The Danes may have given the country of Norway its name about a thousand years ago. One of the oldest forms of the name is Norðveg, probably meaning “the northern way,” or “the land towards the north,” and Norway does lie due north of Denmark. Today the Norwegians call their country Norge.
“The land towards the north” is not as cold and inhospitable as many seem to believe. The Gulf Stream heats the coastal waters and this results in a mild climate along the coast. Inland, however, the summers are warm and the winters cold.
In the north the terrain is quite wild and barren. Majestic peaks ascend from the sea. Several are more than 3,000 feet (914 meters) high. In the summer the sun never sets in the ‘wonderland’ of the midnight sun! But often in the dark winter months there are severe storms with snow and sleet, forcing people to stay indoors for days.
The rugged coast is the most characteristic feature the land toward the north. Beyond the coast are the skerries (rocky islands), with 150,000 major and minor islands. Bays and fjords included, the coastline itself is approximately 20,000 kilometers (12,428 miles) long. That is equal to about half the earth’s circumference at the equator!
POPULATION AND INDUSTRIES
Norway is not a populous country. Though about the same size as Italy, it has only around 4,000,000 inhabitants, compared to Italy’s approximately 55,000,000. Most of Norway’s inhabitants live either in the lowland in the southeastern part of the country or along the coast. A majority of the coastal residents carry on fishing for a living. Otherwise, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, shipping and mining are the main industries.
Up north live approximately 25,000 Lapps, a distinct people. They are distinguished by their small stature and black hair. They have their own culture and language. Most of the Lapps have accepted a modern way of life and their old culture is vanishing.
LANGUAGE AND RELIGION
The Norwegian language is closely related to the Danish and Swedish languages. When the northern nation-states were established in the Viking period about one thousand years ago, the basis for each of the Scandinavian languages was laid. Even after ten centuries, the difference between the languages is not so great that Swedes, Danes and Norwegians cannot understand one another.
Norway’s main religion is Lutheran. The country has a Lutheran State Church and 96 percent of the population are members. However, only a small fraction attends church regularly. Interest in religion has been on the decline here, as in other Western countries. Materialism and the moral breakdown are making steady inroads, although this development has been somewhat slower here than in many other nations.
About eighty-four years ago a different religion came to “the land towards the north.” A Norwegian who had emigrated to America came back to his native country to share with his family the good news that he had learned. This, as far as we know, was the beginning of the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Norway.
A FOUNDATION IS LAID
Norway was one of the first countries in Europe where the seed of truth was sown in modern times. As early as 1885, Charles Taze Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, urged that the ‘harvest work’ be started in Norway. A Norwegian-American brother wrote a letter to him, saying, in part:
“I am by birth a Norwegian. My prayers of late have been that the Lord would raise up some one in my Norway home to explain the Glad tidings . . . You will probably question: ‘Do not the Swedish publications [of the Watch Tower Society] meet the demand of the Norwegians also?’ I answer, ‘No; the two languages differ so much that the Swedish number of the [Watch Tower] is almost of no use to the Norwegians, and will hardly be read by any of them.’ . . . I pray God to open a way to have it published in Norwegian.”
In his comment on the letter, Russell said it reminded him of the Macedonian cry. (Acts 16:9) He added: “As rapidly as opportunity and means offer, we shall heed the call.”
In 1891 Brother Russell made a trip to Europe to see if the time had come for Christian expansion in this part of the world. He found this to be the case, and said: “In Norway and Sweden there is also a great awakening and a growing revulsion against the established (Lutheran) church. The Swedes and the Norwegians are serious, reverent, thoughtful people, and many among them are coming to realize that it is one thing to be born into the nominal church and quite another to be a true Christian.”
In 1895 the first and second volumes of the Society’s Millennial Dawn series were translated into Dano-Norwegian. Written Danish and Norwegian were very much alike at that time. So, with a few adjustments in spelling, the books could be read without difficulty by persons of both nationalities. Some Bible tracts were printed for free distribution. These publications also benefited people of Danish and Norwegian descent in the United States, already comprising many hundreds of thousands.
EARLY PROCLAIMERS OF THE GOOD NEWS IN NORWAY
In 1892 a Norwegian-American brother, Knud Pederson Hammer, traveled to his hometown of Skien in south Norway, hoping to share the good news with his family. Before he got the truth, Brother Hammer had been a minister in a Baptist church in North Dakota. Due to his visit to Norway, his mother and sister showed interest in the good news.
At that time, Rasmus Blindheim was living in west Norway. In 1895 his brother in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A., sent him two books published by the Watch Tower Society, and he understood that this was the truth. He obtained the Society’s literature as it was published and maintained regular contact by mail with his brother in America. Blindheim seems to have been the first actual Norwegian witness of Jehovah, and worked to spread the truth all through his life, dying in 1935 at eighty years of age.
In 1899 Knud Hammer came back to Norway. Brother Russell had asked him to make the trip in an effort to establish a congregation in Norway. Hammer carried along some Dano-Norwegian copies of the Society’s books and met certain interested persons, but no congregation was established. He could not stay long, as he had to return to America.
Soon, however, the seed sown started to grow and it produced fruit. One day at the turn of the century, Ingebret Andersen, who lived outside the town of Skien, received a book from a man who said that it had been given to him by a sailor. The book was The Plan of the Ages, the first volume of Russell’s Millennial Dawn series. Brother Hammer had probably brought this book to Skien the previous year.
Ingebret Andersen and his wife Berthe were very excited about what they read in the book. Andersen had often attended religious meetings and had given testimonies at those gatherings. Now he started witnessing about the new things he had learned, speaking of the Millennium, Christ’s thousand-year reign. This he did several times. But then it was rumored that there was a false teaching at that place. During one meeting, the whole audience stood up and started to sing when Andersen wanted to give a testimony. He tried again later on, but they led him out of the room by the arm.
Nevertheless, some people had listened to the good news that Andersen proclaimed. He went to their homes and read the book and the Bible with them. In this way, others joined him. After a while, there was a small group of Bible students in Gråten, outside Skien. These brothers attended certain religious meetings and gave testimonies when they had a chance to do so. Several new ones joined them. At first they did not have any literature. So Brother Andersen composed a song about the Kingdom with Scripture references after each verse. This song was used in the work. Actually, a very active small Christian congregation had sprung up, the first one in Norway. The brothers were zealous, and before long there were ten or twelve in the group.
In 1904 something happened that was very encouraging to these Christians in Skien. Brother Hammer returned to see the fruits of his work. He did not know the brothers, but had heard about them through one of his relatives. Now he sought them out, telling them about the organization and the preaching work in America. He also gave them quite a few Dawn volumes. It was, of course, a great joy to these Christians in Skien to be reminded that they had spiritual brothers in other countries. Brother Hammer soon had to go back to his family in America. But he returned to Norway again in 1912, speaking to the brothers and strengthening their faith.
About 1905 a very extraordinary preacher came to Skien to speak in connection with one of the mission societies in town. The brothers had heard that he spiced his speeches with thoughts from the Dawn books, so they came to listen. They sat down at the front, listening with interest. The last time the preacher spoke, the brothers were back again. A brother who had previously been a member of the Salvation Army could not restrain himself and shouted, “Hallelujah!” Following this meeting, everyone knew where the speaker got his thoughts, and the church members told him that he was not wanted there anymore. However, a year later he was back in Skien, this time speaking at meetings arranged by true Christians. We will see shortly who he was.
From the start, the brothers arranged for meetings, especially so-called “conversation meetings,” where Bible subjects were discussed. Soon they started advertising the meetings in the local newspaper. In the advertisements, they used the name “Millennial Dawn.” This became a common designation for them as a body, not only in and outside Skien, but also in the rest of the country.
During the early years of this century, Bible truth also found its way to other towns in Norway, through traveling colporteurs, predecessors of today’s pioneers. They went from house to house distributing books and booklets. In the spring of 1903 two colporteurs, Viktor Feldt and Fritiof Lindkvist, came from Sweden. At the beginning, Brother Feldt worked towns in the southern part of Norway. Lindkvist, who eventually became the local manager of the work in Norway, settled down in the capital, Kristiania (now Oslo). As early as 1904, an office representing the Watch Tower Society was established in Lindkvist’s home in Pilestrædet 49 A. Interested persons could write this office and order literature or subscribe for The Watch Tower, which was sent from Denmark. The magazine had eight pages at that time and appeared monthly from January 1905.
The greatest interest was shown in west Norway. Fine results were realized in Stavanger and Bergen. Lindkvist reported that some interested persons in Bergen arranged “reading meetings,” reading aloud from the Dawn books. When something was not understood, it was discussed until the point was clear to everyone. At one such meeting in a private home, twenty-three were present.
One of those who accepted the truth in Bergen at this time was the prominent preacher of the Free Mission, Theodor Simonsen. He was the man who came to Skien about 1905 and angered the religious people with his new teachings.
Simonsen became interested after having received a copy of one of the Dawns from colporteur E. R. Gundersen, who had come to Norway from the United States. Realizing that the hellfire doctrine was false, Simonsen started to refute it during his speeches in the Free Mission, and his audiences got on their feet in excitement over this wonderful news. But then it became known that he had been in touch with the “Millennial Dawn.” Thus, one day when he had finished his discourse, he was handed a slip of paper that said: “This was your last talk with us!” With that he was expelled from the Free Mission. From then on he was talking to the rapidly growing group of interested persons in Bergen.
Brother Simonsen was a very capable speaker, and it was primarily in this capacity that he served the brothers during the decades that followed. From 1919 to 1935 he was a traveling speaker representing the Society in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. He could also sing and play the zither. Before and after his talks he used to sing songs from the songbook Hymns of the Millennial Dawn, accompanying himself. Brother Simonsen died in 1955, ninety-one years old, having served Jehovah God for fifty years. There are few persons whose activity has been so encouraging to the brothers in Norway.
But back to the work in Bergen about 1905. The activity of the colporteurs in this town produced results. Some had reacted favorably to Brother Simonsen’s talks in the Free Mission. Among these was young Sunday-school teacher Helga Hess. At the age of nineteen, she was the first woman in Norway to become a colporteur. That was probably in 1905. The light of the truth had started to dispel the religious darkness in west Norway, but what was the situation in long, narrow and sparsely populated north Norway?
THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE NORTH
The first one to get the truth in north Norway was Lotte Holm. She lived near the town of Narvik, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of the Arctic Circle. In the autumn of 1903 she went south to Trondheim, where she met colporteur E. R. Gundersen. He gave her a small tract, Is Jesus Suffering Eternal Torment? She also subscribed for the Swedish magazine I Morgonväkten, the forerunner of the Swedish Watch Tower.
