An interview with Johan Galtung

Transcribed interview with Johan Galtung 13.03.19

J: Johan Galtung
P-O: Per-Oskar Leu
Q: Victoria Durnak

J: Hola, Galtung?
P-O: Hello, it’s Per-Oskar Leu again from Oslo.
J: Yes, hey again, now everything is fine. I just sit in place.
P-O: So good. Yes …
J: Everything in beautiful order.
P-O: Then I sit here with Victoria Durnak, who is a fellow artist in the project.
Q: Yes. Hey Hey.
J: Yes, I understand.
P-O: And we have a tape recorder running, if that’s fine for you.
J: Yes, all right.
P-O: So good. In order to give a brief introduction again, we are an artist group who work on a project called “National episodes”. Where we try to deal with some events that have been important, but perhaps a little under-communicated. And in this connection we have taken an interest in the “Grini accords”. As we first heard you talk about Dagsnytt 18 a couple of years ago.
J: Yes.
P-O: That’s where I heard about that event for the first time. So we thought we should go straight to the source and ask you a little more about it.
J: All right. Just get started.
P-O: Yes. No so, first of all you are talking about a meeting in barracks 12 at Grini, spring 1945.
J: Not one meeting, but they lived together, you know.
P-O: Yes, right.
J: And there were bunks in three heights. As my father was a little older, he had the privilege of having a bunk on the first … below. And there they were, and close together. Barack 12. And Barack 12 was thus organized by the German leadership as the brawl of the intellectuals.
P-O: Precisely. It was the so-called professor bracket, was it so?
J: Hey hey, maybe they used that name, I don’t know. But there were many professors there, there is no doubt about it.
P-O: Yes.
J: And there was the famous Francis Bull. The literature professor with enormous knowledge. That held lectures very often. Father said that he had never been in his life with so many interesting lectures as in Barack 12. And he gave lectures even on ear, nose, throat diseases.
P-O: Yes, right.
J: He told me why he had chosen ear-nose-throat as a specialty. It was because he knew it was what people failed most, so there he could be most helpful and help to heal people on a daily basis. Just as dentists do with teeth.
P-O: Do you have any idea of ​​who … of political figures who might have been present at these meetings?
J: Yes, there was Einar Gerhardsen for sure. That is very important. And … Dad was Vice-Rapporteur and Acting Mayor of what was Cristiania, later called Oslo, his main opponent was Einar Gerhardsen. So they had circled politically in the 1920s and met each other and became very good friends at Grini, in Barack 12. That is of course what I know best, because that is what Dad talked about. But there were others. But what happened was that a couple of them organized meetings . It was then in the fall of 1944, when they weaved a tight network, stepping over party borders on Grini. And of course these links were very important when the liberation came on May 7th 1945. And lay the foundation for the coalition government that then arose. But then comes the big one, and the big thing was that it is not certain that the parties liked this. And the parties wanted to monopolize politics, not to leave politics to people who became close friends in Grini . So one can say that the spirit of the Grini, which then led to a coalition government in the first place, lasted until the elections and elections were in September. And then there were the parties that played out their cards. I think the parties felt overwhelmed by the so-called Grini accords. And that was exactly what was meant. They looked at each other as individuals, personalities. And like all people with strong and weak points, and probably had very specific beliefs, he did… as if they had held a vote on who could be good member of a coalition government. But, to put it another way: the Grini accords were in clear conflict with the Norwegian party system. And the Norwegian party system had indeed been abolished during the occupation. It was clear. They now wanted to tell the Norwegian people: now we are back and it is we who govern the country.

