Saturday, February 20, 2010

From Adolph, with hate

From a journal of Edvard Brakstad, a Norwegian teacher exiled to the worst Arctic workcamp with about 500 others as punishment for refusing to teach Nazism to children.

Yeah, your nonviolence can work sometimes, but what about the Nazis? Or, as Ho Chi Minh claimed about Gandhi, if he would have offered nonviolent resistance to the French he could have met his God much earlier.

The facts in these cases are counterintuitive. Nonviolence really did pretty well against the Nazis. Not perfectly--but then violence didn't work perfectly either. The Soviets offered nothing but violent resistance and lost more than 14 percent of their entire population, even though they never lost their government. Norwegians mostly offered nonviolent resistance, lost their government and lost .32 percent--that is for every thousand Soviets alive in 1939, 140 were killed in the war. For every thousand Norwegians alive in 1939, 3 were killed. Raw numbers are ghastly: 23,954,000 Soviets and 9,500 Norwegians.

Norwegian religious leadership was supplanted by the Nazi puppet regime of Vidkun Quisling, eponymous with traitor ever since. The Norwegian religious leaders treated the Nazis and quislings with civility and civil disobedience, simply ignoring Nazi ecclesiastic leaders.

Teachers refused to teach the mandated Nazi curricula, the Supreme Court resigned, sports coaches ignored the Nazi values and symbology, even though the Nazis had assumed that Norwegians were pure Aryan and would naturally accept Nazism (Jameson & Sharp, 1963). But Norwegians had been at peace with the world for more than 220 years and had no interest in the hate-filled violence brought in by the invaders. They had no particular desire to kill Germans for invading either, and for more than three years practiced mass nonviolent noncooperation, from 1940-1943, losing very few to the Nazis. Later in the war the Norwegians undertook more violent resistance and casualties mounted.

When Nazi lecturers gave classes at the University, no one attended. When coaches refused to train with Nazi methods, most athletes boycotted events and sports leagues dissolved. 12,000 of the 14,000 teachers in the country refused to teach Nazism and 1,300 were sent to camps. 500 more were sent to brutal camps in the far northern frozen region. They maintained solidarity. For the first three years, Norwegian mortalities were kept astonishingly low, to about 100. Only when violence started did casualties really begin.

So Hitler hate met Norwegian nice and was nicely defeated, at least until the Norwegians had been taught to hate too. When humankind learns to maintain nonviolence even in the face of violent hatred, we will learn how to more surely overcome it.


Jameson, A.K., & Sharp, Gene. 1963. “Non-violent resistance and the Nazis: The case of Norway.” In, Sibley, Mulford Q. (Ed.). The quiet battle: Writings on the theory and practice of non-violent resistance. Boston: Beacon Press.

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