The Norwegian government may be selling a centrally located Oslo property the SS used for torture under WWII.
Victoria Terrasse was also once home to Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs now uses two of the complex’ three blocks. The building still has its 1890’s interior mostly intact.
Allied forces tried to bomb it twice during the war, on 25 September 1942 and 31 December 1994. The second attack, witnessed by resistance member Max Manus, was carried out by the RAF’s 627 squadron and involved 12 bombs. It, like the previous mission, used the twin-engine De Havilland Mosquito plane.
The building survived largely undamaged, but one bomb hit a passing tram, killing all on board. 105 people in total were killed on what is described as the bloodiest day in Oslo’s wartime years. 78 were Norwegian civilians.
Navigator Eric Arthur, part of the second wave of planes that did not attack, told NRK earlier this year, “I saw the explosions; there was a lot of dust and smoke afterwards. We couldn’t see the target for a long time.”
His plane sustained damage to the radiator after being shot at by Germans from the ground. The aircraft, which was flying at treetop height, had to fly back to England on one engine with its cargo of bombs.
Tor Skjønsberg, the operative leader of the Norwegian resistance, ordered the attack. He had to flee the country in the late autumn of 1944 after the Gestapo got on his trail.
Aftenposten journalist Cato Guhnfeldt, who published the book ‘Bomb Gestapohovedkvarteret’ (‘Bomb the Gestapo’s headquarters’) in 1995, says to The Foreigner, “he didn’t want his wartime role known afterwards, which was respected by most historians.”
Following Skjønsberg’s bombing decision, Jens Christian Hauge travelled to London to tell the Cabinet-approved WWII organisation the SOE (Special Operations Executive) to carry out the second Victoria Terrasse bombing.
Hauge later became the local Milorg leader, which was the main Norwegian resistance movement. Milorg conducted the attack on the heavy water plant at Rjukan.
At the London meeting were also leader of the SOE’s Scandinavian section, Colonel John Skinner “Belge” Wilson (1888-1969), and Gunnar “Kjakan” Sønsteby.
Sønsteby, one of the most highly decorated persons receiving among others the War Cross with three swords, died at an Oslo nursing home less than two months ago. A state funeral was held for him at Oslo Cathedral on 25th May.
Several people, including Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, HRH King Harald V, US Ambassador to Norway Barry B. White attended, in addition to 24 soldiers from the King’s Guard providing a guard of honour. A wreath represented HM Queen Elizabeth II’s attendance. 4 Norwegian Royal Air Force F-16s made a so-called ‘missing man’ flypast.
About the building, whose war-damaged front was rebuilt in the ‘60s in a different style, lawyer Torbjørn Ek informed NRK that, “It’s architecture is fantastic and incredibly important. It’s got a view, sun there’s very little noise, and it’s attractive, size wise.”
Public officials have been looking into plans of 216 apartments, NRK reports. Mr Ek, these may cost approximately NOK 100,000 per square metre (about USD 16,700).
According to a Norwegian Foreign Ministry press spokesperson, the move is connected to how and where to house government ministries following last year’s bomb attack on Oslo. No decision has been taken about the sale yet, however.
“Mr Ek is trying to predict the future,” he says.
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