Article | Last updated: 2018-02-06 | Ministry of Culture
The graves are divided into foreign war graves in Norway and Norwegian war graves in Norway and abroad.
1. Foreign war graves in Norway
1.1 Soviet Union
From 1941 to 1945, an estimated 100 000 Soviet prisoners of war were interned in Nazi-occupied Norway. After the war, the bodies of some 13 000 of them were found throughout the country, buried for the most part by German forces in close proximity to the prison camps, in chalky, peaty or clay soil without drainage. In many places, the deceased were buried in mass graves and in several layers. A considerable number were found in mountainous terrain inaccessible by road, often in unmarked graves. Most of the fallen Soviet soldiers were found in North Norway.
In 1951 the Norwegian Government decided that Norway would take on the task of providing dignified graves for the Soviet war dead and would subsequently maintain these graves and pay all related costs. The Ministry of Defence built a war cemetery on the island of Tjøtta in the Helgeland district, and the war graves service brought the remains of the fallen Soviets found in various parts of North Norway to this cemetery.
On 27 November 1944 the cargo ship MS Rigel, which was under German command, was sailing south along the Helgeland coast with a full load of prisoners of war when it was attacked and sunk by Allied aircraft near Rosøya island, west of Tjøtta.
According to the captain’s report, there were 2 456 casualties. The wreck of the Rigel was originally defined as a ship burial, but over time it was decided to bring the remains of the casualties to shore. The removal of the wreck began in spring 1969 and was concluded in autumn 1970. The remains found in and around the wreck were buried at Tjøtta International War Cemetery, near Tjøtta Russian War Cemetery. The ship’s papers for the Rigel were lost in the attack, so the dead were all buried in anonymous graves.
The Soviet war graves in Norway include the remains of Russians, Ukrainians, Kazakhs and a number of other nationalities that made up the former Soviet Union. With the exception of those buried in Rana, the Soviet war casualties in North Norway are buried at Tjøtta Russian War Cemetery and Tjøtta International War Cemetery.
Most of the Soviet soldiers who died in South Norway are buried at six Russian war cemeteries built by the war graves service: Verdalsøra War Cemetery, Vinjeøra War Cemetery, Oppdal War Cemetery, Sunndal-Hoel War Cemetery, Jørstadmoen War Cemetery and Haslemoen War Cemetery.
There are also large plots with many Soviet war graves at Vestre Gravlund cemetery in Oslo, Nygård cemetery in Laksevåg near Bergen, Lista cemetery in Vanse, Lademoen cemetery in Trondheim and Eiganes cemetery in Stavanger. The rest of the Soviet soldiers are buried in individual graves in 46 different cemeteries in South Norway.
There are 11 500 German war graves in Norway, consolidated in five German war cemeteries. These are Alfaset German War Cemetery in Oslo, Botn German War Cemetery in Saltdal municipality, the plot of German war graves at Narvik City Cemetery, Havstein German War Cemetery in Trondheim, and the plot of German war graves at Solheim cemetery in Bergen. In addition, one individual is buried in Sæbø graveyard in Hjørundfjord.
1.2.1 Alfaset, Oslo
In the period from 1940–1945, the German authorities built a war cemetery at Ekeberg in Oslo. In accordance with a decision taken by the Storting on 8 October 1952, the war casualties buried there were moved to a new war cemetery at Alfaset in the Groruddalen district of Oslo. The transfer of the remains began on 16 October 1952 and was completed on 17 November of that same year.
Fallen soldiers from Bogstad, Bolærne, Borre, Bragernes, Brevik, Dovre, Drammen, Eidanger, Elverum, Ekeberg, Fredrikstad, Folldalsfjella, Gol, Grefsen, Hagaskogen, Hamar, Hedenstad, Herad, Hole, Hovin, Lillehammer, Midtronden-Storronden, Rossabø, Røros, Stavern, Vågsvåg and several other places were also transferred to Alfaset German War Cemetery.
In addition to the war graves from the Second World War, there are a number of German war graves from the First World War at Alfaset.
The Norwegian state paid for the granite name plates, while Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V. provided groups of crosses, a gate to the cemetery, a memorial hall and a toolshed with a toilet. The name plates on the ground were later replaced with standing granite crosses.
There are 3 209 fallen soldiers buried at Alfaset German War Cemetery.
1.2.2 Botn, Saltdal
Established in 1954, Botn German War Cemetery is located in Botn in Saltdal municipality. The remains of the war casualties buried there were transferred from graves in other parts of North Norway, including Alta-Elvebakken, Banak, Bodø, Djupvik, Fauske, Hammerfest, Hatteng, Hatterfjellet, Karasjok, Kirkenes graveyard, Prestøya, Neiden, Nesseby, Nordreisa, Øvergård, Sandnessjøen, Setermoen, Sommerlyst, Tajord, Tromsø, Vardø, Vassmo and several other places.
