History Press author Vincent Hunt gives his final talk of the year this Saturday December 12th on the scorched earth destruction of Norway, telling stories from his book ‘Fire and Ice: the Nazis’ scorched earth campaign in Norway’ (ISBN: 9780750958073)
The talk will take place at 11am at Didsbury Library in south Manchester. It’s his first UK appearance since a successful book tour of East Coast USA last month, where he spoke to Norwegian-American audiences in New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC.
Hunt will tell how he left the streets of Manchester for the far north of Norway pursuing a story that became darker with almost every step.
During two months of October and November 1944, German fire patrols burned down every building in the north of the country – 11,000 houses, 6,000 farms and countless churches, hotels, hospitals, fish factories and lighthouses – and forcibly evacuated the 75,000 local population.
It’s thought 25,000 fled the forced evacuation and hid in caves, in the mountains or on islands. 50,000 Norwegians were transported south out of Finnmark and the north, mostly to the south and the Lofoten Islands. 10,000 were left behind in Russian-liberated areas and 8,500 Sami indigenous people were not evacuated.
More than 1,800 evacuees were crammed onto the boat Karl Arp, a Scottish-built cargo ship refitted for the Nazis after being sunk at Dunkirk. There were only two toilets and within hours people were becoming sick. Dysentery and typhoid broke out and lice spread like wildfire.
By the time the boat reached Narvik it was a floating hell, with dead, sick and injured everywhere. The final death toll from the Karl Arp was 29 dead, mostly the old and young, many of whom were buried in Narvik.
Many of those refugees passed through Tromsø and would have seen the one-time pride of the German fleet –the battleship Tirpitz – upside down in the fjord alongside the town, having been caught in an open fjord by RAF precision-bombing Lancasters.
As Hunt travelled across the Arctic seventy years later gathering stories from people who were there or whose families were affected, he uncovered some of the dark secrets of the time – and there were plenty.
Soviet PoWs were worked to death building Nazi defences in the Norwegian mountains for a glorious last stand that never came, when some prisoners were so badly starved they resorted to cannibalism; the children of German soldiers who massively outnumbered the local population were victimised and humiliated and the children who grew up during the war in the north were traumatised for life – that’s if they weren’t maimed and killed by the ammunition dumped by the Nazis as they fled the north.
Vincent Hunt’s talk begins at 11am and is free. More details about the author at www.vincenthunt.co.uk. Read his blog here: https://scorchedearthstories.wordpress.com and follow his tweets @scorchedvh
‘Fire and Ice’ talk on Saturday December 12th at 11am. Location: Didsbury Library, 692 Wilmslow Road, Manchester M20 2DN, 0161 227 3755