A piece of frozen time

A photograph is really a strange case. It shows a piece of “frozen time.” Sometimes we lose photos with interesting subjects because the quality is too poor. But some are good enough that it is possible to restore them.

After the Lofoten raid on 4 March 1941, there was a great deal of activity among the German occupying forces. Over 100 were arrested and we ended up getting the first 64 prisoners at Grini. When April arrived and Hitler’s birthday on the 20th approached, it was a grand scheme. Here it was really to be shown who was in charge of “The New Norway”.

First there was a line-up at the sports ground, where the primary school is located today, then a tight march was made in tight rows to the square in Svolvær where the solemnity was to take place. Torbjørn Henriksen, who was in the resistance movement, was assigned to be responsible for the sound. He had to take a seat in the café at Bondeheimen, place the speaker on the small ceiling of the entrance hall, and position himself with the phonograph inside. Ready to put on the different marches at the right time. The Germans should only have known that he later had the technical responsibility for several of the radio transmitters in Lofoten and Vesterålen.

Wilhelm Johansen, who later became a gardener, was also in the resistance movement and believed that one should try to perpetuate what happened. He equipped himself with a camera that he had hidden in a small package he was carrying and managed to get a number of pictures taken. Although there was no photo ban during the war, the Germans viewed such photography as espionage and it could go very wrong if you were caught. But it went well, he was not discovered. Unfortunately, due to the conditions, the photos became less good. But some are enough that it is possible to restore them.

The picture we see here is when the Germans march into the square where there will be a line-up and speech by hauptmann (captain) Müller.
He who marches to the front is a German officer who leads the troop.

Torbjørn Henriksen, who had to meet well in advance of the event to make sure everything worked, noticed that the German officer was marching alone up and down with a stopwatch in one hand.

Torbjørn was then given the exact time when the different marches would be played.  The guy seemed completely “square” and should anything click it could have fatal consequences for the sound man. It would be seen as something he did on purpose. And sabotage on Der Führer’s birthday would probably lead to a longer imprisonment. 

In the picture, the speaker standing on the protrusion above the entrance can be seen, and behind the open window Torbjørn is nervous that something would go wrong.

The birthday tight schedule went well and ended with winged words by Captain Müller and a march at full force from the gramophone.  Apart from the German soldiers, not many of the population were present. Just some children and adults who tumbled into the session and were left with curiosity. 

The moment was immortalized by Wilhelm Johansen, who a little later also ended up at Grini for other reasons. Torbjørn Henriksen had to escape dramatically to Sweden.

Photograph coloured by William Hakvaag from Lofoten War Memorial Museum.

Visit Lofoten War Memorial Museum

Lofoten War Memorial Museum

The largest exhibition of rare uniforms and artifacts from World War II in Norway. Unique historic snapshots. Personal and engaging.