News story | Date: 23/07/2009
Norway has been criticised internationally in connection with the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the author Knut Hamsun. These comments accuse Norway for concealing facts about Hamsun’s Nazi sympathies in the programmes of the commemoration.
The commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Knut Hamsun’s birth is a tribute to his literary achievements, including the Nobel Price in Literature and to his position in European literature.
Hamsun’s life has intrigued people both in Norway and in many other countries to this day. He was a literary giant of his time, but he also applauded Hitler and the Nazi ideology, and sided with the Nazi occupation of Norway for five years.
Hamsun’s Nazi sympathies are a sordid part of his life. He received massive condemnation for them after the war, and they have been debated in Norway for many years. Also this aspect of Hamsun’s life is duly noted as part of the commemoration of Hamsun’s anniversary.
At the opening of the Hamsun 2009 project earlier this year, The Norwegian National Library co-sponsored a public debate meeting in Oslo focusing on Hamsun’s life, including his Nazi past. His Nazi sympathies were clearly exposed through his infamous newspaper article on Hitler’s death in 1945, which was included in the presentation of his life and his works at the Hamsun exhibitions in Oslo earlier this year.
The Hamsun anniversary in no way condones the man’s support for the Nazi regime. On the contrary, the anniversary has generated and renewed the public debate about the dark sides of Knut Hamsun. It has contributed to a broad and critical view of his life, both as an acclaimed author and a person with Nazi sympathies before and during the Second World War. The Norwegian authorities believe that democracy and the education of coming generations will be served by being open, frank and transparent about these divergent aspects of Hamsun’s life.
Norwegian governments have unequivocally taken a clear stand against the Nazi ideology and the horrors it resulted in. They have taken an equally clear stand against anti-Semitism and racism.