The Norwegian authorities identified and transferred the fallen soldiers with the assistance of the German war graves service, Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V.
The Norwegian state paid for the name plates in Oppdal slate, a fence surrounding the cemetery and the landscaping, while Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V. covered the other costs of establishing the cemetery.
There are 2 742 fallen soldiers buried at Botn German War Cemetery.
During the Second World War, the German authorities established a plot of German war graves connected to Narvik City Cemetery. There were 1 250 fallen soldiers buried there by the end of the war. An additional 221 were moved there after the war from Skjold (Kvesmesnes), Hatteng, Nordmo, Målselv, Finneidfjord, Balsfjord, Sørreisa, Andenes, Lund, Evenes, Skånland, Lenvik, Beisfjord, Ballangen, Lødingen, Våg (Engeløya), Kittdal, Bjerkvik, Kjøpsvik, Sagelv (Storsteinnes) and several other places.
The plot of German war graves at Narvik City Cemetery is the northernmost German war cemetery. Fallen German soldiers who were originally buried in the areas around Nordkapp and Hammerfest municipalities were not transferred to Narvik due to transport-related issues, but were instead brought by ship to the Botn German War Cemetery in Saltdal municipality.
There are 1 471 fallen solders buried in the plot of German war graves at Narvik City Cemetery.
1.2.4 Havstein, Trondheim
In Trondheim, fallen German soldiers were originally buried in a dedicated plot at Stavne civil cemetery. However, when this plot became too small, the German authorities built their own war cemetery at Havstein farm in the Byåsen district of Trondheim.
There were 1 061 German war casualties buried there by the end of the war. In 1955 an additional 1 931 were moved from Arendal, Aukra, Austad, Bolsøy, Egersund, Falnes, Grong, Kopervik, Kristiansand, Lademoen, Levanger, Lyngdal, Mandal, Molde, Namsos, Nærbø, Ølen, Oppdal, Sauda, Snåsa, Søgne, Sola, Soma, Spangereid, Stavanger, Stavne, Tromøy, Tveit, Vanse, Værnes, Verdal, Åkra, Åsen-Ålesund, Åndalsnes and several other places.
The remains relocated from these places were buried in individual graves at Havstein German War Cemetery.
The Norwegian state paid for the name plates, while Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V. provided groups of crosses, a gate to the cemetery, a memorial hall and a toolshed with a toilet.
There are 2 992 fallen soldiers buried at Havstein German War Cemetery.
1.2.5 Solheim, Bergen
In 1940 fallen German soldiers were buried in a dedicated plot at the municipal Solheim Cemetery in Bergen. This was a temporary solution, as a German war cemetery was planned to be built outside the city. However, these plans never came to fruition, so after the war the Norwegian authorities decided that the German war casualties would remain buried at Solheim Cemetery. In addition, the remains of German war dead were transferred there from Ådland, Fana, Florø, Fosen, Lærdal, Møllendal, Nesttun, Stokkenes, Voss, Ytre Arna and several other places.
The Norwegian authorities paid for the name plates. These were later replaced by granite crosses paid for by Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V.
There are 1 085 fallen solders buried in the plot of German war graves at Solheim Cemetery.
There are 2 410 Yugoslav war graves in Norway. These include the graves of prisoners of war from the various nations and ethnic groups that made up the former Yugoslavia. A dedicated cemetery, the Botn Yugoslav War Cemetery, was established in Saltdal municipality. There are also Yugoslav war graves at Lademoen and Mohold cemeteries in Trondheim, Os graveyard in Osøyro and the war cemetery at Jørstadmoen.
Most of the buried casualties are registered by name. The war graves service has supplied and maintains the headstones and graves of Yugoslav war casualties.
1.4 Commonwealth of Nations
There are 1 150 war graves for fallen soldiers from the Commonwealth of Nations (the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). These were not consolidated in a single cemetery after the war, and are located in 74 ordinary cemeteries in the north and south of Norway.
Most of the buried soldiers are registered by name. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has supplied and maintains the headstones and stone memorials.
Search for the names and locations of cemeteries and the names of and personal information for Commonwealth war casualties buried in Norway using the CWGC’s search function. This may be found on the upper right hand side of the CWGC website.
