warfare

    'Hitler and Goering were once out driving. Passing through a village, they ran over a pig. Goering thought he should find the farmer and apologize for what had happened. He was gone a very long time and received very fine hospitality. When he returned Hitler asked why he had stayed so long. 'Well, there was so much celebration in the house over what I told them,' Goering replied, 'and finally I had to join them.' 'What did you tell them?' 'That the pig was dead.'' This was one of hundreds of jokes told by the Norwegians during German occupation from 1940 until 1945. While the phenomenon of occupation humor has certainly not been ignored, the role it played in developing a resistance mentality among Norwegian people has until now been largely unexamined. This humor was expressed in overtly anti-Hitler jokes and anti-Nazi jokes, but it was also found in snide replies, double-entendres, insinuating newspaper advertisements that were not understood by the occupying forces, children's stories, and even Christmas cards. Kathleen Stokker, extending an earlier study by Magne Skodvin, observes that 'wartime humor granted a voice to those deprived of free speech, discouraged the undecided from a hasty attachment to Nazism, and helped the initially amorphous group of individuals opposed to Nazism to develop a sense of solidarity.' Norway was a neutral country in 1940, and just as it had done during World War One, it hoped to remain neutral. Geopolitical realities, however, including the German desire to control access to Swedish iron mines, made Norway and Denmark Hitler's first victims following the end of the Phony War in April of 1940. The Norwegians did not surrender. King Haakon VII established a government in exile in England, and the Norwegian people would wage one of the bravest and most effective resistance campaigns of the war. The popular image of Norwegian resistance has been created by films such as 'The Heroes of Telemark,' but there were tens of thousands of ordinary Norwegians who resisted in more subtle ways, even if it were only to wear a red cap in defiance of their occupiers. Stokker points out, however, that the image of a people united against oppression is only partly true. There were many Norwegians who did acccept and serve the new National Government headed by Vidkun Quisling, the leader of the Norwegian Nazi Party. But these people were for the most part shunned, and Stokker points out with brilliant originality the way the resisters used humor to debase the collaborators. Stokker, a professor of Norwegian at Luther College, is the author of the most widely used Norwegian-language textbook in America. She draws upon a large number of interviews with survivors of the Occupation, archives found in the Norwegian Resistance Museum and the University of Oslo, and 'joke notebooks' kept by women who experienced the event. It is a delightful book, well crafted and historically meticulous. As other societies have discovered, oppression can be met with humor, for it is a valuable form of psychological warfare. The Norwegians found that humor, as Stokker so aptly proves, and in the process maintained the spirit that was necessary to prevail. As one reads the book, and looks at the drawings, children's literature, posters, and cartoons, one gains a deep appreciation for the courage of a people. One also gets a good laugh!

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