Monday, April 9, 2018
On a chilly April night in 1940, leading officials of the Norwegian government were invited to the German legation in Oslo for the screening of a new film. The engraved invitations, sent by the German minister Curt Bräuer, directed the guest to wear "full dress and orders," which indicated the gala was a formal occasion. But for the white-tie, bemedaled audience seated in the legation's drawing room, the evening turned out to be anything but festive.
Horrific images filled the screen from the film's beginning: dead horses, machine-gunned civilians, a city consumed in flames. Entitled Baptism of Fire, the movie was a documentary depicting the German conquest of Poland in September 1939; it portrayed in especially graphic detail the devastation caused by the bombing of Warsaw. This, Bräuer said after the screening, was what other countries could expect if they dared resist German attempts "to defend them from England." Appalled by the harrowing footage, Bräuer's guests were puzzled as to why the German diplomats thought it necessary to show the movie to them. What could any of this have to do with peaceful, neutral Norway?
Four nights later, just after midnight, those same officials were awakened by urgent phone calls informing them that several ships of unknown origin had entered the fjord leading to Oslo. A sea fog blanketing the fjord made it impossible to identify the ghostly armada's markings. Within minutes, however, the mystery of their nationality was solved when reports of surprise German attacks on every major port in Norway and Denmark began flooding Norwegian government offices.
-Lynne Olson, Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War