The Ship from Trondheim

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Ships in Trondheim, Norway (1940)

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

The radio play opens on a ship. Two Norwegian men, Arne and his friend, complain about the tight quarters and the lack of lavatories.

Arne and his friend are teachers, arrested by the Nazis in Trondheim. After the German occupation of Norway in 1940, the German government forced teachers to join the Nazi party and to teach Nazi ideals in the classroom. Arne, and many others, refused to join the party, and so were shipped North under grueling conditions.

“Eat your bread,” the friend tells Arne, “It’s black, it’s sour and it stinks to high heaven, but it’s all you’ll get today."

Arne cannot swallow the bread, but says he will try and last until the Red Cross brings soup at the next port stop. Another man tells him that the Nazis will not allow the Red Cross back on the ship, because they gave the prisoners too much comfort at the last stop.

“Obscene beasts!” rants Arne’s friend, “They haven’t got the decency to kill us all outright. It’s so much more fun to watch us die three or four at a time. Slowly.”

Arne goes from bad to worse, and sinks into delirium. His friend tries to get medicine for him, but the Nazis refuse to give him any.

Meanwhile, Arne dreams deliriously of his wife, Karen, and his son, Dietrich. They talk about Dietrich’s career, and agree that he must be free to choose his profession.

“Freedom of choice! Freedom of thought, freedom of conscience!” Arne yells, “Those things are every Norwegian child’s heritage. We mustn’t let them rob Dietrich of his heritage! We must not!”

He vows to remain strong.

The play jumps to the future, back in Trondheim. Arne is dead, but the Nazis are allowing Karen to teach.

She stands in front of her class and delivers a similar speech, reemphasizing the idea that the Norwegians are resisting occupation, “This is my pledge. I will not call upon you to do anything which I regard as wrong. Nor will I teach you anything which I regard as not conforming with the truth. I will, as I have done heretofore, let my conscience be my guide, and I am confident that I shall then be in step with the great majority of the people who have entrusted to me the duties of an educator.”

The music swells, and the program shifts to Matthew Gordon, Chief of the Foreign Division of the Office of War Information. He delivers his “weekly report on current enemy activities.”

“The story you just heard is more than a dramatic play,” he tells his listneners, “It is a true symbol of the resistance which is growing throughout occupied Europe.”

The rest of the broadcast details various attempts at resistance across occupied Europe.

In Denmark, “there was sabotage. There were industrial slowdowns.” The Danes gought, even though the Nazis imposed a “military dictatorship” and bombed refugees. In France, he claims, “but they too will smash the Nazi yoke when the time comes.”

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 71148
Municipal archives id: LT4031