P-O: There was one thing that particularly interested us in what you said on the radio, that it was … the Grini accords was what made Høire (Liberal People’s Party) not to oppose the establishment of the Norwegian welfare state and that the Labor Party in return for this, accepted to ally with the West and leave the sphere of the Soviet Union in foreign policy, did we understand you right there or?
J: That’s right. Just that. And when it comes to foreign policy, then Gerhardsen was for a third standpoint. That you… try to have good connections both east and west. Simultaneous. So that was Gerhardsen’s line from 1945 to 1949 when he was overthrown by NATO, which came on April 4, 1949. And of course it was a product of two of his ministers. Halvard Lange as Foreign Minister, And Gudmund Harlem – the father of Harlem Brundtland, later Prime Minister – as Defense Minister. So what Gerhardsen called the ministers of ministry, and he was prime minister, primus inter pares. And thought of himself as a coordinator, one who organized, but with great respect for what he called the trade union councils. All this I have also talked with Gerhardsen about, in private. So I now base myself on direct quotes from what he said.
P-O: Yes, right.
J: So because I was the chairman of the student council and in the young people’s associations, the gymnasium community at Frogner school (which was probably the most conservative that existed in Oslo) I had invited Einar Gerhardsen as a speaker.
P-O: Aha!
J: I remember when he came in 1947. Charming, took the assembly by storm. And I remember him saying, “What I want to leave as a message is that you should participate in politics. You will participate, when the time comes, you will vote. It may not be necessary to say which party I think you should vote for. ”And there was here a good deal of amusement in the hall. “But the important thing for me”, he said, “is participation”. Participate. This was powerful message that set as a shot in the young congregation of 16-17 year olds. It was in 1947, we were supposed to vote in 1948. So it was our age.

P-O: Did Gerhardsen talk about the Grini time, and was it referred to as the Grini accords already at that time? Or is it a term that has come afterwards?
J: I think the term has come afterwards. I do not know who coined that expression. Because it wasn’t that there was anything written on the Grini accords. There wasn’t. So the word is a little too strong. But it was a “spirit” of cooperation and mutual respect. That was based on the fact that they had suffered the imprisonment together. They had told each other about their wives and their children, those they missed, and had become human to each other. Where they had previously stood as opponents with clear party differences in Norwegian politics. Quite dramatic, and pretty beautiful. And you see, they arranged, and my father was one of the organizers of that, a lecture to tell about what you now call now the Grini accords. And it was more the spirit, the “soul” from Grini. And I remember very little. There was very little interest in it. In other words, what they had experienced, which was so strong, was difficult to communicate to the Norwegian public. For the Norwegian public it was important, of course, that the German occupation was over and that the parties that the Germans had banned were back.
P-O: Those who had been in captivity together, did not maintain contact in the post-war years?
J: They maintained it for a couple of months or so, but the Norwegian party reality came through and was stronger, to put it that way.
P-O: Yes.
J: So I remember, therefore, that Father was very active in organizing meetings to maintain … what you call the Grini accords, and he called … What was he calling it … Grini spirit. And, as I said, there were meetings. But gradually there were fewer and fewer participants. Because the Norwegian political structure was not based on people, but on parties.
P-O: Yes.
J: Still, we know very well that we had a coalition government from as long as we could. It was then Gerhardsen who was in command, until the elections in the autumn of 1945. And you can say that Norway was normalized. Without this necessarily being a positive word.
P-O: I’d like to ask you a bit more about the importance this has had for the welfare state. Do you think it would have evolved differently if it had not been this accords at Grini, would we have had another kind of political system, perhaps more to the right?
J: I think that’s correct, just what you say now. So you said it was agreed that the Labor Party would accept a Western foreign policy. And they would also accept part of the market system. It was part of the settlement. And on the other hand, the right side would accept the welfare state. And that was pretty much what we got. What came out of it. A mostly west-facing Norway, with a welfare state, and with a market. And this combination was then called social democracy. But I think the word “welfare state” was the word that went through. A positive word, it is clear that the word “social democracy” did not sound positive on the right.
P-O: No. Was there anyone else …

