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Fire and Ice: The Nazis' Scorched Earth Campaign in Norway Hardcover – February 1, 2015
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Some of it is shocking. There's the desperate plight of Soviet prisoners, dying in their thousands as the Nazis forced them to build a defensive infrastructure in Norway; children playing with and being killed by live ammunition decades later; the accounts of murders and executions of Norwegian citizens that are inevitable in a book covering wartime atrocities; the way Norway treated Norwegian-German children after the war.
But Hunt doesn't take sides. He approaches the story as a journalist and documentary maker, rather than as an academic, and he focuses on the people. He explores what is a complex history, unfolding it and following the stories regardless of where they take him. He gives a voice to the people of Finnmark who survived and then returned to their destroyed land to begin again. Especially if you're interested in social history, wartime Europe, or even in how people survive terrible events, this is an excellent book.
If you get the Kindle version, go right to the end (past where it tells you that you've finished the book) to read appendix material and also see the photographs, which are included at the back.
For the thousands of Soviet prisoners of war that the occupying Germans already held, an even harsher fate awaited, and they found themselves dispatched to the nightmarish Mallintz Death Camp, to prepare for a ‘last stand’ defence against the encroaching Russian army, that in the end was never mounted. They spent their final days under the Nazi lash, building the ‘Lingen Line’ mountain top defences that were ultimately never used. The conditions the men were kept in were equal to the horrors of Auschwitz and as the cold, hunger and desperation bit hard, they were forced into cannibalism. In one camp a 1000 men entered and not one man emerged alive. They were told to claw into wet clay with their bare hands if they wanted shelter – that or sleep under the cold stars – and to eat their boots if they required food. Those unable to work were ordered to report to a morning ‘sickness parade’ where they were simply shot where they stood and rolled into the nearest hole. The only medical care offered was the merciful despatch of a bullet to the head, delivered by a Luger pistol and a blank Nazi smile.
Yet war brings out the best and worst in soldiers and amidst the death and destruction there are solitary beacons of light such as the German colonel who refused the ‘burn order’ and quietly vacated his troops on borrowed fishermen’s boats – which he returned – and the heroic Norwegian Resistance ‘super-spy’, Bernt Balchen, whose derring-do saved thousands of lives, as he flew scores of death-defying sorties and repeatedly volunteered for the most dangerous missions.
Fire and Ice is an immensely important work that shines a piercing light on a crucial period of WW2 history that for political reasons has been grievously overlooked and ignored, because it contains painfully inconvenient truths for the Norwegian establishment and its treatment of Finnmark survivors and their descendants. The cruel fate of the Norwegian children unfortunate enough to be born of German fathers and cast into abusive care homes – through no fault of their own – makes for powerful and disturbing reading. Many were raised as orphans under what appears to be a semi-approved official stamp of shame, and continuously punished for the perceived sins of parents they didn’t even know. It is a dark stain and a reminder of a time that many in Oslo’s corridors of power would rather forget, but the victims of Finnmark cannot. Vincent Hunt has done the displaced survivors of Finnmark’s forced evacuation and the forgotten Soviet prisoners of Mallintz a great service with this book. He has uncovered a raw, hidden history, and I hope the Norwegian government recognizes him for this ground-breaking and scholarly work.
Author of Squaddie: A Soldier’s Story
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I have always been fascinated and impressed with Norway’s role in World War II and the effect on the...Read more