Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945), the leader of the Norwegian fascists, Major (Ret.) of the Norwegian army, and the leader of the fascist party National Unity (Nasjonal Samling). In 1931-1932 the minister of war. In 1942-1945 Quisling stood in van of a puppet government, which collaborated with the invaders. After the liberation of Norway he was put before a tribunal and executed. Quisling and his name became a symbol of collaboration with fascism. Here he is shown during a conversation with Hitler.

On 9 April 1940, when Nazi Germany without declaration of war attacked Denmark and Norway, it was not the form of attack that surprised the world's public opinion; after all, the invasion of Poland had demonstrated that the Third Reich was breaking international laws unscrupulously. It was the direction of the new aggression that was beyond the comprehension of an average bread-winner. Why Norway, a country of 3 million people, located in the outskirts of the European continent, and maintaining the policy of strict neutrality, became a victim of the brutal and unprovoked aggression?

However, in the minds of military strategists, Norway occupied a very important place since the end of the First World War (1914-1918). In 1928 in Germany was published a book titled Die See: Strategie des Weltkrieges (The Sea: Strategy of the World War). Its author, Vice-Admiral Wolfgang Wegener, had analysed the course of the First World War at sea, and come to the conclusion that the German command had committed a serious mistake, when it had locked its naval forces in the Gulf of Heligoland, instead of daring to seize Danish and Norwegian bases with one bold assault. He argued that if in 1914 Germany had occupied Norway, her navy would have comfortable bases hidden in easy to defend Norwegian fjords, and could have ran the British blockade, and menaced British communications in the northern Atlantic. Wegener's theses had found supporters among the politicians and militarymen desiring revenge for what they called a "Versailles dictate".

The view that, in case of a war with Great Britain, Germany needs to occupy the entire Scandinavian coast of the Atlantic Ocean has been presented in Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf too.

In the second half of the 1930s the rapid development of the air forces highlighted the strategic importance of Norway. Aircraft taking off from airfields in the south of that country were able to attack north-eastern coasts of Scotland and the Royal Navy base in Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. Also, Norway was of no negligible economical importance: Domestic low-grade iron ores were not able to heal the demand of the German armament industry for steel. In 1938 Germany imported 22 million tons of the iron ore; 40% of that import came from Sweden. The outbreak of the war cut off the overseas supplies, so the security of the transportation of the Swedish ore became inestimable. For eight months a year transports were shipped via Lulea in the Gulf of Bothnia. Whereas in winter, when the ice made shipping in the northern Baltic impossible, the ore was transported by railway to the ice-free port of Narvik in northern Norway, and from there shipped to Germany. I need not emphasize, said once Admiral Raeder, the importance of Swedish iron ore to our war industry. It would be a catastrophe for us if Narvik were to fall into enemy hands. [Waage J. (1964).]

Those were very true words. In 1939 Narvik handled 46.7% of the export of the Swedish iron ore. Ships transporting that precious cargo made most of their voyage in the territorial waters of neutral Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and the Royal Navy had no chance to intercept them. Norway also had other materials valuable to the III Reich: tungsten, copper, zinc, nickel, molybdenum, and lumber, and its electro-chemical industry produced big quantities of aluminium.

The Germans had a perfect understanding that the import of valuable raw materials from Norway sooner or later would provoke a resolute reaction of the enemy. An Anglo-French landing in Norway would also give them control of the Danish straits. German naval bases, sea communications, and the port of Lulea would be within the range of the Allied bombers. Natural riches of the Scandinavia would feed the Allies' war industry. So, both the geographic location, and the economical value had caused that Norway had attracted attention of German strategists.

As soon as in September 1939 the commander of the Naval Command Group North (Marinegruppenkommando Nord), Admiral Rolf Carls, in an exchange of messages with his commander-in-chief Raeder elaborated on necessity of occupation of the Norwegian coast. On 9 October the commander of the German submarine forces, Admiral Karl Dönitz, presented Raeder with a memorandum containing an outline of deployment of the submarines against Norway. Raeder produced a report based on those documents, and presented it to Hitler on 10 October. He noted later: The Fuehrer saw at once the significance of the Norwegian problem; he asked me to leave the notes, and stated that he wished to consider the question himself. [Churchill W. S. L. (1986a).]

Despite of demonstrated interest, Hitler procrastinated with the final decisions. During the war with Poland his armies suffered casualties, and the expenditure of the fuels and ammunition exceeded any expectations. It was not until several months later that the Wehrmacht was able to undertake the next major military campaign. Therefore, when Hitler started planning the campaign in the West, he did not want to engage in a conquest of Norway, which might well turn into a protracted and costly campaign due to the weakness of the German navy. He was rather looking for a chance to make Norway a Germany's ally peacefully. The hope for that chance was brought by Vidkun Quisling, a retired Major of the Norwegian army, and a man, who was about to pass to the History as the synonym of the national treason.