In this magazine Lotte Holm read that true Christians celebrate the memorial of Christ’s death only once a year, and learned what the Memorial date was for 1904. “I told my mother that I would celebrate the Lord’s Supper at the date of Jesus’ death at the same time as other Christians all over the world,” she wrote in a letter to the Society. “She gave me raisins. I made unfermented bread and ‘the fruit of the vine’—and celebrated alone. There was nobody with ‘listening ears’ for miles around at that time. But I had an unforgettable celebration in March the first year. . . . My first contact with the office in Kristiania was when I wrote for some magazines to distribute.”
Soon it appeared that there were others with “listening ears” in the town of Narvik, not far from Lotte Holm’s residence. Some time between 1903 and 1905 Viktor Feldt came to Narvik as a colporteur. There he met a married couple who showed interest, and soon another couple joined them. This small group wrote the Society to inquire if there were others in the vicinity of Narvik who were interested in the good news. In this way they got in touch with Lotte Holm, who lived only a few hours by boat from Narvik. This group, the first in north Norway, now consisted of five persons. For many years these were the only true Christians in that part of the country. Lotte Holm remained faithful to Jehovah God until her death in 1966, when close to ninety-three years of age.
Always on the move, the colporteurs would work through a town or a territory, place literature with those showing interest and then travel on. They had the literature sent from the office when they needed it.
One of the widely traveled colporteurs was Andreas Øiseth, who got the truth in 1908. One day when chopping wood at his father’s farm in the eastern part of south Norway, he was visited by a colporteur. He acquired the first volume of Millennial Dawn, at once realizing that this was the truth. Within a year he had made his decision: He would turn the farm over to his brother and start out as a colporteur.
First, Andreas Øiseth got a bike and started to work north systematically, not bypassing any town or community. He also made a “kicksled,” and this was his means of transportation during the winter. On this sled he carried all that he needed—food, clothing and literature. When it was getting late in the day, he would start asking for a place to sleep, and, in most cases, this was granted, as at that time people were quite hospitable toward travelers.
Brother Øiseth did not turn southward until he reached Tromsø, 1,100 kilometers (684 miles) north of his home. On his way south, he worked through all the fjords, valleys and islands until reaching the southernmost part of the country. Having finished this tour, he had covered nearly all the country and had been traveling continuously for eight years!
Later Brother Øiseth worked at the Society’s office for many years, doing, among other things, translation work. Until his death in 1973, at the age of eighty-eight, he was faithfully busy in the service of God’s kingdom, telling others the good news.
STRENGTHENING THE ‘ASSOCIATION OF BROTHERS’
The first Christian assembly in Norway was held on October 22 and 23, 1905, at Kristiania. It is believed that fifteen were in attendance and three were baptized. The delegates came from Kristiania, Bergen, Stavanger, Skien and Moss. They also had the opportunity to meet Carl Lüttichau and August Lundborg, who were in charge of the work in Denmark and Sweden.
The visits of traveling representatives of the Society were very encouraging to the brothers as well. In June and July 1907, Dr. John Edgar of Glasgow, Scotland, visited the congregations in Kristiania, Skien and Bergen as the Society’s representative. The same day that his public talk in Kristiania was advertised in a newspaper, an opposer inserted an “announcement” warning about his preaching.
The Society paid the travel expenses, but the brothers were expected to show hospitality. This activity was the beginning of the circuit work of our day. It drew the congregations closer together and called the brothers’ attention to the fact that they had fellow believers elsewhere in the world. For the first few years, the brothers traveling in Norway were, for the most part, Swedish. But from 1914 onward a Norwegian brother traveled for some time. From 1919 the Norwegian brothers had their own permanent “pilgrim brother”—the former speaker from the Free Mission, Theodor Simonsen.
INCREASING ACTIVITY AMONG THE BROTHERS
Those few persons who at this time had their eyes opened to the light of truth started to tell others about their new convictions. The colporteurs worked systematically, but not so many were able to take up this work. Here is an example of how some took advantage of the opportunities they had and contributed to the spreading of the light:
About 1907 Anna Andersen became interested in the truth. She had been an officer in the Salvation Army for many years. In the small town of Kristiansund in west Norway, she met another Salvation Army officer, Hulda Andersen, who showed interest. (Hulda Andersen later married Andreas Øiseth, and was zealous for the truth until her death in 1971 at ninety-two years of age.) The following year Anna Andersen asked Hulda Andersen to come along on a tour. They went north together by boat, and at every port they went ashore, placing Dawn volumes. They went all the way up to Kirkenes at the Finnish (now Russian) border, and by the time they returned to Kristiansund, they had covered approximately 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) and had placed 400 books and some other literature. Later, these two sisters made similar tours.
Anna Andersen became one of the most widely known colporteurs in Norway. There is hardly any town in the country that she did not visit with her bike and her book bags. In 1935, in her sixty-eighth year, she made a final trip with a young sister to the northernmost part of the country, visiting all towns and areas. That was more than thirty years after her first visit with Hulda Andersen and more than twenty years after becoming a colporteur. She continued on as a colporteur for several years and died faithful in 1948, eighty-one years old. The results these two sisters had on their tour to north Norway were out of the ordinary.
From 1906 onward The Watch Tower started to urge the Norwegian brothers to distribute copies of the magazine to their friends and acquaintances and also to take part in the distribution of tracts. These were published for free distribution. Small books and booklets dealing with spiritism, death and the false hellfire doctrine also were translated from English and published.
These new aids contributed to spiritual growth and produced a better understanding of the responsibility all Christians had to preach the good news of the Kingdom.
BROTHER RUSSELL’S VISIT IN 1909
The most important events during these early years were perhaps Brother Russell’s visits to Bergen and Kristiania, May 17-20, 1909. He had not visited Norway on his two previous trips through Europe in 1891 and 1903. The subject of Brother Russell’s main discourse at Kristiania was of current interest in a country where people were living in constant fear of the torment of hellfire. The subject was “How Are We to Understand the Bible’s Words About the Malefactor in Paradise, the Rich Man in Hell and Lazarus in the Bosom of Abraham?”
RUSSELL’S SECOND VISIT
In March 1911 Brother Russell again visited Norway. During the two years that had passed since his last visit, his writings had become better known in the country. His second visit, therefore, attracted much more attention.
The fact that Russell would be lecturing on the Bible was announced in the Kristiania newspaper Morgenposten. At the same time, an assembly was held in Kristiania. Support of the assembly by the Norwegian brothers was good, some traveling 300 miles (483 kilometers) and one even journeying 625 miles (1,006 kilometers) to attend! Almost the whole Skien Congregation, about thirty brothers and sisters, were present.
Despite protests from the clergy, the brothers had rented a municipal hall for the public talk. As a result of their energetic work in advertising the talk, the hall was crammed, and many had to leave without finding seats. A news reporter estimated the attendance at 1,200! The same day a Kristiania newspaper published an attack on Russell sent in by one of its readers. In his two-hour discourse, Russell commented that despite all efforts from different clergymen to discourage people from listening to him, he was speaking to more people every week than any other preacher in the world. This was also the case in Kristiania. Russell’s visit was a great witness and was very encouraging to the brothers.
THE MEMORABLE YEAR 1914
Ever since 1876 the year 1914 had been Scripturally identified as a turning point in human history. Consequently, that year was emphasized by the brothers in their preaching work and they were anxious to see what would happen in 1914.
During 1913 there had been a decrease in Christian activity, but in 1914 the brothers again made great efforts to declare the good news. In the spring, they carried out a campaign against the hellfire doctrine, using a special issue of Peoples Pulpit. A total of 150,000 copies were shipped from the Society’s office. In just about every town along the coastline, public talks were given in large halls. Brother Russell had sent a Norwegian-American brother named Henry Bjørnestad to help with the work here. He was traveling in Norway in the capacity of the first Norwegian pilgrim brother, encouraging fellow believers.
The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 made a deep impression. Many persons, having heard our preaching, now came to learn more about the future, asking for literature. This opened up many possibilities to witness, and in the annual report for 1914 it was stated: “Since the outbreak of the war we have had many and rich opportunities to proclaim the good news. . . . The Lord has blessed our joint efforts to work.”
Some whose expectations for 1914 were too great were disappointed and left the truth. But, for the most part, the brothers remained faithful. Today we know that they were right in believing that the Gentile Times of 2,520 years would run out about October 1, 1914. The Messianic kingdom then started to rule in heaven. One of the greatest events in human history had occurred, and the brothers had been privileged to share in announcing it!
PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION
Also, 1915 turned out to be an eventful year, primarily because of the showing of the Society’s film production the “Photo-Drama of Creation.” It covered the Bible account regarding God’s purpose for the earth and man by means of moving pictures and slides, synchronized with recordings.
The Photo-Drama was first shown in Kristiania December 25-28, 1914, and was a great success. During the winter it was shown to large audiences in several Norwegian cities. At some places four-column advertisements were put in the newspapers. In one town, some religious leaders tried to prevent the showing. However, the chief of police became very enthusiastic when one part of the Drama was shown to him and some clergymen. So he gave his consent to its being shown to the public. In another town so many people came to see the Drama that the police suggested that the brothers demand an entrance fee to limit the crowd, but this they would not do.
Over the years there had been quite some dissent in connection with Lindkvist and his way of directing the work in Norway. This no doubt affected the efforts made by the brothers and sisters. Now it became apparent that Lindkvist had started to go his own way. The last Norwegian issue of Peoples Pulpit in 1915 announced that this publication would stop from the year 1916 and that Lindkvist would start publishing a magazine entitled “Ararat.” This was to replace both Peoples Pulpit and The Watch Tower in Norway. Along with a Finnish man who had been Brother Russell’s representative in Finland, Lindkvist started his own movement. But he did not succeed in getting the Norwegian brothers to join him. They understood that this was not the will of God. In an open letter to the two men in the Danish Watch Tower of March 1916, Brother Russell stated the same thing. It was decided that from January 1916, Brother Lüttichau, manager of the work in Denmark, would also represent the Society in Norway. The Finnish individual came back to God’s organization and later visited Norway several times as a pilgrim brother, but Lindkvist was gone, never to return.
REORGANIZING THE WORK
As mentioned, the witness work in Norway was placed under the supervision of the Society’s office in Denmark beginning in January 1916. However, Brother Russell felt that the work in all Scandinavia should be directed from one office, a reason being that the world war made it difficult for the headquarters in America to keep in touch with the offices in other countries. The Danish Watch Tower of March 1916, therefore, announced that August Lundborg, who had supervised the work in Sweden since the turn of the century, would represent the Society in all Scandinavia. For practical reasons, though, a Norwegian depot for literature was established in Parkveien 60, Kristiania, where a sister put a small room in her apartment at the Society’s disposal.
On October 31, 1916, Brother Russell, the Society’s first president, died. Prior to his death he had suggested a new feature of the work to promote the Kingdom proclamation. It was the “pastoral work,” which now was also started in Norway. The work consisted of visiting interested persons and loaning books to them. Additionally, in 1917 a “Colporteurs’ Fund” was established in Norway. This fund would help colporteurs with travel expenses. Joseph Franklin Rutherford, who was elected as the new president of the Watch Tower Society on January 6, 1917, stressed the “pastoral work” and the activity of the colporteurs.
