Norway is characterized by a low level of anti-Semitism which is expressed mainly in neo-Nazi publications. While the number of neo-Nazis is small, they have always had a potential for violence. The demands of the anti-immigrationist Progress Party for a stricter asylum policy have increased its popularity to 20 percent in opinion polls. In March 1999 Norway became the first country occupied by Germany in World War II to create a fund for victims of the Holocaust.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
There are about 1,500 Jews in Norway, out of a total population of 4.4 million. The vast majority live in the environs of the capital Oslo, and about 200 can be found in the town of Trondheim. There are two synagogues, one in Oslo and the other in Trondheim. The community’s main organizing body is the Mosaisk Trossamfund, which publishes the community’s newspaper. Shechita (ritual slaughter) is forbidden by law, and kosher meat has to be imported.
In March 1999, Norway became the first country occupied by Germany in World War II to create a fund for victims of the Holocaust. The money will be divided between victims and their heirs and Jewish organizations, and a portion will be dedicated to developing Jewish culture in Norway.
With 25 seats (out of 165) in the national parliament, the right-wing populist opposition Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) is the third largest political party in Norway. Its demands for a stricter asylum policy, combined with its hostility toward immigrants and minorities in general, have increased the party’s popularity in the polls to close to 20 percent. In the 1999 municipal and regional elections the party obtained, nation-wide, 13.5 and 12.1 percent of the votes, respectively.
Since its beginnings as the anti-taxation party of Anders Langes in the early 1970s, the Progress Party has attracted racist and neo-Nazi elements, and extremist groups attempted to join the party collectively. This association continued with the party’s rise in popularity and influence. In the early 1990s, for example, it became clear that the party had given considerable amounts of financial support to a racist radio station in the city of Bergen. In 1995, a scandal in the Norwegian media revealed that Øystein Hedstrøm, MP, a senior party figure, had attended a meeting organized by the extreme rightist Norwegian Association (see below), together with several leading far right activists in Norway. In 1996, evidence came to light that the neo-Nazi Viking group, headed by Eirik “Mikro” Solheim, had infiltrated FpU, the party’s youth movement. Even today, the Progress Party continues to unite forces of the extreme right.
The Progress Party is a leading source of semi-racist propaganda in Norway. While most of the party's official statements cannot be classified as racist, individual party members sometimes make remarks that offend an ethnic or minority group. Some observers suggest that the strategy of party leader Carl I. Hagen is to attract support from anti-immigrationists, while maintaining the image of a serious party. After the FPÖ joined the coalition government in Austria, a Progress Party MP, Fridtjof Frank Gundersen, stated that the Waffen-SS had been no more criminal than any other army.
During 1999 an attempt was made to unite the small parliamentary parties of the extreme right into the National Alliance (Nasjonalallianse). These included the White Electoral Alliance (Hvit Valgallianse), White Youth (Hvit ungdom), United Nationalists (Forente nasjonalister), the Norwegian Patriot Unity Party (Norges Patriotiske Enhetsparti), Norway Against Immigration (Norge Mot Innvandring) and the majority of the Fatherland Party (Fedrelandspartiet). Dominated by the United Nationalists (led by Kjell Tore Vogtsland) and with the French FN as its model, the alliance hoped to repeat the success of the Sweden Democrats (see Sweden).
The National Alliance did not compete in the 2000 local elections, but the White Electoral Alliance did, in Oslo, where it won only 0.3 percent of the vote. Its failure seems mainly to have resulted from the open racism of some Progress Party members, principally Øystein Hedstrøm and Vidar Kleppe, which drew the support of anti-immigrationists to their party. It should be noted that while the Progress Party turned a blind eye to the statements of Hedstrøm and Kleppe, it did, however, eject from its ranks a lesser known member, Oddbjørn Jonstad, after he made blatantly racist statements to the press. Jonstad is now trying to establish his own party, the Norwegian Popular Party.
After the international anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, in cooperation with Norwegian anti-fascists, published secret information on the program and leadership of the National Alliance, the organization was rent by internal dissent and seems unlikely to become the unifying force of the Norwegian extreme right. Its program appears to be a more polished version of that of the Fatherland Party.
Torn by internal feuds and splintering, the rump of the Fatherland Party (Fedrelandspartiet), led by Harald Trefall, has become almost insignificant. It put up candidates in only 3 out of 19 counties in the 1999 local elections.
EXTRA-PARLIAMENTARY GROUPS AND ANTI-SEMITIC ACTIVITY
The political mainstream’s adoption of anti-immigrant attitudes which were the monopoly of the extreme right in the 1970s and 1980s, and the institution of one of the most restrictive asylum regimes in Europe, has forced the Norwegian far right to radicalize, with militant neo-Nazi groups advocating open anti-Semitism and even terrorism. Nevertheless, compared with Germany and Sweden, ultra-right-wing activity in Norway is marginal, and the number of active neo-Nazis and organized racists is small.
The extra-parliamentary extreme right-wing scene falls into two categories: anti-immigration groups and militant neo-Nazi youth groups. Representatives of the first category include the Popular Movement Against Immigration (Folkebevegelsen Mot Innvandring) and the Norwegian Association (Den Norske Forening), both of which oppose the so-called Muslim invasion of Norway.