During the First World War (1914-1918), Quisling was the Norwegian military attaché in Petrograd (Petersburg), and in 1931-1933 he held the office of the Defence Minister. Yet, the military career was not enough to an ambitious man he was. He desired power. In 1933 he founded a fascist party Nasjonal Samling (National Unity), and promptly made contacts with the German nazis and the German intelligence. In 1934 Quisling met Alfred Rosenberg, at that time the chief of the nazi party foreign office, and ideologist of the fascist movement. A permanent contact between both parties was established via Quisling's personal secretary Albert Viljam Hagelin. Against expectations of its founder, Nasjonal Samling did not win popularity in the democratic, pacifist Norwegian society: barely 2% of voters supported it during the elections in 1936. In June 1939 Quisling arrived in Lubeck to take part in a convention of the Nordic Society, during which, without arousing anybody's suspicions, travelled to Berlin, where he met Rosenberg, chief of the German intelligence Adm. Wilhelm Canaris, and Dr. Helmuth Körner - a close friend of Hermann Göring, the person second after Hitler in the nazi hierarchy.

In Berlin guest's enunciations about a coup d'état in Norway were taken with restraint, and promises to paralyse the Norwegian defence in case of a German invasion - with disbelief. Nevertheless, the leaders of the III Reich transferred 6 million marks to the Nasjonal Samling and provided training at the School of the Office for Foreign Relations of the NSDAP in Berlin to 25 men Quisling personally selected among his followers. In August 1939, Rosenberg's personal envoy, SS-Standartenführer Wilhelm Scheidt, travelled to Norway to examine Quisling's real influence and abilities.

In the beginning of December, Quisling showed up in Berlin again, and handed over to Raeder an extensive memorial, in which he gave reasons for occupation of the Scandinavia by the III Reich. In that memorial he once again proposed a plan of coup d'état. Members of Nasjonal Samling trained in Germany had to seize strategic points in Oslo and let Quisling to form a new government, which would turn to Germany for help. At the same time the German navy (Kriegsmarine) would join the action and bring troop transports to the Oslofjord. The author of that project had no doubts that the army would accept the sudden coup d'état. On 12 December Quisling visited the Chief Command of the Armed Forces (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht - OKW), where he met generals Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl, and on the next day he was received by Hitler. The leader of the Norwegian fascists spoke about the danger of a British invasion on the Scandinavia, and persuaded his audience that his party numbered more than 15 thousand members (in fact the membership never exceeded 5 thousand) and 300 thousand supporters. He spoke about sure success of the coup, and the gains that the III Reich will share, when the fascist government seizes power in Oslo. Hitler, lured by the vision of an easy success, on the same day gave orders to start studies on a military action in Norway.

Quisling's relations about the British interest in the Scandinavia was no baseless. Already on 12 September 1939 the First Lord of Admiralty, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, proposed sending to the Baltic Sea 2 or 3 battleships, 5 cruisers, 2 flotillas of destroyers, and a squadron of submarines, together with necessary auxiliary ships. Such a fleet, capable of sailing three months in the high seas without entering ports, would be able to cut supplies of the Swedish iron ores to the German industry, and encourage Baltic countries to war against Germany. Churchill's project was rejected as too risky and technically difficult to realize, but the interest in the Scandinavia remained.

A secret report of the British Foreign Office from 29 December 1939, informing, with a measure of exaggeration, that the German armed forces were ready to invade Scandinavia, caused an understandable concern in London. A German attack on Sweden and Norway looked quite realistic. On 6 January 1940 the Norwegian embassy in London was informed that the Royal Navy was going to lay mines in the Norwegian territorial waters. That information stirred vigorous protests from Oslo, so its implementation was postponed but not abandoned. The German aggression had to be stopped, and under any pretext.

A convenient pretext came from Finland. Since 30 November 1939 that country was fighting the war with the Soviet Union, and the governments of Great Britain, France and Poland (in exile in Paris) came with the idea of coming with the aid to Finland, across northern Norway and Sweden. The Allies started forming an intervention corps, out of whose four divisions only one (Polish) was actually designated for the Finnish front, while the remaining three were supposed to occupy "on the way" the port of Narvik in Norway and the iron ore mines in Kiruna in Sweden. The Allied plans apparently were made to prevent a German attack on Norwegian bases, and hamper the the exports of the Swedish iron ores to the III Reich. However, the Soviet intelligence suspected that the Allied interest in the Scandinavia grew out of the design to side with Germany and prepare the rears for a pending war on the Soviet Union.

