An Eyewitness Account of Norway's General Strike Against the Nazis

Submitted by dalcassian on 2 April, 2015 - 1:02 Author: Norweigan Worker / Labor Action

We present a day-by-day diary of the greatest strike movement which has yet taken place in the Nazi-occupied countries. It was written by a man who. Escaped from Noray. We think that this diary in its simplicity gives a better picture of Europe than ever-so many elaborate articles.It should be remembered, however, that events like this are as yet the exception and that in general the class struggle has not yet taken on such acute form.


Monday, September 8 —The rationing of milk becomes effective. It provides that people will no longer get milk at offices or places of work. Only at retail stores. Result is workers feel they are cheated out of milk. There is little bread to be had, ; even less butter and sandwich spreads. Now suddenly you don't get milk either. The workers at Akers shipyards have started to walk out and it's still morning. The- workers at Nylands shipyards, Christiania nail factory and Per Kure AS are following suit.

The strike is spontaneous, and spreads as the day goes, and as wordr of it gets around. ln the afternoon the affair is reported to the German authorities, who call in labor leaders for a conference. The German authorities offer the prospect that workers will get their milk tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 9 —Yesterday's strikes are known about throughout Oslo and sentiment for a mass strike spreads quickly when it develops that there will be no milk for workers today either. From the shipyards and the iron and metal mills the strike spreads to breweries, tobacco factories and construction-projects. They telephone from plant to plant: “We're.going.out now. Are you with us?" In this way the strikers increase by the thousands.

By afternoon the printers, textile workers and many others have joined. Of the 95,000 workers of the Oslo trade unions it is estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 are striking. By mid afternoon many union representatives have-been called to the Reich commissioner's headguarters. In the evening the iron
workers hold a big meeting where it is decided (with only four negative votes) to resume work tomorrow morning, even though there is no milk.

This occurred after the union's president had spoken strongly in favor of resuming work. A few scattered arrests took place outside the Akers shipyard after the afternoon shift had gone-off. The Reich commissioners office had sent a representative to speak to the workers. The workers listened to him but quietly followed in the footsteps of their striking comrades.

STRIKE LEADERS ARE EXECUTED

Wednesday, September 10 — A state of civil emergency has been in effect since five o'clock this morning. Last night orders were issued that all radios must be handed in. Extensive arrests began at 5:00am. and the first union president arrested was the president of the iron workers who had spoken for a resumption of work. Those arrested were brought to Gestapo headquarters for brief questioning, and the court martial went into action. The number of persons arrested today was between 250 and 300. From outlying districts came reports that union officials there have met with the same fate. At noon the Nazis stormed into the headquarters of the Oslo trade unions, dismissing the president and secretary. A Nazi took charge.

Early in the morning Gestapo agents gathered in the offices of the National Labor Federation. They questioned and arrested several officials. All .clerks and assistants were requested to remain on the job. A little later all union treasurers were summoned to a meeting at which the German authorities
ordered them to continue to accept dues but prohibited them from paying out any money for the time being.

At 2:00pm all employees of the National Labor Federation were summoned to a meeting where the new Nazi-appointed officials were introduced to them. The employees were brought before a court martial on charges of having illegally quit work. In the.face of threats all pleaded guilty.

At 1:15pm the union attorney, Viggo Hansteen, was seen at the headquarters. At 5:00pm he was executed, along with [others].

At 7:00pm the clothes of the two dead men were delivered to their widows. At 8:15pm. the two death sentences were announced on the radio. By that time the streets were deserted since the curfew went into effect at 8:00pm.

Thursday, September 11 -- The same drama that occurred at the. National Labor Federation was today gradually repeated in each of the individual unions. The remaining union representatives were forced to continue at their posts under the threat of court martial. Commissioners took charge of many unions. The death sentences of last night made a terrible impression in all union headquarters. Employees of the National Labor Federation wept as they set about at their compulsory work and the same was the case in all union offices where the president had been arrested. New sentences are also announced over the radio tonight.

LESSONS OF THE GENERAL STRIKE

This report gives evidence of a number of facts which seem to be of greatest importance to the European class struggle:

1) The workers act spontaneously, without regard for their conservative union officials.

2) The actual cause for an outbreak of revolt may be of comparatively slight importance, but it is just such a little spark which liberates energies

3) The Nazis are powerless against the striking workers themselves; they attack the union officials, notwithstanding the fact that they had not been in favor of the strike, because the Nazis must have somebody against whom to direct their blows. This shows that large unions are for the time being no longer possible in the occupied countries; the period in which they could play a role is past; spontaneous revolts, on the other hand, are not enough because there has to be an organizing force in all such actions. So what is most urgently needed is an underground organization, growing out of the spontaneous struggle, which has enough influence with the masses to act as their leading spirit and to widen the scope and aims of the movement.

A spontaneous strike movement like the one in Oslo is of tremendous importance; it shows that the working class is not dead and that it gathers its forces again; but it also demonstrates that the urgent need of the situation is for crystallization. out of this anonymous mass of a group of workers able to lay the organizational and theoretical foundations for the new movement which will grow out of these
first spontaneous uprisings.

Labour Action, New York, Janury 26, 1942