To The End, ‘Traitor’ Quisling Proclaimed his Innocence
OSLO, Norway (AP) _ The best-remembered Norwegian of the World War II _ Vidkun Quisling _ was a man most of his countrymen would just as soon forget.
Fifty years ago Tuesday, Norwegians executed Quisling. His treachery was so great that ``quisling″ remains a synonym for ``traitor.″
Quisling led the tiny National Union Party when Nazi troops invaded Norway on April 9, 1940. The next day, he seized power, even though his party had never won a seat in Parliament.
Within weeks, his name became a synonym for ``traitor,″ probably because the London Times’ correspondent in Sweden began to use ``quisling,″ ``to quisle″ and ``a quisler″ to describe treason.
Myths still surround the man and his death. The Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang last weekend published what it says really happened the day Norway’s most infamous man was shot on Oct. 24, 1945.
``It is not true, as rumors have it, that he shook the hands of each member of the firing squad. It is also not true that some of the rifles were loaded with blanks,″ Kjell Juell, commander of Quisling’s guards, told Verdens Gang.
Quisling had ordered dozens of anti-Nazi Norwegian partisans executed, even refusing his own cousin’s plea for clemency. The 10-member firing squad was equally deaf to pleas of innocence when they shot Quisling, at age 58.
``It went very quickly and there was no waiting,″ Juell told the newspaper.
For five years, Quisling and his party _ closely related to Germany’s Nazis and Italy’s fascists _ had served Hitler in a brutal occupation of Norway.
Before the war, Quisling, known as a quiet, brilliant, religious dreamer, had spent 12 years in the Soviet Union, where his admiration of communism soured and his determination to stop gains by Norwegian socialists soared.
After serving briefly in a coalition government in 1932, Quisling searched out a new political base and founded his own right-wing political party. It soon grew to about 40,000 members.
In 1939, Quisling secretly met Hitler in Berlin ask for help in putting his National Union party in power in still-neutral Norway. Hitler refused.
But when German troops invaded Norway, Quisling grabbed power anyway. The Germans initially forced him out, but later reinstated him hoping for a puppet leader.
The war ended on May 8, 1945, and the next day, Norwegian loyalists arrested Quisling and his aides for treason, an act that he said surprised him.
``I have in all my thoughts and deeds been led by a love for the Norwegian people,″ Quisling said during his trial. His appeals were rejected. He was sentenced to death, a punishment Norway had not used since 1876.
Hours before his execution, Quisling cut off a lock of his hair and left it with a letter for his wife: ``Maria, I love you until death and beyond death.″
At 2:30 a.m., Juell’s squad brought the prisoner, dressed in a white sweater and gray knickerbockers, to the grounds of the ancient Akershus castle in downtown Oslo.
A doctor pinned a white target over Quisling’s heart. He was blindfolded and bound to a temporary wooden wall.
``I have been judged unfairly. I die innocent,″ Juell recalled Quisling’s last words.
Another member of the firing squad, whose name was not given, said his hatred for Quisling hadn’t eased in 50 years.
``Considering the suffering that man had caused the Norwegian people, I would have done the same thing again,″ the old soldier told the newspaper.