A CRITICAL TIME FOR GOD’S PEOPLE
The election of a new president of the Society in 1917 led to a difficult time for the organization, with some rebellious men at headquarters starting to work against Rutherford. They tried to get brothers in America and other countries to join them. Some individuals did so, but the majority remained faithful.
Norway was not spared from this dissension, the congregations in some places being separated into two groups. The consequences were especially serious in Bergen and Trondheim. In Bergen, only seven sisters and one brother were left of the entire congregation. On the other hand, the capital city and the town of Skien had no major problems. At that time there were approximately 150 Bible Students in Norway and most of the brothers continued to work with the Society.
NEW ARRANGEMENTS TO PROMOTE THE WORK
From 1919 onward the organization again had peace, and an extensive reorganizing of the work started. The world war was over and the Society wanted to go back to the arrangement existing in Scandinavia prior to 1916, with one of its representatives in each country.
The new arrangement was introduced in 1921. Brother Lundborg would continue supervising the work in Sweden and Finland. Brother Lüttichau was again put in charge of the work in Denmark. In time it was decided to appoint as the Society’s representative in Norway Enok Øman, a Swedish brother who was living in Kristiania. Øman had been a colporteur in Sweden since 1911 and had come to Norway at Rutherford’s request in February 1917 to care for the work at the office in Parkveien 60 under Lundborg’s direction. Brother Øman was in charge of the preaching work in Norway for twenty-four years, from 1921 to 1945.
MEETINGS AND ASSEMBLIES
During earlier times, in every congregation “elders” and “deacons” were elected by a show of hands. The “elders” took the lead at the congregational meetings, being assisted by the “deacons.”
The first of our meetings to be held in Norway were reading and conversation meetings. Extracts from Brother Russell’s books were read aloud, and when persons had comments or questions, they raised their hands. Some time later, “question meetings” were arranged. The brothers could write a question on a piece of paper and it would be answered during the meeting.
Prayer was a prominent feature of all meetings. At the “prayer and testimony meetings” all present would kneel and, taking their turn, everyone could say a prayer and give a testimony. Both brothers and sisters would then express their love for Jehovah and for the truth. Often they would tell how they first learned the truth, or say a few words about an interesting scripture. There was always singing at the meetings.
Public talks were a common feature only in congregations where there were able brothers, and few felt capable of giving talks. At many places public talks were not given until the pilgrim service was organized. Public-talk activity was not systematically arranged until 1919, when we got the first permanent pilgrim brother, Theodor Simonsen.
In 1916 a booklet was published entitled “Berean Studies on The Divine Plan of the Ages.” (Acts 17:10, 11) It had questions for every paragraph in the first volume of Millennial Dawn (later called Studies in the Scriptures) and was to be used at studies. Such studies had been conducted prior to 1916 also, as in the book Tabernacle Shadows of the Better Sacrifices. Now it was easier to conduct these studies. During the succeeding years the entire Studies in the Scriptures series was studied by means of questions and answers at “Berean studies.”
A new and very important meeting was organized in 1922, when questions were printed for the main articles of The Watch Tower. Basically, this study was conducted the same way as it is today. In the course of time, the testimony meetings developed into what we now call the service meetings.
Every year brothers assembled for one or several “conventions,” most being held in Kristiania. At the beginning, the conventions in Norway usually were arranged in connection with visits by traveling representatives of the Society. Prior to 1920 few Norwegian brothers were capable of speaking at the assemblies. Therefore, most of the talks were given by foreign brothers, especially Swedish and Danish. The last part of the program usually was a “symposium,” several brothers giving short talks on different aspects of a certain subject. These talks often were given by less experienced brothers, who thus got some practice. From about 1920 onward, Norwegian brothers gave most of the talks at the assemblies.
“MILLIONS NOW LIVING WILL NEVER DIE”
In 1920 the Society started a worldwide public-speaking campaign with the slogan “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.” The campaign lasted several years and attracted great attention.
On December 4, 1920, A. H. Macmillan, from the Society’s Brooklyn headquarters, came to Kristiania to speak. Advertisements were placed in the newspapers and the brothers rented the auditorium of the university in the center of the capital city. The auditorium had seven hundred seats, but when filled for Macmillan’s discourse, there were just as many people left outside. Then Brother Øman, who was standing at the entrance, climbed onto a box and cried out: “If you come back in one hour and a half, Macmillan will give the talk once more!” So, when the talk was over, people crowded in and Macmillan again spoke to a packed auditorium. Afterward, on the streets, the brothers distributed the Millions book in Dano-Norwegian. Great interest was shown, and many books were placed.
Brother Macmillan traveled to other towns and talked to large audiences. The brothers announced the talks by distributing invitations. For several years the “Millions” lectures and others were given at many places in Norway by Norwegian brothers on so-called “Campaign Days.” A witness was given by means of these talks, and Kingdom proclaimers were encouraged to support the lectures and share in advertising them.
Nevertheless, the witness work in Norway and in the rest of Scandinavia did not progress as rapidly as in other parts of the world. Some brothers needed more time to see the benefits of proclaiming the good news from house to house. Mainly the colporteurs had done this work.
Yet, quite a few young people were becoming part of the congregation. At an assembly in Kristiania in 1924 about twenty-five new brothers and sisters were baptized, a large number at that time. In the years thereafter, this joyous occasion was spoken of as “the grand baptism.”
A WORKING ORGANIZATION
The year 1925 was a very eventful one. From May 23 to 26 an assembly was held in Örebro, Sweden, where the Society’s Swedish branch office was located. Brothers from all over Scandinavia were invited to the assembly, and Brother Rutherford was present. Over 500 attended, and around thirty Norwegians came by train from Oslo in a reserved railroad car. Incidentally, in 1925 Oslo became the new name of the capital of Norway.
This assembly made history, being the introduction to a new epoch for God’s people in all Scandinavia. On Monday, May 25, Brother Rutherford made the announcement that a Northern European office would be established in Copenhagen. This office would care for the preaching work in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. It was announced that Brother William Dey from London would supervise the work, and the brothers expressed their delight with this arrangement. There would still be one local manager in each country, and Brother Enok Øman continued to shoulder that responsibility in the Norwegian office. This new arrangement had Jehovah’s blessing, for an unparalleled time of Christian activity ensued.
“THE GOLDEN AGE”
Since 1916, when the preaching work in Norway started to be taken care of by the office in Sweden, very little of the Society’s literature had been printed in Norwegian or Dano-Norwegian. The Bible literature being used in Norway was mainly in Danish, but the brothers also obtained publications in Swedish for their own use. They were reading the Danish edition of The Watch Tower and continued doing so for many years. Since 1916 only three bound books of the Society had been published in Danish, namely, the sixth and seventh volumes of Studies in the Scriptures (1917 and 1919) and The Harp of God (1922).
A very important forward step therefore was taken in March 1925, when the Society began publishing The Golden Age in Norwegian. The journal had sixteen pages. From 1936 the Norwegian edition was called Ny Verden (“The New World”) and had twenty pages.
The Golden Age had a wide distribution in Norway, and also in Denmark, where the Norwegian edition was used until 1930. The brothers obtained many new subscriptions to this magazine. For example, in 1936 The Watchtower had 485 subscribers in Norway, whereas The Golden Age (Ny Verden) had 6,190. By 1938, Consolation (Ny Verden) had 10,000 subscribers, as many as the Norwegian edition of its successor Awake! has today.
EXPANSION AT THE NORWEGIAN OFFICE
The year 1925 also became a memorable one for the work at the Norwegian branch office. At that time the Society bought a three-story building a few blocks from the office in Parkveien 60. The address was Incognitogaten 28 B. A brother who had inherited some money purchased the house and then sold it to the Society for 10-15,000 Norwegian kroner less than he had paid for it. In this way the Society obtained its own house and no longer was limited to the small room in Parkveien, where the office had been since 1916.
It was fitting that the office got more rooms. Brother Øman had been doing most of the branch work himself, but the expansion of the preaching activity after 1925 called for more help at the office. The Golden Age had to be translated and mailed to subscribers. More people were needed at the office, and so additional members were added to the Bethel family.
The cellar in the new place was used for literature storage. In the years that followed, large shipments of books came in from the Society’s printery at Magdeburg, Germany. However, the Society did not have the use of the whole house. Some of the tenants had difficulty in finding other places to live, and certain rooms were still occupied by these people. To begin with, only a few members of the Bethel family lived at Incognitogaten, and the address of the office was still Parkveien 60. But in 1930 the office and the other members of the Bethel family moved into the Society’s own house. At that time, eight brothers and sisters were working at the branch office. Since that year the Society’s office in Norway has been located in this house.
William Dey, the general manager of the Watch Tower Society’s Northern European office, spurred on the witness work. In September and October 1925, he traveled in Norway, organizing the work in the congregations in harmony with instructions from the Society’s headquarters. That year the brothers in Norway first received the Bulletin (now Our Kingdom Service). It gave helpful advice on declaring the good news and provided encouragement to participate in the field service.
From 1927 onward the “campaign days” with lectures were changed to “campaign weeks” of nine days with field service. Moreover, that year house-to-house witnessing on Sundays began. The pilgrims now got an important new work to do. Besides giving lectures, they would help the congregations to organize the field service and would themselves take the lead in this work. There was only one permanent Norwegian pilgrim, but he was assisted very well by many capable brothers from Sweden and Denmark.
The annual report for 1926 showed that 120 persons regularly had taken part in the service, and that 14 classes or congregations were “organized for service.” They had distributed 8,830 bound books and 43,650 booklets, in addition to 269,500 resolutions and tracts. These results were far better than any previous year. It was evident that the brothers were beginning to appreciate their privilege of service.
SIGNIFICANT BOOKLET CAMPAIGNS
Many of the brothers showed great enthusiasm in the field service campaigns, distributing many booklets, such as Freedom for the Peoples. In Oslo, the capital, the brothers rented a bus on Sundays and went out in the rural districts, engaging in field service all day. During the week they went from door to door in the city. Some also witnessed in restaurants and cares. The price of the booklets was only 10 øre each, but if individuals did not contribute, they got them free.
A brother recalls: “I went into the dining room in Kristiania Steam Kitchen [a café]. The room was full of people, who were sitting at long tables. I called out: ‘Freedom for the Peoples! Ten øre! . . .’ Everybody took booklets. On Sundays I walked in Studenterlunden [main part of Oslo] where people were sitting on benches. Every one of them took booklets. In apartment houses I rang the bell on all the doors at one floor at the same time, and everybody came out with 10-øre coins. I had my bag full of booklets and was able to distribute 30 to 40 ‘small books,’ as we called them, within an hour.”
This is just one example of how the brothers went about the work. A capable “class worker” could distribute 1,000 booklets in one week. These campaigns held in 1928 and 1929 were very stimulating to the brothers in Norway. Booklet distribution helped many to get started in the witness work from house to house.
