THE LONG NORWEGIAN NIGHT
A WWII Resistance Fighter's Life In Nazi Camps


by Kaare A. Bolgen

PRESS RELEASE:

North Adams Author Writes One of the Greatest Nazi Concentration Camp Survival Stories of All Time

A great deal has been written about the Second World War, but very few people are aware of Norway's involvement as a people and a spirit in contributing to the Allied victory. In the recently published book, The Long Norwegian Night, North Adams author, Kaare A. Bolgen, has put into words how the Norwegian people rallied with no army to thwart Hitler's drive to destroy England through their country and what the Norwegian men who endured the camps did to survive. You can visit norwegiannight.com for more info.

The book is an English version of the original Norwegian memoir, “Vi Ventet,” written by the author’s childhood friend, Odd Magnus Magnussen. The Long Norwegian Night is important for many reasons, largely because of the Mr. Magnussen’s profound and compelling voice and commitment to survival and managing not to wallow in hate and also because of the story's relevance to resistance movements currently around the world.

As a Norwegian resistance fighter, Mr. Magnussen was picked up by the Nazis early during the Nazi occupation of Norway (the Nazis occupied Norway from April 1940 until the end of the war) because of his work in the Underground. Mangnussen spent the rest of the war (1941-1945) in three German-run prisons in Norway and two concentration camps in northern Germany.

The most intriguing aspect of the story is that Mr. Magnussen kept notes throughout his time as a POW, which he managed to keep with him secretly throughout his imprisonment. He also did sketches and drawings of Nazi leaders, guards, POWs, cells, barracks, and work details which he hid in ceiling light fixtures that were retrieved after the war. His last job at Sachsenhausen, one of the five notorious Nazi concentration camps, was as a draftsman for an underground operations center.

The following passage from Chapter Ten summarizes Mr. Magnussen's journey--his forced submission, his belief in and love for his country and family, his ability to make friends, his humor, his sorrow, and his love for his wife Nina.

“My only connection with the outside world were airplanes overhead, distant automobile horns from the street beyond the walls, and the faces of Götz and Schäfer. For half a year, I had not exchanged words with a human being or received any news about what was going on in the world. The letters that had been allowed were restricted to personal greetings and family news. My world was the world of my thoughts. And I suppose it’s easy to lose one’s way in such a world. It wouldn’t be the first time I had become lost in my thoughts.

Suddenly the light was turned on. Blinded, I stopped. As I gradually opened my eyes, accustoming them to the brilliant light, I looked about the cell. This was different from any previous view of my little home. I had never fully realized how high the ceiling was. And the ceiling was shining white; I had never noticed that before. It reflected the light and made it doubly bright. The walls took on a different shade of green. Everything was suddenly warm and cozy. The light bulb shone like a tremendous Christmas star. How beautiful a light could be. What friendliness it carried with it. I lost myself in the brightness and wonders of a light.

What was that? Tunes from an organ were surging through the prison. The cell was filled with waves of sound. Christmas melodies were pouring in from the hall outside.

I had to sit down. I had forgotten that such beauty existed. And I realized something in me that I thought had died was not dead at all. Something that had withered seemed to have new life. In a flash of understanding I knew that my spirit might hibernate, but only hibernate. It could never be killed by brutality and suffering; it would not die.”

How the Book Saw the Light of Day

The Long Norwegian Night was painstakingly edited by Deborah Brown at the request of the author’s wife, Patrice Bolgen,. Mrs. Bolgen had found the original manuscript in the papers left by her husband shortly after he died in 2005. Mr. Bolgen was living in New York City in 1946 when he received "Vi Ventet" as a Christmas present. The name of the author of the book was Lars To, a name Mr. Bolgen did not recognize. Eventually after some detective work through his Norway family where Mr. Bolgen was born and lived until early adulthood, he discovered the memoir was written by his childhood friend, Odd Magnus Magnussen whom he had lost contact with after leaving Norway. Lars To was his friend's POW name.

The author’s wife and editor believe Mr. Bolgen must have translated Vi Ventet soon after receiving it and after learning Lars To's identity. He even included a note to the reader in the manuscript as if he was thinking about contacting Mr. Magnussen to see about its publication in English. He had completed the translation before he met Mrs. Bolgen, and only vaguely referred to it during their fifty-year marriage. As far as it is known, Mr. Bolgen never contacted Mr. Magnussen about his English version or sent him a copy. The manuscript has lain dormant all this time.

