Following angry reactions in Israel to Norway’s honoring of novelist and Nazi-sympathizer Knut Hamsun, the institute commemorating him this year has invited Israeli campaigners against anti-Semitism to a debate next year. But the Israelis are demanding that the debate take place sooner, lest it become “irrelevant.”
Last month Haaretz quoted campaigners who claimed that by declaring 2009 “Hamsun Year,” Norway has damaged the international Holocaust awareness drive that it was recently appointed to head as chair of the 26-nation Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education. The once celebrated author, shunned for supporting Norway’s Nazi occupation regime during World War II, was born 150 years ago in Hamaroy in northern Norway, where the government is building a cultural center in his name due to open next month.
Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, told Haaretz the commemoration “casts a shadow on the task force’s work.”Manfred Gerstenfeld, chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said the Hamsun controversy was “the tip of the iceberg” of other disturbing phenomena in Norway.
“Knut Hamsun wrote magnificent literature, and also an obituary for Adolf Hitler,” Bodil Borsen, the designated director of the Hamaroy Hamsun Center responded last month in Aftenposten, the country’s second largest newspaper. “He was among our greatest authors and a Nazi sympathizer. Can we reconcile this?”
The center, Borsen said, would be “more than happy” to invite Zuroff and Gerstenfeld to attend a conference next year on the Hamsun Center’s activities.
“Borsen appears to believe that Hamsun’s literary brilliance warrants the celebration of his birth, regardless of his active support for a regime which annihilated innocent civilians,” Zuroff wrote in reply. While expressing willingness to attend, Zuroff insisted the event is held as soon as possible, while Norway still chairs the Task Force, so that it may have “practical consequences.”
Norway damages the International
Holocaust awareness drive
The problem compounds itself with Norway’s insistence on debating the issue of Knut Hamsun next year, the “the Israelis are demanding that the debate take place sooner, lest it become “irrelevant.”
The Tundra Tabloids agrees that the Hamsung Center should agree to a debate as early as soon as possible, if they are of course, as seriously troubled by the contradictions (hosting the International Holocaust Task Force while honoring a noted anti-Semite and Nazi, Knut Hamsun) as they say they are. KGS