Norwegians Execute Nazi Collaborator Quisling Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Norwegians who collaborated with their Nazi occupiers were tried for treason and often executed. Norway’s puppet leader Vidkun Quisling, who was installed by Adolf Hitler’s regime, was convicted of high treason and executed. “Quisling” became a general term for a traitor who collaborates with an occupying government.

Summary of Event

In August and September, 1945, the nine-judge high court of Oslo held the trial of Vidkun Quisling for treason and eight other charges. Quisling was charged with treason for encouraging Norwegians to fight in the German military, attempting to recall the elected government’s mobilization order, and announcing a coup. He also was charged with murder (of resistance fighters, deported Jews, and others), illegally bearing arms against Norway, attempting to change the Norwegian constitution, bringing Norway under a foreign jurisdiction, and taking properties for personal gain. Quisling was found guilty of all the charges, except one of the property charges. His October 24, 1945, death by firing squad marked Norway’s condemnation of Quisling’s five years of traitorous activities, including two meetings with Adolf Hitler, the German chancellor, in December of 1939 and a radio announcement of a coup on April 9, 1940. World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];postwar trials Treason;Norway Executions;Vidkun Quisling[Quisling] Capital punishment [kw]Norwegians Execute Nazi Collaborator Quisling (Oct. 24, 1945) [kw]Nazi Collaborator Quisling, Norwegians Execute (Oct. 24, 1945) [kw]Collaborator Quisling, Norwegians Execute Nazi (Oct. 24, 1945) [kw]Quisling, Norwegians Execute Nazi Collaborator (Oct. 24, 1945) World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];postwar trials Treason;Norway Executions;Vidkun Quisling[Quisling] Capital punishment [g]Europe;Oct. 24, 1945: Norwegians Execute Nazi Collaborator Quisling[01580] [g]Norway;Oct. 24, 1945: Norwegians Execute Nazi Collaborator Quisling[01580] [c]Atrocities and war crimes;Oct. 24, 1945: Norwegians Execute Nazi Collaborator Quisling[01580] [c]World War II;Oct. 24, 1945: Norwegians Execute Nazi Collaborator Quisling[01580] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;Oct. 24, 1945: Norwegians Execute Nazi Collaborator Quisling[01580] Quisling, Vidkun Hitler, Adolf [p]Hitler, Adolf;and Vidkun Quisling[Quisling] Haakon VII Terboven, Josef

Based on impressive accomplishments in his early years, Quisling did not seem to be headed for this ignominy. Although very shy, he was a child prodigy with great mathematical abilities. He graduated with highest marks from the top Norwegian military academy and held posts as military attaché in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) and Helsinki from 1918 to 1920. He served ably as the aide to Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen and organized humanitarian famine relief in Ukraine during the 1920’s. From 1931 to 1933, he was Norway’s minister of defense in the elected agrarian party government.

Quisling became obsessed with and had paranoid fears of communism and Jews. His anticommunist crusade resulted possibly, at least in part, from his traumatic memories of Stalinist purges. In 1933, he cofounded the Nasjonal Samling Nasjonal Samling (national union), a fascist Fascism political party that had little public support. It garnered a mere 2 percent or less of the vote in the 1933 and 1936 elections. Few Norwegians agreed with the party’s anti-Semitic and extreme-right-wing views.

Observing the breakout of war between Germany and Allied forces, Quisling became convinced that the British were about to occupy Norway in violation of Norway’s wartime neutrality. Using distorted and paranoid logic, he surmised that British occupation would lead to a Soviet invasion of his country. He sought German assistance to prevent this, meeting with Hitler in Germany on December 14 and 18, 1939. Quisling warned Hitler that the British planned an imminent occupation of Norway, and he pointed out to Hitler that Norway was strategically important to the Allies. He believed that the British could use Norwegian occupation to control Sweden and the Baltic and prevent the flow of Swedish iron ore to Germany. Quisling also described plans for a coup by his party and requested German assistance. (Quisling was not the first to suggest an invasion. High-ranking Nazi officials had also been urging a German invasion of Norway, as well as Denmark.) He told Hitler not to expect much Norwegian resistance to a German invasion. Hitler promised financial support for the party and agreed that the party would have responsibility for domestic policy in the event of German occupation. Hitler asked Quisling for further updates about signs of British invasion.

Hitler soon became preoccupied with plans for a western offensive. Nevertheless, he ordered a preliminary plan, called Studie Nord Studie Nord , to be developed by all German forces about the possible occupation of both Norway and Denmark. On January 20, 1940, Hitler formed secret special staff for planning a possible invasion (the contingency being British occupation).

The Altmark Altmark (ship) incident raised the urgency of Hitler’s Nordic invasion plans. The Altmark, a German supply ship, sailed into the Jøssingfjord (nominally neutral Norwegian waters) in February, 1940, to escape a British destroyer, the Cossack. Cossack (ship) Sailors from the Cossack, which had followed the Altmark, boarded the supply ship and freed more than three hundred British merchant seaman who were being held as prisoners of war. The incident convinced Hitler that the British would not comply with Norwegian neutrality.