Neo-Nazi and Fascist Groups
After a short period of expansion in the mid-1990s, the neo-Nazi movement has been declining, largely due to the arrest and conviction of activists, seizure of weapons during police raids and increased awareness of local communities, schools, and police, but also due to public exposure of their activities, internal disputes, many police informers within their ranks and untalented leaders. Nevertheless, they have always had a potential for violence, and in fact, in March 2000, two young immigrants were attacked with knives by members of the neo-Nazi group Vigrid (see below), in Stavanger. One of the attackers was identified as having phoned death threats to the synagogue in Oslo before the incident. Neo-Nazi youth groups number altogether fewer than 200 members.
Small local groups of Nazi skinheads exist, as well as some countrywide neo-Nazi organizations, such as the Norwegian National Socialist Movement (Norges Nasjonalsosialistiske bevegelse; formerly Zorn 88), led by Erik Rune Hansen. This group recently printed a new Norwegian edition of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, presenting it as a Jewish master plan to take over the world. The group is closely connected with the international terrorist network Blood & Honour, whose leadership in Scandinavia includes the Norwegian Nazi Erik Blücher.
Vigrid, the only Nazi group that appears to be growing, considers itself a Norwegian branch of William Pierce’s National Alliance in the US. Led by Tore W. Tvedt, the group publishes a vehemently anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic magazine of the same name. In the past, members have conducted violent assaults on immigrants, and their anti-Semitic expressions are among the worst that have appeared in Norway since World War II. Vigrid is the first successful attempt at importing an American-style extremist movement into Scandinavia.
Anti-AFA, or Anti-Antifa, re-emerged in December 1999 as an “intelligence and combat” organization to carry out sabotage and othterrorist acts. Its members, probably fewer than ten in number, appear to be mainly experienced neo-Nazis from other groups, who undergo special training to prepare them for their “missions.”
Like their counterparts in other countries, Norwegian neo-Nazis have turned to the Internet to compensate for diminishing membership and relative inactivity. There are at least 12 Norwegian websites, promoting fascism, anti-Semitism and racism, including the Holywar site of Alfred Olsen.
Mention should also be made of the Institute for Norwegian Occupation History, the largest and oldest fascist organization in Norway and the leading vehicle of historical revisionism. Set up by former members of the Quisling party and the Waffen-SS, the institute is primarily occupied with clearing Vidkun Quisling and his party, the Nasjonal Samling, of the accusation of being Nazis and anti-Semites, but occasionally articles denying the Holocaust appear in its journal Folk og Land.
Norway has a rather large black metal/Satanist music scene, whose audience is similar to that attracted by Nazi rock in Sweden and Germany. Many of the bands admit to being nationalist or racist and their lyrics are often anti-Christian or anti-Semitic. In 1999 Norwegian Satanists burned a number of churches and vandalized graveyards. Recently, there has been a disturbing shift among the black metal public, with a growing number of bands promoting fascist politics by forming their own organizations, such as the Norwegian Heathen Front, and printing their own, often viciously anti-Semitic, materials.
Norwegian neo-Nazis have met with some success in recruiting Satanists to their ranks. Satanist fanzines print ads for Nazi publications and the latter print interviews and articles of Satanists.
An attempt was made by Odinists (a pagan cult) to establish a Norwegian Aasatru society (Aasaru is the old Scandinavian mythology). The leader of this organization, Knut Westland, also leads the Norwegian Patriot Unity Party. Vilfred Hansen was previously active in the Popular Movement Against Immigration, while a third member, Lillian Evant, is on the editorial board of Fritt Forum (see below). After the authorities refused to recognize it as a religious society, Aasatru was reduced to a post office box address in Oslo.
Anti-Semitic and Racist Activity
In December 1999 five telephone threats were received at the Oslo synagogue and the rabbi’s office. The calls coincided with a party attended by Norwegian and Danish neo-Nazis. Two members of the neo-Nazi group Boot Boys from eastern Norway were detained for two weeks in connection with the calls.
Although once considered moderately nationalist, in the last few years Fritt Forum (Free Forum), edited by Michael Knutsen, has been opening its columns to militant neo-Nazi commentaries, thereby consolidating the magazine’s position in the market as the leading extreme right publication. Moreover, through its mail order company Nord Effekter, Fritt Forum advertises openly neo-Nazi and racist music and propaganda (see ASW 1998/9).
The Norwegian extreme right imports most of its music from Sweden, the US and the UK, its links with Swedish organizations being especially strong. Members of Norwegian groups often visit neighbouring countries to take part in concerts and demonstrations. In the last few years, the Norwegian extreme right has used concerts and music to recruit young members. One consequence of this strategy has been an increase in the number of neo-Nazi bands, as well as attempts to organize mass concerts. Public pressure and anti-racist demonstrations, however, have thwarted them and they have only managed to arrange concerts -- the last was in February 1999 -- when they received police protection.
A precedent set by Norway’s Supreme Court has worried human rights activists. In August 1999, the court declared it was legal to use discriminatory statements, such as “foreigners unwanted” and “whites only,” in real estate listings. A 1972 law prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnic background or religion in most areas, but not in private real estate rentals.