top of page
  • Berent LaBrecque

Norwegian teachers prevent Nazi takeover of education, 1942

Updated: Apr 1

By Berent LaBrecque

The Nazi occupation of Norway started on April 9th 1940

This is a historical fact

But I do not like to rely on rote memorization of dates

So it will not be on the test

What is important is the application and analysis of facts

I do not care if you know when the Nazi occupation started

I do care that you know that the Nazis tried to uproot public-facing institutions like teachers and the police

I do care that you know that the Norwegian police did not resist Nazification

More than half of them became members of the Nazi party

Some students may see parallels between this act and some aspects of modern policing

What can be learnt from this?


The teachers, however

refused loyalty to the Nazi party

Would not teach the newly prescribed curriculum

Continued to teach in secret

Preserved Norwegian culture and identity in the face of evil

Signed a letter of refusal, officially going on strike

The number of teachers who did so ranges from eight thousand

To ten thousand

To twelve thousand

Out of the anywhere between twelve thousand

To fourteen thousand teachers throughout the country

This is why I do not like relying on sheer numbers

They will not be on the test

It is enough that you know it was “most”

Even if the numbers are fuzzy

This is a historical fact


It is also a historical fact that over one thousand teachers were arrested

Sent up north to forced labor camps

Or, depending on the source and translation,

To prisoner of war camps

Or, depending on the source and translation,

To concentration camps

What is indisputable is that some died

What is also indisputable is that they won

The occupation government gave up

Facing unyielding resistance and the oncoming snows

It is not the first or last time the Germans would be defeated by winter

Nor the first or last time that ordinary people would make a difference in the face of extraordinary events

What can be learnt from this?


I do not like teaching Great Man History,

But it is important that you know the name Einar Høigård

A Norwegian teacher and historian

Who wrote the letter that circulated back to the Nazis

Signed however many thousand strong

It is important that you know that rather than betray his colleagues while under arrest

-which here we should read as under torture-

he jumped out of a window and

As the translation says

He became 36 years old


He was named after the einherjar,

ghostly warriors in Norse mythology

Those who have died in battle and are brought to Valhalla by Valkyries

Literally “those who fight alone”

Perhaps there is something lost in translation

A more modern way of looking at his name is that it relates to the words meaning “bold” and “valor”

Or perhaps he decided his name did not have to be his destiny

He did not have to die in battle

become a ghost

But he did

He was supposed to fight alone

But he didn’t

The details will not be on the test

But some things we learn just because they are important

This is a historical fact

What can be learnt from this?


Berent LaBrecque (he/him/his) is a history teacher who currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he spends most of his time sending love into the universe and also eating snacks. His work can be found in BOMBFIREGingerbread RitualEthel, and Thirteen Myna Birds, and he has a chapbook called “Sometimes It Rains.” He thinks third person bios are weird, and probably misses you.

Recent Posts

See All




bottom of page