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Rick Steves Classroom Europe™ is a free resource allowing teachers to share the best of European art, history, and culture with their students and fellow educators.

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Oslo: City Hall and Resistance Museum

Oslo, Norway

Huge murals in Oslo’s City Hall illustrate Norway’s history, from its rural beginnings and traditional industries (seafaring, farming, and mining) to Nazi occupation and the country’s heroic underground resistance — which is the focus of the Norwegian Resistance Museum in Akershus Fortress.

Complete Video Script

Oslo's striking City Hall faces the harbor. It was finished in 1950 to celebrate the city's 900th birthday. The art which shows everyone working together implies a classless society. Inside, the Grand Hall is famous for hosting the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. This main hall feels like a temple. The altar-like mural celebrates family values, good citizenship, and civic administration. The mural shows both town folk and country folk, people from all classes and all walks of life. Together, despite differences, they're collaborating with the determination to build a better society.

This fresco celebrates national unity. From the fishing nets of the west coast to the dense forests of the east, it takes you on a voyage through the collective psyche of Norway. From its simple rural beginnings into the Industrial Age. This mural tells the story of Norway's darkest period, German occupation during World War II. Bombs fall and the country is overwhelmed by Nazi troops.

The Gestapo breaks into homes, they target Norway's culture. Underground resistant fighters plot heroic acts of sabotage. Finally, Germany is defeated. Prisoners are freed and Norwegians can once again wave their flag.

During that long occupation, the Nazis controlled Akershus Fortress. Today, that same fortress houses the Norwegian Resistance Museum which tells the story of Norway's World War II experience. Germany with the invasion already a fait accompli gave Norway an ultimatum to capitulate.

The king said no, eventually escaping the country to command the Norwegian resistance from London. At the start of World War II, a flurry of countries including Norway felled to Germany. Norway spent five years under Nazi occupation. A Norwegian traitor named Quisling was installed as the country's leader and ruled as a Nazi puppet. To this day, his name, Quisling, means someone who betrays their country.

Germany attempted to make Norway Nazi. Propaganda posters encouraged people to join the local Nazi Party and enlist with the German army to fight the Soviets on the Eastern Front. With 300,000 occupying Nazi troops to feed in the house, World War II was an austere time for locals. Foraging and rationing were a way of life. From the start, there was an organized resistance and the king maintained a government in exile in London. Communication was critical. While the Germans outlawed radios, people found creative ways to stay tuned in. Clandestine radio operators hid out in mountain huts as Nazis with direction finders tracked them down. Underground newspapers spread messages from the king, boosted morale, and inspired action.
A thrilling example of Norwegian resistance was the sabotage of the heavy water factory high in Norway's mountains. Heavy water was a key to Germany's plan to build an atomic bomb. A small band of Norwegians skied over 200 miles in from Sweden managed to blow up the plant, dealing Hitler a major setback.

Toward the end of the war, resistance activity crescendoed, a thriving underground industry cranked out a crude arsenal of homemade weapons. Communiques were hidden in loaves of bread, heels of shoes, and tins of spam. A home force of 40,000 troops was outfitted by air drops. Finally, in May of 1945, the heroic soldiers of the Norwegian resistance were greeted by a grateful public. Outside the fortress, a statue of FDR as a memorial thanking the USA for providing Norway support and its royal family a refuge through the war.