Norwegian Jews prefer to hide their identity

In light of the sample of horror stories unveiling in Norway these days, this comes as no surprise:


Verdens Gang 2012 11 12 p 25, Linda Helen Haukland

Ever more Norwegian Jews chose to hide their Jewish identity; as many did in WW2, saving their lives.

This says something about today’s community, Linda Helen Haukland writes.

Anti-Semite currents in community are by now so strong many Norwegian Jews chose to hide their identity. In WW2, the only opportunity to avoid Hitler’s death camps was to refuse one’s Jewish ancestry.

Having in mind the fact some 90 percent of Norway’s Jewish community is directly influenced by the Holocaust, it is concerning to observe the need over hiding the fact they are Jewish.

Then came Hitler.

Some time ago I was educating a first class at high school on the Holocaust.

I told of the two Jewish brethren, Georg and Leiser Landau from Bodø, who survived through changing their last names, before the Nazi decision to register all Norwegian Jews with a “J” in their passports.

As I finished this lesson, I had the feeling I had presented a historic theme in a classic narrative fashion: All waswell, then came Hitler- and by now everything is all right.

But it is not like this. In my work with the local history of the war; I have entered in contact with several persons having Jewish parents who survived the war. Their common theme is the same: Formerly, they have published their stories; they have spoken openly of their Jewish heritage, until a couple of decades ago. But today, they will not present themselves openly, due to what they perceive as an increasing Norwegian anti-Semitism.

It costs too much because they have to face the responsibility over what the state of Israel does. They know the couplings between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism- having felt that on their bodies.

Quisling’s signature.

These talks give me a tasteless reminder about how much George and Leiser had to endure the anti-Semitism of their day; they no more were named Landau, but Lande, receiving the right to live in Norway as Norwegians. Another example was the brethren Abram and Benno Ramson. Benno perished in Auschwitz, his brother Abram received Quisling’s signature over not being a Jew.

His blue eyes, blonde hair, Norwegian wife, conversion to Christianity and his friend in the Nazi hierarchy made this cover operation possible.

He was the son of the leader of the Mosaic congregation in Oslo, the rest of his life he struggled over to have had to sign a document about not working against the regime which exterminated and persecuted his Jewish family and friends.

A Polish Jew in Lofoten denied his ancestry; his family having emigrated, the Germans found no documents in Warsaw confirming him being a Jew. This man lived next door to the Germans, local Nazis and the Norwegian civil population throughout the rest of the war, having been released.

A paradox.

Having to hide something one is born to is among the most offending issues one may be subjected to. These problems still being extant is a paradox.

The Holocaust took part here, close to where we live, to those living in the neighborhood. It is not only today anti-Semitism is flourishing among peripheral Fascist groupings. 53 percent of junior high school students in Oslo tell about having heard the word “Jew” being used as a negative epithet. 33 percent of Jewish students report about negative feedback connected to their religion two or three times a month; while 5 percent of Muslim students face the same experience.

Jewish institutions and the Jewish population are in need of extra security measures.

Some time ago, I discovered a website under the auspices of eight provincial educational agencies in Nordland, for the purpose of recruiting students for professional training in high schools. Here, a comedian named Stig Frode Henriksen taught students to make a “Jew-smoothie”. “Don’t let the name of smoothie destroy your appetite! The components can do that”, the website’s editors wrote. It took nearly a year for someone to react, most likely due to a lack of historical knowledge. Recently, junior high school students in Bodø used school hours to create cartoons of Jews; having red eyes, monobrows, horns and the moniker “beer hoe”. The student’s assistant teacher found reason to laugh at this.

Having in mind the fact some 90 percent of Norway’s Jews were directly affected by the Holocaust; humor over this is difficult to trivialize. Anti-Semitism is living vigorously among us, though it dresses itself up in new shapes. The dilemmas facing a Jewish minority- and other minorities, when meeting with a Norwegian majority is of concern to all of us. Observing many today choosing to hide their Jewish backgrounds tells something about the community they lives in; and the actual acceptance in our community over being different. Some weeks ago I received a letter by a Jewish man, addressed to my office, containing an article formerly published, in which he had told of his father’s denial of his Jewish identity during the war.

“Linda, don’t let this be public. Anti-Semitism is on the increase”, a yellow note attached to the article told me.

As an example of how far anti-Semitism might go, the stories of Jews being forced to change their identity is very illustrative. Unfortunately, they still have to be conveyed to coming generations, in order to portray Norwegian anti-Semitism as a chapter that yet has to come to an end.