Norwegian helpers

The Norwegian people displayed sympathy and care for the abused prisoners. Many gave them food and clothing, encouraged them with smiles and showed that they were friendly. Many also helped the POWS, at great risk to their own lives.

Major Leiv Kreyberg was one of the first in Norway who in 1945 came to see the conditions the POWs had suffered under in Nordland county: «During the entire war the people in the local districts had seen prisoner transports coming and going, they had seen the ragged, hungry and miserable POWs and seen the mass deaths, some from hunger, some murdered».

Eli Holtsmark was a pre-teen during the war. The sight of prisoners close to the hospital in Bergen made a strong impression on her: «We crept up to the fence. There were prisoners there, grey uniforms, thin and shabby, but surprisingly smiling. Food was slipped under the thick prison wire. The German guards noticed but turned a blind eye. We saw the prisoners eating the lunches we brought them with obvious relish. They looked old, with grimy grey and wrinkled skin. Strong worn hands. But their eyes looked young, looking at us with friendliness and thankfulness. Once when I passed food under the fence a large hand appeared and gave me a handshake. The German guards let it go without intervention. They turned half away with a friendly body language. We developed a habit of bringing food».

In the town of Ålesund, Johan Hjelmeland, a master painter, was a good helper for the Soviet POWs. He tells about the sight of the first group of 200 Soviet prisoners of war who came to the town at Christmas in 1942: «It was biting cold, and the prisoners were only dressed in rags. Their feet were wrapped in sacking. Some were sick, some were slung ashore like pieces of wood. When they were to stand to attention, many were so exhausted that they simply fell. Those who were unable to get up again were tossed into the back of a truck and taken away. It was so disgusting and gruesome, and I promised myself that I must help even if I would have to beg for the rest of my life».