Leif Knutsen
Leif Knutsen

Reading the names in Oslo on November 26 each year

At 4 pm CET this afternoon a small group will convene near a pier in Oslo harbor to read out loud 768 names, along with the age at and the locations where they were abducted for deportation from Norway to camps in Germany.

This tradition started on November 26, 2009, when I stood alone in the rain and read the names. Every year a few more have joined, and we now take turns reading. I have two binders that each have a complete set. I announce that I will read the names, and others participate. The event is private, unsponsored, informal.

The significance of the date is that on the night between November 25 and November 26, 1942, Nazified Norwegian police conducted a sweep at all addresses where Jews were known to live and abducted everyone they could find: men, women, children, hospital patients, people who were already detained in work camps, and assembled them at the pier where the DS Donau had docked. There they were handed over to the SS.

532 Jews were chased on board the Donau, which set sail for Stettin at 4:15 pm, at which point the passengers were chased on to box cars that ended up in Auschwitz Birkenau. On the same day, another 27 Jews were forced on another ship, the Monte Rosa, with the same destination via Århus and Hamburg. On February 24, 1943, 157 more were sent to Stettin and Auschwitz. Various smaller groups left before and after this. 34 survived.

It takes a little over a half hour to read all the names out loud. There are no speeches, no remarks, just short introductions in the beginning and short farewells at the end. This is partly because it is usually too cold for anyone to want to linger, and partly because words seem superfluous.

The place is mostly desolate in the evening. It is always dark and usually bitterly cold late in November.

The pier itself is closed, so we convene under a street light right by the outer wall of Akershus festning, on the periphery of the so-called “vacant chairs memorial.”




About the Author
Leif Knutsen has observed, reflected, and written on Israeli and Jewish issues since the late 70s and has personal experience from Jewish life in the US and Norway. He is currently one of the oldest PhD students in Norway, conducting research on digitalization of complex organizations.