Friday, 16 October 2009

Did Crown Princess Märtha want to return to Norway in 1941?

Yesterday VG had an article based on the new book Tause menn – Scener fra den kalde krigen (“Silent Men: Scenes from the Cold War”) by the NRK journalist Frode Nielsen. The article deals with an issue relating to Crown Princess Märtha’s actions during World War II, when she and her children were in exile in the USA.
In his book Den lange reisen hjem (1990) the author Egil Ulateig published a telegram which the German chargé d’affaires in Washington, Hans Thomsen, on 1 May 1941 sent to the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, claiming that the Crown Princess “through a Quaker from New York, whom I have the greatest trust in” had let him know that she realized that King Haakon would never be able to return to Nazi-occupied Norway, but that she hoped her son Harald would one day sit on the Norwegian throne and that she therefore wished to return to Norway with the children. This telegram was also mentioned in my biography of the Crown Princess and her husband, Dronningen vi ikke fikk (2003).
In July 1945 Jens Christian Hauge, who had been leader of the resistance and became Minister of Defence after liberation, travelled to Marburg in Germany, officially to collect documents for the trial against the Nazi Minister President Vidkun Quisling. Frode Nielsen claims that Hauge’s real purpose was to secure Thomsen’s telegram from falling into the hands of the Soviets.
VG’s article is rather badly written and therefore a little confusing, but it mentions another document or, it may seem, a copy of a letter allegedly written by the Crown Princess to Crown Prince Olav on 9 May 1941, which according to Nielsen “acquits her completely for the contents of the first, infamous telegram and makes it clear that its version was absolutely wrong”. The Crown Princess supposedly writes that someone may have tried to fool her and that she had been a victim of Nazi intrigues, concluding (in Swedish): “I despair that I again find myself in this mess...”.
In a comment to VG Jens Christian Hauge’s biographer Olav Njølstad, who referred briefly to Thomsen’s telegram, says that securing the telegram was not Hauge’s purpose for going to Germany, but that he came over it by accident while there. Njølstad speculates that the telegram may have been part of German propaganda to weaken the Norwegian royal family, which is also a possibility I also mentioned in my book – there was after all other reports from German diplomats which included obviously invented stories such as King Haakon being terminally ill from cancer during the campaign in 1940 (in fact the King showed great courage and stamina during the campaign and lived for another seventeen years). Egil Ulateig, on the other hand, states that he believes Thomsen’s version. Ulateig claims that Thomsen was no Nazi and that those of Thomsen’s diplomatic reports he has read tend to be trustworthy.
The book is not yet out, but will be published by Cappelen Damm.

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