SERVING AS JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
The brothers continued to work with great enthusiasm in the service during the years 1930 to 1935 despite the economic depression, unemployment, strikes and insecurity in the world. There were not many Kingdom proclaimers in Norway—only around 200. But Jehovah blessed their work.
How fitting it was that Jehovah should give his people a name clearly identifying them as his witnesses! During a convention at Columbus, Ohio, in July 1931, a resolution was adopted embracing the new name “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” (Isa. 43:10-12) At an assembly held in Oslo, August 29 through September 1, 1931, this name was also embraced by the Norwegian brothers.
In order to notify the whole world of the new name that God’s people had-adopted, this resolution was printed in the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World. This booklet was published in Norwegian in 1932 and was used in a great campaign in March of that year. The brothers delivered the booklet in a closed envelope to all prominent persons—politicians, clergymen, doctors and teachers. This booklet was also given to Haakon VII, then king of Norway.
Many of the largest congregations arranged tours for field service on the weekends. Zealous “workers” traveled in buses, trucks and private cars out to the nearest cities and rural districts. On the vehicles the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” often appeared in big, red letters. Public lectures also were given.
The Oslo Congregation rented buses and traveled to cities as far away from the capital as 75 miles ( 121 kilometers ). Kingdom publishers boarded the buses early in the morning. At about nine or ten o’clock they were let out at different places and each was assigned a large territory. All day—for seven or eight hours—they went from house to house and later were picked up by the bus to go back home. There were many sore feet in the congregation after weekends like that, but this certainly did not dampen Christian zeal.
For many years, summer and winter, tours like these were arranged. Often they were the highlight of a campaign week. Following is an example of the results achieved in a campaign lasting nine days—October 6-14, 1935: In Oslo 76 publishers took part and reported 1,291 hours, 4,637 receivers, 52 books, 13,313 booklets, 13 subscriptions and 66 magazines. That was an average of about 17 hours and 177 pieces of literature per publisher in nine days!
After a campaign like that, the brothers in the larger congregations would gather together for a “reporting feast” at the congregations’ meeting places. All put in their reports, and the results were read with great joy. Some told of their experiences during the campaign. Then coffee and cakes were served. These gatherings created good contact between the brothers, and helped to make the progress of the truth known to all.
Not many people owned a car at that time. So, in many places the brothers used bicycles in the service. Especially in the Bergen Congregation was the bicycle put to good use. Zealous publishers went out of town by bike on the weekends. Often they traveled in groups, with book bags and cartons, to work in the rural districts. At vacation time some traveled for weeks along the fjords on the west coast or to the rural districts inland. Great activity took place in and around Norway’s second largest town, and the congregation grew rapidly. In 1940 the congregation in Bergen had around 80 publishers.
Norway’s long coastline also made the boat a very useful means of transportation for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Several brothers bought motorboats in the 1930’s and used them in the witness work. In Narvik (where there had been a group of Christians since around 1905) there were eight or ten publishers. During the summertime the brothers went out in motorboats on Sundays. Once a year a small assembly was held for the Narvik Congregation and the brothers from the northern part of Sweden. They rented a fishing boat and used it when they engaged in the service, going to places as far away from Narvik as 125 miles (201 kilometers). Here in the northern part of the country there were very few roads at that time, and many places had no ferries. So a boat was the only means of getting around. In this way the northernmost congregation in the country at that time proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom north of the Arctic Circle.
THE ZEALOUS WORK OF THE PIONEERS
Even though the congregations in Norway did what they could to spread the truth, there were numerous places in the country that they could not reach. Many cities had no congregations. Furthermore, around 60 percent of the population—about two million people—then lived in the rural districts in the eastern part of Norway. In the western and northern portions of the country, many farms, groups of houses and rural settlements were practically isolated from the rest of the world. There were road connections to only 10 percent of the fjords, and to many islands there were no ferry connections. There the colporteurs, or pioneers, worked.
From the middle of the 1920’s Norwegian colporteurs numbered around ten, including auxiliary colporteurs who did not use all their time in the service. As the number of Kingdom publishers grew to 430 in 1938, the pioneers and auxiliaries rose to fifty. Hence, the work of the pioneers really began to show up.
At that time the pioneers concentrated on placing literature. They did not put so much emphasis on return visits and did not conduct home Bible studies. Therefore, they did not stay very long at one place, but visited the district with literature and left.
Many of the pioneers worked very hard. For example, consider Brother Bernhard Risberg, who was a pioneer in the 1930’s. After preaching all day, he asked people for accommodations, and they often showed him hospitality, letting him sleep in a bed or in the barn. For two years his territory was the Sogne Fjord, one of the longest fjords in the world. In this fjord, with its many arms and steep mountainsides, he traveled on foot with the good news, carrying his two book bags.
After two years, Brother Risberg was able to buy an old bicycle. Now it became easier for him to get around. Soon he bought a delivery bicycle, tent and sleeping bag. He was able to carry three or four cartons of books on the bicycle. With this equipment he went around with the Kingdom message.
Brother Risberg would start witnessing at five or six o’clock in the morning in the barns and continue throughout the day and long into the night, with just short breaks for meals. For one month he reported 400 hours, an average of over 13 hours a day! In the wintertime he did not devote as much time to the field service, but he would often spend between 200 and 250 hours in telling the good news. In this way Brother Risberg and other zealous pioneers used the best years of their lives in the service of Jehovah God.
After 1930, there were also six or seven foreign pioneers in Norway for some time. These included a retired English couple who traveled around the country with a car and trailer. Some said that it was the first trailer seen in Norway. Brother and Sister Hollis were among the first pioneers forbidden by the police to place their literature with the people without a license. The background for this was a new commercial law. At that time (1932) the two pioneers worked with the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World. When the police interfered, the pioneers ordered several thousand booklets from the Society and delivered them free. The police also forbade them to give the booklets away, but by then this work was nearly done.
Many of the pioneers experienced difficulties of that kind. One policeman was also sent to the Society’s local representative in Oslo to make him stop the pioneers. However, after some time the issue was settled without legal action and the pioneers continued their work. At times they were questioned by the police when some religious fanatics, who wanted to stop the Kingdom-preaching work, reported them to the authorities.
ALONG THE COAST BY BOAT
Some pioneers traveled along the coast by boat, spreading the good news. In 1928 the Society bought a small pilot boat and remodeled it for two brothers who were doing colporteur work from Oslo and along the coast in the southern part of the country. The brothers started in December and went along the west side of the Oslo Fjord in the small boat “Elihu,” even though the fjord was full of ice. During the first month they visited many cities and densely populated areas and placed around 800 books and booklets. However, on a dark, stormy night in February, “Elihu” was smashed to pieces on the coast. The boat was ruined, but the brothers came ashore safely.
In 1931 the Society bought a new motorboat. It was named “Esther.” It was around 40 feet (12 meters) in length and had room for three pioneers, although it was more practical to have only two. “Esther” was used on the west coast and in north Norway until 1938, when it was replaced by the 32-foot (10-meter) motorboat “Ruth.” “Ruth” also had two brothers on board and was used mostly in north Norway.
The brothers on these boats did very good work along Norway’s coast. In one year they could place as many as 10,000 to 15,000 books and booklets. They visited many small islands and lighthouses where people were living, as well as talking to the Lapps in the north. Carrying their book bags, phonographs and rucksacks, they proclaimed the good news at isolated places in the mountains. They did a lot of traveling, as houses were spread over a great area. On some days these brothers were able to visit only a few homes. They also had some accidents. The boats were wrecked several times. However, the brothers survived, and the boats were repaired.
Once the two brothers on “Esther” visited a place in north Norway where the people were said to ‘live in harmony with Russell’s and Rutherford’s books.’ Over half of the population was interested in the truth. The churches stood empty and about 95 percent of the population had read some of the Society’s publications.
GREATER CARE FOR THE INTERESTED
An important step was taken in January 1939, when the zone work was organized in Norway. The country was divided into four zones. In each a zone servant would travel. He would visit people who had shown interest in the truth and would endeavor to establish new groups and congregations. Of course, he also visited the established congregations in order to encourage fellow believers.
Zone number 4 was the largest. It took in the area from the small town of Florø on the west coast to the seaport of Kirkenes in the north at the border of Finland, a distance of 1,125 miles (1,810 kilometers) along the coast. In this zone there were only three small congregations and fifteen publishers reporting field service.
It was winter (January 1939) when Brother Andreas Kvinge, as zone servant for zone 4, started his first trip northward, he and his wife traveling on bicycles. Once they were to visit two places in the isolated woods near the border of Sweden. The roads were not yet cleared of snow. So people had to travel on horseback, and the horses had to wear snowshoes to make their way over the high mountain plateau. Brother and Sister Kvinge sent their literature ahead of them and later came on foot with their bicycles. To reach some places, Brother Kvinge borrowed skis, and he would spend all day just to get to two or three houses. One evening no one wanted to house the Kvinges for the night. So they crossed the border into Sweden, where someone offered them a place to sleep. But Sister Kvinge was so tired that her husband had to carry both her and their book bags during the last part of the trek. At another time they had to walk around all night in sub-freezing temperature because no one would offer them a place to sleep.
But the Kvinges also had many joyful experiences. At one place they met a small group of Kingdom publishers who had been preaching for several years without reporting their field service. Several new congregations and groups of publishers were established. Isolated brothers were encouraged. Surely, the zone work had Jehovah’s blessing.
The time had come to show greater care for interested persons. This feature of our service was going to be of special importance in the years ahead, for the Kingdom publishers in Norway were about to work under different circumstances. On April 9, 1940, the Germans invaded Norway and the country was to feel the effect of World War II.
THE FIRST SHOCK
Germany’s invasion of Norway on April 9, 1940, was sudden. The first attack wave came in the form of battleships. Large contingents of soldiers disembarked at the most important seaports, and these were occupied in the course of the day. Since Norway was poorly prepared militarily, as a whole the Germans met little resistance. Soon British and French troops joined the Norwegians in the fighting, but after about three weeks the Allies had to give up the southern part of Norway. In the northern portion of the country, where the defense was strongest, the fighting continued until June 10, when the last Norwegian division capitulated. Several towns and places in western and northern Norway had then been subjected to intense bombardment, and a number of towns were in ruins. The military expedition lasted sixty-two days.
Most extensive was the destruction in the northern part of Norway. Though few in number, the brothers there endured the conditions quite well. At Narvik they left town when the shooting and bombardment started. Some stayed for a while on board the Society’s motorboat “Ruth,” which was forced to remain in a fjord outside town as long as the fighting lasted. When it was no longer safe to stay on the boat, the brothers found a place under some large blocks of stones on the mountainside. Narvik was utterly demolished, and two brothers were killed, one by a grenade. One family lost their house and all their belongings. In Bodø, Fauske, Namsos and Steinkjer most of the buildings also were destroyed, but all the brothers survived. However, quite a few had lost all their belongings. Roads and bridges were destroyed everywhere, whole country settlements were burned, and the roads looked like auto graveyards. When the fighting was over, Brother Kvinge, the zone servant, traveled around to encourage the brothers in the whole zone.
