the war, many Norwegians escaped to the neutral Sweden. Many hoped to join
the Norwegian forces that where built up in England and elsewhere. Sweden
had until 1943 problems with its neutrality, as the Germans was allowed
to transport troops over Swedish territory, while many Norwegian refugees
was stopped at the border and sent back to an unknown faith. (German soldiers
who deserted to Sweden was always handed back by the Swedish border
patrols to the Germans, fully aware that the Germans would sentence their
own soldiers to death!)
However after 1943, when the Swedes discovered the decline in Germanys victories, they where quick to proclaim total neutrality, also to Germany. Sweden was now willing to let the Norwegians form their police units, but they was to do so under cover of "Helseleire". All fit men was to be conscripted these " Helseleire" or "Health camps". What happened inside these camps, was not considered as military training, only basic training for police duties, however these unique pictures I will share with you, shows that these camps was military training camps.
These police units was supposed to prevent riots in Norway after the war had ended, they was also to disarm the surrendering Germans. By the summer of 1944 7000-8000 men had been trained, and was ready for duty.
is the story of one of the men in these police units, a previous member
of Milorg (resistance unit in Norway).
It is a story about one of the silent heroes of Norway, that later was to be remembered only by his closest friends and family. Many documents and pictures regarding this man have been lost. However members of his family, especially his son, Jahn R. B. Knudsen, have been to invaluable help, in the attempt to try to reconstruct his story.
Ivar B. Knudsen in his sergeant uniform.
This picture was taken during the war.
name was Ivar B. Knudsen and he was married to Bjørg R. Knudsen.
Early in 1940 he was one of the founders of Milorg, later the major resistance
unit in Norway. He was in the famous "Distrikt 13" unit, with well known
resistance men like Max Manus and Sønstebye. His task in this unit
is not known, but papers he had after the war, indicating that he was responsible
for drawing maps for the allies. In 1943 he and his wife was ordered by
Millorg to flee to Sweden, because the Gestapo was on their tail. They
was not able to bring anything with them, because their apartment was probably
under surveillance by the Germans. ( During the 1940-43 period Bjørg
was also participating in the resistance movement, her tasks is to this
They was going to Sweden by train, disguised as regular passengers, when suddenly the Gestapo stopped the train, and begun to search it. The Gestapo had no pictures of Ivar and Bjørg, so they had to search for their names.
Ivar and Bjørg had brought along their 4 year old daughter, making the situation more critical. Bjørg was also in her last months of pregnancy. When the Gestapo asked for their names, Ivar presented his own and his wife's aliases, but suddenly their daughter was addressing her father by his real name! Fortunately this was not heard by the Germans and they moved on. Just before they reached the border, they got off the train to follow a secret path into Sweden. They was discovered by German police units, and was shot at. Bjørg could remember how she felt the bullet whining past them. It really shows how much the Germans wanted these people, when they chose to open fire and risking to kill Ivar and Bjørg`s little child.
Ivar´s brother Håkon lived in Bergen and was working with a smaller resistance movement, when he got caught by the gestapo in 1943. This was probably a revenge action performed by the gestapo, hoping to get more information on Ivar. Håkon was unable and unwilling to speak about his brother, and was sent to the consentrationcamp Sachsenhausen, and spent the rest of the war there.
Meanwhile, Ivar was trained in Sweden and received the rank of sergeant. It is unknown if he already got this rank in Millorg, but officially he used this rank patch in Sweden. He was also responsible to train other recruits.
In 1945 he and his units was sent to Finnmark (Northern part of Norway), to secure the area when the Germans withdrew southwards. The russian units that already was in Finnmark, was very vague on their further intentions. Would they return to Soviet or would they stay? The Norwegian police units probably prevented any further thoughts that the russians must have worked with in this period.
Ivar B. Knudsen received several awards for his participation during the war, unfortunately all citations, medals etc. have been lost, making it nearly impossible to find out what he (And his wife) received. As all the members of the resistance had aliases, noone have been able to find out more information about Ivar.
Ivar became an engineer after the war, and died of cancer in 1952. His wife Bjørg suffered from post war stress, and became even more reduced when her husband died. Bjørg died in 1997, and finally found peace.
Ivars brother Håkon was in may 1945, transported out of Sachsenhausen with the well known "white busses" to Oslo. Soon after, he returned to Bergen by bus, and was greeted by the fire brigade at the bus station. (He was a firefighter before the war.) He never quite recovered after the 2 years in Sachsenhausen, and died in 1992.
*Ivar B. Knudsen is holding a speech for prominent guests in Sweden.
The man in the front row with black suit and glasses, is one of the former
of Polititroppene, Harry Søderman.
Ivar is wearing the military styled police uniform.
Pictures from the police units in Sweden
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