Overview

According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, approximately 1,800 Jews lived in Norway when Nazi Germany occupied the country in 1940.  Under the Nazi occupation, 759 were deported, nearly all to Auschwitz.  Only 25 survived.  Another 23 Jews died in Norway as a result of Nazi policies, bringing the total of Norwegian Jews killed during the Holocaust to at least 757.  More than half of the Jewish population fled Norway, with some 900 being smuggled out of the country to Sweden or Great Britain.

The Nazi-supported regime in Norway, led by Vidkun Quisling, enacted laws stripping Norwegian Jews of their property, while Norway’s government-in-exile in London passed a decree during the war guaranteeing the restitution of private and communal property.  After the war, all confiscated property – whether owned by Jews or non-Jews – became subject to restitution.  Immovable property was returned to those rightful owners who survived the war and returned to Norway to claim it.  In contrast, government policies at that time made it difficult for heirs to recover or claim compensation for the confiscated private property of relatives who died during the Holocaust.

This situation persisted until 1998, when the government approved a comprehensive settlement (“the Settlement”) with the Jewish community that covered all private, communal, and heirless property claims and provided compensation to both individual claimants and the Norwegian Jewish community as a whole.

While fewer than 800 registered members of the Jewish community currently live in Norway according to the Norwegian Central Statistics bureau, the University of Oslo estimates that there are between 1,700 to 2,000 Norwegians of Jewish descent in the country.  The Jewish community, represented by Det Mosaiske Trossamfund (the Mosaic Community), regards all claims for Holocaust-era restitution as resolved and assesses that the government has satisfied the terms of the Settlement.  The Norwegian government provides good access to Holocaust-era archives and robust support for Holocaust education and remembrance programs.

Immovable Private, Communal/Religious, Heirless Property

During the war, the Norwegian government-in-exile in London issued a provisional “Decree Concerning the Invalidity of Legal Transactions Connected with the Occupation,” which guaranteed restitution for, among other things, private and communal property confiscated by the Nazi occupation government.  After the war, the government established institutions to facilitate the return of property.  Jews who returned to Norway after the war (including most of the estimated 28 people who survived the concentration camps) saw the quick restoration of their real property.

On the other hand, the immediate post-war system of restitution failed to provide adequate compensation for personal property, commercial interests, or other losses.  This deficiency was partly due to faulty calculations for lost commercial interests and personal property that were based on a formula that severely undervalued the actual loss.  At times, authorities also refused to acknowledge that Holocaust victims were legally dead, citing the absence of death certificates.  As a result of these and other administrative burdens, restitution claims took an average of eight to 10 years to resolve, with the last one resolved in 1987.  Oftentimes, the costs imposed by the courts, tax authorities, or restitution agencies exceeded the value of the estate or the compensation provided.

In 1996, the government created the “Skarpnes Committee” to investigate the lack of compensation for lost property owed to Holocaust victims or their heirs.  Unable to reach a consensus, the Skarpnes Committee released two reports.  The majority report focused primarily on an accurate accounting of assets lost during the war and recommended a compensation scheme for survivors or their heirs based on this accounting.  The minority report, authored by committee members representing Norway’s Jewish community and entitled the “Riesel/Bruland Report of the Confiscation of Jewish Property in Norway,” emphasized instead the unique status of Norwegian Jews as a population targeted for genocide and addressed in more depth the intended and actual consequences of an inadequate post-war restitution process.  The minority report also included an alternative accounting of confiscated property, asserting, for instance, that 35.3 percent of claimants did not receive any restitution, 55.5 percent received less than 1,000 Norwegian Krone (about $200 at the time), and 163 ended up in debt to the reparation agencies.  The minority report recommended a broader compensation scheme, to include both individual and communal compensation, to resolve this injustice.

The Ministry of Justice accepted the minority report and used it as the basis for the June 26, 1998, White Paper No. 82 to the Storting (Parliament), named “The Historical and Moral Settlement for the Treatment in Norway of the Liquidation of the Jewish Minority During World War II.”  The government acknowledged the grave injustice done to the Jewish people of Norway.  The White Paper proposed a comprehensive settlement that, among other things, provided for individual financial compensation, as well as compensation for the Jewish community that would go toward the commemoration, reconstruction, and development of Jewish culture and institutions both inside and outside of Norway.

On March 11, 1999, Norway’s parliament voted to accept the recommendations of White Paper 82, implement the Settlement contained therein, and pay 450 million Krone in compensation (worth about $58 million at the exchange rates prevailing in 2000, the year when the bulk of the funds were allocated).  The compensation was divided into two parts, for individual and collective claims.  Under the Settlement, survivors or their heirs were able to claim up to 200,000 Krone ($26,000) each for lost movable and immovable property.  The collective portion of the Settlement, totaling 250 million Krone ($32 million), was further divided into three funds to satisfy all communal property and heirless property claims and provide a form of collective economic compensation for the injustice suffered by the Jewish community:  150 million Krone ($19 million) to sustain the Jewish community in Norway; 60 million Krone ($7.5 million) to establish a foundation to support “the traditions and culture which the Nazis wished to exterminate” outside of Norway; and 40 million Krone ($5 million) for the formation of a national museum for tolerance, which was ultimately established in 2001 as the Holocaust Center.  The Settlement also imposed a deadline of November 1, 1999, to file claims for Holocaust-based restitution.  A total of 987 claims were submitted by the November deadline, and all but 40 were approved and fully resolved in favor of the claimant.  As of mid‑2019, the Jewish community – as represented by the Mosaic Community – regards all claims as having been successfully resolved and assesses that the government has satisfied the terms of the Settlement.  The Department is not aware of any outstanding Holocaust-era immovable property claims by U.S. citizens.