Meanwhile, Brother Øman, the local manager of our work in Norway, was arrested by the Gestapo (the state secret police of the Nazi regime). For one week he was held in prison at the headquarters of the police in Oslo, but was released after a short hearing. Some weeks later he was taken to a new hearing, under suspicion of doing secret intelligence service on behalf of England. The hearing lasted for six and a half hours without interruption, after which Brother Øman again was set free. In both instances, he was politely treated and was not told that the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was banned or would be stopped.
The brothers had feared that the Germans would immediately stop the preaching activity and give the Norwegian Witnesses the same treatment that their German brothers were receiving. But this anxiety proved to be groundless. Therefore, when the first shock had passed, the proclamation of the good news was resumed with full vigor.
TOWARD NEW HEIGHTS
Under the direction of the Society, great activity now was started. No one knew how long our work would be permitted to go on. Hence, as much as possible of the Society’s literature in stock had to be distributed to the brothers and people in general. Especially was the work intensively carried on with the book Salvation, which had just been released in Norwegian (1940). Soon, all the books of the first edition were sent out, and a new edition, in paper binding, was printed in Oslo. Because of the war it was impossible to get literature from abroad, but some single copies of new booklets published by the Society in the United States found their way to occupied Norway and were translated and printed here. Quite a few of such booklets were printed in Norwegian after April 1940.
After the dark shadow of war had fallen on the country, people listened to the good news more attentively, many feeling a need for a message of comfort and hope. The brothers did all they could to fill this need. In Oslo the congregation continued making long bus trips to neighboring towns and rural territories, where large amounts of literature were placed. Pioneers did not waste time either. One pioneer sister placed between 800 and 900 books in two months in one valley in the eastern part of the country.
Interest was growing all over the land. Many new ones were taking up the service and becoming Kingdom publishers. A main reason for this was the starting of many home Bible studies, then called model studies. The meeting activity continued, and in several places conventions were held. To the great delight of the brothers, the Danish Watchtower continued to come from Denmark, and Consolation was published in Norwegian, as before.
The reports from this time show how great the activity was: From October 1940 to June 1941, 272,419 books and booklets were placed. During the service year of 1939-1940, on an average, 377 publishers took part in the field service. But in May 1941 the number was 477 publishers! Actually, the brothers were quite surprised that the German authorities did not try to stop the work.
A CAREFULLY PLANNED ACTION
However, the fact was that at an early stage the Nazis were making plans to act against the International Bible Students Association. Already in the summer of 1940 proposals were made to forbid the literature of the Society. This was not done, as they assumed that such action would stop our activity only to some extent and would act as a warning, giving the brothers an opportunity to get literature from abroad. Instead, the German safety police, Sipo, started gathering extensive information about the size and activities of the International Bible Students Association in Norway. Representatives of the German police came to the Society’s office to get literature, and Brother Øman was called in for several hearings.
The first effect of this action was that the book Enemies (published in Norwegian in 1939) was confiscated due to certain statements regarding Fascism and Nazism. This took place toward the autumn of 1940. However, the Society’s supply of books was not taken. Therefore, several hundred copies of Enemies were removed without the Germans knowing it and placed in the homes of various brothers.
The witness work continued without much interruption during the remainder of the year 1940. But the Nazis continued working on their plans. In October a proposal about the dissolving of the International Bible Students Association was sent to Berlin. The proposal was that the Northern European office of the Society in Copenhagen be closed. The decision, however, was postponed.
During the winter and spring of 1941 in several places throughout the country pioneers were arrested and examined by the police, charged with selling alleged “anti-German” literature. But the Kingdom activity was not forbidden and the pioneers were released.
In different congregations, German and Norwegian Nazis appeared at our meetings as spies. One woman was sent to the office of the Society in Oslo for the same reason and reported that she had seen “four obviously Jewish men” there. A German police report of March 13, 1941, reads in part: “The propaganda activity of the Earnest Bible Students [Jehovah’s Witnesses] has increased considerably during the last weeks. In different parts of Oslo, and also in many other towns, the ‘colporteurs’ appear, selling the publications of ‘The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.’ These publications are outright agitation publications, directed against the authoritarian states under the cover of religion.”
No doubt about it, our increasing activity was a growing irritation to the authorities. In the course of the winter and spring of 1941, officials made several applications to Berlin for the approval of the plans to dissolve the International Bible Students Association in Norway. On April 24, 1941, the signal came from Berlin. In the meantime, however, the matter had been submitted to Josef Terboven, the German Reichskommissar in Norway. He was of the opinion that the International Bible Students Association in Norway was so small in number that it was unnecessary to intervene. The decision was made to submit to him more extensive material about the organization, and the planned action again was postponed.
In the early summer the first sign of something being in progress was noticed. The Norwegian Nazi state police came and confiscated the Society’s booklets Fascism or Freedom and Government and Peace. Then, on Tuesday, July 8, came what the brothers had hoped would not happen. The Gestapo struck hard all over the country to put an end to the organization. Through their detailed investigation, the Germans had obtained the names and addresses of all of Norway’s presiding overseers, and they all received a visit on that day. All literature published by the Society found in their homes was confiscated, and the brothers were told that if they did not stop their preaching activity, they would be sent to concentration camps. In various places the leading brothers of the congregations were arrested and kept in custody for several days, though none were mistreated.
Five German police officers came to the Bethel home and confiscated all property of the Society, the literature in stock, cash on hand and the office machines. The value of the literature and money came to 40,000 Norwegian kroner (about 6,000 dollars). At the same time, the Bethel family was taken to the headquarters of the Sipo (safety police) organization and examined. No one was put in prison, but Brother Øman was ordered to report every day for twelve weeks to the Norwegian state police.
The literature stored at Bethel was not removed at once, but the door to the storage room was sealed. Later, the Germans arrived with three trucks and the literature was taken to a paper mill to be transformed into pulp. Shortly thereafter, the brothers learned that the workers had helped themselves to the books. The Society’s motorboat “Rut,” laying in west Norway, was towed away.
On July 21 the building of the Society was confiscated, together with all books and papers relating to the structure. The work was officially banned, and the congregations could no longer carry on their activities openly. From then on, no literature was sent from the office in Oslo. But, strangely enough, The Watchtower could be ordered directly from Denmark, at least until the turn of the year 1941-1942. As to Consolation, the issue of July was the last one that came out. The members of the Bethel family stayed in the building of the Society for some time, but eventually most of them moved, taking up secular work to earn their own living. Brother and Sister Øman, however, continued living in the building.
OUR WORK CARRIED ON “UNDERGROUND”
If the Nazi authorities thought that their actions and threats against the brothers would put an end to their Christian activity, they were mistaken. God’s people in Norway were not inclined merely to sit back. Rather, they went ahead with a reorganizing of the work.
Our activity was resumed under a decentralized administration. One of the brothers who earlier had worked at Bethel was able to do some traveling in south Norway. Also, Andreas Kvinge was able to continue in the zone work for some time in north Norway. He was arrested on July 12 and questioned for many hours. The Germans insisted on knowing where all the brothers in north Norway were staying, and where he was going, but he would not tell them. He was threatened and told that he would be shadowed everywhere and sent to a concentration camp if he continued his activity. But Brother Kvinge was not frightened, and in December 1941 he continued traveling, using ferries, walking and skiing. To hide his purpose, he would do minor pieces of work when visiting fellow believers. In this way the brothers were helped to continue in their Christian service. Toward the spring of 1942, Brother Kvinge settled down in Bergen. But when summer came, he went northward by bicycle to see and encourage the brothers.
Others also went for such bicycle rides. The purpose was to contact the brothers that they knew to see how they were getting along. In the summer of 1943, one of the brothers who earlier had taken part in the tours on one of the motorboats of the Society to north Norway, traveled 750 miles (1,207 kilometers) by bicycle in order to visit and encourage fellow Christians.
Through correspondence many kept informed about our work at other places in the country. Due to an extensive censoring of the mail on the part of the German safety police, the brothers often wrote in code to make the letters appear innocent if opened and read. Instead of the word “congregation,” for example, one would use the word “family” or “firm.” We do not know how extensively the correspondence of the brothers was censored, but we do know that the Germans at least were planning to keep an eye on all foreign mail to and from those who had been working at Bethel.
MEETINGS AND PREACHING
Our meeting activity, of course, was forbidden. But the brothers, respecting God’s commandments more than man’s, soon started gathering in private homes in small groups of five or six persons. (Acts 5:29; Heb. 10:24, 25) When this proved successful, the groups were enlarged. All made a point of coming either alone or with just a few persons in order to avoid attracting attention. They never knew if an informer was nearby, watching their meeting place. The tables were often set with cups of coffee to make the gathering look like just an ordinary party.
Primarily, the brothers gathered to study The Watchtower. Copies of the Danish and Swedish issues were smuggled into the country, translated and then typed up for use. These typewritten manuscripts circulated in the congregations throughout Norway. Usually, the study conductor alone had a manuscript. So, he would first read the paragraph and then ask the questions. More than anything else, these gatherings helped the brothers to maintain their courage and to continue witnessing fearlessly during those difficult years.
As Jehovah’s people found out how to gather in relative safety, they started to have larger meetings on special occasions. The Memorial was such an event. More than a hundred Christians would then gather in obedience to Christ’s command to commemorate his death. (Luke 22:19, 20) On March 31, 1942, for example, 280 brothers assembled at two different places in Oslo. Ninety partook of the emblems.
Throughout the country “conventions” also were held, on isolated farms or in the forest. Once, during such a “convention” in the woods, the brothers pretended to be berrypicking in order to escape detection. They carried pails and other equipment needed for berrypicking.
Of course, the purpose of such gatherings was to build up the brothers spiritually. Talks were given, and interesting articles in The Watchtower were discussed. However, provisions were made also for material food. Many Witnesses—especially those living in the cities—had difficulty obtaining the food they needed. But those who had some food lovingly shared with the ones who did not.
During the summer of 1943 the largest of these gatherings was held in a wooded area on a farm outside Oslo. About 180 brothers and sisters were gathered from different towns around the Oslo Fjord. Suddenly, three German soldiers on horses approached the farm and caught sight of the brothers. A German-speaking brother spoke to the soldiers. The soldiers wanted to go swimming, but had taken the wrong road. A couple of brothers offered to show them the right way, and this they did. The brothers heaved a sigh of relief when the soldiers disappeared. On the way to the beach the German-speaking brother heard two of the riders discussing what kind of gathering this could have been. One suggested a kind of choral society, like one they had met at another place.
So, nothing happened this time either. We have no reports of the brothers getting into trouble because of assembling at such “conventions” in harmony with Jehovah’s will.
