Today I am not going to speak much. I am no warfare specialist as you all know, that is an honour reserved to Alex and Michael in here. However, my work involves a lot of work in the field of memory studies. And if I came out of Oslo with a particularly strong image of something in my head, it was that of all the memorials, plaques and monuments erected to honour those who serve their country, and those who fell. I think it shocked me because I did not expect to see so many – after all Norway was a neutral faction during the Second World War, right? But it is clear that the Norwegians feel differently about their history. I learnt a lot about how war has affected Norway through history while visiting the Forsvarsmuseet (Norwegian Armed Forces Museum) and the Resistance Museum at Akershus fortress and it made me reflect on other examples. Living so close to London, anywhere you go in the city you can find great war memorials. And even in our cosy, tiny Winchester their presence is not something you can hide. However, Oslo left me with the feeling that the losses suffered in Norway were noticeable, but there was no grandeur about them. The memorials were rather solemn and simple, but dignified. In many ways, I think they represent more the ideals that were protected rather than highlight the victims of the fight; it is not about the lingering feeling of sadness and grief perpetrated by the war, but it is about respect. Or at least that is how I perceived it. Perhaps this has to do with the role of Norway in the war – neither a winner, nor a loser, but a casualty nonetheless. Perhaps it is related to their own ideas of nationalism, which were felt in a much different way than elsewhere in Europe, particularly if you compare them with the UK. Or maybe, this is Norway’s way of acknowledging but not vigorously remembering a painful part of their history – after all the act of collective memory is just as much about the intentional remembrance as it is about the forgetting.
Any further information on the subject that you would like to share would be more than welcome – but until then, I hope you can share a moment of silence while educating ourselves in the pain of others, while remembering that there is always more to war than losing and winning factions, and that when the world rages, no nation suffers on their own.
*Please keep in mind these are not all Second World War Memorials – although the majority are*
The following were all outside the Forsvarsmuseet.