Mr. Magnussen died in 1976. His son, Odd Petter Magnussen, lives in Oslo, as does Odd Magnus Magnussen's wife, Nina, who is 95. They very generously gave Mrs. Bolgen permission and the rights to publish the English edition.

A Special Edition for the iPad Includes All the Original Artwork & Archival Video

The Long Norwegian Night is available on amazon.com and in a multimedia iPad Special Edition featuring all the illustrations created in prison along with archival footage of the war in Norway, Germany, and US by award-winning director Frank Capra. Additional video features compelling commentary from the author’s wife, the book’s editor, and the german translator who grew up in post-war Germany. The Special Edition was produced by John Pritchard of Eternal Ways in Williamstown and is also available in a larger print version (9x7) with links to the video available on the book’s website at norwegiannight.com.

 



    O.M. Magnussen of the WWII Norwegian resistance is picked up by the Gestapo (the Nazis took over Norway in 1940) in '41 and endures three prisons and two concentration camps. He secretly records prison life in notes and drawings, smuggled out after his release in '45, which he expands into the narrative, Vi Ventet (We Are Waiting) under his prison name. In 2005, an English interpretation of the narrative entitled The Long Norwegian Night by Kaare Bolgen, a childhood friend of Magnussen's, is found in Mr. Bolgen's papers after his death (Bolgen emigrated to the U.S. in the 1930s). His account traces the physical and psychological levels of Magnussen's survival and meticulously observes the senseless routines and atrocities of the S.S. and prison administrations. Techniques on when to adapt or work the system to the prisoners' advantage are reported, occasionally with humor, but always committed to not giving up.


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“When life is challenged, a wider specter of human characteristics and values often surface in people. Being reminded that universal values should not be taken for granted but are something to stand up for and, when threatened, is a focus that would also improve everyday life today. We who live 75 years later are inspired by his discipline, humor, ingenuity, and commitment to his friends in prison, his family, and his country.”

— Odd Petter Magnussen, Son of O.M. Magnussen


The Long Norwegian Night is a monument to those little people, the men of peace who are forced to fight, the men who know of no compromise, and the women they leave behind.”

— Kaare A. Bolgen, Author of "The Long Norwegian Night"


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Kaare A. Bolgen (1908-2005) was born in Oslo, Norway where he lived until he was nine years old when his family moved to Rjukan, Telemark, Norway. In Rjukan he began a friendship with Odd Magnus Magnussen. Rjukan is a town with a rich culture and is where Mr. Bolgen developed a deep appreciation of nature, the arts, and science, which instructed his work for the rest of his life. In the early 1930s at the end of his education, he left Norway to travel: first to Germany where he foresaw Hitler’s intent during the early rallies, then to Vancouver Island in Canada for a year before enrolling at the University of Washington in Seattle. His musical talents (he played and taught all the string instruments) and curiosity took him to New York. In 1940, he published The Science of Violin Playing which is still available through antiquarian book dealers. During this period he taught music, was the editor of several classical music journals, and married Patrice. They lived on Long Island for over twenty years until the call of nature and open space brought them to Berkshire County in Western Massachusetts, where he lived for the rest of his life. At the age of 91, he wrote and published Dead Ends and Detours: The World and Science in the 20th Century.

    As Kaare says in his "Note to the Reader" at the beginning of The Long Norwegian Night, "The accounts of the Underground movements of Europe follow a familiar and fantastic pattern of superhuman cleverness and endurance, and as time passes, truth and fiction become even more mingled into a misty haze of adventure. But working secretly, and sometimes helplessly against the new, would-be Masters of the World was no glamorous adventure. It was deadly dangerous and sordid and full of hard work. It also was a life full of warm humanity, of humor and failure. In a way, this is a story of failure, but it is the kind of failure that lays the foundation of true success, and in the end, we see that through this and a thousand other such failures, one of the most amazing victories in the history of the human race was brought about."

    Kaare A. Bolgen died in 2005 at the age of 97.


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