Naturally, the Kingdom proclamation also was carried on with the greatest caution, especially at the start. The brothers knew how carefully the Nazi authorities would watch their activity. At first, God’s people did not witness from house to house, but called on those who had shown some interest, as well as talking to relatives and fellow workers. In this way, the brothers also got in touch with some new ones. However, after a couple of years, some started to go from house to house using the Bible.
Not many months had passed before there was a shortage of literature. Some foresighted ones had buried or hidden books and booklets, and these were now taken out and used. In time, publishers usually were only lending literature to those showing some interest in the Kingdom message.
It was in this situation that the Bible study activity proved to be of such great importance. Throughout the country many studies were started by means of the Model Study booklets Nos. 1 and 2 (the second being published in Norwegian in 1941). Interested persons were first invited to these meetings, then later to the Watchtower study. Often, twenty-five to thirty persons were present. This was especially true in the larger cities. When the brothers had run out of the Model Study booklets, they worked out a similar, but more extensive book for study, which was printed and used to a large degree.
Of course, these new ones coming into the congregations had to be baptized. Often this was done in private homes. One brother stated that at least fifty individuals were baptized in his home during the war. Also, at the secret “conventions” arrangements for baptism were made, the candidates being immersed in a small lake, or a tarn.
The fact that the brothers had ample opportunity to witness was a cause of some difference of opinion among them. How so? Well, some felt that the preaching work should be carried on more openly, while others thought that this would be provoking the Nazi authorities. The result was that some started going from house to house with the Bible, while others worked more secretly, contacting people in other ways. Nonetheless, it was evident that the brothers in both groups acted out of a sincere desire to serve Jehovah, for he blessed their work.
Did the German safety police realize that the Norwegian Witnesses were resuming their activity? It is very unlikely that such a well-administered organization as Sipo would not be aware of this. Sipo did know that the brothers had not discontinued their work, but perhaps they did not know the full extent of their activity. From different quarters, including the Norwegian Nazi party, came reports about the activity of the brothers and letters urging Sipo to act against Jehovah’s Witnesses. In one letter the congregation was referred to as “the Jewish influenced, Communist propaganda sect.” Another one, sent anonymously from Oslo and dated June 22, 1942, said:
“Dear Mr. Reichskommissar,
“I know you are a devoted Catholic. Therefore, I trust you to use your enviable great authority to destroy this disgrace of the community, at least here in Norway, that is: The subsidiary organization of the Jewish[!] Judge Rutherford . . .
“To me it is absolutely incomprehensible how this shady organization has been permitted to carry on its demonic activity.
“Why not expose this organization in the newspapers, letting the public see how ridiculous and dangerous the activity of this organization is?”
However, the German authorities did not take any further action against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Perhaps the Nazis thought that our organization, due to its modest size, was not so dangerous. They may have felt that stopping the large distribution of “agitation publications” would be enough. Surely they had plenty to do in other fields, primarily fighting the Norwegian resistance movement. At any rate, it was particularly against the Norwegian patriots on the Home Front that the Nazis were using their advanced intelligence service methods and barbaric punitive measures. Generally speaking, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Norway were left alone after the action in 1941. Without God’s protection, however, one aspect of the activity easily could have put the brothers in a difficult position. This was the work of duplicating Watchtower articles and distributing these throughout the country. The brothers occupied with this were working at the risk of their lives.
THE SPIRITUAL FOOD DISTRIBUTED
The Watchtower was smuggled into the country from Sweden and Denmark. Some of our magazines were carried by interested persons and brothers crossing the border between Sweden and Norway, and at one place there was a rather steady “line of communication.” From the Society’s Swedish branch office, and occasionally from Denmark, food packets were sent to Brother Øman. The food items, such as eggs, were packed in pages of The Watchtower! These pages were ironed and the contents translated into Norwegian. At times, brothers from Denmark and Sweden traveling on business brought us literature.
Only the main study articles in The Watchtower were translated and distributed throughout the country. During the evenings and nights brothers were busy typing this material. To save time, they made from five to nine carbon copies.
Our brothers never felt safe when doing this work. The Nazis were having great difficulties in limiting the illegal press of the Norwegian Home Front. In order to find the secret newspaper’s editorial offices, homes were raided. Persons having illegal material in the house were punished severely. Toward the end of the war, the penalty was death for not handing over an illegal newspaper to the authorities. Yes, just having a typewriter in the home was considered suspicious.
In the autumn of 1943, in Oslo, a high-ranking German officer was found killed not far from the home of a brother who typed Watchtower articles. That same night the whole area was raided by the Gestapo. Suddenly, at about 3:00 a.m., the brother was awakened by the sound of soldiers marching and officers commanding: “Mount guard outside the entrances!”
The brother had just finished typing fifteen Watchtower manuscripts, each of seven pages, and thus had 105 typed pages in the house. He was well aware of the consequences if this material was found. Persons taken by the Gestapo were not handled delicately.
The Gestapo forced open the front door, and twenty-five to thirty men stormed up each entrance. It was a three-story building, and the raid started on the third floor. The brother lived on the first floor. This gave him a chance. He snatched the manuscripts and ran into the bathroom, where he tore them to pieces and dropped them into the toilet. He flushed once, dropped the rest of the papers in the toilet and waited with excitement for the hopper to be filled again. Would he make it? He was given a couple of minutes and this was enough, for when four armed men stormed the apartment, the manuscripts were gone. Things were turned upsidedown. Sugar bowls, the oven, drawers, pictures on the walls—everything was carefully investigated, but nothing illegal was found. The brother felt that Jehovah had protected him by letting the raid start on the third floor.
To provide all congregations and isolated publishers with the spiritual food regularly, good organizing and willing helpers were required. In Oslo a number of brothers regularly visited the nearby congregations in the eastern part of the country and conducted Watchtower studies on Sundays. They had a manuscript that they discussed with the congregation. Congregations and brothers unable to get The Watchtower in this way, received a copy through the mail or from a brother traveling by bicycle or train. The manuscripts were forwarded by those receiving them. In this manner, a regular service was maintained.
Brothers traveling around with Watchtower manuscripts in their pockets or bags were taking a risk. Raids in the streets were not unusual, and the control of trains, cars and boats was tightened. However, Jehovah was protecting the brothers who were willing to serve in this way.
Once a brother went by train from Oslo to a nearby town. Hardly were the wheels set in motion when two armed policemen from the Norwegian Nazi state police entered the railroad car where the brother was sitting. The doors were closed and the search started. All had to empty their pockets and bags, while others were frisked, with a rifle muzzle in their neck.
The brother was sitting there, not knowing what to do with his Watchtower manuscripts. He chose to put them in the pockets on each side of his jacket. The person next to him was ordered to rise and was frisked. The officer now turned to the brother, who sat there praying to his heavenly Father for help. Looking at the brother, the officer said: “Identification card!” The brother showed it. That was all! Everyone else in the railroad car had to show what he was carrying—except this brother!
Norway was divided into two parts to aid in the distribution of the Watchtower articles. From Oslo, manuscripts were sent to all parts of east Norway, and from Bergen, the distance from Stavanger to Kirkenes was covered. The congregation in Bergen usually received copies of The Watchtower in Swedish or Danish. Mostly these had to be picked up in Oslo, as they were seized by the German safety police if they were mailed. Different brothers traveled by train or bicycle over 300 miles (483 kilometers) to get this spiritual food, and to visit the “family,” as they would say if questioned. Most of the time they used bicycles. In other instances, our magazines were sent with brothers plying the sea between Oslo and Bergen.
In Bergen Watchtower articles were duplicated in the same way as in Oslo and then sent northward with brothers working on boats sailing along the coastline. The articles were sent along regular routes from one place to another, with the northernmost address at the Russian border.
In this way Jehovah God saw to it that spiritual food reached the brothers all over Norway. Through The Watchtower they were strengthened and encouraged to continue their Christian preaching work in those difficult years. During the period from 1941 to 1944, about 9,000 of such manuscripts were typed and distributed throughout the country.
INCREASE DESPITE WAR
In spite of the difficulties created by the war, the Kingdom work in Norway continued growing. The growth was about the same in wartime as during the previous five years, with the average increase in the number of publishers being about 8 percent each year. Thus, from 1940 to 1945, the number of publishers in Norway increased from 462 to 689.
The brothers in Norway were not so hard pressed by the German authorities as were their fellow believers in other occupied countries. True, the action of 1941 did put an end to the extensive spreading of literature, but little was done to prevent our work from continuing underground. We do not know of any Norwegian brothers being mistreated. Some were arrested and imprisoned after the action of July 1941, but all were released within a week.
Very few brothers lost their lives due to war conditions. As far as we know, only three brothers were killed, although quite a few lost their homes and belongings when different towns were bombed. This was especially true in north and west Norway.
When peace came in the spring of 1945, many things had happened within the organization. J. F. Rutherford had died and N. H. Knorr had succeeded him as the Watch Tower Society’s president. The brothers and sisters in Norway were happy to be able to work openly again and they were eager to cooperate fully with the rest of Jehovah’s organization earth wide.
REORGANIZING OUR WORK
Naturally, the reorganizing of the preaching activity after the four-year-long ban on our work took some time. Among the first things done was to arrange for several public meetings. These were attended by fairly large audiences. During the war many people had become conscious of their spiritual need. (Matt. 5:3) True, some who had become interested during the war later withdrew. But quite a few persons disappointed with Nazism lent an ear to the good news of God’s kingdom. At three public talks held in Oslo during the summer of 1945, the attendance was from 400 to 600.
In July and August 1945, Brother William Dey (manager of the Society’s Northern European office) visited Norway to assist the brothers in connection with the organizing of the preaching activity. The disagreement that had started during the war between two groups of publishers with differing ideas as to how to carry on the witness work was still alive. So, at meetings held in Oslo, Skien and Bergen, Brother Dey appealed to everybody to ‘bury the fight’ and asked all desiring to do so to arise. All those present got on their feet.
The brothers were confronted with a lack of Bible literature for the public. Therefore, they started lending books and booklets, just as during the war. In September 1945 the first new literature arrived—four Swedish booklets and one in Norwegian. Of course, great was our joy when we got The Watchtower in Norwegian, beginning October 1, 1945. In previous years, we had used the Danish edition. Great efforts now were made to obtain subscriptions for The Watchtower, and in January 1946 a four-month Watchtower campaign was started.
In many congregations, however, the brothers still were split into two groups. Hence, in December 1945 Brothers N. H. Knorr and M. G. Henschel came to Norway from the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn to solve this problem and to assist the brothers to organize the work in harmony with procedures followed elsewhere. Two meetings, one in Oslo and the other in Bergen, were attended by 800 and 500 respectively. Brother Knorr’s visit proved to be a great blessing, resulting in the settlement of the dispute between the brothers. At the meetings held during his visit, it also was made known that Enok Øman would no longer be the manager of the work in Norway. Rather, the activity would be taken care of by Brother Dey directly. Brother Øman continued working at the office in Oslo until 1953, and thereafter he was a pioneer. He served Jehovah faithfully until his death in 1975 at the age of 94.
