Alf Tollef, Gerd Julie Bergljot Pettersen, Reidar Larsen and Rolf Alexander Syversen were honored with a medal and Israeli state designation ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ in a ceremony in Oslo City Hall on Thursday, writes NTB.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen attended to the ceremony.
They were honored for operation “Carl Fredriksen Transport”, a codename for organized smuggling of Jews across the border to Sweden.
In six weeks of the operation led by the four Norwegians, around 1,000 refugees (358 Jews) crossed the border to Sweden. It was the single biggest relief operation for refugees during the World War II in Norway.
Nazis in Norway and Operation
The Nazi regime in Norway implemented its part of the Holocaust through a series of steps, starting with registration, then confiscation, internment and concentration, and ultimately deportation of Jews, primarily to Auschwitz. Some Jews had fled Norway to Sweden earlier in the war, but most had stayed in their homes until October 26, 1942. At that point, most men were arrested and detained in prison camps, while women and children were ordered to report to the nearest police station on a daily basis.
Although the Norwegian resistance movement had maintained a network of escape routes to Sweden, they were unprepared to deal with the urgent plight of Jews who faced deportation.
Carl Fredriksens Transport (named after Norway’s King Haakon VII whose real name was Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel) came into being when four Jewish Norwegians appeared on the doorstep of nursery owner Rolf A. Syversen, asking for help. Through one of the leaders of Milorg, Ole Berg, Syversen contacted Alf Tollef Pettersen, who had been fired from the Norwegian police force for refusing to pledge loyalty to the Quisling regime. Pettersen had been hired to manage transportation and was intimately familiar with the roads from Oslo to the border to Sweden through Østfold, according to Aftenposten
What started with a few nighttime drives turned into a large-scale operation. The group accepted all refugees, but charged those who could afford with 180 NOK.
During the operation, almost 1000 Refugees were loaded on the backs of trucks, and covered by a tarp. Children were often sedated.
The operation started in late November 1942. About ten truckloads went to the border and back in the dark of night, mostly with headlights off. By mid-January, the network had been infiltrated by Norwegian collaborators and had to be shut down.
Rolf Syversen stayed in Oslo, but was arrested for an unrelated matter in June. He was executed at Trandumskogen in November 1944.