Under the Settlement, 150 million Krone (approximately $19 million) was provided to the Mosaic Community to ensure the preservation of the Jewish community and culture in Norway, to repay debts incurred for the restoration of communal property confiscated during the Nazi occupation, and to support the operation and development of organizations to solidify the future of the Jewish community.  These funds were used in part to preserve, maintain, and operate the Oslo Synagogue and the Trondheim Synagogue, as well as Jewish museums and cultural centers in Oslo and Trondheim.  The funds facilitated the preservation and maintenance of Jewish cemeteries in Oslo, Trondheim, and Bergen.  Funds from the Settlement also supported the partial restoration of an Oslo synagogue confiscated in 1942 during the Nazi occupation and converted into a commercial space; it is now the home of the Oslo Jewish Museum.  Although not part of the Settlement, the government has provided additional funding and in-kind resources since 2006 to ensure the physical security of the Oslo Synagogue and all visitors and worshippers who visit it.

Movable Property: Nazi-Confiscated and Looted Art, Judaica, and Jewish Cultural Property

With few exceptions, Jews in Norway who did not manage to flee prior to the Nazi occupation lost virtually all movable property.  Although the decree by the Norwegian government-in-exile provided for full restoration or compensation for confiscated property, the post-war Norwegian government adopted policies that effectively precluded compensation for lost personal property.  These policies included taxes, administrative fees, and probate costs that reduced the value of the property or the amount recovered so that by the time all these factors were taken into account in the valuation of the confiscated assets, very little was left.  From 1945 to 1987, a total of 7.8 million Krone (equal to roughly $1.1 million) was awarded to survivors and heirs for Jewish movable property confiscated by the Nazis.  This amount was less than the administrative fees charged by governmental agencies for probate.  As noted, the terms of the Settlement provided redress by ensuring that a lump sum payment was available to individual claimants or their heirs that applied equally to lost movable and immovable property, both personal and commercial.

While art and other cultural property plundered from Jews during the Nazi occupation have generally been accounted for and compensated, the artworks that entered Norway through the art trade during and since the Holocaust for the most part have not.  According to experts with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Norwegian museums do not generally do provenance research on their collections, though the National Library did examine its collection during the work of the restitution committee in 1996-1997.

To the extent it was practical, the post-war government returned all extant Jewish cultural property of which it was aware to the Jewish community, including synagogues and cemeteries in Oslo and Trondheim.  Also returned were some of the Torahs, Judaica, and other Jewish artifacts that were safeguarded by members of the Jewish community, as well as by sympathetic non-Jewish individuals and several Christian churches, during the Nazi occupation.  Remaining claims for lost or confiscated Judaica and Jewish cultural property were satisfied as part of the collective payments to the Jewish community under the Settlement.

Access to Archival Documents

Members of the public generally enjoy unimpeded access to historical documents pertaining to the Holocaust.  Norway has relatively broad freedom of information laws and regulations, and researchers from the Center of Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities have reported that the relatively few barriers based on privacy or national security have not had any tangible impact on their research.  The government also has made many records and statistics available online, which greatly facilitates historical, economic, and sociological research.

Education, Remembrance, Research, and Memorial Sites

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), the government and Norwegian society at large have made dedicated efforts over the last two decades to remember the Holocaust and promote religious tolerance.  This is reflected in the diversity of educational, research, and remembrance activities throughout the country.  Norway became a member of IHRA in 2003 and served as chair in 2009.  Norway has commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 since 2002.  In Oslo, the annual commemoration takes place at the national memorial – known as the “Site of Remembrance” – where the country’s Jews were forced onto ships for deportation to concentration and extermination camps abroad.  The Prime Minister or another senior cabinet official traditionally speaks at the event.  Prime Ministers Jens Stoltenberg (January 2012) and Erna Solberg (January 2017) used this event to offer formal apologies for the treatment of Norwegian Jews during the war.

Several museums in Norway feature the Holocaust as the primary or a significant focus of their permanent exhibition.  The museum at the Holocaust Center maintains a permanent exhibition on the Holocaust, supplemented by numerous temporary exhibits pertaining to religious intolerance and other instances of genocide.  The Falstad Center is home to a museum focusing on the Holocaust in Norway.  The Oslo Jewish Museum and the Trondheim Jewish Museum have exhibits detailing the Norwegian Holocaust and anti-Semitism, as well as Jewish history and heritage in the country.  Other prominent organizations providing education, research services, archival, and memorial services are the Mosaic Community and the Center of Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities, both in Oslo.  There are a number of other memorials and monuments commemorating the Holocaust throughout Norway; for example, in the city of Trondheim, there is a memorial park containing the sculpture of Cissi Klein, a 13-year-old Jewish girl from Trondheim who was murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

According to IHRA, the Norwegian education system and Norwegian society as a whole contribute to Holocaust awareness in the country.  The current curriculum for secondary education mandates the inclusion of Holocaust studies, and there is an increasing emphasis on providing teacher training related to the Holocaust and other genocides.  Some schools participate in study tours to former Nazi concentration and death camps in Germany and Poland.  The government also provides funding and resources for public education related to anti‑Semitism and religious intolerance through its “Action Plan Against anti-Semitism
2016 – 2020” and its “Action Plan Against Hate Speech,” which are administered by the Ministry of Culture with support from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Justice.

Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act Report: Norway
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