J: I think one can say it was a success. Norway, especially when the collective government and especially Einar Gerhardsen, came out very well through the period from the liberation on 7 May until the elections in September. And thus, a transitional period from occupation to normalization. And one should be aware of what happened during this period, it was not so small. It was, after all, 240,000 German troops standing in Norway, if I am not mistaken. They were German and disciplined, there was no suggestion of any rebellion or opposition or any such thing. Sweden was then officially neutral. I remember one of them, whom I knew very well, who told me, “Here I am as a 20-year-old, and my task is to control a prison camp for 25,000 German soldiers.” He then had the enormous advantage that German soldiers were disciplined in war and in peace. And in capitulation. And you know, the picture that we all know is the one with Selbustrømper that stands there and the German commander in Akershus who surrenders. The German commander then in uniform, and the Norwegian from district 13, the Oslo district as it was called, with Selbustrømper. And the picture is after all a main picture from what happened in the May month. But I might also emphasize what happened in June. And you see, here I have a little advantage. Namely, my father’s best friend, who was also my godfather when I was baptized, was commanding General Otto Ruge.

P-O: Aha.
J: And a wonderful person. So for me he was Uncle Otto. And I can’t praise him enough as a human. He got an honorary residence at Mysen. And there were not a few times I cycled to Mysen to talk to him. Especially to talk to him about what I had as a problem then. Should I, or should I not, refuse military service? I was not religious, so there was no commandment in the Bible that told me that I should. It was a political decision. Father said, “Can’t you ride to Mysen and see Uncle Otto and talk about it?” The problem for Uncle Otto, maybe it’s worth telling what he said, it was a bit interesting. He said: “It has been my job in Norway to be the main teacher in tactics at the Norwegian School of War. I have been. And I think I know a little bit about military history. And what I can say about the military is that the number of errors they make is absolutely incredible. But when they meet in a war, then one of the military makes a little bit less mistakes than the others. And then they are called a military genius.” So then I thought: Well, if this is a former commanding general’s view of the military, which doesn’t seem so positive, then I think my conclusion will be a military refusal. And he said, “I fully understand. I just hope that you find a sensible way to do it, that you can do something sensible” There came what was my second refusal: I refused civil work because I wanted a service of peace. A peace service instead of a war service. I didn’t get it, but it came in a sense later. And it came from a right-wing government. It did not come from a Labor Party government. It was Selmer. Prime Minister Selmer who called me and said, “You Galtung, yes. You became a civilian worker and you were imprisoned. Half a year, if I’m not wrong. What was it you wanted? ”And then I repeated that I wished everybody had the right to practice the Constitution’s paragraph 100, namely, to work for peace. It was then interpreted as a military service but it could also be interpreted as a peace service. And then she said, over the phone: “Well, this is going a bit far for us. But can you accept military referees as civil servants and use them as assistants at your institute? At the Institute for Peace Research? Can you do it?” Then there will be four persons on Monday. I agreed, and they came. And one of them was the much-known Nils Petter Gleditsch. So you can see that …