William Dey soon was succeeded as manager of the work in Norway by Marvin Ferrol Anderson, an American brother sent here from Brooklyn Bethel in 1946. On January 17, he first set foot on Norwegian soil. Brother Anderson began reorganizing the preaching activity. And before long he started talking with the brothers in Norwegian.
NEED FOR FULL-TIME SERVANTS
Throughout the country interest in the Kingdom message was very great after the war. Many interested persons came to the public talks, and literature was easily placed. The question now was: Would there be any in Norway willing to enter the pioneer service, taking the truth to isolated areas? Through the Informant (now Our Kingdom Service) the brothers were encouraged to start out in the pioneer service. Many responded, including several who had been forced to leave the ranks of the full-time workers when our activity was banned in 1941. But the pioneers needed much literature, preferably in Norwegian. As far as this was concerned, the situation was bad. Following Brother Knorr’s visit to Norway in December 1945, however, the books Salvation and Enemies, as well as the booklets Uncovered, Protection and Safety, were printed in Norwegian. The pioneers then had enough literature. By the end of the 1946 service year, forty.-seven brothers and sisters had taken up this service.
These were hard times, and this was also felt by the pioneers. Especially were those traveling to the northern parts of the country tested as to their endurance and trust in Jehovah. Large areas had been bombed and burned off by the Nazis during their withdrawal. So the housing shortage was great, and there was little food.
One of those traveling to north Norway in 1946 was Sister Svanhild Neraal. During 1941, she had worked as a pioneer in Finnmark, in the northernmost part of the country, and she had seen two towns being bombed. But she had enjoyed so many fine experiences there and was so enthusiastic about the hospitable people in that locality that throughout the war she had wished to go there again. So early in the summer of 1946 she went to Kirkenes, at the Russian border. People thought she was out of her mind, coming there without a place to stay. But she prayed to Jehovah for help.
Throughout the first winter Sister Neraal slept on a kitchen floor in a small house where five other people were staying. During the first year she was not able to eat her fill even once. In addition, she endured many hardships in the field service. For example, the Germans had sunk most of the local boats, and no one knew when the next vessel would come or leave. So, many a night she was sitting at the piers in rain or snow, waiting in vain for a ride.
But during the two and a half years Sister Neraal was in the north, she also had many interesting and pleasant experiences, as when preaching to the Lapps. She traveled by bicycle or riverboat or, if possible, by bus. She would sit in the Lapps’ tent made of reindeer skin, eating reindeer meat directly from the pot. Through Lappish interpreters she witnessed to interested groups of listeners. While in the northern part of the country, Sister Neraal met interested persons who later accepted the truth. She obtained 2,000 subscriptions for The Watchtower and placed 2,500 books!
The pioneers also did good work at other places. In 1948 the Society bought a motorboat that was named “Jonadab” and was used by pioneers for three or four years before it was sold. It was used in the western part of the country and was the fourth and last boat for the pioneers owned by the Society. Most of the pioneers, however, worked in an ordinary way, laying a foundation for new congregations throughout the country. The number of those pioneering varied somewhat during the first years after the war, but the average for the period 1946-1950 was forty-two.
HELP TO AND FROM NORWEGIAN BROTHERS
Right after the war, many Norwegian brothers had little clothing, and at first it was impossible to buy new clothes. This was brought to Brother Knorr’s attention when he visited Norway at the end of 1945, and he then saw to it that secondhand clothes and shoes were sent to Norway from generous Witnesses in other countries. From Sweden two tons were sent and from America six tons. In Oslo the garments were sorted according to size and were sent to the brothers in accordance with submitted orders. All together, more than 3,000 brothers and interested ones were helped in this way. Letters coming in from all parts of the country reflected the great appreciation felt by the Norwegian brothers after having received these valuable gifts.
A Danish-born brother in Norway had an amusing experience in connection with these clothes from abroad. He met a lady in the field service who said that he was spreading an American religion, that he had an American accent and wore American clothes. The brother calmly told her that the overcoat was from Canada, the sweater from the United States, the pants from Norway, the shoes from Sweden and the tie from Denmark. ‘But those books,’ he said, ‘contain truths from the Bible.’ He was invited in, a conversation was started and he placed a bound book and some booklets.
The economic situation in Norway gradually improved, and soon the brothers themselves could extend help outside the country. In 1947 they learned through the Society that the German brothers especially were in need of both food and clothing. During 1948 and 1949 many Norwegian Witnesses sent food packages to Germany and received letters of appreciation from happy recipients. Food also was sent to Finnish brothers.
This assistance to and from Norwegian Christians harmonized with Jesus’ words: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:35.
THE ORGANIZATION AND THE SERVICE
When Brother Anderson arrived in Oslo in January 1946, quite a few changes were necessary at the Bethel home in Inkognitogaten, which had been given back to the Society after the war. First, for the office and the building as a whole, there was a need for new equipment typewriters, chairs, desks, beds, and so forth. Furthermore, the building had not been kept up during the war. Therefore, extensive renovation was required. Secondly, quite a few tenants—mostly aged women—lived there, occupying space needed by the Society. Due to the great housing shortage in Oslo at the time, it was difficult to find other homes for them. Then the possibilities of selling the house and finding a better one or building a new Bethel home were investigated, but the upshot of this was that we continued using Inkognitogaten 28 B. Little by little, the Bethel home was equipped, one of the most useful items being a foot-powered printing press, which was used for several years. This was the first printing machine that the Society had in Norway.
In the summer of 1946 new instructions as to the organizing of the work were put into effect. Among other things, arrangements were made for the congregations to hold a new weekly meeting, the Theocratic School, based on the booklet Course in Theocratic Ministry.
The results of the Theocratic School soon were manifest. By November a public meeting campaign was started throughout Norway. The most capable brothers were assigned to prepare a talk based on one of eight outlines provided by the Society. Many now were giving public talks for the first time. In Oslo and other towns, these talks were given before large audiences in public parks. In a short time, due to the Theocratic School, we had many qualified public speakers in Norway.
In December 1946 circuit overseers started traveling about in Norway. To begin with there were four circuits, totaling 78 congregations, each visited twice a year. Circuit assemblies also were held regularly. To be able to help as many as possible, the traveling overseers worked in field service with fifty to seventy brothers and sisters during a week’s visit. As publishers little by little were taught to present the Kingdom message themselves at the doors, they ceased using testimony cards and phonographs in their preaching work. Far greater attention now was given to return visits and the Bible study work.
Of great importance to the witness work here in Norway has been the fact that we have been able to send many brothers to the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. The first two were sent there for training in the fall of 1947. Like most of the students from Norway, they were assigned to serve here as full-time pioneers, traveling overseers or workers at Bethel.
As a result of these new features in connection with the organization and the service, the years from 1945 to 1950 proved to be a time of rapid spiritual development for God’s people in Norway. More men became qualified for congregational responsibility. Also, individual publishers were given greater attention and received thorough training.
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES BEFORE THE COURT
Except for the war years, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Norway had as yet encountered few difficulties as far as their relationship to the authorities was concerned. Early in the 1930’s some pioneers were accused of illegal itinerant selling, but the case was settled without being brought into court. There had been only sporadic incidents thereafter. In 1948 and 1949, however, similar difficulties arose. Two pioneers and two other brothers were not permitted by the police to offer the Society’s literature to the public, the police referring to the Law of Commerce of March 8, 1935, Section 86. The Society took up the question with the Department of Justice, and the case was submitted to the Department of Commerce. In an official letter dated October 10, 1949, the Department of Commerce declared that the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses was to be regarded as being of “general interest” in the meaning of trade legislation, and that it, therefore, was unnecessary to get the permission of the police to share in such activity. The attorney general agreed with the point of view of the Department of Commerce. Consequently, the pioneers, who each had been sentenced to pay a fine of fifteen Norwegian kroner, were pardoned by Order in Council of March 10, 1950.
Creating a far greater stir, however, was the trial of several brothers in Oslo for distributing The Watchtower on the street. Street work with The Watchtower started in Norway on September 11, 1948. On November 28, 1949, the brothers doing street work on the main street of Oslo were asked to follow law officers to the police station. Quite a few Witnesses were taken. At the police station they were left standing in the hall for a couple of hours, after which they were dismissed.
This incident soon was known among all the brothers in Oslo, and a week later many more appeared in the central part of the city, distributing The Watchtower. Again the police came. All the Witnesses were arrested and taken to the police station. This time seven brothers and sisters were questioned and were said to have violated a passage in the Criminal Law and the police decision pertaining to Oslo to the effect that no one without the permission of the police was allowed to distribute advertisements, and so forth, or engage in advertising while walking or driving. The case was brought before the municipal court, where sentence was passed on January 21, 1950. The court found no sale or economic activity involved, but the seven accused ones were found guilty of violating the aforementioned passage. The case was now appealed and brought directly to the Supreme Court.
Never had so many Kingdom publishers engaged in street witnessing as after this case, and many regarded the situation as a test of their faith. The arrests continued. Gradually, the fines were raised to fifty Norwegian kroner. Some of the brothers were arrested up to ten times, and the police were not very enthusiastic about making these arrests that created quite a stir.
On June 17, 1950, the Supreme Court rendered its decision. The sentence of the municipal court was unanimously commuted, and the brothers were acquitted! Jehovah’s Witnesses were permitted to distribute The Watchtower on the street without seeking the permission of the police.
Through these court trials, it was shown that our activity is not illegal and that we have the right to witness with our literature from house to house and on the street. Since then the authorities have not intervened to put an end to a particular feature of the witness work here in Norway.
CONVENTION ACTIVITY REORGANIZED
How happy we were to gather at normal conventions after not being able to do so for several years! The first conventions after the war were arranged in the largest cities of the country, Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim, and were held during September and October 1946. A total of 3,011 attended the public meeting and 52 were baptized.
The next large assembly was held in Oslo on June 20-22, 1947. Brothers Knorr and Henschel were visiting to see how the work was going and gave several talks at this assembly. It was the largest convention in Norway up to that time. Forty were baptized and 1,446 attended Brother Knorr’s public talk “The Joy of All the People.”
For the “Clean Worship” Assembly held at Lillehammer on September 21-23, 1951, the attendance broke all previous records for a single assembly as 2,391 heard Brother Knorr give the public talk, “Will Religion Meet the World Crisis?” Eighty-nine persons were baptized at this assembly.
During the period between the 1947 and 1951 assemblies, Norway’s Kingdom publishers increased from 972 to 2,066. This was a 113-percent increase in four years!
