Norway's most decorated citizen Gunnar Sønsteby passed away in an Oslo nursing home after an illness, Thursday. He was 94.
Sønsteby was one of the most prominent members of the Norwegian resistance movement during the German occupation of Norway during World War II.
In an earlier interview with NRK, he told the broadcaster he thought to himself that he “wanted to catch up” when he decided to move actively into resistance against the Germans as a 22-year-old.
"It was an attack on democracy from a foreign nation. It was hard to believe, especially when we knew that this was a terrible Nazi domination,” he said.
Sønsteby led the famous “Oslogjengen” (lit. “Oslo Gang”) and was involved in several activities such as sabotage, intelligence, and courier activities.
He played cat and mouse with the German occupation forces with 30 different identities during the war, the most popular ones being No. 24 and Kjakan (the chin).
“I liked that stuff. One had to think and be on alert all the time,” he told Nettavisen.
Sønsteby was also one of the most highly decorated persons in Norway, receiving among others was the War Cross with three swords.
In the post-war era, he was involved in formulating the Norwegian defense and foreign policy, and is also known for supporting the Norwegian involvement in Afghanistan.
As one of the most important witnesses of the wartime years, Sønsteby became renowned for the part he played in passing on his experiences to later generations of Norwegians – right up until recent years.
In 2006, the King of Norway appointed Sønsteby as the Commander of the Order of St. Olav for his work with the mediation of war history.
“It was with great sorrow that I received the news that one of our country’s greatest heroes, resistance fighter and officer Gunnar Sønsteby has passed away, 94 years old,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said following the news of Sønsteby’s death.
The Prime Minister emphasised that the war hero dedicated his life to democracy. “He played a key role in the resistance movement from 1940 until Norway was liberated in 1945. During the war, he showed an extraordinary determination to win back our freedom, and after the war his capacity for reconciliation touched us deeply.”
“There are many of us who are deeply grateful for all that Gunnar Sønsteby has done. We are grateful for the stories about “Kjakan” (The Chin), No. 24, and the Oslo Gang’s historic actions during the war, and for the stories he told from the war until very recently. Gunnar Sønsteby has earned a proud place in our modern history,” Stoltenberg continued.
The Government has decided that Gunnar Sønsteby is to be given a state funeral.
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