P-O: Yes, so. Another question we wondered was whether there were any other compromises made on Grini as far as you know. Some other agreements between the various parties that have had an impact on social development.
J: Yes. So we have mentioned that the right wing accepted the welfare state. And the left wing, if you want, the Labor Party, accepted what is often called “the free market,” although under a certain state oversight. And we have had that debate. It took the form of a compromise. But there was another compromise, it was in foreign policy. It was quite clear that the Labor Party would accept contacts with the Western allies. But it was also clear that the right-hand side accepted what was Gerhard’s line, his third standpoint, good contacts both west and east, both with the US and the Soviet Union as it was then. Good contacts with both. And it lasted until 1949, when NATO was a fact and I have said something about how Gerhardsen, much against his real will, accepted it as prime minister.
P-O: Do you think it could have worked out for the Marshall plan and the acceptance by Norway of that support if there had been no agreement on a turn towards the Western powers?
J: I think you are absolutely right. I think it’s an important point I had forgotten. I think you are right in that. That Marshall plan, which of course (hehe) came from the United States, gave the USA a foothold in Norway. On the other hand, Gerhardsen was perceived as aligned with the Eastern bloc, and he was. So, he was originally a member of the Communist International, but then he took the Labor Party out of it, when, of course, he realized that a Norwegian Labor Party that was a member of the Communist International would not have any chance politically in Norway. It was elections in 1935, he won those elections and he did so on the basis of breaking with the Communist International, which he himself had helped to build. One should be aware that Einar Gerhardsen, born in 1890, was a person, a tremendous force and also a very young man who played a major role in the Bolshevik Revolution in October-November 1917. And I think, and that is also something Gerhardsen has told me, that what he took with him, what became the important message he learned from the Bolshevik Revolution was what Russians called “pjatiletka”, the five-year plan. Simply planning. Planning, how strong those plans were, how much power they had, one could discuss. But it was quite clear that when he won in 1935 it was on the basis of a five-year plan. Until 1940. And that five-year plan he realized in 1948. In 1948 he had achieved something which for him was very important. That the upper third of the Norwegian population paid more in tax than they received . The middle part paid just about what they received as rewards. And the lowest third received more than they paid. In other words, the top third subsidized the lowest. This of course enraged the Norwegian right wing, even though they initially accepted it. So then we have a Norwegian post-war policy. And what I just want to bring in … It was something that happened June 9, 1945. June 9, 1945 was the official Norwegian capitulation (Transcribers note: He says 1945, but I think he speaks of 1940, as this was the year of the Norwegian capitulation). And what the Germans demanded, and what my godfather, Commanding General Otto Ruge did, was to dissolve the Norwegian army. So they went further than to capitulate. When you surrender, the army is still there. But the army was dissolved. When my father heard this, he ran up into the attic, picked up his lieutenant uniform, and burned it. For he thought: Well, if the Norwegian army does not exist, then perhaps it is best that this uniform does not exist either. Just in case anyone should come uninvited to visit. And they did that later. They did so when they arrived the night of February 14-15, to arrest my father. And brought him to Grini. And there is a small anecdote, which you will find a little funny. I’ll just tell it. I remember, my mother and I, we were standing on the balcony on the fourth floor and crying, crying. And Dad was then pushed into the car of the Gestapo, the Norwegian Gestapo. And of course the car had gasoline, so it screamed in the brakes and screamed as it turned around the corner. And it was on the way to Victoria Terrace. And on Victoria terrace, where they were registered, Gunnar Jahn also came. Head of the Liberals. And later the minister of finances in Norway. And Dad knew well Gunnar Jahn, and Gunnar Jahn knew well my father. They sat together. So came the interrogation. And Dad had no problem with German, even if his pronunciation was terrible, and I think maybe Gunnar Jahn had a little bit more problems with it. But what then … They were asked who they were, so Gunnar Jahn said he was chairman of the Liberals (Venstre). It was then translated and the German interrogator asked: What is Venstre? And then the interpreter said: A small party of no importance whatsoever.
P-O: Ah!
J: A small party without significance! … And it is not certain whether Gunnar Jahn understood what Father understood, and Dad had difficulty not laughing out loud. Eine kleine partei ohne bedeutung
P-O: Hey he … Fantastic.
J: So this is so … Getting such anecdotes is not that easy. And you can only get them from the son who was told this by the father. And you can only get it because that son has managed to get pretty old.
P-O: Hey he … Yes, can you tell a little …