Some Norwegians—all together 120—were able to attend the Divine Will International Assembly in New York city in 1958. Among those 120 were seventeen full-time servants who got free transportation as a result of contributions sent in by the Norwegian brothers for this purpose. Here in Norway the most important parts of the New York program were repeated at “echo” assemblies in Oslo and Bodø. In Oslo, 3,077 attended the public talk and 113 were baptized—two new peaks for Norway.
Through the years the Norwegian brothers were invited to large international assemblies abroad. But then, for the first time, it was our turn to invite foreign Witnesses to an assembly. We were happy to enjoy the fellowship of our Danish brothers at the “Word of Truth” Assembly in Oslo, June 17-20, 1965. The assembly was held at Ullevål Stadium, and a large area outside the city was used as a camp for trailers and tents. The evening before our assembly was to begin there was a football match between Norway and Yugoslavia, with 30,000 spectators. But industrious Witnesses labored throughout the night and by morning the stadium had changed immensely. The bleachers and the grounds were tidy, and on the grass two platforms had been raised—one for the Danish and the other for the Norwegian program. A music pavilion, a storehouse on pillars and two chalets in old Norwegian style had been set up. The newspapers were impressed, one referring to the stadium’s transformation as a “miracle during the night.”
Among the foreign brothers were 7,000 from Denmark and about a hundred from a number of other countries, including the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and Germany. For the foreign guests in Oslo special sightseeing tours were arranged. On such a tour Brother F. W. Franz from Brooklyn Bethel had an interesting experience. Together with a group of other Witnesses he visited Akershus Fortress, overlooking the harbor of Oslo. When the group of brothers came to the chapel, a guide was telling about the church. She pointed to four Hebrew letters far above the altar, saying that nobody had been able to tell her what they meant. Brother Franz had the opportunity to explain that these four Hebrew letters stood for the Divine Name, Jehovah.
Among the highlights of the assembly was the baptism Friday morning, when 199 symbolized their dedication—the highest number so far being baptized at any assembly in Norway. Brother Knorr’s public talk, “World Government on the Shoulder of the Prince of Peace,” was attended by 12,332.
BIBLE AIDS IN NORWEGIAN
We have previously mentioned that there was a lack of literature in the Norwegian language right after the war. In 1948, however, we received the new book “The Truth Shall Make You Free.” From December 1949 the Danish edition of Awake! magazine was used in the field service, but in January 1951 we received this valuable aid in our own language. Since that year we have not had to use foreign literature in the preaching work, but we have used a couple of Danish books in the Theocratic School.
One of the Bible aids very close to the heart of the brothers was the book “Let God Be True,” published in Norwegian in 1951. No other book up to then had been so greatly used here in the Bible study activity. But then a very valuable Bible study aid became available in 1969. It was the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. Never have we had a better publication for the Bible study work.
In this connection it would be fitting to mention the book Did Man Get Here by Evolution or by Creation? (published in Norwegian in 1970). During our first campaign with it, in September 1970, we placed 31,727 books, more than during the entire service year of 1968. The publishers really did their very best and many tried new methods, several standing at busy street corners with a whole carton of books or with books piled on their arm. Many publishers went to the schools and offered books to the pupils during the breaks between classes. In one instance a student came to the office of the Society asking for twenty books for himself and other students.
“ALSO TO OTHER CITIES . . .”
Jesus Christ realized that there were “other cities” in which he had to declare the good news. (Luke 4:43) Similarly, in 1952 and 1953 special efforts were made here to have the good news preached in Norway’s smaller towns and rural territories, where many of the people were living. The Society encouraged the brothers to cover such areas in the summer months, and quite a few did. As a consequence, during those two years 60 percent of all unassigned territory in the country was covered. Results? Many interested ones were found and a lot of literature was placed. The brothers called on many of these interested individuals again or wrote them letters, and the branch office received the names of 6,000 persons who were offered more spiritual help. As a result of these campaigns, a number of publishers moved to places where there were no congregations. In this way, more congregations were established.
Two missionaries from Gilead School worked in north Norway from 1951 to 1953 and enjoyed many rare experiences in field service. Especially did wintertime call for heavy sacrifices in the service. From the Society they had acquired rucksacks, sleeping bags and fur coats to use in the severe cold—far below freezing. Often they used skis in the service. On one such ski trip, they were caught in a snowstorm and it was so windy that they could hardly stay on their feet. The snow was whipping their faces so hard that they were almost blinded. When stopping, they constantly had to flap their arms to keep warm. However, they were rewarded when they finally reached the little harbor of Kiberg, at that time having a population of about 350 and often called “Little Moscow” because of its many Communists. The brothers invited the population to a talk and more than ninety came, filling the hall. On this trip several Bible studies also were started.
The work in unassigned territory continued also during the following years, but not to the same degree. In the middle of the 1960’s however, special efforts again were made to further the preaching in such territory. There were still places where the Kingdom message had hardly been proclaimed. Groups of two, four or more pioneers moved to densely populated areas, trying to establish congregations, and quite a _few congregation publishers moved to places where the need was greater. Besides, the Society encouraged all brothers to go to unassigned territory in the summer months. The result was that large areas of the country were covered each year and many Bible studies were started. To help the publishers to conduct these studies by correspondence, the branch office in Oslo worked out a, small pamphlet with special questions on the book “Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie.” The best thing, however, is that the interest in caring for these territories is still alive. All the time, there are publishers who are moving to places where the need is greater, or they are witnessing there in the summer months. Thus, during the years, all unassigned territory in the rural areas has been covered in the summer months.
BETHEL HOME AND BRANCH OFFICE
There has not been any need for a large Bethel home and branch office in Norway, as the number of publishers is not so great. The Bethel family today has just fifteen members. Down to 1956 the Norwegian Watchtower and Awake! were printed at a printery in Oslo. Since then they have been printed by the Society’s Swedish branch. However, we have a small printery here at Bethel, where Our Kingdom Service, forms and the like are printed.
We are still using the building at Inkognitogaten 28 B. This seems to be Jehovah’s will, for several times through the years we have tried unsuccessfully to get another place. Due to the growth of the Kingdom work, more space was needed at Bethel. So, when Brother Knorr was here in 1965, it was decided that the Society should apply to the authorities for permission to build a new Bethel home and branch office on a beautifully situated piece of ground that was a gift from a brother. The plans for the building were prepared, but the authorities were not ready to lay out that area in the outskirts of Oslo. Since then we have tried to get other ground, but without results.
In 1970 there was a turning point. A boardinghouse long had been in operation on the third floor of the building housing the branch office. But the owner found that there no longer was any economical basis for operating the business. The brothers in Oslo were encouraged to be on the lookout for a suitable apartment for the lady who had operated the boardinghouse. But as this brought no results at first, she herself answered a newspaper advertisement. She later learned that she had been picked out at random from among seven hundred applicants! Certain brothers renovated the woman’s new apartment and helped her with the moving.
We have finished the renovating and decorating of the third floor in our enlarged Bethel home and have also made some other changes here. So we now have plenty of space. Moreover, this building has an ideal location for our use. It is situated just a few minutes’ ride from the harbor of Oslo and two railway stations in the city. Yet, it is in a nice and comparatively quiet section.
TODAY’S STRONG ORGANIZATION
During the period of organizational advancement since World War II, certain brothers have shouldered considerable responsibility here in Norway. Marvin Anderson was the branch overseer from 1946 to 1963. Since 1964 he has been in charge of the printery here at Bethel. Brother Roar A. Hagen was the branch overseer from 1963 to 1969, when he relinquished this responsibility for family reasons. Thor R. Samuelsen replaced him and serves as the present branch coordinator.
At the district assemblies in 1971 we learned that in apostolic times the Christian congregations were cared for by a body of elders assisted by ministerial servants. This new arrangement was accepted with joy and has brought great benefits in the ensuing years. During 1974 and 1975 all the appointed elders in Norway had the opportunity to attend the Kingdom Ministry School, this making them even better qualified to care for the “flock.”—1 Pet. 5:1-3.
During the 1970’s we have enjoyed tremendous increase. No doubt a new feature of the work has contributed to this. In 1973 the Norwegian brothers were invited to an international assembly in Copenhagen, Denmark. There a new program for intensive international distribution of Kingdom News tracts was announced. The first of these campaigns took place in Norway during a ten-day period beginning September 21 of that year. Because of the nature of such work, many more persons have taken part in the field service. From September 1972 to September 1973 we had an increase of 1,119 publishers, or 19.4 percent.
Many persons have had their interest in the truth aroused because of the tract campaigns. One man read Kingdom News No. 16 and called the telephone number given on the last page. A Bible study was started with him. After three studies he quit smoking, and after six he resigned from his church. He also made changes as to hair, beard, and so forth. During this time he, with his wife, attended our meetings regularly. This man made rapid progress and was baptized about six months after his first contact with the truth. Both he and his wife became zealous Kingdom publishers.
We have now distributed several issues of Kingdom News, and a great witness has been given. Many new ones have been activated in the field service. From May 1 to 10, 1976, we distributed 800,000 tracts, and 7,405 persons had a share in the field service that month. At the Memorial on April 14, 1976, 13,037 were present. So we hope that many more will yet have some share in the vindication of Jehovah’s name.
During the thirty-year period from 1945 to 1975 the number of Kingdom publishers in Norway has increased from 689 to 7,543. This is an increase of almost 1,000 percent! During these years the number of congregations has increased from 40 to 197, and circuits from four to eleven. And the increase continues!
ONWARD WITH JEHOVAH’S WORK!
The good news of the Kingdom is now being proclaimed in all parts of Norway. It has reached to the farthest islands and reefs along the whole coastline, to the deep fjords, to the valleys and into the large forests. Endeavoring to proclaim the truth, we have experienced changing times, with progress and hardships. The progress has been strengthening, and the hardships have had a cleansing effect. Surely, we have been blessed richly by Jehovah during the eighty-four years since Knud P. Hammer came to Norway with the good news in 1892.
Our preaching work has not met with great opposition from political or religious quarters, apart from the war years 1941-1945. As a whole, the Norwegians seem to respect the viewpoint of other people and are not so easily incited by religious or political fanatics. Besides, it is becoming evident to everybody that the influence of the religious organizations is diminishing, especially among those of the younger generation, who are taking their stand against much of the wrongdoing that is going on in the name of religion.
Since World War II the standard of living in Norway has risen rapidly. Materialism has a strong grip on the people, and Christians must be on guard to avoid its snares. Crime and the misuse of drugs are increasing alarmingly, and the moral standard is declining.
But God’s people are walking in “the paths of Jehovah” and they experience his loving-kindness. (Ps. 25:10) Jehovah’s Witnesses in Norway are delighted to be an active, unified, rapidly growing group of true worshipers. It is our prayer that Jehovah God will continue to find us worthy of doing his great work here in Norway, “the land towards the north.”
[Map on page 193]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
[Picture on page 214]
Pioneer with book bag and phonograph; in the background is the boat “Rut” (Ruth), used in witnessing along the coast
[Pictures on page 238]
Branch office and Bethel family in Oslo