The Story Behind The Book

 

In 2006 a center for Holocaust and Genocide education was about to be opened in Oslo, Norway. The Holocaust Center was ironically to be located at a large, elegant house in one of the most prestigious sections on the outskirts of Oslo.  This home had been confiscated by Vidkund Quisling, whose name had become synonymous with being a traitor to his country, at the early part of the German invasion during World War II. In addition the construction of a Jewish Museum in Oslo was initiated.  This museum was to be located in a small, now defunct synagogue that had been an active place of worship in the early part of the twentieth century until the beginning of the war.  Irene felt that she wanted to be a part of these two events in her city of origin, and began to think how best she could be of assistance.

In April 2006 she sent out a letter to friends here in the U.S. telling them for the first time about the fate of the 2,000 Jews of Norway and the specific story of her own family.  

She explained in the letter that she and her husband intended to give a family gift to the two institutions and asked if they wished to participate.

The reaction to the letter was overwhelming.  In addition to their family gift, they received many letters with donations thanking them for the information as described in the letter, and once again their friends expressed interest in the subject matter.

Through internet research, Irene contacted the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, a faculty of the University of Minnesota, and asked them if they would be willing to serve as a “conduit” for any funds that were received to pass on to Norway to make donations tax deductible, which she knew was the custom in the US. She was extremely fortunate to reach the Director of HCCS, Dr. Stephen Feinstein, who was very responsive and immediately agreed to help them.

Subsequently Dr. Feinstein suggested the possibility of a conference on the subject of Norway and the Holocaust, and with the help of the Norwegian consulate in Minneapolis, the wheels started turning and the idea crystallized.  The conference took place at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 19 and 20, 2007.

Several distinguished scholars from Norway and Sweden were invited to participate. As the initiator of the project, Irene Berman, was given the title of “catalyst”, and was invited to deliver the now famous “non-publishable” chapter about her family’s experience during the war. In addition a number of other scholars from the faculty of the University of Minnesota participated.

Arnfinn Moland, the Director of Norway’s Resistance Museum, who was one of the participants in the seminar, asked Irene to consider developing her brief chapter about her family’s war experiences into a full book in Norwegian. He made arrangements with a highly respected publishing company in Oslo to back the publication and the rest is history. The book was published in September 2008 by Orion Publishing Company.

A similar seminar was held at the American Scandinavian Foundation, at Scandinavia House, in New York, New York on April 26, 2007.

Subsequently Arnfinn Moland invited part of the group to give a similar seminar in Norway as well.  This took place in September 2008 and was housed at Akershus Festning, the old and historic fort outside the harbor of Oslo. Several of the same individuals participated, among them Irene Berman.

The Norwegian version of her book “Vi skal plukke poteter”, Flukten fra Holocaust, was launched in September 2008 at Norway’s Resistance Museum and received excellent reviews by the media.




 

 

 


Gestapo forced the Norwegian Jews to fill out this questionnaire in 1941. This is a copy of the form filled out by Marcus Levin. These forms were subsequently used as a basis for the arrest of all the registered Jews in 1942.

 

 

The picture depicts a display in the window of a tailor shop owned by a Norwegian Jew in early 1942.  The graffiti in white states as follows:   "Palestine is calling. Jews are not tolerated in Norway."