J: 88 and a half years on March 24. 88 and a half. You see, in my age, the half-years begin to count as well.
P-O: But can you tell a little more about how you experienced the time and what you knew about Grini during the war, what thoughts and fears you had about it?
J: We knew quite a lot. Norway is a small community and those who came out told a lot. We knew it was a very mild concentration camp. It was probably hard for some, but for my father it was very mild. He was given a task because he was not only a doctor, but could do as well some medical plants, so my father’s job was to make a so-called “kreutergarten”. A garden for medicinal plants. He received that assignment from Kunze himself, who was thus the camp commander. So Dad met Kunze every single day and they talked a lot together. And I don’t want to say they became friends, but respected each other. And Kunze was as I mentioned a gentle commander. Grini was not after the pattern of the worst German prison camps, certainly not. I do not want to say that there was no abuse and violence, but mostly it was quite peaceful. And outside Grini, a bit outside, there was a hill. And at that height I could come in the winter, skiing. I arrived at the height as far as I could and I looked down at Grini’s prison camp. There I saw lots of black dots, they had black uniforms. And one of those dots was my father. So I stood there crying.


P-O. Oi.
J: It was every Sunday. I was free from school and could ski and look down at the prison camp. But you asked: Did we have more contact? And we had that. Because we were entitled to visit twice a year. And there were two visits. I remember my mother and I, we lived on war food. And that war diet was very, very limited. We were pale and thin. And we greeted the father who sat on the other side. We could talk relatively unobstructed. And Dad was sunburned and looked great, we were lean, thin and pale. So it was like some kind of contradiction, we experienced it twice. And I was totally occupied with becoming a doctor. And I prepared some medical questions, as I read some textbooks in pathology and anatomy. I was fourteen years old, I read and read. And my father was delighted to have my questions that he of course answered right away. And my mother had planned it very well, and knew that nothing could please my father more, not just that I wanted to be a doctor, but that I even took it so seriously that I had prepared myself. So you see, this happened twice, it was well planned. It was so tiring for my mother and me. So that’s the answer to the question of the contact we had.
P-O: Yes, yes.
J: It was there. But you know, the big day, was on April 9, 1945. When father was released. That day Franklin Roosevelt died. And they were happy about it in Aftenposten, which was a Nazi newspaper. The Aftenposten was after all pure NS, the Nasjonal Samling, Vidkun Quisling’s party. And, of course, our grief was gone by the fact that Dad was released, came out. And Mom sent me into the basement to get the one bottle of champagne we had in the basement, just for that event. It came then a month early, for the surrender was May 7, and it took a while before they managed to release all the Grini camp, some formalities that were to be arranged. And since father had good relations with the camp commander Kunze, then Kunze had decided to release him before the time. Simply a friend’s action. And I will never forget, heh, Dad told Kunze before he was released. “Yes, Mr Kunze” he said, “it’s not so good for you, now. With the war and such. So what are you going to do after the war? ” And Kunze looked at him and said, «Nach dem Krieg werden wir uns systematisch beliebt machen». After the war, we will systematically ensure that we are loved.

P-O: Yes, they did.
J: They did, that was exactly what they did. And the combination of the two words “love” and “systematic”… I think almost only there is a German who can manage to combine the two words in a sentence. So Dad cited this sentence with a smile. So he quoted it on April 9 when I had picked up the champagne bottle and all the relatives were present. So for us, that was the end of the war, it came of course on May 9, but for us, Father’s liberation was the end of the war. It is clear that Kunze wanted to score points by treating my dad so well. And having said then, “I’ll let you out before the time, the end comes and it can become a bit problematic”. It didn’t actually get it, but it took quite a while. There were many there and there was quite a lot of administration to do. So there were many who had to wait before they came out. And before their beloved family and such got in touch with them.
P-O: Do you know what happened to Kunze afterwards?
J: No , I don’t know. I know he returned to Germany. I have some hints that he was a vacuum cleaner specialist, agent, that he had a vacuum cleaner company and that he went back to it. I don’t think he had any problems, he had a long life.
P-O: Yes.
J: But as a camp commandant there is no doubt that he was a gentle camp commander.
P-O: Yes … But then I think we’ve got answers to our most important questions. I just thought about asking if you wrote something about these things that we can find back in book form.
J: Yes, there is a lot in my autobiography about all these things.

P-O: Very good, thank you so much.
J: Okay. Thank you for an excellent interview.

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