As to the German intelligence, it received first, vague information about the Allied plans regarding the Scandinavia in the mid-January. On 27 January 1940 alerted Hitler ordered the chief of OKW Keitel to form within OKW a working staff to study plans to invade Norway. The staff started its studies on 5 February. On the same day the Allies made the decision to send the intervention corps to the Scandinavia. They established tentatively that 150 thousand troops - French, Canadian and Polish - would land in Norway. To cover the landing the Royal Navy would detach 40 destroyers. and the Royal Air Force - six fighter squadrons and four bomber squadrons. The Allies planned to occupy the Norwegian coast from Narvik to Bodo, and the railway from Narvik to Kiruna. It was expected that the Swedish government, fearing the advance of the Red Army, would consent for the occupation of northern Sweden.

Meanwhile the events were taking their own pace. On 16 February the British spotted in the Norwegian territorial waters the German tanker Altmark, formerly the supply ship of the German battleship Admiral Graff Spee. Damaged in the battle of La Plata, the German battleship was scuttled by her own crew. But till then she sank 9 Allied ships. Their crews, 299 sailors, were transferred aboard the Altmark. Although she was escorted by a Norwegian torpedoboat, the British destroyer Cossack with the guns ready to open fire entered after the Altmark into the Jossingfjord; her sailors boarded the German ship, and after overcoming the resistance of her armed crew freed the prisoners.

That incident, little from the military point of view, echoed big time around the world, mostly thanks to the German propaganda, which raised big uproar and accused the British in breaking international laws. Also Norwegian press attacked the Allies, and Norwegian Supreme Command on 17 February ordered that any forces trying to land in Norway, regardless of their nationality, be repelled by all means. Pro-British sympathies in the Norwegian society weakened substantially. Whereas the British and the French press gave as good as one gets, and pointed at Norway's purely nominal neutrality, and getting rich at the expense of the peril of other nations, while trading with the III Reich. Norwegian authorities were accused in turning a blind eye on the fact that Altmark was sailing under the navy ensign, and superficial, literally symbolical, search "overlooked" her armament and the POWs she carried. It was argued that since Norway allowing Altmark to sail in the Norwegian territorial waters, Norway broke the international law, and forced the Royal Navy to intervene. On the other hand, the Nazi propaganda accused the Norwegians in staying idle when a merchant ship was under attack in the Norwegian territorial waters. Emotions were flying, and the German propaganda did not hesitate to use the wording like "English sea pirates" or "dirty Norwegian neutrality". Thus, the government in Oslo, which tried to protect its neutrality at any cost, got crossed with both sides of the conflict.

The Altmark case prompted Hitler to speed up studies on the invasion of Norway. On 21 February in Hitler's chancellery reported Gen. Nicolaus von Falkenhorst recalled from vacation, whom Hitler appointed the ground commander of the forces designated for invasion of Denmark and Norway. Falkenhorst was a career officer with the long-standing experience, and one of the few German officers who had some experience in amphibious operations - in the winter of 1918, as the chief of staff of Gen. Rüdiger von der Goltz's Iron Division, he commanded the German forces landing in Finland.

During his meeting with Hitler, Keitel and Jodl, which focused on his experience from Finland, Falkenhorst voiced the opinion that relatively small but well-trained and well-equipped troops can beat a stronger enemy if they utilize the element of surprise. Then Hitler informed the flabbergasted General about his decision to occupy Norway, and gave him five hours to present a study of the possible operation. As Falkenhorst left the Reich Chancellery, he went to the nearest book-shop and bought a Baedeker country guide of Norway to get at least a basic knowledge about the country he did not know at all. At 17:00 he reported back to Hitler with an improvised sketch of the Scandinavian operation.

The plan foresaw surprise seizure of the main ports of Norway by the landing groups brought aboard warships, and simultaneous airborne landing on the airfields of Oslo and Stavanger. Transports with the second wave of the invading troops, heavy equipment, munitions and fuels had to enter the seized ports immediately. Falkenhorst had no doubts that Norway would willingly give itself under the German tutelage, and sporadic resistance would be quickly suppressed within few days.

Hitler listened to Falkenhorst with great interest. A vision of a lightning victory over a surprised opponent was up to the Führer's liking. A swift action could be portrayed as a peaceful occupation with the Norwegians' consent. On the same day Falkenhorst received orders to assume command of the operation codenamed Weserübung (Weser-Exercise). The XXI Corps under Falkenhorst's command was reinforced and transformed into an invasion group (so-called Group XXI), under the orders of the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht directly. Intensive studies continued till the end of February. On 1 March 1940 Hitler signed directive providing for simultaneous occupation of Denmark and Norway. Thus ended the period of theoretical studies and began the period of practical preparations. There was the need to work out details, prepare appropriately equipped troops, and choose the right moment to commence the action.