OSLO – WAR AND REMBRANCE

After experiencing the wild exuberance of the Vigeland Sculpture complex, the Oslo City Hall is a model of sobriety with its red-brick exterior and rational layout, entrance courtyard with fountain and carvings from Norse myths, and long central hall flanked by two towers. Instead of naked writhing people, the artwork is reflective of the Norwegian character based on foundation myths and history.

While there are oil paintings and ceramic plaques, such as these honoring women,

much of the artwork in the interior of the grand building is in the form of fresco, a medium I particularly like.

The far end of the Great Hall, the site of the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, is a history of Oslo.

But by far the frescoes on one wall are the most moving. They are titled “The Occupation Frieze” done by Alf Rolfsen to remind and commemorate the Nazi Occupation of Norway from 1940 to 1945. They comprise the history of this bleak period from fear, terror, resistance, and finally freedom. And I found them unforgettable and a warning to us all that freedom is not guaranteed.

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Another monument to war and peace is the Akershus Fortress located on a hill abutting the Oslo waterfront not far from the city hall. The central part is a medieval castle founded in the late 1200s, modernized in the 1500s. Numerous other buildings make up the complex: dark passages, stables, fortified gates, guardhouses and a drawbridge. The Powder Magazine Tower erected in 1755, served as Death Row for Norwegian Resistance fighters and nearby is their execution ground.

A museum dedicated to the Resistance occupies a small building dating from 1691. The display is chronological, beginning with April 9, 1940, when Norway was unexpectedly attacked and a coup d’état resulted in a government run by the infamous Quisling and the Norwegian Nazi Party. The event is memorialized by a brutal sculpture of German Mauser Rifles in the shape of a swastika.

The exhibit continues with photographs of the war years marked by hardship and defiance with the final triumph of freedom regained.

The bookshop has narratives and memoirs in both Norwegian and English. I bought The Winter Fortress by Neal Bascomb, recounting the amazing story of the young men who sabotaged a power plant to foil Hitler’s aspiration to build an Atomic Bomb.

The fortress now hosts cultural events. I watched children enjoying a comedy and hoped they would all be able to live their lives without the specter of hunger and war hanging over them.

All photos copyright Judith Works

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