Saturday, December 7, 2013

Quizzing Quisling

Guest post by Baloo:

Ex-Army and I were in US Army intelligence together, but I was the one lucky enough to find the library at the John F. Kennedy Center for Special Warfare at Ft. Bragg. I suppose it was like a lot of military libraries, but to me it was a remarkable find. Essentially, all the titles were military or history or both, and I had a swell time while I was there. One book I remember very well was Quisling, prophet without honour, by Ralph Hewins.  As the title suggests, it's a revisionist history/biography of the man whose very name has come to mean "traitor," but, the author maintains, very unfairly so. It pretty much convinced me of what I'd come to suspect generally, that World War II was considerably more complicated than good guys vs. bad guys. And it also underscored something I knew to be true — on the international level, military weakness is an invitation to conquest, pure and simple. There are other factors, of course, but it's interesting to note that during World War II, Norway was targeted for invasion by both the British and the Germans, because its weakness created a power vacuum, while Sweden and Switzerland, both militarily powerful, managed to maintain neutrality throughout the war. And Quisling, far from advocating such weakness, had spent his political career before the war largely warning Norway that it needed to become powerful to avoid war. Norway, clearly, didn't listen.

The Irish Savant has read another book about Quisling.  From his blog HERE.

Was Quisling a quisling?

Very few people can be said to have had their name become a word in its own right in the English language. Captain Jimmy Boycott, of Co. Mayo, would undoubtedly agree were he still with us.  Vidkun Quisling has also lent his name to the language albeit in an altogether less flattering way. Quisling has come to refer to the lowest form of traitor, the kind who supports the enemy against his own country.

So what did the eponymous Quisling do to merit such a reputation?

Vidkun Quisling was a Norwegian politician (he served as Norwegian Minister of Defence) and quasi philosopher. His family were it seems warm and friendly and stayed close right  up until his death. He was a brilliant student at all levels. In the 1920's he undertook humanitarian work in the USSR to help ameliorate the effects of the notorious famines there and also worked on behalf of the Armenians. By all accounts he was a superb administrator and proved highly effective in offsetting what he came to see as the catastrophic effects of Bolshevism. He also provided diplomatic (and some say spying) services for Britain during this time.  His humanitarian work lead to his later being awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the King of England and similar recognition from the governments of Roumania and Yugoslavia.

Later after serving in a number of Governments his party seized power with the aid of Germany in the turmoil that ensued after WW II broke out.  While leader he worked diligently to broker peace between Germany and the Allies.  Later in the war he broke into tears when it became apparent that Germany had no plans to reinstate Norwegian independence. Towards the end of the war he did everything in his power to minimise Norwegian casualties, refused to sign any execution orders, risking his own life in the process. Once German defeat became inevitable he ordered forces under his command not to offer resistance to either the Allies or the internal resistance movement.

I've read a lot about his trial and, absolutely sincerely, believe it to have been an outrageous miscarriage of justice, featuring one trumped-up charge after another.  For example his death sentence was contrived under a law that was enacted half way through the war by the government-in-exile . (On the other hand one Maynard Cohen declared the trial to be a model of probity). All witnesses to his execution concede that he died bravely and fearlessly. His last words were, "I'm convicted unfairly and I die innocent. Within ten years I will be seen as another King Olaf'  (a legendary 11th Century Norwegian patriot)..

Sorry Vidkund, but The Narrative had been well established within that time and you were the designated  'bad guy'. 

So what exactly had he done to merit the ultimate fate, and his name becoming synonymous with treason?  Siding with the enemy?  Well, maybe. But you see Britain had violated Norwegian territory before Germany did. They knew that Germany desperately needed Swedish iron ore and were therefore equally desperate to stop its shipment. Towards this end they mined Norwegian territorial waters - an act of war against Norway - and had drawn up detailed plans for the invasion and occupation of that country.  Towards this end they had planned a false flag operation as a pretext to invade and  'protect' (on behalf of the Scandinavians of course!) the mines and shipping routes from  the Germans.  The Altmark Incident confirmed to Hitler that a British invasion of some kind was imminent and this is what lead to the German action. The Germans just beat the Allies to the punch.

Norway would be invaded by one side or the other no matter what the Norwegians wanted or did.

Had the British had got there first they would for certain have done exactly what the Germans did....i.e. install a puppet government to help them achieve their war objectives. What would have happened to their Quisling - the Good Quisling -  at war's end?  Well, we all know the answer to that, don't we children?  Compare and contrast Quisling with King Victor Emmanuel of Italy. This guy had worked with Mussolini and had earlier instigated invasions of numerous countries, which ultimately lead to tens of thousand of deaths. But - in the finest Italian tradition - yon king had the good sense to change sides when the WW II tide was turning. He ended his life in peace and luxury as did countless other mass murdering villains from that war.

As Talleyrand so well stated, treason is only a matter of timing. A couple of centuries earlier Sir John Harrington put the same concept to verse.

"Treason doth never prosper; what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

Note: Most of my material came from Hans Fredrik Dahl's Quisling: A Study in Treachery, which, as the title makes abundantly clear, was not sympathetic to its subject.  Other sources were also used.

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