Norway’s controversial decision to honor novelist and Nazi-sympathizer Knut Hamsun came this week under harsh criticism from the international foundation for Raoul Wallenberg – a Swedish diplomat who disappeared after saving tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust.
The once celebrated author, who supported Norway’s Nazi occupation regime during World War II, was born 150 years ago. Hamsun gave his Nobel Prize in Literature medal, which he won in 1920, to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Norway’s government has declared 2009 “Hamsun Year” and is planning on opening a museum in his honor next month.
“It now remains up to the Norwegian government to put an end to this offensive vindication of Nazism and live up the standards the world has come to expect from it or live with the consequences of such unacceptable behavior,” said Nicholas Tozer, one of the 15 board members of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.
In his letter of protest, Tozer joined prominent Israeli campaigners against anti-Semitism who last month told Haaretz 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.
This fact, according to the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, makes Norway’s decision on Hamsun “even more incomprehensible.” The Norwegian foreign ministry said that Hamsun’s commemoration also focuses on his Nazi past and will thus serve as an educational tool.
People like Raoul Wallenberg and many non-Jewish Norwegians who in WWII smuggled over 1,000 persecuted Jewish refugees to neutral Sweden “are still awaiting recognition on the scale given to this war criminal,” Tozer wrote.
Knut Hamsun and the Nobel Prize he bequeathed to Joseph Goebbels