1.5 Other nations
There are 164 Polish war graves in Norway. These are located in cemeteries in Narvik, Håkvik, Moholt in Trondheim, and Oslo. List of names of Polish war casualties buried in Norway (document in Norwegian only) (.pdf)
There are 131 French war graves in Norway. These are located at cemeteries in Namsos and Narvik. List of names of French war casualties buried in Norway (document in Norwegian only) (.pdf)
There are 92 Swedish war graves in Norway. List of names of fallen Swedish soldiers who served for and are buried in Norway (document in Norwegian only) (.pdf)
There are 54 Dutch war graves at Vestre Gravlund cemetery in Oslo. List of names of Dutch war casualties buried in Norway (document in Norwegian only) (.pdf)
1.6 Memorial parks and memorials
At a meeting on 26 July 1954, the parties in the Norwegian-Soviet War Graves Commission agreed on where to erect official memorials at former gravesites for fallen Soviet soldiers. They also agreed on the design and wording of the memorials, which bear the following inscription in Norwegian and Russian:
“Til minne om de sovjetiske soldater som mistet livet i Norge i 1941–1945 og som var gravlagt her.” [In remembrance of the Soviet soldiers who lost their lives in Norway in 1941–1945 and who were buried here.]
Similar memorials have been erected at the following locations:
- Skafferhullet, Noselva Høybuktmoen, Klubben Indre Billefjord and Alta-Elvebakken in Finnmark county.
- Skibotn graveyard, Lulle Skibotndalen, Skjold gård Øvergård, Hatteng graveyard, Kittdal, Bardu graveyard, Tromsø Cemetery, Haraldshaugen Øverbygd, Sørreisa old graveyard and Abaja Storfjord in Troms county.
- Furumoen Narvik, Vassmo Hamarøy, Kobbvassgrend, Elvkroken, Helland graveyard, Fauske graveyard, Bodin Cemetery, Bodø Cemetery, Botn and Hestbrinken Saltdal, Bolna, Krokstrand, Nabbvollen and Mosjøen Kapell Cemetery in Nordland county.
- Nesheimmarka Lista in Vest-Agder county.
In addition to the war graves and the memorials erected at former gravesites, the grant scheme for maintaining war graves also encompasses the memorial park at Vestre Gravlund cemetery where a number of war memorials have been erected for fallen soldiers from different countries.
2. Norwegian war graves
2.1 Norwegian war graves in Norway
Based on a proposal by the Presidium of the Storting, the Government decided in 1945 to issue a memorial encyclopaedia with articles on Norwegians who had lost their lives in or due to the war. The four-volume work Våre Falne contains some 11 000 biographies.
The four-volume work Våre Falne is available at The Digital Archives (in Norwegian only):
Statistics Norway has compiled statistics on war-related deaths in the period from 9 April 1940 to 8 May 1945, and has registered 10 262 deaths. This figure also includes the 689 Norwegian soldiers serving in German troops who fell on the Eastern Front.
The graves of these roughly 10 000 fallen Norwegians are distributed among nearly all of the roughly 2 000 cemeteries in Norway. They are for the most part private graves, which means that it is the closest family members/plot leaseholders who have the practical and financial responsibility for the upkeep of the graves as well as the right to take all decisions regarding them. There are no specific preservation regulations that apply to these graves as a whole.
These Norwegian war graves in Norway have not been part of the responsibility of the war graves service, nor are they encompassed by the regulations and grant scheme relating to war graves.
In a number of cases the local community, municipality or cemetery authority, in consultation with the family members of the deceased, has erected and paid for a more official memorial at the graves of local war heroes. In such cases it is reasonable for the cemetery authority to cover the cost of upkeep, for the costs to be financed by the municipality over the municipal budget, and for the grave to be placed under permanent preservation. This presumes that the closest family members are not opposed to these actions, or at least requires their consent during the ordinary preservation period during which they are entitled to take decisions regarding the grave.
Section 27 of the Regulations under the Funeral Act
According to Section 27 of the Regulations under the Funeral Act, the local cemetery authority (joint parish council) may:
decide that areas of a cemetery or individual graves with memorials and other ornamentation should be preserved. Such a decision may be made in cases when memorials in an area of a cemetery or individual graves are of a certain age, represent a historic style, have distinctive local features in terms of the materials used, tell an interesting personal history or are unique in other ways.
The ministry has sent out a circular asking the local cemetery authority to consider applying the provision to protect graves and war memorials for Norwegians who died in war.
2.2 Norwegian war graves abroad
The tasks of the Norwegian War Graves Commission and war graves service originally included the tracing, identification and registration of fallen Norwegian soldiers, repatriation of the remains of these soldiers at the request of their family members, and the repair, marking and maintenance of graves of fallen soldiers who were not repatriated.
In the years following the war, comprehensive searches were carried out in Europe, and with the help of the authorities in other countries it was possible to identify 367 fallen Norwegian soldiers.
The remains of 296 of these were repatriated to Norway and handed over to their family members. The graves of those who were not repatriated were repaired and marked with official Norwegian war gravestones.
The naval authorities were responsible for the war graves of Norwegian merchant seamen abroad. At the recommendation of the then Ministry of Industry, Craft and Shipping, the war graves service took over the responsibility for the repair, marking and maintenance of a number of these graves.