The people of the north of Norway marked the 70th anniversary of their liberation from Nazi occupation with a series of commemorations in Kirkenes at the weekend.
King Harald of Norway was among the guests, and laid a wreath to the mothers and children of the war at the central square in the town.
He also had important words of gratitude and remembrance for the Russian and Norwegian delegates gathered in the square.
“Norway has never forgotten, and will never forget, the contribution our Russian neighbor gave to our freedom,” he said.
“Many hundred Soviet soldiers fell in the battles in Eastern Finnmark in the autumn of 1944. Of the nearly 100.000 soviet prisoners of war that were sent to Norway, more than 13.000 died, and are resting in Norwegian soil.
“Neither will we forget what the Soviet people did so that the bells half a year later could call across all of Europe, proclaiming that the sufferings of war were over, and that peace again could descend over our continent.”
Kirkenes was the first Norwegian town to be liberated from the Nazi German occupation following the Red Army’s Petsamo-Kirkenes Offensive, in which 96,000 troops broke a three-year deadlock in the Arctic north of the Soviet Union, and pushed the Nazi troops back into Norway.
King Harald marked the anniversary alongside locals from Kirkenes and also the Russian side of the border. Among the VIP guests were the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as the governors of Archangel and Murmansk.
“In Vestre Cemetery in Oslo, there is a monument like here in Kirkenes, a monument to the Soviet soldiers, King Harald said.
“The inscription is short. It just says: NORWAY THANKS YOU. They are three simple words. But no more is needed. They cover what we felt then, and what we feel to this day.”
Source: The Barents Observer article October 25, by Trude Petterson and Thomas Nilsen. Pictures by Thomas Nilsen.
Vince Hunt’s book about the scorched earth destruction of Finnmark ‘Fire and Ice: the Nazis’ scorched earth campaign in Norway’ is published by The History Press on October 28th 2014. More details at http://www.vincenthunt.co.uk