The German invasion of Norway and Denmark, called Operation Weserübung Operation Weserübung , began on April 9 at 5:15 a.m. Quick naval strikes succeeded in all the port cities of the west coast. Troop landings began as well. The invasion of Oslo was delayed by more than twenty-four hours, however, because of strong Norwegian coastal defenses, which the Germans had not anticipated. Torpedoes sank the heavy cruiser Blücher Blücher (ship) in the Oslofjord. The ship carried many of the high-command personnel who were supposed to administer the occupation. The delayed Oslo invasion allowed the escape of Norwegian king Haakon VII and his family, elected prime minister Johan Nygaardsvold, and other ministers. The Norwegian gold supply also was secreted away. The country’s leaders took refuge in various secret locations north of Oslo. Contacted by German diplomats, Haakon refused to appoint Quisling and his chosen ministers to form an interim government. The king said that Quisling did not have the support of the people and compared him to the Finnish traitor Otto Kuusinen. The legally elected Storting (parliament) members also refused to comply with Quisling’s demands. Haakon would later take refuge in Great Britain.

Quisling met with Nazi officials on April 9 and agreed to appoint a cabinet. Norway, German occupation of That evening, Quisling spoke publically, telling the country that his party would head the new government and that the Norwegian people should obey its orders. He named his cabinet ministers and said that Norwegians should not resist the German occupiers.

For six days Quisling headed the so-called Q government. The Nazi authorities quickly realized that Quisling could not be used in a genuine leadership position. They demoted Quisling to a position as a demobilization administrator with the title “minister-president.” In this capacity, Quisling served as puppet head for the remaining years of occupation. The true leader of Norway was Reichskommissar Josef Terboven, who administered the country in an especially brutal manner. Terboven initiated Gestapo spying in Norway, which led to the arrest and execution of thousands of resisters. Quisling did not agree with Terboven’s policies, but nevertheless he abetted the occupation. He acquiesced to the deportation of Norwegian Jews and to the execution of resistance fighters. He encouraged Norwegians to volunteer in the German army.

After the German surrender in May, 1945, the occupation was over. In August, Quisling was tried by the high court in Oslo. The court considered several arguments, and Quisling participated actively in his defense, saying that he was a misunderstood prophet. He and his character witnesses testified that he had acted out of love for his country. His lawyer argued that Quisling had not thirsted for power, did not cause the German invasion, and had cooperated with Nazi orders out of duress. The guilty verdict included a determination that Quisling was not mentally impaired, nor did he have an organic brain disorder, despite psychotic paranoia symptoms (his obsession about communist conspiracies). His punishment was the death penalty, in addition to a large monetary fine.

On appeal to the Norwegian supreme court, the verdict was affirmed. The court found that trial procedures were legal, the law had been correctly applied, and the death penalty was not too strict. Capital punishment, very rarely used in Norway, was deemed constitutional in this case. Quisling was executed on October 24, 1945.


Quisling was angrily condemned in British, U.S., and Swedish newspapers immediately after his coup. The term “quisling” would soon become a common reference to a traitor, similar to the term “fifth columnist,” which originated in the Spanish Civil War. Although “fifth columnist” is often used more generally, a “quisling” is a particular kind of traitor, one who collaborates with an occupying power and operates a puppet government. The word, which connotes extreme societal condemnation and vilification, exists in many languages. During the Norwegian occupation, the term was used to reference other collaborators (in addition to Quisling). Later, persons viewed as collaborators in other nations, including Serbia, Russia, Israel, and Holland, were stigmatized with the derogatory name.

Quisling’s role in the occupation government ironically had a critical effect not intended by Quisling or Hitler. Quisling’s actions strengthened the Norwegian resistance movement. The majority of Norwegians had disdain for his personality and political views. They viewed him as a laughingstock. Hitler misguidedly used Quisling as his puppet, which galvanized the Norwegian people and helped them resist the Nazis. Hitler once commented that of the nations and peoples he conquered, the Norwegians had been the hardest people to subdue. World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];postwar trials Treason;Norway Executions;Vidkun Quisling[Quisling] Capital punishment

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Barth, Else Margarete. A Nazi Interior: Quisling’s Hidden Philosophy. New York: Peter Lang, 2003. A philosopher’s scholarly analysis of Quisling’s philosophical thinking. The first book of its kind.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dahl, Hans Fredrik. Quisling: A Study in Treachery. Translated by Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. A detailed study of Quisling using material from Norwegian and German archives.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hewins, Ralph. Quisling: Prophet Without Honour. New York: John Day, 1965. A British journalist argues that Quisling made errors of judgment but was not a traitor.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hoidal, Oddvar K. Quisling: A Study in Treason. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. In a work of more than nine hundred pages, Hoidal emphasizes the historical context of Quisling’s story, based on archival documents.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kersaudy, François. Norway, 1940. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990. A detailed description of the unsuccessful attempt by Norway and the Allies to resist the Nazi invasion. Includes discussion of Quisling.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mann, Chris. Hitler’s Arctic War: The German Campaigns in Norway, Finland, and the USSR, 1940-1945. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003. Includes a chapter on Norway that describes Quisling’s treachery.

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Categories: History