A Magical Time in Oslo

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(Click on any image to start slideshow. Photos courtesy of Anne Ellingsen.)

On October 1, 2015, I had the pleasure of participating in a seminar on the life of Odd Nansen, organized in conjunction with the recent publication of the first biography of Nansen, Odd Nansen: Arvtageren [Odd Nansen: The Inheritor] by Anne Ellingsen.

I had known that the venue was to be the Norwegian Nobel Institute in downtown Oslo. What I had failed to even imagine was that we would be speaking in the same room, and from the same podium, that Odd Nansen’s father Fridtjof used when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922. Talk about inspiration!

The panel was outstanding. Following a welcome by the head of the Nobel Institute, Olav Njølstad, author Anne Ellingsen began with an excellent overview of Nansen’s life and work. The next speaker, Robert Bjørka (age 95), not only spent time in Grini and Sachsenhausen with Nansen, but for a while worked in the same squad (kommando) with him. Robert shared his first-hand experiences of the camps, as well as liberation at the hands of the Swedish Red Cross.

Thomas Buergenthal, another invitee, was unable to attend due to a previous commitment, so I had the honor of delivering his paper, entitled “My Uncle Odd.” I followed this presentation with my own remarks, on the diary’s appeal to Americans. To answer this question, I explained, one needed to understand 1) why the diary hadn’t appealed to Americans in 1949 (short answer: bad timing), 2) why the diary appealed to me 65 years later (see my “Why This Book, Why Me, Why Now?” ), and 3) why I feel the diary’s forthcoming re-release will appeal to Americans today (short answer: better timing).

Carl Emil Vogt, a scholar on Fridtjof Nansen, served as both moderator and panelist, and spoke about Odd Nansen’s close relationship with the family of 1921 Nobel Peace Laureate Christian Lous Lange. In 1936 Lange was instrumental in inspiring Odd Nansen to form Nansenhjelpen (Nansen Relief); later both of Lange’s sons ended up in the same concentration camps with Nansen. Marit Greve, Odd Nansen’s eldest daughter, spoke about the impact of Nansen’s humanitarian work on their family life. Marit could not recall a single instance while growing up when the family did not have at least one visiting guest at the dinner table—often a foreign refugee—a testament to her mother Kari’s ability to accommodate any and all strangers at a moment’s notice.

Michael Tetzschner, a member of Norway’s Parliament (the Storting), concluded the panel by contrasting the consequence-free atmosphere of today’s western democracies, where virtually any type of free speech is tolerated, with the courage needed by Odd Nansen to speak his conscience in German-occupied Norway, where critical speech often had serious, indeed fatal, consequences.

Following a short Q&A, we were all presented with bouquets, said our good-byes, and walked out into the brisk Oslo evening air. Whether my feet ever touched the ground on the way back to the hotel is debatable. It was truly a magical event; one I will never forget.

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Upcoming Events

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Book Signings

  • February 17, 2018: Sons of Norway, Roswell, GA (5:00 pm)
  • March 4, 2018: Sons of Norway, Boston, MA (3:00 pm)
  • March 9, 2018: Furman University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (1:00 pm)
  • April 10, 2018: Spartanburg Public Library, Pacolet, SC (6:30 pm)
  • April 12, 2018: NC State University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (1:15 pm)
  • April 18, 2018: Lifelong Learning Roundtable, Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC
  • April 20, 2018: Sons of Norway, Saddle River, NJ (7:30 pm)
  • April 24, 2018: Bernards Township Public Library, Bernards Twp., NJ (7:00 pm)
  • April 25, 2018: Old Guard of Princeton, Princeton, NJ (10:15 am)
  • April 26, 2018: Summit Public Library, Summit, NJ (7:00 pm)
  • April 30, 2018: Ridgewood Public Library, Ridgewood, NJ
  • June 1-2, 2018: Georgetown University Bookstore, Washington, DC
  • June 4, 2018: The Kenney, Seattle, WA (1:00 pm)
  • June 4, 2018: Sons of Norway, Conway, WA (5:00 pm)
  • June 6, 2018: Emerald Heights Retirement Community, Redmond, WA (1:30 pm)
  • June 7, 2018: Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle, WA
  • June 9, 2018: Sons of Norway, Santa Rosa, CA
  • June 10, 2018: Sons of Norway Sixth District Convention, Rohnert Park, CA
  • June 13, 2018: Congregation Beth Shalom, Napa, CA
  • August 30, 2018: Charleston Library Society, Charleston, SC (6:00 pm)
  • October 11, 2018: Willow Valley Communities, Willow Street, PA

People are talking


“We thoroughly enjoyed your presentation. . . . We are really looking forward to reading the book.”

- Sharon Rohrback, President
Sons of Norway Blafjell Lodge, Bedford, VA

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  • Count Folke Bernadotte’s meets with Himmler to negotiate the release of Scandinavian prisoners
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< 2018 >
February
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1819
  • Count Folke Bernadotte’s meets with Himmler to negotiate the release of Scandinavian prisoners
2021222324
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Legend
  Previous/Upcoming Engagements
  This day in history

Upcoming Events

Share

Book Signings

  • February 17, 2018: Sons of Norway, Roswell, GA (5:00 pm)
  • March 4, 2018: Sons of Norway, Boston, MA (3:00 pm)
  • March 9, 2018: Furman University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (1:00 pm)
  • April 10, 2018: Spartanburg Public Library, Pacolet, SC (6:30 pm)
  • April 12, 2018: NC State University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (1:15 pm)
  • April 18, 2018: Lifelong Learning Roundtable, Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC
  • April 20, 2018: Sons of Norway, Saddle River, NJ (7:30 pm)
  • April 24, 2018: Bernards Township Public Library, Bernards Twp., NJ (7:00 pm)
  • April 25, 2018: Old Guard of Princeton, Princeton, NJ (10:15 am)
  • April 26, 2018: Summit Public Library, Summit, NJ (7:00 pm)
  • April 30, 2018: Ridgewood Public Library, Ridgewood, NJ
  • June 1-2, 2018: Georgetown University Bookstore, Washington, DC
  • June 4, 2018: The Kenney, Seattle, WA (1:00 pm)
  • June 4, 2018: Sons of Norway, Conway, WA (5:00 pm)
  • June 6, 2018: Emerald Heights Retirement Community, Redmond, WA (1:30 pm)
  • June 7, 2018: Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle, WA
  • June 9, 2018: Sons of Norway, Santa Rosa, CA
  • June 10, 2018: Sons of Norway Sixth District Convention, Rohnert Park, CA
  • June 13, 2018: Congregation Beth Shalom, Napa, CA
  • August 30, 2018: Charleston Library Society, Charleston, SC (6:00 pm)
  • October 11, 2018: Willow Valley Communities, Willow Street, PA
< 2018 >
February
SMTWHFS
    123
45678910
11121314151617
1819
  • Count Folke Bernadotte’s meets with Himmler to negotiate the release of Scandinavian prisoners
2021222324
25262728   
Legend
  Previous/Upcoming Engagements
  This day in history