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Dealing with the Past in Scandinavia: Legal Purges and Popular Memories of Nazism and World War II in Denmark and Norway after 1945

Dahl, Hans Fredrik
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) In, Elster, Jon, editor, Retribution and Repatriation in the Transition to Democracy Cambridge University Press, New York, pp.147-163

Much has been written in recent years about the place and the role of the Second World War in popular memory in Europe. “The war” certainly made an impact of tremendous importance in nearly every country, not least so in Denmark and Norway. Less has been written about the specific role of the legal purges in this connection. A purge of the proportion – [as seen in Norway and Denmark] lasting for years and measuring out punishments of almost unheard severity- certainly must have affected collective memories in a specific way. A purge brings forth both the overwhelming evidence and the abhorring verdicts that tend to mold popular opinion of the events for years to come. After 1945, in both Denmark and Norway the popular concepts of “nazism,” “treason,” and “collaboration” as well as “patriotism,” “national values,” and a host of more diffuse concepts were influenced at least for one generation ahead by the memory of the purges after the war. This chapter investigates some aspects of this problem as seen from the Danish and Norwegian experience. The purpose is not to give an overall description of the purges in all their breadth and depth, but to focus on some items that may be of interest in the discussion of the influence of legal actions in the formation of such a huge and complicated phenomenon as the public memory of Nazism and war in Europe. (excerpt)


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